han suyin

8 Nov


Amidst all the news about obama winning the 2nd term as president of the usa, I find I am more moved by reading in the guardian obituaryabout han suyin’s death at 96yrs in Lausanne, Switzerland.

She wrote ‘a many-splendoured thing’ about her real life affair between a Eurasian and a married white man in 1950 Hongkong.

We will be more familiar with the story via the film and song ‘love is a many splendoured thing.’

Actually, when I read the obituary, I thought she had died long ago and was surprised that she had died now. The song was very old, and I don’t know where I heard it, but I did remember singing along and singing alone as a child. The lyrics are easy to remember. So it must have been on the radio during my childhood.

I don’t remember seeing the film, because in Malaysia, where I grew up, my family don’t see films that much.

But we do listen to the radio a lot.

And the radio plays many songs that are featured in films, hence this one.

The idea of a Eurasian marrying a foreigner , a white man, is a bit of a taboo in Malaysia too. The locals kind of look down on such a marriage.

That view is then, not sure if that holds nowadays. i have not been back to malaysia for 10yrs, and even before that i dont really have that many friends there and all of those are gay and so marriage never came up as a topic of conversation.

from what i read in the local papers, there seem to be more fuss about the religion of the potential mate. i dont think there are a lot of interreligion marriages.  

The Eurasian do not belong to either camp. Neither white, nor asian, and is viewed with suspicion by both.

The song moved me, even though I did not know much about love or that it was between a man and a mixed race woman.

It is strange how songs and the lyrics can bring back memories when I don’t really know what the words mean, nor what they allude to. Without me knowing the background story that prompted those songs I used my imagination to build up the story. Maybe that is why I am so moved. Haha. My story about it is so much more poignant I think.

For eg, for years I have been singing the songs from the ‘flower drum song’, without ever seeing the film nor the musical.

I was so familiar with the songs and created my own imagination of what they are like. i think it is because I was constantly played it at home when i was a kid. my parents have got the longplaying record of the musical. 

Much later, years later when I saw it on tv in London, I saw the film and was rather surprised at how it was so different from how I imagined it. I prefer my vision of it.

 I tend to romanticise things, and most of us would think her affair is a romantic fairy tale of lost love, and forbidden love.

But if u see it from the wife’s point of view, u can well sympathise with the wife. would u like it if some female steals your husband at a point in his life when he is alone and abroad, a time when he is most vulnerable.


A many splendoured thing, is a story that reinforced the view of wives about lone females and mixed race ones at that… that they are predatory females out to steal their husbands. 

the reality sometimes is not as clear cut and black and white as we would like to think.

 now that i have reached this stage of my life, i can see  both sides of the coin. that may explain why i have lost that romantic yearnings.

I think it is a good thing. fairy tales are for a time when u are a kid, when u dont really want to know what real life is like. but to carry that on when u are an adult is not going to make u live an adult life well.

u will be forever waiting for your handsome prince, or beautiful princess to come and make your life happily ever after. it wont happen. haha.


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