THE KACANG PUTEH SELLER

 

Fond memories are always good to reminisce, particular of many things that are slowly being flown into oblivion. Our past had taught us many valuable lessons; the games we used to play, the music we listened to, the food we crazed most, the movies we would always remember, the places we used to visit but above all is the people whom to a certain extent had an influence over us.

Like all places in this world, my hometown Muar produced many unforgettable person whose characters have left me with so many fond memories. In this article, I would like to bring back some of the characters of these wonderful people who would never leave my memory bank. Let me introduce to you the kacang puteh sellers of my growing years.

“Kacang” in the Englis language is “bean” but as for the kacang puteh sellers, they normally sell groundnuts and other nuts such as cashew nuts and other variety of nuts. Not many can verify why it is called kacang puteh which literally is white bean or white nut since there isn’t any white nut available in this country. Chances are the actual name is ‘kacang butir’ but was incorrectly pronounced.

Most of these kacang puteh sellers would be selling their products at the cinemas where most movie goers would be looking for something to munch while watch the movie. Before the arrival of pop corn, kacang puteh was the thing. Most of these sellers were of Indian descents. According to some people, selling kacang puteh has its origin way back in the early twenties when many Indians from India were brought in by the British to work in rubber estates. While their menfolks worked in the estates, the womenfolks decided to do something to earn extra. It started in Ipoh, it seems, because there were abundant of ground nuts in Ipoh. Their small trade prospered and encouraged by their success,  few others followed suit and by and by the whole of Perak could seen kacang puteh sellers carrying along their products on the streets.

So obviously by the time I was born and growing up, the kacang puteh sellers had reached to all parts of Malaya. In my hometown of Muar, there were quite a number of them. One that I remember most was Raju because he would be passing by my house around 2.30pm to 3.00pm daily.

Raju was a medium size person with a thick black hair. Unlike most Indian men who would be spotted with a moustache, he was clean shaven. I would assume that he was in his late twenties when I knew him. I was around ten years old and among his favourite customers. Every time after my morning school, I would wait for my kacang puteh seller. I could hear his voice  from afar calling for customers and normally he would shout..”kacang puteh, kacang rebus”. I would then run to the front stairs waiting for him. Sometime when he noticed I was not at the stairs, he would stop for a while waiting for me to walk out of the house.

Raju was such an adorable person and would smile when talking to his customers. He spoke perfect Malay. If one listened to him talking without looking at his face, he could easily be mistaken for a Malay. His attire would always be a short sleeve brown coloured shirt tucked in to his brown coloured short trousers. Believe it or not, Raju was never seen wearing a pair of shoes or sleepers. So you can imagine how poor he was. How dreadful to see him walking along the road on a hot day. But for Raju, life had to move on and this was the only way he could earn a small honest living.

When I first knew him, he was selling his kacang in four tin containers stick together. The ends of the containers was a long cloth that he would place it onto his shoulder. To wrap his sold kacang he would use a paper the size of an exercise book. He would make a small round with the paper that would look like a paper cup. For five cents, the paper cup would be small and bigger for ten cents.

One day Raju was missing. Everyone in the neighbourhood kept asking where on earth was Raju. He did not appear in our neighbourhood for almsot a week. Many were worried with all kinds of speculation; he could be in hospital, maybe he had gone back to India or maybe he could have died. But all these guessing proved wrong when one afternoon his voice could be heard for afar.  Few of us who heard his voice came out of the house waiting for him. Then his figure appeared at the junction about few yards away from my house. He was walking towards us while shouting the products of his trade. But this time he was carrying his kacang puteh on top of his head. It was like a small table with four wooden legs and on top were six varieties of his kacang. He would hold the front two wooden legs of the table and walked towards our direction shouting with that same voice…kacang puteh, kacang rebus.

In spite of knowing his name, we were still calling  “kacang puteh, kacang puteh, mari sini” (kacang puteh, come here). Raju grinned as he neared us and all of us started asking where on earth had he been? He grinned even wider and slowly told us that he had been married to an Indian girl, a relative who came all the way from India. Then all of us began to tease him and he would just smiled. There had been some progress in his variety of nuts and he introduced us the one specially prepared by his new wife. And this time he was seen wearing a pair of sleepers because his wife forbade him to walk barefooted.

Most of these kacang puteh sellers were Malayan of Indian descents. I guess this trade must be common among their community. There would be at least one kacang puteh seller plying in every cinema. There were also those using a bicycle selling their products and using the bicycle bell to attract customers instead of shouting.

As time passed, these kacang puteh sellers slowly began to disappear although we could still buy these products in some supermarkets. But nothing could be more merrier than waiting for the kacang puteh passing by your house and getting to know them personally and the lives they led. Had Raju lived, he could well be over ninety years old but I am sure he would have left this world by now. Raju had always been a part of my growing years and no matter how many stories I can remember of my growing days, he would surely be a part of my conversation whenever I turned to the pages of my past.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MY BEST WEEKEND EVER

It was the first weekend after my fist week in school and it was going to be the best weekend ever for me. It was a Friday morning and no school today and I was raring to make it the best day of my life. It was 1956 and I was six years old and was schooling at the Sekolah Bandar Maharani situated along Jalan Arab, Muar.

(Sekolah Bandar Maharani, Muar, 1956)

The past five days were the most traumatic moments of my life. The first Sunday of the year for the first time I had to go to school. When I woke up, suddenly the world was at its worst. The crows of our roosters began as early as 5.00am and echoed by our neighbouring roosters like as though they were in a singing competition. They were our alarm clocks and I would always cherish that wonderful moments especially when their crows reached the crescendo waking everyone in the neighbourhood. Minutes later the call of azan could be heard from the town mosque and that was the time I would pull my gebor (blanket) covering my whole body to continue my slumber. That Sunday morning I couldn’t do it. I had to wake up and get ready to go to school. I felt like shouting at those roosters to shut up. The soothing melody of the call of azan was dreadful that morning and how I’d wish the bilal had overslept.

Taking my bath at 6.00am in the morning was so torturous. The water inside the tempayan (large earthen jar for storing water) was so cold that I would shiver even minutes later while putting on my school uniform. Then I would start to cry refusing to go to school and would only stop when grandma increased my allowance from ten cents to twenty but I still cried while on the beca (rickshaw) and would only stop when reaching the school. These were my daily routine for the past five days of school.

But this morning I was totally a different boy. It was a Friday morning, the beginning of the weekend holidays to last until tomorrow. That dreadful sound of the morning crows was so calm and relaxing and when the call of azan was heard, I smiled from ear to ear pulling my gebor nicely over my whole body to continue my sweet dream in my golden slumber.

I was up by 7.00am and was planning my schedule. I jumped out of bed and ran toward my school shorts to determine how much money I had left. I would normally saved 5 cents to 10 cents a day to enjoy for the weekend holidays. I untied the rubber band that had kept my shillings intact in the pocket of my shorts and discovered I had saved 30 cents. I was beaming with great delight because I was going to have a great day ahead. The aroma from the kitchen began to fill the air, of toasted bread that our lovable maid-servant was preparing. I ran toward the bathroom and clean my face and without brushing my teeth I was already seated at the table. I was going to have a hearty breakfast of boiled tapioca mixed with grated coconut and white sugar, toasted bread with margarine and white sugar spread over the top, a packet of nasi lemak and black coffee manufactured locally by the famous 434 Muar coffee. I needed these calories to keep me energetic the whole day. Grandpa had gone to the wet market while grandma was busy sweeping the house compound that had been filled with the fallen leaves. I was having my breakfast like a King and how I’d wish there wasn’t any school in this world. If I were a magician, I would make my school disappear into thin air.

Immediately after my big breakfast, I ran straight to the back compound of the house to chase some butterflies and looked for grasshoppers. The smell of nature was wonderful and some leaves were still covered by the morning dew. How wonderful life would be if there was no school at all until the world ends.

Then my female cousin, Fuzi, who was a year older, came running towards me and said, “Lets play koknai”. (Koknai is game similar to Police and Thief). So the two of us went to look for our cousins and friends of our age to be able to form two teams. When we finally managed to gather enough to form the two teams, our antics began. The noise we created would reach a terrible crescendo that the elders would shout at us to lower down our volume. We heeded and lowered our voices as we ran around the house but only for a minute or two. The screaming and laughing would continue even louder that made our elders gave up trying. This havoc would continue until lunch time, the only call we would obediently obeyed.

Even at the lunch table we showed no manners. We ate like we had not been eating for days and the speed of our eating was like there was an urgent meeting we had to attend to shortly. Immediately after finishing our lunch, we would be back at the compound of the house to resume our antics. We would only stop playing when the call of azan was heard from the town mosque.

After having my bath and dinner, I would doze off like a log. No dreams, nothing.

It was a Saturday morning, the second day of the weekend school holiday. While in bed I would be planning for some adventures like going to the backyard of the house to look for grasshoppers or butterflies. Climbing trees and yelling like a Tarzan with one hand holding a wooden ‘knife’. In this case, I needed to take off my shirt as Tarzan never wears a shirt. I would imagine many things; like being a cowboy killing many ‘bad red Indians’, like a soldier killing some bad thieves and being a Hang Tuah fighting pirates alongside his four brothers. I would jump out of bed instantly when I heard grandma calling my name as breakfast would be ready very shortly.

Normal breakfast would be boiled tapioca eaten with grated coconut mixed with white sugar. Sometime we would have toasted bread spread with margarine and white sugar on top. Quite often we would have nasi lemak wrapped with banana leaves sold by the nasi lemak sellers who would make their round within our neighbourhood. I would eat these lovely food with all my heart and storing them as the energy I would need to start my adventures with my cousins and friends.

Since yesterday we played koknai, today we were thinking of another interesting game of ‘Hide and seek’. The same gang were called and they gladly obliged. Contrary to the game of koknai where irritating sound of our voices could be heard everywhere, this game would be silent all through. This would be the only game gladly approved by our parents. After losing a draw, the unlucky person would have to close his/her eyes and count to ten and the rest of us would scramble everywhere to find a place to hide. Some would hide under the bed, the stupid ones would hide under a table, some others would hide on some tree branches and there was one boy who dared to hide himself inside a jamban outside the house…what a horrible place to hide. After finishing his count to ten, he would start looking those in hiding. The first to get caught would then take his/her turn.

During the search there was total silence, much to the delight of our parents. The seeker would start looking everywhere like a dog sniffing for a hidden bone. Once I was hiding under the staircase when suddenly the cold blooded lizard appeared. I turned almost blue sending shivers down my spine.

We played many other games to spend the time until dusk. When that happened I began to feel dreadful because tomorrow morning I would have to wake up and go to school. At dinner time I would be very silent surprising everyone.

In bed I could hardly sleep thinking of tomorrow about going to school. Why must there  be schools? Who created this terrible thing called ‘school’?

The next two to three weeks I would be crying every morning. Sometime I would cry even in a trishaw and the trishaw man would try his best to console me.

The day I stopped crying going to school was when the trishaw man said to me, “Din, if you keep on crying going to school, when you grow old, you will be a trishaw man like me”.

Thank you Pak Malek. You are the best trishaw man to me.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE MARHABAN CHOIR OF THE SIXTIES

(Picture of Kumpulan Marhaban Tanjung, Muar (1963)

Another interesting feature in the lives of Muar  Malay youths of the sixties was the Marhaban Choir. This choir would only surface immediately after the first day of the Hari Raya festival and would continue for the whole month. In most cases they would perform at night after the Isyak prayer although there were cases where they performed during the day time.

This unique choir has its origin from the Arab settlers who came to the Malay Peninsular in the seventh and eighteenth centuries bringing with them their colourful traditions and customs. One of these is the Marhaban Choir. Most of the lines sung are praises of God and the prophet Muhammad and it has a unique melody but lively.

There were many Marhaban Choirs but for this subject I will highlight the ‘Kumpulan Marhaban Tanjung Muar’, the choir I was familiar with simply because I was a Tanjung boy.

My uncle Aziz Abdul Hamid (last row 5th from left) was a member of this choir and it was from him that I learned many things about the Marhaban choir. This picture was taken in 1963 and it was most obvious that the picture was taken at the once famous Lim Photo Studio situated along the busy road of Jalan Abdullah.

It must be an exciting event performing in the Marhaban choir in as much fun as watching the performers in action. They would be well dressed in their colourful ‘baju melayu’ complete with the ‘kain sampin’ and songkok. A choir normally consists of about thirty members (more or less) and they would do their round in almost every Malay houses within the vicinity of their neighbourhoood in the afternoon and at night. It was fun to watch them during the night. Most of these Marhaban choirs would begin their performances one week after the Hari Raya festival and as all of them had to cycle to every destination, their mere presence on the road would bring cheers to every onlooker. Sometime they would sing along while cycling on the road inviting the onlookers to sing along with them.

It would be a thrilling visit for a performer in the choir if the house they were about to visit lived his sweetheart. He would be grinning all the way to the house and often teased by his team mates. And his sweetheart would be wearing her best dress waiting for the arrival of her ‘romeo’ and his entourage.

The Kumpulan Marhaban Tanjung Muar (1963) consisted of dashing bachelors each with their own individual personalities. Most of them were from the vicinity of Tanjung although there were some from the neighbouring areas.

Now in their twilight years, some of these remaining members of the choir would not fail to keep on reminiscing those wonderful years whenever they get together.

I am sure there are still marhaban choirs around Muar town and in other districts in Johor state. But nothing can beat those wonderful years when life was so simple but full of excitement.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE SPOOKY SIDE OF JOHOR BAHRU TOWN (Part Two)

Strange but true.

What is strange but true? It is strange because a lot of those who do not believe in the existence of ghosts like to read ghost stories. One of them is reading it now offering a cynical smile.

Before I begin relating my own experience, let us explore some other horryfing encounters, weird experiences and spooky sightings experienced by some of my close friends and see whether they are make up stories.

The official residence of the Johor Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) is known as Saujana. It is a huge double story mansion with a vast land area surrounding it. It was obviously built by the British during her rule over the Malay states. The design is very much attributed to a typical old English architectural drawings. It is situated along the road Jalan Hassan Al-Attas, parallel to the busy Jalan Yahaya Awal. At the front are rows of oak-like trees providing excellent shades during the hot weather but during the night the owls will stop by to say hello.

The early sixties is known as the ‘swinging sixties’ and why not? While Elvis Presley rocked America, Cliff Richard followed suit in England and soon the world youths emulated every things about their two idols. Then came the Beatles who revolutionized the music world with their ‘yeah yeah yeah’ songs. Cassius Clay became the world heavyweight champion changing his name to Muhammad Ali and boxing became a great sport. Chubby Checker introduced a new swinging steps called the Twist and the whole world danced the Twist. The world villains suddenly found their match in James Bond and many men began to walk like Mr. Bond and even smiled the way he did. While the physical world entered a new phase where technology brought in some relentless changes, the spiritual world from the other dimension continued their everlasting tricks on the human race even James Bond would find it extremely difficult to thwart.

It was the middle of August one afternoon of 1963 and Sahak (Ishak Hamzah) was on the way from Muar town to Johor Bahru to join his cousin Murad Hassan. Tonight there would a grand party at the Johor Civil Service Club and the two cousins wouldn’t want to be left behind. Sahak arrived JB town in the evening and headed straight to Saujana where Murad stayed. Murad’s father, Dato Hj. Hassan Yunos, was then the Menteri Besar of Johor. That night the two cousins enjoyed their evening at the Johor Civil Service Club and when the party ended at 1.00am, the two of them decided to have a drink or two before retiring to bed at home. It was almost 2.00 when they decided to leave the club.

Upon reaching Saujana, they both headed to their bedroom. Sahak proceeded to the guest room which was shown to him earlier when he arrived. Too tired to even change his clothes, he jumped to bed and snored almost immediately. At around 4.00am he woke up feeling very cold and with his eyes closed his hands began to search for the blanket to cover himself. He felt uncomfortable and the bed he was on did not seem to be smooth as he first laid on. He opened his eyes to inspect but to his horror he found himself outside the house and surround by big trees. Without wasting a single second, he stood up and ran straight to the main entrance and knocked at the door as loud as he could. One of the servants opened the door and Sahak ran straight inside the house and at  sat the nearest chair available shivering to the bone.

Who could have carried him from his bed all the way to the outer side of the mansion with the entrance/exit door intact?

His horrifying experience was not new. Few of the Menteri Besar’s guests who had slept at the house had similar experiences. Although there had’t been any report of physical encounters with the spirit, there were many incidents of hearing footsteps, things moved on its own and lights switched on and off by itself. No report had been lodged as such stories were deemed nonsense.

Wak Wagiman (as I called him) was one of the gardeners at the Istana. When we mention the word ‘istana’ which literally is ‘Palace’, it does not confine only to the actual palace where the Sultan and the royal families stay. The land belonging to the Johore Sultanate is vast, thus anyone working within the areas belonging to the Johor Sultanate is known as ‘Pekerja Istana’ (Palace employee). For Wak Wagiman, he duties were to take care of the area fronting Jalan Yahaya Awal/Jalan Gertak Merah and fronting the Abu Bakar mosque.  The Johor Zoo is located within this vast land. This land connects to the real Istana known as Istana Besar facing the Johor Straits.

During my younger days I was fascinated with anything mystic and through this passion brought me to Wak Wagiman who stayed at Kampung Melayu Majidee. During the day this fifty year old gardener worked within the land of the Johor Sultanate as mentioned above. At night scores of people would throng to his house for some healing assistance of which Wak Wagiman was believed to be a psychic or faith healer.

“The area where I work is the dwelling place of ‘Orang Bunian”, began Wak Wagiman. For my non-Malay readers, Orang Bunian is believed to be the jinn beings. (The Islamic religion together with the other two Abrahamic creeds of Judaism and Christianity believe in the existence of the jinn beings). “There is a community of Orang Bunian in that garden”, continued Wak Wagiman. Although he had never seen an Orang Bunian physically, he claimed that his communication with these beings was through his dream.

A young couple lost their five year old son while they were having their evening walk along the lane behind the Istana Besar. It was quite common for Johor Bahru residents to frequent the area in the evening and some spend their time jogging or enjoying their evening brisk walk. The frantic couple couldn’t find their son after almost two hours of search when they finally reached the police station. The whole night few policemen combed the area hoping to spot the child but it was fruitless. After the police gave up, the couple decided to pay Wak Wagiman a visit after a suggestion by one of their relatives. After all they had got nothing to lose no matter how stubborn they were for not believing.

He received the young couple who arrived at his house at approximately 9.00pm the following. They told him of their predicament while Wak Wagiman listened attentively. When they had finished, he told them to come back tomorrow night at the same time. When the couple left, Wak Wagiman began his mysterious work alone in his special room and after finishing he slumbered. That night he had a dream.

The next night at the same time the couple came with a great hope. Wak Wagman told them that their young son was safe and under the care of the Orang Bunian. It seemed that the Orang Bunian had a son of the same age and wanted to be friends with the couple’s son. Through his dream last night, Wak Wagiman had negotiated with the Orang Bunian to have the boy returned to his rightful parents. After a lengthy negotiation they finally agreed to return the boy as he really belonged to the other side of the world. They were to go the same spot at exactly twelve midnight tonight. The couple was speechless but hopeful. When the hour was about to arrive, the three of them together with the couple’s relative headed to the lane behind the Istana Besar. When they arrived slightly a minute or two at the spot, there was the couple’s young son standing alone as though he was talking to someone. When he saw his parents approaching, he waved at ‘someone’ and ran straight to his parents.

Along the way home, the boy told his parents that he met a good ‘friend’ who brought him into his big ‘bungalow’ and met his ‘parents’. They were very nice ‘people’ and offered him some ‘fruits’. That night the boy slept at the ‘bungalow’ together with his new ‘friend’ and the following day they both had an enjoyable time together. Before dusk the ‘boy’s parents’ told him to get ready for home as his parents would come to pick him by midnight.

They then headed to the police station to inform the police that his son had been found.

Wak Wagiman was indeed an extraordinary person. At one time he told me that he had even managed to catch a notorious jinn being and locked it inside a special bottle which was then buried in a remote jungle. That night after listening to his mysterious stories, I drove home and decided to pass by the site where the young boy was found missing. It was almost eleven o’clock and as I reached the area which was across the road, I stopped for a while and pondering how could there be a bungalow among the big trees surrounding the area? The bungalow was situated right at that spot except that it was not within our human dimension.

Kok Chai was an obedient son to his dear mother. He was her only child as his father had died at a young age when Kok Chai was ten years old. They both lived at Century Garden in a single storey terrace house. Every year during the “All Souls Day”, his mother would bring him to his father’s cemetery situated along the junction of Jalan Yahaya Awal and Jalan Larkin and they offered prayers. They both did this every year until in 1982, he continued this good deeds alone because his dear mother had passed away to ‘join’ his father.

It was a bright and sunny day when Kok Chai started his journey from home to the Chinese cemetery which was hardly a mile away. Still a bachelor at forty, he had refused to get married because of his great love for his mother. There were many people at the site of the grave with every family members offering prayers for their loved ones. Kok Chai stopped at his father’s grave first and after having offered his prayers he proceeded to his mother’s grave. A few minutes after spending his time with his ‘mother’ he decided to leave the place to have a meal. As he was walking towards the road, he felt a breezy wind passing by from behind and as looked backward, he was terrified to see his ‘father holding the hand of his ‘mother’ in the air just above some tree tops. His ‘parents’ were looking at him from the air smiling and disappeared after hardly a few seconds. It happened in broad daylight with the presence of many people, yet none of them noticed what Kok Chai saw.

Every time when I met Kok Chai during my trip to Johor Bahru, we would always recall the same story experienced by him. Was what he experienced just a normal hallucination or any form of optical illusion or was it for real? No answer can ever be found but such experiences can only lead many of us humans to believe that there is another dimension within our own dimension.

To be continued….Part Three.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE SPOOKY SIDE OF JOHOR BAHRU TOWN (Part One)

Like all other towns, Johor Bahru town has its fair share of spooky tales. Some of its paranormal stories deserve a good horror movie; sightings of strange figures, events occurred that cause puzzlement and peculiar experiences keep on outwitting us. Johor Bahru town is my second home and I have few eerie stories that can send shivers down your spine. Stories that defy logic and beyond human comprehension. Whether these stories are true or make up tales is for you readers to judge and decide.

4th December 1977, Boeing 737 belonging to Malaysian Airline Systems (MAS) crashed at Kampung Ledang, Tanjung Kupang, Johor. Flight MH653 was carrying 93 passengers of various nationalities and 9 crews and this horrific incident did not spare any survivor. All dead were beyond recognition. This was perhaps the first fatal incident recorded in the history of the Malaysian airline. As none of the dead could be recognized, the State government and MAS authorities agreed to have them all buried in one common grave with honour. During the burial ceremony all religious imams, priests and monks carried out their own rituals and sermons accordingly. Where is this common grave?

In the heart of JB town there is a housing area called Kebung Teh. It was perhaps named after the road Jalan Kebun Teh. Towards the south is this housing area while towards the north is another housing area called Majidee Park. In between these two housing areas is where this common grave is situated which apparently is right beside Jalan Kebun Teh. A few months later, chilling tales, weird sightings and horrific encounters were reported and told from mouth to mouth. A lorry driver once used this road in the middle of the night and as he was about to pass where this common grave is, he suddenly saw a few people crossing the road. Applying the brakes of his vehicle to avoid collision, he stopped right in front of the grave but the people that he saw just disappeared into thin air. A lone driver was frightened to death when he saw two white figures flying just above the grave in the wee hours of the morning. Neighbouring residents often hear of human wailing and cries after midnight. All these stories could be conjectured but the one experienced by my close friend cannot be one.

Karim Bin Mohd. Amin (now a Dato) was having his usual night out at the Johor Civil Service Club one evening. It was almost 1.00am when he decided to retire and drove home. It was 1982 and was the beginning of his business venture. He told us that he was completely sober and what he was about to experience could not be unreal. Driving at the speed of approximately 50 mph, he suddenly saw a man crossing the road. Instinctively he applied the brakes but it was too late. He had knocked a man and being sober he stopped by the road side to ascertain whether he did knock a man? He looked at the rear mirror and there he saw a man lying on the road. His mind worked fast and decided to take a look at the man. Apparently he noticed that his car was parked right in front of the common grave.

He walked slowly and approached the man who was motionless. The man seemed unconscious but there was no blood. He slapped softly the man’s face just to find out whether he was alright but there was no answer. Karim had to think fast what would be his next action. The best was to call the police and since his house was now very near (He lived in the housing area of Kebun Teh) he’d better hurry home and called the police. What he did next was to carry the man and placed him on the grass by the side of the road. Having done so, he rushed to his car and started to drive home so that he could make  call to the police. As he was on the wheel, he looked at the rear mirror to check whether everything was alright but to his horror, the man he had just knocked and placed on the grass was inside his car at the back seat. Too horrified to look again, he screamed out loud and pressed the accelerator. All the way to his house he was screaming of fright but managed to drive home.

The next morning after having composed himself, he called his good friend who was a high ranking police officer in the state and related the event. He requested his friend to check at all the police station whether there was any report of a man being knocked down by a car and placed on the grass along the road. There was none. Karim felt ill after that and had to stay indoor for a week.

Was what Karim experienced a mere hallucination or other form of optical illusion? I believe him because he is always known among our fraternity as an honest person. Furthermore what good can making up stories be of any benefits to him?

In late 1973 I started working with an Insurance company based in Johor Bahru. I was 24 years old. Before I settled down on my own, I stayed in the house belonging to my second cousin Ungku Yusof Abdul Rahman (now a Dato). He was married to another of my second cousin, Zaini Abdul Jalil, who was a government officer. She was entitled for a government quarters and the house was situated along Jalan Pahlawan. Being related and close to each other, Ungku Yusof offered me to stay with them and I took no time to accept his generous offer. The house in question was a single-storey bungalow with a spacious living room. The master bedroom was at one end of the house while two other rooms were at the other end close to the kitchen. In the middle was the living room where the exit door was. As they were a young couple with a newly born baby boy, the two rooms were never used until I moved in.

Nothing happened on the first and second night of my stay but on the third night the spirit that dwell in the house decided to have some fun. I was in raised in a house shrouded with mystery in my hometown of Muar. Therefore I was accustomed to many strange happenings in that house and as I grew older, these weird feeling did not seem to bother me much. And so on this third night of my stay at Ungku Yusof’s house, the fun began at around 3.00 in the morning. It had to be around this hour of the night that I must woke up. As I opened my eyes, I saw a black figure standing beside my bed. It was so vague that I could not recognize its real image but it was in a form of a man with very long hair. I tried to stand up but I couldn’t move like as though I was tied to something. I struggled hard to get released but to no avail. My inner thoughts began to recite some relevant verses of the Quran but that didn’t work either. Maybe the spirit was giggling at my recitations. It was about a minute that I was like a log when I quietly said to the spirit to let me go as I just wanted to sleep after a hard day’s work. When I was fully recovered I could see vaguely the figure walking away from me. I then slumbered peacefully until the call of azan woke me up. I tried to compromise with myself suggesting that what I experienced was nothing extraordinary, just that I was perhaps too tired. Maybe the spirit knew what my thoughts were when suddenly I saw right before my eyes the same dark figure coming out from the wall walking straight to me. This time I was extremely scared but pretended to be brave. The figure kept on walking until it even passed through my body. I could feel the chilly cold air as it passed through me. As I turned back to see where it went to, the black figure went through the other side of the wall and disappeared. Maybe the spirit wanted to send me a message..”mind you, I am for real so don’t you ever forget that”.

I told Ungku Yusof about my ordeal the next morning and he said that this house had a guarding spirit what we Malays called “Penunggu”. There were few other incidents but I just chose to ignore.

In 1982 when I was already married with two small kids, I encountered the most horrifying experience of my life. I had a face to face dialogue with a young girl being possessed by a terrible jinni. I will tell you in my next posting.

If any of you readers don’t believe in my stories or don’t believe in the existence of ghosts, that’s not my problem. Maybe I should tell the spirit that once dwell in Ungku Yusof’s house to pay you a visit one of these nights.

Watch out for my next posting on “The Spooky Side of Johor Bahru Town (Part Two)”

Have a good day guys.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

JOHOR BAHRU OF MY GROWING YEARS

Johor Bahru had always been my second town during my growing years. Every time when the school holidays started, I would pack some clothing and had them stuffed in my bag and not forgetting the toiletries, I would walk to the bus station looking for a taxi to ferry me to Johor Bahru. Taking a bus would be cheaper but it would be time consuming. In those day we had buses that we referred as Bas Sangkut. These buses would stop at every town; from Muar town it would first stop at Parit Bakar, then proceeded to Parit Jawa and then to Semerah and finally at Batu Pahat. However, from Batu Pahat one had to take a boat to Batu Pahat town as the bus would not continue their journey but would return to Muar town instead. From Batu Pahat one had to take another Bas Sangkut stopping at every town like Air Hitam, Simpang Renggam, Kulai and finally to Johor Bahru. It would take you the whole day to reach Johor Bahru town. So normally I would prefer to use the taxi that would cost me $5.00.

My first trip to Johor Bahru was in 1956 when I was 6 years old. It was during this trip that I remember when my uncle brought me to Singapore to watch the movie ‘Hang Tuah”. I was so fascinated with the movie for two reasons; it was a Malay movie that I could understand every word spoken from the beginning till the end and what made it even more fascinating was it was in colour. When I returned home I created many lies to my cousins who had never been away from Muar town. I told them that Singapore was so very far away that it was at the other end of the world. Then I told them that Singapore was such a very big town that one could never find a forest and the buildings were all taller than any coconut tree there was. They would listen to me with their mouths wide open.

In 1959, one of my uncles was posted to Johor Bahru as a Police Inspector and I would spend almost every school holidays with his small family. The house as I remember vividly was situated along Jalan Draper, quite near to the Johor Bahru town center. It was a wooden bungalow belonging to the state government. Uncle Othman was married to a Kelantanese lady whose accent was so thick that I sometime found it difficult to understand what she was talking about. They had a daughter, Faridah, who was a toddler perhaps three or four years old. During one of the school holidays, my male cousin who was a few years my junior followed me to spend the holidays with Uncle Othman. Tamar (Nordin Bin Mohd. Noah) and me slept in one room by ourselves often waking up during the night feeling so scared because we imagined many ghosts were around looking for young boys to eat.

Unlike my hometown of Muar where entertainment outlets were minimal, Johor Bahru town offered varieties of them. In the morning, particularly during the holidays, the Lido Beach would be filled with people from all walks of life bringing along their children. It was a carnival and by the shore young girls would walk gracefully stirring into action the cheeky eyes of young lads followed by their inviting whistling tune. Some families organized picnics having their nasi lemak for breakfast under the swaying coconut tress. They would enjoy the same meal for lunch. Hawkers would be doing brisk sales and the ice cream sellers wished they could bring more. This kind of scenario would last till evening and would be repeated the following morning. Once a while the cars of the Johor Royal families would pass by making all heads turning toward their direction. Johoreans are known to be proud of their Sultan and the royal families.

In the evening the Merdeka Park would be the lime light and many young lovers would stroll along the area of Stulang Laut of the Johor Straits. There wasn’t much entertainment but making your presence felt was compulsory otherwise you would be left out. Light refreshment would be served for a reasonable price and hawkers too took the opportunity to earn extra.

I was the first to get a taxi going to Johor Bahru. It was 1965 and I was 15 years old, eager to set foot in my second hometown. The taxi driver waited for another three passengers before we could proceed our journey. Being the first, I had the privileged to sit in front by the side of the taxi driver. When finally the taxi had four passengers, we began our journey. Along the way I enjoyed gazing at the green scenery while planning how to spend my few days in Johor Bahru. I had many relatives and I could chose any of their homes for my stay. But for this trip I decided to stay at my grandaunt’s house situated along the road of Wadi Hassan. We arrived Johor Bahru town by lunch time and I took a stroll to my favourite Chinese restaurant. The Hwa Mui restaurant served the best and authentic dishes of the Chinese Hailam. The waiters were mostly elderly people who walked slightly faster than a snail. I had a delicious meal of chicken chop oriental style and enjoyed every part of the meat. It was so juicy that its taste could still be felt after a few hours later.

Tonight I would be attending a party at the Railway Community Hall along Jalan Bukit Chagar, the reason for this Johor Bahru trip. JB youths were more advance than the Muar town youths but we always competed and refused to be left behind. The western influence creeping into our society was evidently strong looking at how JB youths were coping with it. Few local bands would be performing and I was so excited to watch them. Back home I belonged to a band known as the Dreamers and tonight I would be enjoying myself watching these JB musicians rocking to their bones.

My grandaunt was extremely surprised to see me at her doorstep. Tok Ani was in her late seventies and lived with her daughter whom I called Abang Gayah. Johoreans referred the eldest woman in a family as “Abang”. Tok Ani was so happy to see me that she asked Abang Gayah to fry for me my favourite jemput-jemput.  In those days communication was very poor and we only used letters to communicate and for urgent matters we used the telegram. So every time I went to JB I had to take chances.

After having my dinner, I walked to the nearest bus stand and took a bus going to town. From here I walked towards the Railway station and using the back lane of the station, I walked a little bit further to a nearby hill. I ascended using a small lane and as it was dark, I walked slowly until I reached Jalan Bukit Chagar. One or two cars were passing by perhaps going to the same party. From afar I could see the lights of the Community Hall and could hear the sound of music. There were few lads outside puffing their cigarettes and I hope to meet some of my JB friends. As I approached nearer, one of them who noticed me shouted, “Hey our Muar friend Din is here”. We exchanged greetings and words began to circulate that a Muar friend was here tonight. I had always been friendly to most of them so I guess that was the reason I was easily accepted among my JB friends. Apparently quite a number of my Muar friends were also present.

The band performing was one called The Beats; a four piece all sporting the Beatles hair style singing the song ‘House of the Rising Sun’. They were all good looking, tall, and I thought they must be the Johor Arabs from Wadi Hana. They sang all the latest songs swinging and rocking as though we were in Liverpool. The dance floor were filled with dancers exhibiting the latest steps. The next band to perform was The Cossacks whose bass guitarist was my friend Wally (Zainal Jaafar) and another friend Rahman Kassim who later went to Germany. They sang most of the Beatles songs shaking their heads like Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I was introduced to some JB girls but as I was more interested in watching the bands, I could not be bothered  with them. Furthermore I was rather shy with girls.

JB bands of the 60s were more advance than the Muar bands. I guess since Singapore was just a few miles away, they could get the best instruments there were. I remember watching a group of Johor Arabs called the Wadi Hana Quintet at the Diamond Jubilee Hall singing an old number ‘Sri Mersing’. It was a great fusion of old and new sound combined. JB produced quite a number of good bands that made the grade. Among them were The Strangers of the Cicin Emas fame, Orkes Nirwana, The Blue Waves whose singer Dino later joined another JB band called the Heavy Machine. Dino and the Heavy Machine are still around in Kuala Lumpur singing in some exclusive outlets.

That night after the party, a good friend offered me a lift home. We stopped at a famous Chinese restaurant operating 24 hours called Three Rings.

Johor Bahru of the 60s during the night was the place for night birds. They had a night club callled the Sky but this place was not suitable for young kids like me and so I never step foot in this place.

Towards the later part of my life in 1973 I moved to Johor Bahru working with an Insurance company. JB of the early 70s had changed slightly  and new technology began to emerge. This was the time I began to have many new friends. Most of the nights I would spend my time at the Johor Civil Service Club drinking a glass or two of Anchor beer just to pass the time. By now JB had a new hotel called Orchid Hotel and next to it was the the Tropical Inn. The Tun Razak Complex along Jalan Wong,Ah Fook was almost completed that would soon transform the old road into a bursting shopping complex. New skyline was showing signs of appearing and JB was set to become a city with a class of its own. But until such time that would soon become apparent, JB town was a town many today have miss greatly.

Breakfast was always an exciting agenda and we had plenty to chose. We could enjoy a nice packet of nasi lemak eaten together with the famous otak otak served by a Chinese shop situated along Jalan Tebrau/Bukit Chagar. Or joined the many who would be enjoying their indulgence of lontong, nasi ambeng and the many Malay delicacies inside the wet market of Jalan Wong Ah Fook. For lunch we could always opt for the nasi padang of Yong’s. Or the famous Malay couple who served the best Malay dishes of authentic minang cuisine along Jalan Ibrahim. Of course not forgetting the legendary mee rebus Haji Wahid and the great Wak Logio’s satay. But you could still chose to eat at the famous Hwa Mui restaurant and the newly opened Lady Jade near the Mara building or at Wato Inn, just a walking distance from Lady Jade. The Sentosa nasi ayam was second to none and so was the Indian nasi daun pisang the origins of the JB Indian Keralla. JB  town was a food haven for those who wouldn’t mind to add a few more calories.

Surely many of you have heard of a place called Mechinta. It was a night club that could shame the fame of Paris and New York. The owner was a friend of mine named Peter Kuok, who happened to be the half brother of Robert Kuok. A short guy and always pleasant, he mooted the idea of Mechinta, the acronym of Melayu, China and Tamil put together. The world famous singer Dato Shake started his singing career in this famous night club. Of course we did have another night club called Queen Bee situated along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.

God knows how much I miss my JB town of my growing years. The Wahab Book Store where I could get any book of my choice; Everstrong for my sporting attires; RAT Auto to repair my car; the boutique of “His and Hers” to catch up with the latest fashion trend and many other varieties of everything.

And I will surely remember the many good friends that I have left behind.  Johor Bahru of my growing years was a town I will always longed for.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Hari Raya was the most celebrated festival during my growing years in Muar town and I believe it is still the most celebrated festival until today as the Malay population is still dominant. The Chinese New Year celebration came second followed by Deepavali of the Indian Light Festival. We didn’t have any Sikh festival back then and I noticed some of them celebrated the Deepavali together with our local Indian population.

We always looked forward to celebrate these festivals. Around Muar town, the population of the Chinese was almost ninety percent. Muar town during my growing years had quite a number of Indians and within the vicinity of my kampung we had three Indian families. We referred these festivals as ‘Hari Raya” too but according to the ethnicity. Thus we called the Chinese New Year as Hari Raya Cina and Deepavali as Hari Raya India. Hari is ‘Day’ in the English language while Raya is ‘Big’; thus Hari Raya means ‘Big Day’. However, there was another festival which was less celebrated and this was Christmas. This is understandable as there weren’t many Christians living in Muar town of the fifties and sixties.  However, there were three families who lived quite close to our kampung that celebrated Christmas. I still remember their names; Mr. Desmond Pereira, Mr. F.A. Johns and Terrence Smith.

It took us quite a while to finally realize that there was another festival we called Hari Raya Omputih (Big Day for the white people). We were then taught that this festival was a celebration for the Christian people. We were also told that this festival was to celebrate the birthday of a great prophet and messenger of God named Isa (Jesus) and this day was known as Christmas Day. So all these while we only knew that only the English people celebrated Christmas. Even after we gained our independence in 1957, there were still many English people in our country and they would celebrate their Christmas day at the Tanjung Club. During the night, we would cycle around the area where the Tanjung Club was and stopped by the roadside to watch the English dancing and celebrating their Christmas eve.

It was only when I was in Standard Six that I knew that Christmas was a day celebrated by Christians irrespective of their race. During my primary schooling we had one teacher who was a Christian named Mr. Edward who was an Indian by race. He was our Singing class teacher and was very good at playing the piano. Mr. Edward later married our class teacher Miss Sundram and since then we called her Mrs. Edward.

Along the same road where I lived in Jalan Omri, there was a Christian family of Indian descent. The head of the family was Mr. F. A. Johns. Mr. Johns worked with the Central Electricity Board (now Tenaga Nasional) and he was fond of cars. He was driving a Jaguar E-Type at that time. He had a son slightly older than me and had many Chinese and Malay friends. On the eve of every Christmas, their house was the only house that would be lighted brightly. We could see the Christmas tree nicely decorated at the front portion of the house.

Sometime in the early sixties, perhaps in 1961, Mr. Johns participated in the Johor Grand Prix. Johor state was perhaps the first Malayan state to organize a Grand Prix participated by few international drivers and riders. I remember few Japanese motor cycle riders participated but I remember only one name; Tanaka, who was the winner in the motor cycles category. It was in this Grand Prix that Mr. Johns died. The circuit started from Jalan Yahaya Awal in front of the Prison building with a sharp bend a few yards away to Jalan Air Molek. From here it would lead to the road along the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque which was on top of a hill. From here the road descended towards Jalan Lido and it was from this road that Mr. Johns crashed into the Johor river. It seemed that he was leading all the way but as fate had it written, sadly Mr. Johns died instantly when the accident occurred.

His death brought shock waves in Muar town and everyone was talking about it. It was a sad moment for Muar town for it had lost a courageous son. But the name F. A. Johns will be remembered for a long time by Muarians particularly my contemporaries.

When I started schooling at the Muar High School in 1963, I had three classmates who were Christians; Thomas Eapen an Indian, Alfred Walter Lopez a Portuguese descent and Alber Lim a Chinese. As Christmas would be celebrated during the long school holidays, we hardly celebrate Christmas with them. However, our school headmaster Mr. Desmond Pereira was very much a Christian.

Mr. Pereira became the headmaster of the Muar High School in 1957 until his retirement in May 1973. He took over from Mr. E. A. Balshaw, the last Englishman of the school thus making Mr. Pereira the first Malayan to be the school’s headmaster. He was born in Malacca in 1922 and was believed to be a Portuguese descent. He was a member of the Muar Rotary Club which started the Interact Club. He encourage all schools in town to be involved in joint activities like debates, oratorical contests and even musical performances.

Mr. Pereira must be the best Headmaster the school ever had. He died peacefully on the 17th December 2016 at the age of 94 in Johor Bahru.

My classmate Walter Alfred Lopez who looked like a younger version of Triny Lopez was among my best friends. He was a Portuguese and very proud of his ancestral heritage. I liked to tease him by asking “Are you related to Alfonso D’ Albuquerque? Lopez was a jovial person and very friendly. It was through him that I learned a lot about the Christmas festival.

Along the Police Barracks which was a few yards away from my house there once lived the Smith family. They were believed to be a mixture of Indian and Portuguese. They had a son who was a year older than me named Terrance. Together with his younger sister, they would frequently walk by my house in the evening. It was routine for me to play my acoustic guitar during this time at the tembok (concrete bench) of my house. One evening while walking passed my house Terrence noticed me playing my guitar and he waved at me and smiled. I waved back and invited him to sit with me which he obliged. Apparently I discovered that he was a very good guitarist. From then on we became close friends and we would sit together playing our guitars. We would sing Beatles songs together and played some instrumentals of The Shadows. Later I introduced him to my cousin Ajs who was an excellent guitarist too.

One day we received an invitation to perform as a guest artiste at the Cathay cinema where a Talent Time show was to be staged. Terrence was very excited about it and immediately excepted the offer. We invited another friend named Yem (Sheikh Ibrahim) to be the drummer. We practiced few songs in my room with Terrence playing the lead guitar, Ajis the bass guitar and me playing the rhythm guitar. On that night we performed well and the audience gave us a thunderous applause and it was such a memorable night for us who were only about sixteen years old at that time.

Once Terrence invited us to his house for a Christmas lunch. We were introduced to his parents and family and we had a great lunch cooked by his mother. Terrence however did not stay long in Muar town as his father was transferred to other district. Since then I have lost contact of him.

Although Muar town of my growing years did not celebrate Christmas as we usually did during the Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali, the spirit of Christmas was instilled inside me by these Christian friends of mine. Those were the years when race, colour and creed had no boundary and we respected each other’s religions and cultures greatly. It was a time when we learned so many things about the diversity of our great multi-racial society. I miss those wonderful years when my Chinese and Indian friends could simply walk into my house without needing any reason. Sadly these good values seem to slowly fade away. We seem to have lost trust in our own people.

To all my Christian friends and readers, Merry X’mas. May the good Lord’s blessings be upon us all.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment