Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunset Over Bera

Off the beaten path - that's where we went last weekend.

Surely I thought, this country has much more to offer than Cherating and Langkawi and the beaches of Terengganu. Don't get me wrong, I will always enjoy the beaches of East Coast, but with the long weekend, and with everybody leaving for a quick vacation, I could not get a room for our getaway.

Actually I did not realize that it was long weekend until the very last moment.

So instead, after scouring peninsular Malaysia over the net, I decided on Tasik Bera. I have never heard anyone recommending this place, eventhough I know it was the biggest wetland (swamp) lake of Malaysia. Whatever it has to offer, we had decided it would be a quiet getaway - just enjoying ourselves in the middle of the jungle - amongst the trees, the wild boars and alligators.

We have no expectation; nothing whatsoever.

I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Bera and by 6 pm on Friday, we took the boat ride to explore the lake and it was perfect timing. It was nearly sunset and we got to enjoy the sunset like never before; from the middle of the lake and from onshore. No, we did not get to see the croc, not that we were looking forward for it, but here is what we had enjoyed at Bera.
This is Tasik Bera - we are facing the Tasik Bera Resort, in the midst of upgrading. It is a small quaint resort with less than 10 rooms, I believe. It's a self contained resort with a very friendly and knowledgeable owner, En Aziz.
We saw this view when we stopped at one of the many scenic locations. I love this spot especially with the green grass on the right and left of the picture, which the Semelais would weave into hats and many other handicrafts.

It is so peaceful and quiet here, and the view is breathtaking.
This lake is actually 35 km long and I am told 25 km wide. Don't quote me please; check on the many sites with detailed info on Bera. While I am really not really bad with numbers, we were there to enjoy the view and not make any scientific discovery or remember statistics. The deepest point according to a USM survey is about 9 m, and it is typically filled with the grasslike blades of pandanus trees.

No, I did not read the report; the boat man must have since he told me this!
The view from the resort as we waited for a full sunset. You can see the silhouette of the new jetty here.
Large Balau trees frame the orange sky. The sun is basically calling it a day.
There is a rakit nearby near where we launched the boat and the canoe. It is unfortunately in bad shape and can't be used at this moment. As usual, maintenance is a problem everywhere in Malaysia especially for public amenities.
Room with a view.
View from the verandah. By now the sun has fully set and we have this blue hue all over Bera sky.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay - and to be honest, we would not mind returning.

For a full splendour of the sunset, please visit my fotopages here. Or better still, visit Akmal here. You would see a range of pix from dawn to dusk at his fotopages. I certainly would recommend Tasik Bera Resort for your next local vacation. You will not regret it.

PS For the record, the pics were taken by the Father & Sons - Abah, Arif and Akmal. Can't really say whose who actually.


There is a quite a few stories we got from the boatman. The Semelai village that was abandoned since the Tok Batin John was killed by a stampede of elephants, the place the Sultan of Pahang would take a dip in the Lake, the legendary crocodile that was never seen by anybody.

We did not attempt any fishing at all - all three of us are not much into that, and we did not really have the time. But the boatman did show us a picture of a Toman as long as the height of a grown man.

Just in case if I didn't get to write about Bera again, it is located about 1 1/2 hour off the East Coast Hiway South of Temerloh. I thought I should just let you enjoy the sunset over Bera.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What did Bukit Pasoh, Tanjong Pagar dan Tanjung Katong have in common?


In 1971, when I was in Std 2, Di Tanjung Katong was a favourite and compulsory song for us (the other song Trek Tek Tek) in Cikgu Lily's class (pronounced Laili) at SRJK(I) Lenggong.

Back then I guess it never crossed my mind, that Tanjung Katong is actually in a foreign country. That song is part of our culture then and I guess it will remain that way for a long long time. Especially with the continued showing of PRamlee's movies, it will always be seen in that context.

When I got an offer to work at a Canadian software company with an office in Singapore, I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. While there are many Malaysians working in Singapore, there weren't that many Malay professionals working there. After working for 10 years with a local oil company, would I fit in into a multinational corporation - in a foreign country of all places, away from my comfort zone?

There would be no buddies to gossip with, and no friends to have lunch with - at least not from the previous 10 years. I would have to start all over again in a foreign country, where I would have no special privilege.

My boss would be an American Chinese, Wemin Chen; my colleague a stateless person, Rebecca Chin - she's a Chinese born in Brunei but not recognized as a citizen; and the administrator a Singaporean Chinese, Maureen Song. And here I was, a Malaysian Malay, if I may categorize myself as that. The office in Bukit Pasoh was a small office - as there were only the four of us; most of the time there would be only three. The boss would be coming from LA every other month.

With no bumi status for me in Singapore, I would have to compete with all and sundry - it will only be based on competency, skill, knowledge and hardwork. I cannot invoke any privilege whatsoever.

In fact the pressure was on, ironically from my own community. A friend, the late Hamdi - he was the other engineer at the oil company heavily involved in this niche area, called me when he found out that I was working with the favourite software company of ours, "Rahman, work hard, and jangan bagi malu kaum!" (please don't embarrassed your own race!)

That was his exact words. He did not mince them. I was stunned by his choice of words, but I knew he meant well, so I took it in stride and as a challenge and reminder. May Allah bless his soul.

My sis asked me about the pressure of working in Singapore after 3 months.

Working life in Singapore in the beginning was tough. By then I had decided that I was not going to live in Singapore and would commute from Johor Bahru daily instead, as I did not wish to lose my four-wheel privilege. No Malaysian worthy of their citizenship would anyway. I chose an apartment near enough the JB bus station (before it was moved to Larkin), so that I could easily do my commute daily.

Immediately after dawn prayer everyday, I would wait for the bus at the back of Sultanah Aminah hospital and then at the bus station would queue for the JB-Singapore Express bus that would take me to Bugis Station terminal. You would have to queue at both end, but it was all civilised and proper.

The tougher part would be at the immigration. I would have to bring my limited border passport everyday and both sides - Malaysia and Singapore - would have to stamp on it. The queue can be long and normally I would miss the bus that I have taken as it would not wait for you and would have to queue for the next bus.

This went on daily for a nearly month. I would leave home before 6 am and would reach the office by 7.30 am; the reverse travel would take me about the same time as I have the privilege to leave before the rush hour.

Caption: This is Bukit Pasoh Road in Singapore. I walk down this road daily in the mid-90s.

But the queue at the immigration was a tad too long for my liking and in order to cut the queue, and hence time, I need to be able to go to the permanent resident line. There was no queue there as those with a Singapore permanent residency would only need to 'wave' the passport to the the Singapore Immigration officer and they would let you through.

The beauty with this was that you would be able to maintain the same bus that you came with earlier and hence you would cut your time by between 15-30 mins.

But to be on that line, one need to be a permanent resident of Singapore. Obviously.

The application for a permanent residency only took 24 hours and much to my surprise, I got my passport back the next day complete with a permanent residency status. And even more Surprising for a Malaysian Malay, no question was asked whatsoever; I took it that, as a professional with certain skills, I am a wanted person in Singapore.

I presented my credentials, and I was given a PR status. Full stop.

Again, I presumed earlier that I would have a hard time getting my residency in Singapore since I am a Malay. But I presumed wrongly. Very wrongly.

Caption: Bukit Pasoh office. This was my office from 1994-1995. It was far cry from Dayabumi, but I love my sojourn in Singapore.There was a traditional Chinese music shop at the ground level, and at times I would be able to enjoy the music from my attic office.

With the newly given status, my commute would become easier. A lot easier.

From Bugis bus terminal (or Jalan Sultan Bus Terminal, I think) I would walk to Bugis station for the MRT to the Tanjong Pagar or Outram Park station, and then walk my way to my Bukit Pasoh Office. The office itself is nothing to shout about. It is at the attic of the 3 storey shophouse. But the walk from Tanjung Pagar Station to Bukit Pasoh was such a pleasant walk. Giant raintrees shaded the walkway and it was cooling. Tanjong Pagar is also the last station for KTMB trains. While the two stations are not the same, but to me Tanjong Pagar would always mean just that - train station for KTM which we as a young family had taken in 1992.

I could have exited at Outram Park which is a shorter walk to my office, but I felt affinity to the Tanjong Pagar station and area. It was my area, and I felt it very Malaysian, albeit a very cleaned one.
I am proud to have worked in Singapore - it was tough, and demanding and I have survived it. Beyond the competitive environment, it took me two busses, an MRT ride and a 20 mins leisure walk daily to my office, compared to say a 30-min car ride before. Who said that the Malays would never leave their comfort zone and compete in the real world? Who said that the Malays would prefer to be in their own country even it it was raining stone? Who said that the Malays would prefer to watch should it be raining gold in Singapore or anywhere else, and not take the opportunity to prosper there?

Mind you this was mid 90s; and at that time there was no Middle East market for our professionals. Vietnam has barely opened her door, and China was not on anybody's lip. No one leaves Malaysia then looking for greener pasture then; definitely not the Malays.

For us, there was no greener pasture. The grass is always greener on our side anyway.

Now of course it is a different stories. The Malays and of course Malaysians are everywhere; in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

The KTM station in Tanjung Pagar is a national treasure for both Malaysia and Singapore. I don't see the need of it to move to Woodland - would there be more contract to be given away to build another non-descript station like Sentral KL? I wonder what goes into the decision to move it. Not many would see Singapore, like I did, since they have never lived and worked in Singapore.

As with everyone else who has worked in Singapore, I have money in the Central Provident Fund of Singapore, so I do have an interest in the wellbeing of Singapore as a country. We compulsorily saved at least 40% of our monthly salary in Singapore, unlike only about 20% here in Malaysia. I would like to have my money back by the time I am 50; that's for sure. They have treated me well too, so I have nothing bad to say about Singapore.

But to me, Tanjong Katong and Tanjong Pagar are as Malaysian as Tanjung Rhu and KL Station and should have never been 'given' away. Tanjong Pagar Station and the KTM land in Singapore should have never been sold for any amount of money. How much money we are going to make and it will not last anyway. It will always go to the government coffer before ending up in some contractors' bank accounts.

Never mind about the water treatment plant. It is not worth as much as the Tanjong Pagar land. Heck, it is only fraction, if not a miniscule amount. Our forefathers were just too stupid to have that one sided water agreement, as always and an agreement is an agreement. There is nothing much we should get all hyped about. It's nothing new anyway - the PLUS agreement is another.

Have we been sold again?

I am seething and I am boiling. And this came on the heels on the Brunei debacle.

Now I am wondering which part of the country is going to be sold next.


On a bad traffic day, the whole length of the causeway would be one long parking lot. It would be much quicker to traverse it by foot, all 3/4 of a mile. That I have done many times. The worst was on one sunny day, I decided to walk to save me hours of traveling by bus. By the time I reached JB, I was all drenched in my own sweat.

As I stood at a mamak news vendor looking at the day's headlines (which I would normally read at the end of the day), he looked at me in amazement, and then looked up the sky and remarked, "Had it rained already? I didn't notice."

Been there and done that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our House, In the Middle of Our Street

Have you seen our house? Have you seen our house?
Have you seen our house? Have you seen our house?

It is over there mate!
Aah, Madness - they are quite, well.... mad. How else would I describe this British (super) group from the 80's?

For a start, how about genius?

I guess, in continuation of my series on our houses in Taiping, I remember this song from 1982. Of course by then we were no longer living in Taiping, but this song is very apt that I just could not help but post it here.

It is our anthem - my kids and I, for all the houses that we have stayed at; numerous actually. Mind you, this song is nearly 30 years old, but the kids enjoyed it nonetheless. Obviously this blogger thought it was a fun song from his younger days at the Monash suburb of Clayton.
I can imagine the three of us singing along with Madness. It never fails to bring a smile to me whenever I see the clip. Of course, the kids would be giggling and laughing while watching their antics, and they weren't even born yet when this song was released.

Brillliant. I could listen for this song for hours and it will remind me of my beautiful houses of Taiping.

To complement the previous entry, I present you Our House by Madness. Enjoy it.
Father wears his Sunday best
Mother's tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sister's sighing in her sleep
Brother's got a date to keep
He can't hang around

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our

Our house it has a crowd
There's always something happening
And it's usually quite loud

Our mum she's so house-proud
Nothing ever slows her down
And a mess is not allowed

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our

Our house, in the middle of our street
(Something tells you)
(That you've got to get away from it)
Our house, in the middle of our

Father gets up late for work
Mother has to iron his shirt
Then she sends the kids to school
Sees them off with a small kiss
She's the one they're going to miss
In lots of ways

[Instrumental Interlude]

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our
I remember way back then when
Everything was true and when
We would have such a very good time
Such a fine time
Such a happy time
And I remember how we'd play
Simply waste the day away
Then we'd say
Nothing would come between us
Two dreamers

Father wears his Sunday best
Mother's tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sister's sighing in her sleep
Brother's got a date to keep
He can't hang around

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our
Our house, was our castle and our keep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, that was where we used to sleep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beautiful Homes of My Soul


A boss of mine at Perak Hanjoong Simen plant in Padang Rengas once asked of me in 1986, "How long have you been living in Taiping?"

Even though I am an engineer and I should know better when answering a hardcore engineer's question, but instead I blurted out, "I am Taiping born and bred!" Never mind that I had lived in Kota Bharu during my teen years and other towns in Perak when I was a youngster, and in fact I had just returned from Australia say three months earlier.

Of course his response was swift. "You are not answering my question," he chided me. He was expecting a direct answer to his question. The answer should be a number and it should be precise - nothing more, nothing less.

But I knew no other way of answering that question, sir. It defeats the the purpose of a conversation in the social context, if I were to just give him a number? Furthermore, it is a more powerful answer than any number can portray. It denotes a lifetime, which cannot be described in a number.

Taiping is indeed our home; and home is where the heart is. It cannot be measured in term of numbers and years. It means much more to us than that. Any number that you can come up with should be multiplied with Avogadro's Number and then only will it reflect the true worth of Taiping to us.

Three generations - may be more, made Taiping our home, from both sides of the family, and for obvious reasons, we are very sentimental about this colonial hometown of ours.

Assam Kumbang and Aulong are two suburbs of Taiping that are very close to our hearts. They are the main two suburbs of Taiping anyway. It is here that we left our hearts, so to speak.

Beautiful Houses of My Soul
Caption: The signboard and you can see the road leading to first house in our hearts.

Jalan Kpg Melayu, Assam Kumbang

And then there was this particular house along Jalan Kpg Melayu in Assam Kumbang that forever would be etched in my mind, despite the fact that this house is perhaps the furthest in our mind, as far as the distance in time is concerned.
Caption: Used to be a wooden bridge during those days and you can see the house on the left.

Located just next to Sg Jebon - don't ask me about this name ok!, this is the home of Tok Adam bin Chemana and Nenek Bulan bt (Datuk) Junjung in the sixties. So I guess it goes without saying too that this is the home for Mak, and I guess this where she met Bapak, who lived nearby while working at Pejabat Tanah.

Tok Adam was an officer with Kastam diRaja, and I guess the house was a government quarters. But I don't think there was anyone else there i.e. it was a single house and the rests of the house nearby were privately owned.

During the old days, this river is very clean and us kids to play in it, looking for the small fish. I don't think we had ever taken a bath in it - I am sure Mak and Bapak would disapprove of it. Furthermore, the house is just next to it, so we can't be extremely naughty while playing in this kali.

Caption: This is Sg Jebon. During our naughty hours, we would be looking for the ikan laga and the likes. Perhaps now, it looks more like a longkang besar.
Caption: Ghosts of the family past - I can still imagine us and all roaming around here in the 60's. It is sad that it is now in this state - dilapidated, unkempt and in ruin. It holds so many memory of our childhoods.

Obviously since the 60s, this house would have gone through many renovation and as with most wooden houses, it was later on abandoned when the cost of renovation and maintenance exceeded its value. I think the original house is longer than this and used to be a semi-detached house meant for two families. It was also on stilts, unlike this one, but the shape looks very similar.

But Tok Adam has over 12 children (??) - could it be 13 or 14? and I guess, a single house could not accommodate all, so the government then was kind enough to let him have both. Most likely there was a door in between the two houses; I am not sure. May be not too; may be we had to go out of one house to get into the other, my memory has failed me in this respect.

I have no idea today of his position in the custom hierarchy. But it had taken him and his family throughout the country including Port Dickson and Mersing before making Taiping the final destination and I guess with that decision, it made Taiping our hometown.

How did he decide on settling down in Taiping, it is still a mystery to me. May be it was not his choice, but decided by the government. Whatever it is, I am glad and thankful. Taiping has such a nice ambience to be the perfect hometown for anybody.

Try it - you would want to make Taiping yours too.

The original inhabitants of the abode - my uncles and auntie. At the back are PC Am and MSu, while Baharom, PC Usop (deceased) and PC Nasir (deceased) at the front row. This is the back of the house but it fronted the main road. You can see through the other end of the house from this door.

I think most of the pictures were taken circa 68, most likely during Hari Raya; but by the look of them in this picture, it may be taken during fasting month!

If you go through this door to the other end, you will come to this front part of the house with a verandah.

Tok Adam is standing on the right while Nenek Bulan sitting on the left. MCKam, Mak and the rest of this Minangkabau clan from Bukittinggi area can also be seen. PC Ya, who is bapak's younger bro is standing on the left.

Tok Adam in his abode with his youngest daughter Mak Su and grandson Baharom. No, Baharom who is in a dress is actually a he, though we have always teased him about him in a gal's dress in this picture.

Baju yang dibasuh tak kering lagi kut? It must be rainy season then. Then again may be not. Every day is rainy season in Taiping!

Us kids in front of the house, which is the back of the house, if you know what I mean.

Looking our best for the Raya - This is definitely Hari Raya as you can see with the lampu kelip kelip. Hari Raya is always fun and I love celebrating it in Assam Kumbang as opposed to say in Talang, Kuala Kangsar as there are more kids here and there are so many activities here.

Baharom, the other boy in the picture is actually of the same age as I. But you can see the difference in size between the two of them and it is little wonder that the boy on the left would one day play rugby for King Edward VII.

The uncles like PC Usop and PC Nasir would buy all kinds of fire crackers including those rocket launchers complete with parachute and would target some coconut tree during the night.

It was fun to watch. We would spent long hours at night enjoying ourselves with the cool uncles of ours.

To me, this house is the embodiment of my early childhood memories which have been immaculately recorded by bapak.

No 881, Lorong 50, Aulong

Tok Adam, I guess, realized of the need to have his own house, so he bought a piece of land in Aulong and built a home for the family. Obviously he did not have the money to complete it at one go. So the first phase would only have a small single storey house built at the back of the land, which would later on be turned into a kitchen.

I remember visiting them from Lenggong, I guess, with only the back of the house ready.

And this is the completed house in Aulong; the house I would cycled to every Friday evening to watch PRamlee's movie and at 3 pm pm Sunday afternoon to watch Disney.
No 881 Lorong 50, Kampong Melayu, Aulong, Taiping. There is a pokok sukun in front of the house and nenek used to goreng sukun for tea. It is no longer there though.

I am not sure why every Malay settlement has to be named Kpg Melayu. I guess Taiping, and this is true especially for Aulong was a known settlement for the communists during the Emergency. They would barb-wired the whole settlement and Aulong was a black area then. Slowly after the end of Emergency, the government want assimilation between the Chinese and Malays and hence opened up the Malay sections of Aulong. This is required to whiten the area, so to speak.

So you would still find the Chinese sector and the Malay kampung in Aulong even today.

This house has a lot of memories for us. Every raya, Nenek Bulan would be 'kacau' dodol here. I can never challenge Nenek's strength and determination in the cooking process even during the years I was playing rugby. She was one strong lady.

And this is the house anak-anak and cucu Tok Adam would converge to during Hari Raya, or actually most of the time it would be reasonably busy, since at least two families stayed near enough to be coming daily.

And it was in this house we had our first encounter of the ghostly kind - the pelesit! It was scary tho at that point we did not now any better as a kid. I don't remember the full details now - heck, I don't even remember the actual story line. May be someone can fill in the gaps here with what happened that day.
Tok Adam with his daughter MC Nolly and grandsons at the ground level of the house. I like sitting down here as it is airy since it did not have a wall, so it became a favourite place for everybody to sit and chat and while the time away. Inset is Nenek Bulan.

I love the kitchen area because of the high ceiling (2-storey high actually), though at times it can be a bit dark and dreary for some reasons. Nenek I believe would sleep here near the staircase, which I thought was a bit steep. The living area is very well lit as it has many windows.

This house, fortunately or unfortunately - depending on one's perspective, has been sold to another cousin of ours. In hindsight, may be one of the Hariris should have taken over, but I guess no one was thinking of making Taiping our home then or anytime in the near future.

But one would never know and I guess we didn't think carefully then. At least I did not.

So that is in essence the two houses that were occupied by the Adams. They were the only two houses I am aware of since there is no pictorial collection of the houses in Port Dickson and Mersing, unfortunately.

But that's not the end of it in as far as houses in Taiping that are related to this story. The next three houses of Taiping would be houses that were occupied by the Hariris.

No 1071, Lorong 45, Aulong

No 1071, Lorong 45, Kampung Muhibbah, Aulong, Taiping. This is our house immediately after we left Lenggong for Taiping, if we were to discount the temp house at Pokok Asam. No television here, so for our dose of Ultraman, we would watch it at our neighbour house opposite ours. May be we do have television here for a while as I remember watching late night horror movie that would left me nervous to sleep in the room. I am not sure anymore.

It is during this period that the elder four would be taking turns to clean up after dinner - without fail. No need for maid during those years.

This kampung is aptly named since it has a mixture of Chinese and Malays living there. Our house was sandwiched in between two Chinese neighbours, and one of them would always play the Sealed with A Kiss very loudly. They must have loved that song quite a bit then, like our Bro Joe.
Inside 1071. No television, so I was engrossed in my comic mag reading that I am not sure what the twins were doing there in this picture or that bapak was taking the picture. And below, one of the twins playing with the goat at the compound of 1071. Not sure how did it get there - the goat that is!
Mengaji is easy here since the neighbour at the opposite of this house would host pakcik to teach Qur'an to kids in this neighbourhood. God bless you Pakcik. I last met him say 5 years ago he was still cycling the same oldman's bicycle - the one with the palang!

There is a kilang kicap at Lorong 44, so everytime you would pass it by, you would smell it. You can see lotsa tempayan for used to ferment the soy. It has a peculiar smell, I can assure you, but it was not downright offensive.

This house was the last house where the night soilman would come in the wee hours of the morning to remove the family's heir-looms! Of course you know that thing. So if you need to do business during the night, well, you would have to go out of the house, and do it in the dark and if you were unlucky to have to do it while the night soilman was doing his job, well, you would hear him shouting or shrieking, if the unfortunate were to happen.

Am I gross enough now? ;-)

PWD 1290, Jalan Sultan, Aulong

And then after No 1071, this bungalow inside the Aulong Police Station was given for Bapak to occupy.

I still remember the day we went to samak (clean) the house as previously a Chinese family was staying there. It was fun then to clean the house - sampai tergolek-golek jatuh main air. We were excited of course to get a government house after a year of renting.

This is the ultimate house for us in Aulong. Personally I like this house better than the bungalow in Lenggong, eventhough the facade is a bit non-descript. The house is more quiet, though distance wise, it is further to town. But it is not too bad if you were to use the old Taiping-Port Weld railway track to get to town, and near enough to our nenek's place and of course some of my best friends from KE lived in Aulong too, namely Zaki and Zulkaperi.

Unfortunately when I went there four years ago, someone was staying there, so I did not take a picture from the front end of the house. But yes, the entrance of this house is from the back - not sure why we have had more than our fair share of a Mat Salleh house! You know where you would enter a house via its kitchen.

Initially it was in the compound of the Police Station and later it was demarcated out, since the police did not own it. When it was within the compound of the police station, everytime we passed by the sentry, the officer in charge would salute us (read:bapak).
This is PWD 1290, Jalan Sultan, Aulong, Taiping, Perak. Nothing has changed much in the picture above. As I have said before, this house does not have the look, but it was spacious nonetheless with 4 rooms and 3 bathrooms, and a separate kitchen and dining area.

And if you compare the pic of the 'new' Balai POlis Aulong, you would notice the big tree in the background on the right of the picture below. The tree is the common element in the pic I took of the house - to the left of the pic above. In other words, both pictures were taken in the opposite direction, meaning PWD 1290 is right behind this Balai Polis.
It was a 'new' balai completed in 1979. The old one was built in 1951 and it consists of a wooden Balai and yes, it certainly looked like a berek polis then. A TV crew came in 1974 to film it in conjunction with Taiping 100 Tahun, but omitted to show the berek polis, since it was quite embarrassing to show it as it was already in bad state. 100 years of Taiping, and then the Berek Polis Aulong has nothing much to show, I guess.

Anyway, four rambutan, and two durian trees adorned the very spacious compound to complement the house. The three rambutan trees and a mango tree became our bases for a game of rounders since they formed a diamond - funnily though we played it with bapak's tennis racket and tennis ball. During the fruit seasons, the Berek Polis kids would come mengendeng our rambutans; I guess we weren't the best of friends with them. At least not I, since most of the time I would be away in Kota Bharu (from 1976 onwards). They were kinda different from us - different in mentality and upbringing, I guess. Obviously they were tougher and rougher - at least the boys were, and they should be.

Despite the many fruit trees in our compound, climbing trees wasn't part of our forte - my climbing skill would be limited to about a person's height. Nothing beyond that, please. I don't have too much of the monkey skills to be climbing trees. And rambutan is not something we would need to buy; many a times Mak would share them around with the Berek families, and the leftovers would be sold by Baharom who would be our guy to bring down the rambutans - as the upah, I guess.

As I have said, since most of the time I was away in Kota Bharu, so I don't remember much of the Berek kids. I do remember them playing popia with our tennis ball, so when the ball rolled over to our compound, we refused to return it. Of course they claimed they bought that particular tennis ball, so we have no choice but to eventually return it albeit reluctantly.
We were all growing up in this house, some of us became teenagers here. A certain bro of mine then loved to play Barry Manilow's I Can't Smile Without You when some of the Berek girls would be within hearing distance from our house. Obviously the volume during this song would be much louder than other songs that he would be playing!

It was quite a message - perfect choice of song, I must admit.

And I certainly would not forget during one of the rare occasions I was at home - circa 77/78, a group of the Berek kids would sing Juriah, a song popularised by Hail Amir. And they would sing it out loud; loud enough for me to hear them and remember it.

Juriah, engkau cantik, engkau goes the lyric. I don't remember the whole thing now. It was not the most popular of Hail Amir's songs during those years, but there is a reason why the kids loved to sing this song in the 70's Aulong Police Station.

For obvious reasons, there was this (pretty) girl called Ju - I am not sure if her actual name is Juriah or the Ju is just an initial of a slightly different name, I think, living in the police quarters, and she was the object of their attention and affection.

As for me during those years, there were already many pretty gals in Kota Bharu, so I had never been bothered with the Berek gals! Obviously, I am trying to justify that I have nothing to do with this episode.

And I would like to make full denial that I have anything to do with this! ;-)

I remember this incident because I thought they were funny, and downright brave - if not foolish, to be doing what they did. Actually I found it amusing. It reminds of movies where the boy would serenade the girl at their home - and sometimes they got kicked at their ass by the gal's dad. PRamlee also has similar scene with S Samsudin trying to woo the maid in one of his movie - was it Antara Dua Darjat? But of course Wak Karto would come to the 'rescue' much to his chagrin.

Brave indeed - these Berek kids. And they must have thick skin.

Moving on, every month, some Indian guys would come and cut the grasses for us - just like in Lenggong, so the lawn would be in near immaculate condition. Our job though would be to rake the fallen leaves which could be a big task then, as the whole ground was covered with the four rambutan trees and it was a quite a big ground to cover. [sigh]

On the Saturday in question, memang lah bercinta if bapak were to ask us to do just that, and we would try and find all kind of excuses to delay, but to no avail. He would expect that be done by the time he comes back for lunch.

It was at this house my bro and I had our circumcision. It was quite a kenduri, and prior to that we were all out playing popia with friends in the compound, though we were warned not to over exert ourselves. "Bentan nanti," said PC Usop. Kids, what do we know, eh?
The above pic was taken in 1974 with MCak and TokChu in front of the house. They were visiting us from Kuala Lumpur. Of course she was a favourite aunt of ours then. By this time, there were only eight of us, though mind the word 'only' OK. For more were to come later - at least four more to be precise.

This is the front of the house facing the Maxwell hill and a kapal korek mining tin say 700 m away from us. The hill and the glittering light of the kapal korek were very impressive during those days, especially during the night. I have written about this on my entry about my school in 2007 - This Used to be My Playground. And I have touched about this home on ours in that entry.
For the record, here is the map of Aulong and the three red stars represent the three houses mentioned above. One can walk from one house to another, though cycling would be a better option. Nenek Bulan, however, when she goes selling pucuk peneram - telinga keling if one were to use the politically incorrect name, would walk from one end of Aulong to our end. I have no idea how much she would get selling the kuih - like Bapak, she is another person who had never had an easy life.

The good life eluded her unfortunately. When she died, I was just beginning to find footing in the world, but I guess her youngest daughter by then would have built her life with her pilot husband - she was a MAS stewardess. But I am very sure what she did not get in this world, she would be reaping it in the hereafter, insyaAllah.

Alfatihah for Nenek Bulan.

Jalan Maxwell, Assam Kumbang

For now, we shall move back to Assam Kumbang.
And this is the house that I was born at. Jalan Maxwell, Assam Kumbang, Taiping. Of course now, we do not want all those Matsalleh's name anymore, so they renamed it Jalan Raja Kalsom. But who is Raja Kalsom again?

I have no clue as to who she was. But for sure I know who Maxwell is.

And just in case you are wondering - he is the guy in Get Smart, a very popular funny guy and bumbling super agent assigned by CONTROL - a secret counter intelligence organization, to fight the evil organization KAOS in this popular sitcom in the 60s. Who would not know him, unless you had been living in a cave in the past 50 years. You know, Maxwell Smart aka Agent 86 and his young and beautiful sidekick Agent 99 - that's Barbara Feldon, if I am not mistaken.

I beg your pardon? Wrong Maxwell ah? Oh ok, I am so sorry! ;-) I am getting old hehe.

Oh, it was named after Maxwell Hill - now I know.

But sorry I digress. Again. I was just having fun pulling your legs!
Caption: Mak and her first born, KSham at the Maxwell Road house in 1962.

I believe, and I guess I need to verify with Mak, that the days immediately after they were married, bapak got a house in Jalan Maxwell as their house. I am for sure were born here by some bidan kampung, but if I am not mistaken KSham was born in Taiping Hospital.

At least two of the government quarters given to bapak were wooden houses, including the bungalow in Kuala Kangsar, which is very similar in design as this one.

But that's a different entry.
It is still in existence, but in a very dilapidated condition, not unlike me I supposed! ;-) If I have the money, I would buy it and renovate it to its former glory.

So you are looking at houses dated at least to the early 60's or earlier, so it is in the condition as it is now. Given it was a wooden house and given that this is the harsh tropics, it is a wonder it had survived till today.


What a journey it has been for me to write this entry. The pictures were taken in 2007 and 2004 and they had been archived in the disk for so long. I have had as much fun browsing through the pictures and writing down memory lane.

I always say that I don't want to be sentimental, that the photographs shouldn't be sentimental, and yet, I am conscious of my sentimentality.
In the end, it became too long. Had I known it that it will be this long, I would have broken it into different entries. I think this is the longest entry so far and I guess this should keep the blog going for another week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How Time Flies

I was just killing time, browsing through the family albums, while Akmal was studying for his Chemistry exam when I chanced upon these pictures.

They were taken in 1999 when he was only 4 1/2 years and attending the pre-kindergarten class at League City Elementary School in Texas (south of Houston, near NASA). How times flies and how I could never retrieve the time when he was just practically a baby. He was such a sweet boy then, and of course he still is! ;-)

Horace Mann:
Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered for they are gone forever.

Merely ten years ago and it surely feels like an eternity. I guess I can never enjoy him again as him in these pictures. I remember well his antics as a kid, and his extrovert and cheerful nature then.

Zig Ziegler:
Remember, you can earn more money, but when time is spent is gone forever.

I guess, time NOT spent together as father and son, or for that matter for any reason, would be lost forever too, if you know what I mean.
Caption: Akmal and Mrs Whitworth posing for a pic when I came avisiting. Taken in 1998.

Life in League City was reasonably fun, and I am sure for the kids, it was the best of time. Learning at a school in the United States was an experience one would never get at our more regimented school. But that's a different story.

Lost time is never found again

I am just reminding myself that soon, he will be on his own when he completes his secondary education, and hence I need to enjoy his presence at home while I still can.

Alexander Woollcott:
Many of us spend half our time wishing for things we could have if we didn't spend half our time wishing.

I dislike it when I feel that my character was being questioned, like in the above saying. These words ring true for me if I am honest to myself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wind Beneath My Wings

I have many favourite teachers in my 11 years at school, teachers I would look back with fondness. My three teachers from SRJK(I) Lenggong would always be there despite the distance in time. My KE teachers were a bit strict, except for may be Mrs Wong. You would probably know some of fav teachers in Kota Bharu based on the previous entry.

Obviously I am not able to be in touch with all of them, some of their contact info was lost when I lost my cellphone.

So this morning, I was able to send text messages to only three of them; very early this morning. I do wish I had not lost the other numbers as I was sure I would get a response from them on this auspicious day.

My text messages are simple greeting wishing them a Happy Teachers' Day and thanking them for their dedication and for the fact they had all touched my life. No poems or songs to go along with that, though I wish I am talented enough to be doing that. I would like to share with you the response I got from them.

Cikgu Nik Faridah:
Tq Rahman. Having a student like you made it all so berbaloi2. Class 85-89 hosted a Teachers' Day at MRSM last night.

Cikgu Dr Fatanah:
Tk kerana mengingati. Kudoakan kebahagianmu muridku sayang.

Cikgu Faridah/Hizam:
Tq for remembering us on this special day. It was our pleasure to have taught you. We are so proud of u!

See how powerful simple greetings were. A simple smile generate thousands of smiles.

And I am still blushing...

PS To my friends yang kenal tiga-tiga cikgu ni, jangan jeles. ;-)


Here is the lovely Colleen Hewett, the original singer of Wind Beneath My Wings. In 1983 I was so in love with this song and of course the singer herself. ;-) She hails from Bendigo, a small country town in the state of Victoria - may be three to fours drive from Melbourne, if I am not mistaken.

Personally I was displeased with Bette Midler for stealing this song in 1991 - as much as I was displeased with Broery for stealing Sudir's songs in 1978. To me, this song is Colleen's song, and hers only and her powerful and emotional rendition of it made Bette Midler's version pale in comparison.

I wish I had written the song, but in any case, it's dedicated to all my teachers that have touched my life from primary to secondary. Thank you all from the depth of my heart.

Please excuse the quality though. This is the only version existed in Youtube.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Wind beneath Our Wings

Did you ever know that you're my hero,
and everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle,

for you are the wind beneath my wings.

Thank you, thank you,

Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings1

Teachers! There is only one way you would feel about them. No two way about it. You can only love them that is. Beyond our own parents, they are inarguably the most influential figures for us. They were with us from when we were kids, right through our adult life. Depending on what stage of our lives they appeared, their prominence or influence on our lives may differ, of course.

The fact that we spent twenty-hour day, seven-day week in school speak volume for our teachers’ influence on us. We were under their sphere of influence practically all the time for at least five formative years from 1976-1980.

Caption: MRSM KB teachers in the prime of their lives - don’t they all looked elegant? But more importantly, they were such a dedicated teachers to all of us!

Many of us would be able to recall with fondness most, if not all, of our teachers. We looked to them in awe. They taught us, guided us, educated us, enlightened us, tutored us, disciplined us, drilled us, and indoctrinated us so that we could all be useful person in our lives. For that matter, they even humoured us!

At least they tried. You can never fault them on that aspect.

Each of them is individual in their own right. Some are strict, some are more lenient, some are like fatherly, or motherly-figure to us, while there are some who are like friends. But they were all united under one common goal; that is to ensure that we would all be citizens who would one day contribute to the nation. As such, we would respect them all the same. They have basically dedicated five good years for us – and that is inarguably the best five years of our lives.

And how many of us have crushes on our teachers. Probably not many would be too shy to admit now days, though many would vehemently denied it then. Of course we have all outlived our crushes, but that goes to show how important teachers played in our lives. (Perhaps the reverse may be true too, but that is a different story.)

It is often said that teachers work in the background. While the students and parents took all the fame, if they are successful, they (teachers) are often blamed if their students failed. They were in fact miracle workers, or at least expected to work miracles on their students.

All of our teachers at MRSM were miracle workers. They probably worked harder than all of us and deserved the credit as much. I am sure that many would vividly remember many of our teachers during SRP who were practically living in school with the various drills, tests, and extra classes to ensure that we will all do well in SRP. Bapak Mappanggara, Cikgu-cikgu Gazhali Yahya, Fatanah (now Dr), Shaari Sawa, Lee Tong Hai, Mr Leong, (please fill in) and various others were toiling to ensure that we would have a good chance at the grade.

It was one exam after another to prepare us for SRP, and it showed in the results. We are very proud of the fact that with such a dedication, MRSM KB was the best school for SRP 1978, beating the likes of MCKK, Tunku Khursiah and MRSM Seremban and Kuantan. We had 92% scoring A’s in mathematics and 56% in Sains Paduan. To quote Mr Aw (Science Dept Head), “We were overjoyed when the SRP 1978 were announced. Congratulations to Bapak Mappanggara, En Shaari Sawa and En Ghazali Yahya. They really worked hard to achieve such a wonderful result.2” In contrast, the 1979 SRP recorded only 38.7% in A’s for science and 75.3% for mathematics3. We have set the standard and it was difficult for others to follow.

Cikgu Dr Fatanah, for example would give us weekly test on geography. As a result of her dedication, she had to fork out RM91 for ninety one of us who got A’s in SRP. Mind you, that RM1 was so precious to us in 1979. Using am average 6% discount rate yearly, that would mean a good RM326 in 2003. You can never imagine what our teachers have gone through to make sure we would study. And I am quite sure that they would not have grant or ‘entertainment’ allowances that many of us would have today to entertain our clients.

Caption: Cikgu Fatanah was our teacher, warden, coach and mentor to many of us. She was so involved with all of us. She remembered how our hockey team lost the championship by a mere toss of a coin. She remembered many who cried including Nora, but she was proud of them all the same.4

She and Cikgu Wan Tik taught us the world, and we have been able to survived life overseas at such a tender age of 18.

Many of us would remember visiting Bapak Mappanggara’s open house during one Hari Raya. Just imagine how what he and his wife would have to go through to feed around 100 of us hungry students. I believe we went in 2 batches – the boys and the girls went separately. Fortunately the gals still have lots of pictures from that occasion.

We vividly remember his Indonesian kicap manis. I think we bought a bottle from him to make our dewan makan dishes tastier. Until today I am a fan of kicap manis ABC and bangau. You should try it with ayam panggang. Fingers lickin’ good!

If only someone can tell us his whereabouts! Would love to meet up with him again.

Talking about bapak, there were two other bapaks in our MRSMKB’s life. One would be someone who taught us in F1 and F2. Bapak Maryoso left in 1977, and I remember that many were crying at his farewell dinner. He wrote me his Pekalongan, Jawa Tengah address in my diary, but I have lost it. If not, for sure I would have visited him.

Bapak Muljadi may not have taught us, but he was the homeroom adviser for homeroom Perintis. He would also checked on us during prep hours. At one time, there was this kuaci crazed, so there were many kulit kuacis on the floor of the class room during prep hours. He would told us to “kuteep, kuteep! Jangan begitu, dong. Apa kamu nggak bisa masukin kedalam bakul sampah?5” Bless you Bapak for training us to be the civilised person that we are today.

Who would not remember that ‘chapter’ of our Sains Paduan? Many of us would. It was our first encounter of the sexual kind, if you know what I mean. Some of our teachers were kind of embarrassed to teach us about the human reproduction system then. In the Darwin class, the mischievous ones like Birin would often tease (aruah) Cikgu Fadzilah to skip the rest of the books and move on to the ‘chapter’, but when the time came, he was as timid as a mouse.

It was such an anti-climax! By the way, the pun was intentional.

But apparently that was not true with Doris. She persisted with her investigative questions with Mr Koh. He, being this proper Asian gentlemen, wanted to simply gloss over it but the Newton girls were no gentle ladies. Sophie and Fawza asked many embarrassing questions; Mr Koh was red in both cheeks while doing his best to give scientific answers6.

Who would forget about Cikgu Hamizon, our Sejarah teacher from F1. She was so particular about our notes and at the end of the semester would check and rate them. Many love Sejarah back then because of her. Cikgu Sia, cikgu Mathias, Arwah Cikgu Musak Mantrak, Cikgu Hamid Zamburi were the other teachers for Sejarah.

Caption: The teachers of the old days knew how to have fun and we the students have enjoyed their performances over the years at the dewan. I had a hard time trying to retrieve these pictures of them from their personal albums due to the nature of some of the pictures. "Tu gambar zaman jahiliyyah, Rahman," she would tell me. Well, it's just walking down memory lane, Cikgu. It is nice to remember you all by.

Cikgu Nik Faridah was such an amazing English teacher to all of us. Though she mainly taught us in F1, many of us would remember her for life! She was so creative in her teaching method that not many would know that she is an economist by education!7 We had an English week with classes presenting fairy tale plays. Darwin 1 class presented Cinderella with Minee as Cinderella, Zul as her Prince Charming and Aya as one of her step sisters, and Jaghah as her step mum. Gina was playing as a wolf in another play.

What amazes me even to this day is her vivid memory - that she would remember everything that happened in our class like it was yesterday, even when such even had passed me by after 35 years.

Caption: The teachers presented us with Christabelle, a play written by Coleridge. Cikgu Lee Chai Poe was Christabelle, with Ms Sundra as her ‘Prince Charming while Cikgu Nik Faridah, the bard, can be seen with her partially hidden guitar. One can see Liza in the background.

We even have dance show during that week. The Donny and Marie’s song ‘The Morning Side of the Mountain8 was used as the tune for that dance.

Caption: From left: Cikgu Nawi with Cikgu Somchit in Aci Aci Buka Pintu, Cikgu Wan Rosli with Wan Nasihah in Aku Tak Mahu di Madu and The Quartet singing Seroja.

They took pride in their profession and we were all the beneficiary of such a dedication. They touched our lives and I believe we in many ways we had touched theirs. They are so important to all of us.

While we would love to re-tell the stories of our all our teachers, space and time are taking the toll on their inclusion in this souvenir program. Our deepest apology for all other teachers whose stories have not be mentioned. It does not mean you are less important to us.

We can assure you that all of you will forever lived in our minds.

KB76ers salute all of you, our dearest teachers!


1 Originally sung by the lovely Australian singer Colleen Hewett, (1983), before Bette Midler did a cover version and took the song to international fame. It is an apt inclusion to this piece.

2 Science Dept Report, Wadah Vol II 1978/79.

3 SRP 1979 Report, p69 Wadah Vol III 1979/1980

4 During the run-up, Kb76ers visited Cikgu Dr Fatanah at MRSM Jasin during Maal Hijrah 1424 (4 march 2003) and she retold the writer of the story.

5 OK OK I made up the rest of the sentence after kuteep kuteep. Could not help practicing my Indonesian.

6 Nadiyah retold this story to a KB76 yahoo discussion group in 2002

7 We found out this 27 years later during February 2003 trip back to Maktab in the run-up to the Reunion Dinner! She was so good at it, we had never noticed.

8 Cikgu Nik Faridah sang this song while visiting Rosminee Mustapha at KB Hospital on 7 February 2003. It was very nice and thoughtful of her to visit her ex-student! Minee was one of the dancers in that dance. Anyone else remember being in that dance team?


The article was stolen by yours truly from Cherish, a reunion magazine for Batch KB76, the wonderful batch of 1976-1980 at MRSM Kota Bharu, and edited for clarity. The magazine was published in May 2003 and I am sure by now many info are outdated.

It is re-published here without permission! ;-)