The Tan family's book tribute


In October 2023, I shared on the Tan family’s journey to preparing a precious tribute that started when Mei Ling, their eldest daughter, was on holiday at a resort in Desaru Coast where she discovered My Johor Stories placed in her room for the guests’ reading pleasure.


Tan Kiah Teck on a school trip to Thailand,
a photograph featured inside the book

She was pleasantly surprised to read that my book documented names of people familiar to her because after his retirement, her father had written about these very people among the many legal cases he handled in his law career in Johor.


Meanwhile Mei Ling and her siblings had been thinking of compiling their father’s recollections into a book to save it for posterity so reading My Johor Stories sparked the idea to rope me in to help them turn their book project into reality.


Her father, retired lawyer Tan Kiah Teck, had established a private practice in Tan & Tan Advocates & Solicitors in Johor Bahru.


Mei Ling and I with their book
tribute to Tan Kiah Teck

Tan and his wife sent their children to study in Singapore where their children, Mei Ling, Huai Ling and Cheng Ling continued to have careers and settled down in the neighbouring country.


When Mei Ling mentione that their father was gravely ill, it spurred us on to get started on the book project and to complete it in the shortest possible time.


I kept myself focused on this project in July and August and we made rapid progress in preparing the manuscript through numerous emails and WhatsApp chat messages.


Each time I sent her a message, Mei Ling would promptly reply with comments or give her approval on the pieces I had revised or edited for clarity.


It was after the first week of August when I noticed that her replies were slow and delayed, and gave me a hunch that something had happened in the Tan family.


Mei Ling, telling her Uncle Bon
about discovering My Johor Stories
during her resort stay...

On August 12, my heart sank when I read Mei Ling’s message that said:


“Good Morning. Received with thanks the revised documents. My father passed away yesterday so I haven’t had a chance to look at them.”


I was deeply saddened and immediately replied with condolences, knowing that the family would need time and space to deal with their bereavement.


When Mei Ling met her father’s partner in their legal firm at the funeral wake, he shared more details about their early years in the partnership and she told me we will add this anecdote into the manuscript.


Then her uncle showed them a bunch of old photographs of her father that they had never seen before and she picked some to add into the compilation of family photos in the book.


Our lunch meeting in Johor Bahru [L to R]
Uncle Bob and his wife, Mrs Tan and son,
Cheng Ling, [Standing with me] Mei Ling

In September the manuscript was submitted to the printer for layout and to prepare the mockup version of their book simply titled, Tan Kiah Teck – A Kampung Boy’s Search for Truth and Justice, for Mei Ling to review.


While it was a momentous task, I was happy to have participated in this book project with the Tan family to prepare a loving tribute to their father/grandfather, that will be distributed among their family and friends.


Throughout this time, Mei Ling and I only “met” online but we had yet to meet in person. So Mei Ling and I eagerly anticipated that date for us to meet when she collected the books from the printer.


With Mei Ling and Cheng Ling;
Book opened to the page with their
kind messages to me.

After her review of the mockup version of the book, Mei Ling liaised with the printer to confirm all the details before they proceeded to print.


Finally, a date was set for Mei Ling to collect their book order from the printer so we discussed and agreed on a venue in Johor Bahru to meet for lunch.


I was delighted to learn that I will not only be meeting Mei Ling for lunch but more of her family members as she would be accompanied by her mother, her brother Cheng Ling, their Uncle Bob and his wife.


Mei Ling also said that her sister, Huai Ling, would like to have my books to present to her son, Linus, so I brought along the trilogy of My Johor Stories for her.


When I walked into the restaurant that day, Mei Ling and her family were already seated at a table. When Mei Ling spotted me, she stood up and approached me.


Even though we had never met, I have seen the photographs that were compiled and published in their book. So when we met, a strange familiarity prevailed because I had gotten to know the family while writing their book tribute.


When I passed my books to Mei Ling, she picked up Book Two, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, to tell her Uncle Bob about how my stories in this book connected her to me.


Then I autographed my books that would be presented to their nephew, Linus.


While I was delighted to meet Mei Ling and her family, I was thrilled to receive a copy of the book, Tan Kiah Teck – A Kampung Boy’s Search for Truth and Justice, duly signed by Mei Ling and Cheng Ling with their kind words.


“Thank you for joining us for in our journey of creating our father’s memoirs,” wrote Mei Ling.


“Thank you, as this would not have been possible without you,” wrote Cheng Ling.


Over a sumptuous lunch, we enjoyed a convivial time together chatting about the topics, illustrations and photos that were documented in the book.


I was pleased to hear about how Mei Ling managed to get talented illustrators to create visuals that better portrayed the scenes of a bygone era, described by her father.


The display at the book launch event on
Christmas Eve at their family gathering

She said the book will be launched at a family gathering on Christmas eve with guests that included Professor Cheah Jin Seng and their cousin Doreen, who wrote the Foreword in the book.


Among the best gifts I received for Christmas Day 2023 must be the photos that Mei Ling shared with me, captured at this family gathering to launch their book tribute.


As I looked at the photos, I was pleased to spot my Book Two, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, along with our photos taken when we met at lunch in Johor Bahru, was among the display at their book launch event.


While I could not be there in person, I was certainly with them in thought and spirit.


Thank you, Mei Ling and the Tan family, for letting me be part of your loving tribute.

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