This story is based on an interview I conducted with Kamahl in March 2009, hitherto untold. It’s been a long time coming. I hope it puts his life, his perspective and the events of recent weeks into greater context.
Kandiah Kamalesvaran was seven years old when the Imperial Japanese Army completed their conquest of Malaysia in February 1942, after the surrender of Allied forces in Singapore.
By the time he was eight, he’d seen heads on pikes, and other things no child should ever see. Everywhere, there was a Japanese soldier astride a black horse, a sword on his hip.
To get out of harm’s way, his parents pulled their growing family out of the heaving Kuala Lumpur metropolis to the countryside. They owned a cow, and one day young Kamal took it out for a walk and a feed.
On the way home, he encountered a Japanese soldier on horseback. The soldier beckoned him, and put his hand to his hip. Kamal closed his eyes, anticipating that his head was about to be removed from his body.
After a few seconds, realising it was still attached, he opened them again, and saw a flash of silver. But it wasn’t a sword that the soldier was brandishing in front of his nose.… Read more..