MANY of us have hazy memories of our childhood which fade even more as years pass, but this is not the case with Dr Mark Soo Yoi Sun.
Even at the ripe old age of 80 this year, the radiologist had a twinkle in his eyes when he narrated events when he was a four-year-old boy roaming the streets of Kampar.
It is this astounding memory and a wish to tell the story of his family, ancestors and of his childhood that spurred Dr Soo to pick up his pen and begin writing his memoirs in 2005.
Eight years later during the launch of his book My Days in the Sun, he reflected on his amazing life journey that moulded him into the man he was today and his quest in getting his work published during a time of economic downturn.
“Many of these childhood memories are very traumatic, such as parting with my nanny, being bullied by a schoolteacher and living through the Battle of Kampar and the Emergency,” he said.
Despite the difficulties he faced, he managed to complete his medical degree at the University of Hong Kong in 1957, met his wife while undergoing an internship and relocated to Ipoh in 1962 to work as a general practitioner.
“It was during my work for a new village that I witnessed the lingering effects of the war, with rampant poverty and prejudice caused by the Malayan Emergency, where 500,000 Chinese were relocated to new villages that were more like concentration camps.
“Despite the maltreatment and horrible conditions, the people and patients I saw still strive to continue living.
“This spurred me to do my best too, thus I decided to pursue specialist training in radiology and finally relocated to Australia in 1970,” he said.
Many years later and after his retirement from full-time work, Dr Soo was encouraged by one of his cousins to write of his large family’s history and that was when the idea for the memoir came about.
“The concept came to me in 2005 and I finished it in 2009, but Australia was experiencing an economic downturn then and no one would agree to publish my book.
“It all changed in 2011, when I received a request from my aunt to write a coffee table book regarding her family for her 100th birthday that year,” he said.
“About 100 copies of the book was printed to be distributed to guests during the celebration and it was so well-received that I was inspired to revive my memoir project,” Dr Soo said.
“I decided to submit it to a Malaysian publisher this time and chose Areca Books, which is based in Penang, as I believed that those who have lived through the same experiences as I had in Malaya would better appreciate what I wrote,” he said.
After reworking the script to incorporate a more Malaysian flavour to it with four editors throughout 2012, Dr Soo could not have been happier as he watched people snatch up copies of “My Days in the Sun” and line up for his autograph during the launch held at Symphony Suites, Ipoh, on July 5.
“Like one of my favourite authors Stephen King, I believe that everyone has a book in their mind; it’s just whether you can harvest it and put it into words,” he said.
“I’m incredibly blessed for being able to do so at this age, though in regards of writing more about the Soo family, I think I might pass the baton to my cousin as she has shown a keen interest in it,” he added. — Cheryl Hiew
This article first appeared in The Star on 25 July 2013