Eighty-six-year-old Soh Hua feels she is the happiest now, even though her leg is weak but she has a clean bill of health. “My children have grown up and they are very filial to me,” said the mother of eight, grandmother of 20 and great-grandmother of four.
However, times were tough when she was younger. She recalled that when she was about 16 years old, she would go to the hills in China, where she hailed from, in the cold weather to chop firewood for her family with a group of friends and bring them home on her shoulder.
Once she encountered footprints of a tiger and its faeces. She suspected the tiger was hiding in a nearby den but that didn’t matter or that she was scared, as she said she still had to get the firewood. One consolation was knowing that the tiger didn’t venture out during the morning because of the sun and would only come out at night.
Besides this, she also had to shuck oysters and clams to bring home for her family, collect salt at the beach so she could sun them and then later sell them, and pick vegetables in her family farm for her family. When she came to Singapore in the 1950s at the tender age of 26 by boat with her five-year-old daughter, her role evolved into a full-time housewife, tending to her brood of children and her husband who at the time was working in a factory that produces furniture supplies.