I’ve always wanted to write a biography of my Grandma. My brother did that eons ago and I found her story interesting. I wanted something I could remember her by. But like many of my projects, it’s neglected halfway. (Halfway because I took up a writing course to polish my writing and even though I finished the course, I haven’t started the biography.)
Aaron’s English project for this year is to do a biography. For that, he had to read a few biographies before he starts. In his book list is Anne Frank, I am David, Freidrik etc. Like him, I also read one biography before I attempted. I read Eating Salt, an autobiography of Ho Rih Hwa (Father of Banyan Tree Ho Kwong Pin). Slyly, I suggested to him to do a biography of Gran, his great-granny. He caught on immediately. ‘Wasn’t that supposed to be your project?’
Anyway, since he needed my help, he agreed to it. We arranged for a time to interview Gran. She was quite reluctant and agreed only after I told her it was for Aaron’s school project. Aaron typed out a list of questions to ask her, some of which were suggested to him by his teacher.
When we arrived at her home one Saturday afternoon, (two days before the work is due!), she was all ready to talk. Without any prompting, she started her story. I had to lead her back to the beginning. We gave her a recorder and told her to speak into the mic. As she spoke, she gradually grew more enthusiastic. She told us about her childhood, her father, her school days at SCGS, the Japanese occupation, her late elder brother. It was obvious to me that her favourite people were her late father and late elder brother. She spoke fondly of them, even though they have been dead for five decades. Like most story teller, she tended to gloss over but we wanted the details. What was the served in the school canteen? How much did the food cost? What did you do in your free time as a child?
A well written biography should reveal the character or personality of that protagonist. For that, the writer should interview other people who know the protagonist. I suggested to Aaron that he interview me, the grand-daughter and some of her daughters. He hasn’t taken up the suggestion yet.
He won’t allow me to read what he had written. As if I would plagiarise it. If any of my relatives are reading this and think you can contribute to Gran’s biography, feel free to contact me. It would be a great family project.