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.


  1. Pernah duduk (menyewa)kat tiga buah rumah di lorong 50 dan sebuah lagi kat lorong simpang halt tu (which was Joey's house). Semua rumah ni walking distance aje from berek polis tuu... zaki

  2. " Yang menyanyi lagu Barry Manilow tu, abah kan? "

    Saya tersenyum kepada Izzuddin. Nak buat apa lagi masa tu selain dari menyanyi logu lago koleksi Bapak Emak dan Kak Sham. Dan benar pun, memuja dua anak kembar Tok Mat, hahaha.

    Terima kasih, satu kenangan yang menyayukan hati tentang kehidupan lalu.

  3. Rashi, yes, esp when pics of you were included! ;-)

    Ki, yes, Lorong 50 is always a road I would remember though I somehow barely remember your house actually. I remember Joey's house at the halt. Thanks for the emails on your view of Aulong then; I wish you would write about them somewhere.

    Aboy, I don't remember all, but somehow I remember that incident. I presume I must be back at home. Honestly I dont remember all the names you mentioned anymore.

    Well, this is what this blog is all about.