Separation Sisters

Many months ago, Mak and Busu were involved in telling their personal story on how the separation between Singapore and Malaysia affected them. The footage is slated for an instalment in the new National Museum, due to be opened this December. The instalment, aptly called Separation Sisters, talks about how Mak and Busu grew up in 2 different countries, confronted by different opportunities and how they grow closer due to the distance. Of course, this being an NHB project, there is no question that issues on national identity was touched on too.

I conducted the interview. Right after the filming, I left for Canada. I never did see the footages, although I roughly remember what was being asked and how at some points, both Mak and Busu shed tears about their early orphan-hood in Melaka.

Two days ago, I had a meeting with the museum people to revisit that instalment and view it again. In between laughters and lame jokes thrown in on how the issue of national identity has been butchered by my migrating to Canada, and Mak now living in Malaysia as a result, I clicked on the clip on the director’s laptop and plugged in the earphones to hear what Mak actually said. What I saw, and heard was painful. It was not painful then during the interview, but it is now that Mak Ngah, Mak’s 2nd sister just passed on a month back.

I didnt realise that the tears she shed during the interview was on how she was separated from Mak Ngah when she was young, and how much she wanted to be reunited with that elder sister of hers. As a result of the 4 Melakan sisters losing their parents so early, they were all adopted by different foster parents. Mak Ngah, as mentioned in an earlier post, was adopted by rather strict parents. Mak recalled how she would pass by the house where Mak Ngah lived many times just so that she can get a glimpse of her elder sister. I couldn’t bear to hear more of the interview. I quickly shut it down.Suddenly, all those nights Mak was with Mak Ngah during her last days at the hospital, reading endlessly the Surah Yasin and talking to her in soft tones, bear a new meaning to me.Suddenly, I feel choked thinking how we sometimes take the availability of our family for granted.

Mak is in Mekah now, and so is Busu. Because Busu has already left for Mekah when Mak Ngah passed on, she was not able to be here for Mak Ngah’s funeral. Busu left for Mekah from Melaka, and thus staying at a different hotel from Mak.

We just heard that Mak and Busu finally met in Mekah. I imagine how much tears there would be between them, because it would be the first meeting for Busu with any of her sisters to share the grief of losing Mak Ngah.

I had initially planned to bring Busu over from Melaka for the museum’s opening in December, and make it a big family do for Mak and Busu to view their instalment. The idea of having their personal story immortalised, is a priviledge.

But now that I have just been reminded what the interview was about,I am not sure if it is going to be a happy occasion.


  1. uja, aku tak nak baca, aku tak peduli, balik uja baliiiiiiiiiiik!!!!!

    drama tak gue?

    i miss u!

    oh and thank you Ajun for the pic of 4 of us at Chutney, Selamat Hari Raya!

  2. uja, what a wonderful story – its the kind of docu thatI love to make myself. I let out a big sigh after reading “Separation Sisters” So many people I interviewed here and during my journey to find them, it is the same story – but the interesting thing is that- to them singapore , malaysia – they are still one and the same country in their minds.

    selamat hari raya maaf zahir dan batin.

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