Happenings, News

My violin and a tiny Japanese doll

A touching incident that brought reviving cheer to a very sick Japanese woman is recounted here by Methodist “teacher, preacher, musician, artist and churchman” Joshua Baruch (d. March 1, 1967).

DURING the time Malaya was in the hands of the Japanese, I lived in Malacca. For a long time no one dared to go out after sunset.

I was at home one night with my wife and daughter when I heard a loud banging on the door. My heart stood still. We did not know who was there. With trembling hands I opened the door, and to my horror, there stood a gruff-looking Japanese soldier in full uniform. He had a revolver in his right hand and an evil-looking sword hung from his belt.

In a very curt voice he said, “Take your violin. Come with me.” When a Japanese soldier ordered you to do something in those days, you jumped to it … I took my violin, bade goodbye to my family and went out with the soldier, not sure whether I would return home or not.

I was ordered to get into a huge military [car which] drove past the clock tower and then went speeding out of town. There was not a word from the soldier, and where I was going or why was indeed a mystery to me. The car turned at last into the hospital compound. When it stopped, I was again ordered to follow the leader. He stopped outside a room on the third floor. Then he turned around and said, “There is a Japanese lady here. She is very ill. She likes violin music. Go and play for her.” Then he vanished.

Though this was a great relief, my next problem was what music to play. However, I walked into the room and there in the dim light, I could see a figure, well-covered with blankets. I bowed low and said, “Komban wa”, or “Good evening.”

To my astonishment, the lady replied in perfect English, “Good Evening. Please come in.” She continued in almost a whisper, “I am very ill and [am] not expected to live. I love to hear the violin. Will you please play for me?”

“Madam, what would you like to hear?” I asked. “Could you play, ‘Traumerei?’ “

I tuned my violin and played the piece which has always been my own favourite, conscious of the fact that I was playing for someone who was dying. I believe I played as I had never played before. Then she asked for ‘Souvenir’, ‘Humouresque’, ‘Angel’s Serenade’, ‘Ave Maria’, and other pieces which I could play by heart.

When I had finished, she whispered softly, “Thank you so much. I do feel better now. It is very kind of you.” I bade her good night with my sincere wish for speedy recovery, and tip-toed out of the room.

I left the hospital compound, and hugging my violin, ran all the way home, as there were neither taxis nor buses in those days. The people at home were happy indeed that I was alive and had returned without any mishap.

Mr Joshua Baruch: Ordered by a Japanese soldier to play the violin for a sick woman — Methodist Church Archives picture

Two months went by and I was at home one morning when I heard a gentle knock on my door. There stood a tall and fair Japanese lady smiling at me. She asked me if I knew who she was. When I said that I did not, she told me that she was the person for whom I had played the violin. She said, “I am all right now, and I am going back to Japan. I come here to thank you for your lovely violin music. I do not know how I can repay your kindness. Will you accept this little gift from me?”

Then she placed in my hands a tiny little Japanese doll. It was a delicate and lovely little doll, the figure of a Kabuki dancer. I thanked her for the beautiful gift, and wished her a pleasant voyage. Among my most precious possessions is the tiny little Japanese doll to remind me of the day when I went to the hospital to play my violin.

Later I was told that the lady was a graduate of one of the universities in America, and that she was a specialist in Education. But above all, I learned that she was a Christian and a member of a church in Japan! — Methodist Message, January 1962, p.22.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.