Kaleidoscope is the autobiography of P.G. Lim, a well-known lawyer, diplomat and one of the most respected professional women in Malaysia, detailing both her professional and family life over a period of more than 80 years.
The book is divided into 19 chapters, documenting her childhood, education, marriage and career in chronological order, making it convenient for the reader to pick up the thread of events in the life of a person actively involved in many of the political and social issues of the day. The first four chapters are devoted to her early childhood days, followed by two chapters on her education and marriage. P. G. Lim comes from a well-to-do family in Penang, where she lived with her parents and six other siblings. In all, it offers interesting insight of events of the period which influenced her choice of career and early political commitment.
The Japanese occupation changed her life as it changed that of many others around her. She recalls the impact of the Japanese occupation and the feeling of being abandoned by the British, as her father forlornly looked at his family, saying 'we have been abandoned and all I have is five dollars on me' (p. 103). She recalls how a British subject of Singaporean origin was not allowed to board a ship evacuating people from Penang because he was not white. The Lim family refused to leave Penang even though they had the opportunity to do so to save themselves from the coming Japanese invasion. The account on the Japanese occupation,more precisely in Penang, is a touching description as P.G. Lim (and her son) was separated from her husband who was in Singapore. To survive throughout the war, [End Page 134] the Lim family had to sell the family silver and other articles of value from time to time, and she parted with her platinum and diamond engagement ring in exchange for 'hard-earned' rice (p. 112). The difficulties of daily life and scarcity of food under the Japanese occupation are described in detail in Chapter 8.
It was towards the end of the war that P.G. travelled to Singapore to visit her husband. There she discovered that her husband's family had suffered during the Japanese occupation as one of her husband's half-brothers had been taken away by the Japanese and was never heard of again. But, as she admitted, the greater shock for her was to discover that her husband was living in their home with another woman (p. 114). They divorced in 1946 and P.G. Lim insisted on keeping her son with her.
Later that year she, together with her seven-year-old son Wilfred, boarded a ship to London to sit for the Bar Finals at Lincoln's Inn. In Chapter 9 Lim describes the difficulties of daily life she faced in a war-ravaged England. However, P.G. Lim was luckier than most; she had friends and relatives who could provide her with some comfort to enable her to continue her studies, while at the same time taking care of her young son. While studying in London she met Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Taib Andak who were all Bar students. After completing her studies, Lim returned to Malaya and settled down to work in her father's firm in Penang.
During this period in London P.G. Lim began to take an active interest in Malayan politics. She joined the Malayan Forum set up by students with the objective to 'create political consciousness among fellow students to work towards independence for Malaya' (p. 128). From 1951 till 1953 she was editor of the Forum's quarterly journal Suara Merdeka. It was during this period too that P.G. Lim was involved in the appeal to the Privy Council by Lee Ten Tai, alias LeeMeng,who had been tried in Ipoh under Emergency Regulations of 1948 for unlawful possession of a hand grenade (p. 136). P.G. Lim's return to...