COMMUNICATION OF THE 50s AND 60s IN MUAR TOWN (Part Two)

We are still in Muar town and the year is 1960 and by now some of you readers, particularly the young ones have learn something precious, something that money can’t buy. Life in the 50s had always been good, even the weather was always kind; soft, warm and balmy. Malaya was a very young nation and we were lucky to have inherited many good things left by the British. The social life was slow but steady and we never complained, after all there wasn’t anything to complain about.

The past fifty years had been a breathtaking era of change. Since independence Muar town took its time to change and there weren’t any rush for changes although new opportunities were plenty. While the neighbouring districts of Malacca and Batu Pahat took the opportunity, time stood still in Muar town. Nevertheless, the people refused to be left behind and were able to ride in tandem to the growing needs, although slowly but surely, for a social transformation.

Preparation for the Hari Raya

Two weeks before the big day, the Muslim Malays would start to itemize the many things that need to be done; new clothes particularly for the young ones, new shoes and new songkok. Even the whole house need to be cleaned and beautified; new window curtains, some parts of the house need a repaint, shrubs that grew inside the drain must be removed, the grass must be mowed and flower pots need to be arranged.

But above all would be the preparation of food and delicacies. Unlike today’s communication speed, the last fifty years was done at one’s leisure.

For the Muslim Malays, Hari Raya is the height of all celebrations and this is prominent because of the one month of fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan is the beginning of the Muslim month of Syawal, the month of Hari Raya. Thus, the celebration will be the grandest of all.

Every house would have their set of meal; lodeh ketupat (which is Lontong), rendang daging/kambing/ayam, laksa Johor, nasi briyani, dalcha, salad, etc. 

Cooking in those days were done manually. The oven as we know it today was hardly heard of although some well to do families were already using it and showing off to every visitor that dropped by. Those having seen it would tell everyone about a fascinating machine that could bake cakes and bread by using electricity. Few wouldn’t believe it saying it could be magic.

The most sought item would be the rubber woods. To purchase these woods, my grandfather would cycle as far as Parit Korma/Parit Raja only to book them first. Most of the suppliers were the rubber tappers/planters themselves. Grandpa would request a full load of these woods in a bullock cart. In most cases, the supplies would reach our home in a week’s time.  So to get our supplies on time, grandpa must make the order on the second week of the month of Ramadan. A week before Hari Raya, I would be on full alert to wait for the bullock cart full of rubber woods to arrive. Normally it would arrive in the evening. From Parit Raja to our house was approximately 7 kilometers, a trip of that could reach our house within ten minutes if driven in a truck. The bullock cart would start in the morning and would arrive at our house in the evening. We had no choice because that was the cheapest mode of transportation. Further more there weren’t many trucks available. If the supplies could not be supplied at the appointed time, a messenger would come cycling looking for grandpa grinning unnecessarily to tell the not so good news.

To make the ketupat lodeh we need to look for young coconut leaves and these could be found in abundant along the coastal coast of the Muar district. As many Muarians would serve ketupat Lodeh during the Hari Raya celebration, demand for these coconut leaves would be great. Many would start cycling to these places looking for suppliers and these suppliers would look for the landowners where coconut trees were plenty.

Once these leaves arrived home, the women folks would start weaving them into small containers to be used for boiling the rice cakes. A big heavy pot would be used to boil these ketupat (rice cakes) and normally done immediately after getting confirmation the end of Ramadan. The lodeh would be prepared at the same time.

Making cookies would normally begin about ten days before Hari Raya. These cookies would be done by using a thick and heavy metal plate with mold of various designs. The baking process was done by placing another metal plate filled with burnt charcoal and coconut husks and placed on top.

These days, one can easily get cookies in the supermarkets and some other outlets but they surely had missed the great opportunity of witnessing the baking process of these cookies in the 50s. It was fun and full of excitement.

Of course we would be sending Hari Raya cards to our relatives, close friends, schoolmates and even to some boys or girls. Those greatly admired would get special cards. Hari Raya cards could be found in bookstores and even in some sundry shops. The price per card ranged between 30cents to $1.00 and we normally got ourselves the cheapest ones.

This was the only month the Post Office needed to work overtime. One week before the Hari Raya, these cards would arrive and everyone in the house would come out running like an Olympic aspirant when the ringing tone of the Postman’s bicycle could be heard. Those who posted their cards late, like three days before Hari Raya, their cards would reach the recipients very very late and some even received theirs after the Hari Raya.

Now with almost everyone having a smart phone, Hari Raya greetings are sent through whatsapp. The days of receiving Hari Raya cards are long gone and the excitement of waiting for these cards during the Hari Raya festival are slowing being erased from the Malay society. Technology may have given us a great leap towards achieving greater advancement but it has robbed us of the many wonderful moments of life.

Invitation to a wedding

Malay weddings of the 50s and 60s were a tedious affair as far as communication was concerned. As telephones were scarce, the invitation would be done in four ways:

  1. Through the postal service
  2. Through personal service
  3. Words of mouth
  4. Personal invitation

1. Postal service was the most efficient service of that period and quite cheap too. As this service was the most sought service, almost every town would have a Post Office. Letters or postcards sent within the town would reach the recipient the following day while those within the district would get theirs in two days. For the other states, the letters would reach between three to four days depending on the distance. The cost of the stamp was 10 cents as long as it was within the peninsula of Malaya. Before independence the stamp would print the picture of either King George or Queen Elizabeth.

2. We had relatives and close family friends whose addresses we did not know but we knew where they stayed. For these people, someone would have to cycle to their houses and hand over the invitation cards. Normally this would be done three weeks before the big day.

3. Malay weddings in the kampung was a big event. We would invite everyone we knew. The neighbours would invite their immediate neighbours without needing any approvals. The Kacang Puteh seller whom we had invited earlier would invite the rojak seller and he in turn would invite the ice-cream seller. Some neighbours woud invite their cousins and even their uncles and aunties…the more the merrier.

4. Inviting the elders in the family must be done in person. This is a show of respect that has survived for a long time. I remember my granduncle Tok Aziz came to the house to meet my grandfather who was his elder brother. A day before, Tok Aziz sent a messenger to my grandfather and told him that his younger brother Aziz would like to visit him and to extend his invitation for his son’s wedding. The next day at the appointed time my grandfather was ready to receive his younger brother. Grandpa was fully dressed with his baju melayu complete with kain sampin and songkok. When Tok Aziz arrived in a rickshaw, he was likewise fully dressed like grandpa. The two brothers would sit and talk and Tok Aziz would then break the news of his son’s wedding and inviting grandpa to be his guest of honour.

To those of us who can remember life in the fifties, the changes that are happening around us are nothing short of a transformation, an inevitable change that will surely come to face. Fifty years from now, when smart phones will be outdated, when some of you young readers will be 65, you’d be laughing at the way life was in 2017. But until that happen, let us enjoy and remember that there was a much wonderful life back in time some fifty years ago when time almost stood still.

 

 

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COMMUNICATION OF THE 50s AND 60s in Muar Town (Part One)

telephone of the 60s

Have you ever imagined travelling back in time to a not distant past, only about fifty years back in time. How life was then and how society coped with the slow pace of development and they never complained. The wonderful period when technology was already alive in the western world but in a small town of Muar, television was unheard of, cars fitted with air-condition  was unthinkable and smartphones were meant for Martians.

How would one born in the 90s and above comprehend that a ten cents coin could fill your empty stomach with a bowl of mi curry and a bottle of soda? When a one dollar note could provide a good dinner for two? Those were the days when life was so wonderful, when the sun took its time to set at the western horizon and a day took quite a while to end. I’ve been there, not in the western world when many things had begun to change and transform but in a small town somewhere near the southern state of the Malayan Peninsular; Bandar Maharani or Muo (Muar) to its local population. Come and follow me and lets take a closer look how communication shaped lives in the 50s and 60s in this small town.

Fasten your seat belt, we are travelling back in time some fifty years down memory lane. Observe, and take some notes and when you are back to the future, tell your family and friends that they have no reason to complain about the reality of living.

Death of a family member

Hashim’s (fictious name) father had just passed away of old age. It was almost 10.00pm, sometime in the year 1960. If that happened today, all he needs to do is to press some buttons on his mobile smart phone and immediately all family members, relatives, neighbours and close friends no matter where they stay will be informed, even as far as Canada or down below in Australia. Funeral preparation and all other necessary works likewise can easily be done by using the mobile smart phone and within minutes his house will be filled with relatives, friends and neighbours ready to extend their helping hands. But fifty years ago this was unthinkable. Hashim had to sit down with his siblings and to think what had to be done immediately.

They lived along Jalan Joned not too far from the town center; about twenty minutes of cycling time. They would have to divide their job functions. His mother would stay put inside the house to get ready for the necessary items to prepare for the funeral. Hashim had a younger sister and she was assigned to go around the neighbourhood to inform them of their father’s unexpected death. His younger brother would have to cycle to some parts of the town to get the message across to few relatives. For Hashim, he had a bigger responsibility. The first thing he had to do was to cycle to the town Post Office where the Telecoms office was situated to send some telegrams to his older brothers, sisters, uncles and aunties and other close relatives who were staying in various parts of the country. They must return home immediately as it was customary to bury the deceased body of a Muslim within twenty four hours after his death. By the time he was on the road cycling as fast as he could, it was already 10.30pm. At the Telecoms’ office he would request the person in-charge to send the telegrams to the names and addresses of the recipients. It would normally read like this:

Ayah meninggal dunia. Balek segara. (Father passed away. Return home immediately).

For each word used, the telecom would charge twenty cents per word and so to save money the message would be as brief as possible. The telecom office would immediately send the telegrams to all the names given by Hashim. For instance, if the recipient resided in Johor Bahru, the Muar  telecoms office would send the telegram to the Johor Bahru office. Once they received the telegram, a postman would be assigned to send the telegram to the recipient wherever the address was given. Receiving telegrams those days would send shivers down your spine. Most telegrams received contained bad news and it could be even worse if it was received in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the morning.

Those having telephones at home  could easily be counted. Even having a phone at home could be useless  because you could only call someone with a phone at home and so your telephone would end up being a decorative item. Once in a blue moon the house phone would ring and the whole household would scramble towards it with few ended up quarreling. The ringing sound of the house phone could be heard by the immediate neighbours and within seconds, heads would appear in every window with most showing their ‘inquisitive’ eyes. If the phone rang in the middle of the night, the house owner could get a heart attack. The neighbours would be so curious to find out that some of them would be at your doorstep before the sun could rise to light the earth and you’d better tell them who the caller was and what was the call all about.

Having done his business at the telecoms office, Hashim would have to cycle to the ‘Rumah Pasong’ (Police Station) to get the death certificate. Only with the death certificate could he get the green light to bury his father. The only Muslim burial ground of that period was at the 1st Mile of Jalan Bakri.

On the way home, he would have to stop at the Imam’s (priest) house for the funeral arrangement. He had to do this most discreetly as waking up someone in the middle of the night was a serious matter. Praying very hard that the Imam was snoring instead of having a wonderful time with his wife, he would utter quietly the greetings of “Asalamualaikum” (Peace be upon you) right at the front door of the Imam’s house. It certainly wasn’t a peaceful gesture greeting someone snoring in his bedroom in the middle of the night. Having met the Imam who was half asleep , Hashim would return home cycling as fast as he could. When he woke up in the morning, the Imam could have forgotten every word Hashim had told him and so it was time that the Imam had to cycle to Hashim’s house to find out.

The following morning most of the important things needed would have been looked into. Communication was done entirely by words of mouth and because it was done through human communication, there would be some flaws detected later. Like the cause of his death and the timing too. In spite of having sent few telegrams, there would surely be some other important names being left out. Few distant relatives would only find out in three or fours days’ time of the death of Hashim’s father and few demanded answers why they were not informed.

Those that had received the sad news through the telegrams last  night would by now be on their way home. Few would arrive late with valid reasons and by the time they arrived at the house, the burial ceremony was over.

Falling In Love

Falling in love in the 50s and 60s was fun but not with few stressing moments. Some Form Four students were already having girlfriends and few others had passed their marks even when they were in Form Three. In most cases, the boys from the Muar High School would woo those from the Sultan Abu Bakar Girls’ School (SABGS) and those from the Saint Andrews School would find theirs at the Convent of the Infant Jesus School as well as the Saint Terresa School. These two girls’ schools were mainly attended  by non-Malays with the Chinese girls dominating the scene. Some were truly pretty and they could be recognized by the colour of their school uniforms. When school was over, the front road of the convent schools would be filled with dashing Chinese boys in their school uniforms cycling up and down, over and over looking for their sweethearts. They would then cycle home together and parted when they reached the girl’s house. Along the way they could have arranged for a date later in the evening. The boy would then wait at the famous Kim Leng Restaurant at 5.00pm. If the girl could not get the approval from her parents, the boy would be spending the whole evening alone as there was no way the girl could communicate with him. He could only know the answer the reason why the next day. But he would never complain.

Malay boys from the Muar High School would prefer Malay girls from the SABGS which is situated along Jalan Abdul Rahman. When a Malay boy was seen frequently with the same Malay girl, they would become an item as far as the community was concerned. When this happened, it was called berendut in the Muar Malay language.

Ahmad (fictitious name) was deeply in love with Aminah. They were both in Form Four and both scored good grades in their Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) exams. Ahmad lived in Parit Raja Laut while Aminah was a town girl. Every day when school was over, Ahmad wasted no time cycling to the SABGS and Aminah would be ready to cycle alongside him. Sometime they would take their time cycling along the coastal cape of the Muar River known as “Tanjung” by the locals. At Tanjung, they would sit on the concrete bench facing the river and talked everything connected to their lives. They were head over heels in love with each other.

One day, Aminah’s male cousin of the same age from Kuala Lumpur came and spent a few days at Aminah’s house. That few days were like a thousand years for Ahmad, with sleepless nights, tossing right and left and by morning he would look like he had not slept for years.

On the same scenario but with today’s technology, the situation could be easily solved. Aminah could have received a whatsapp message from her cousin first and that same message could be forwarded to Ahamd and the three of them could have a good time together outing without Ahmad feeling anything suspicious about his new friend, Aminah’s cousin. Back in 1960, because of the poor communication system, the situation was disastrous.

When Ahmad sent Aminah home after their afternoon cycling rendezvous, he noticed a boy his age at Aminah’s house and immediately demanded an answer and it had better be good. She did but Ahmad was not convinced. He cycled home leaving Aminah speechless at his sudden childish behaviour. It was something she couldn’t understand at all.

During their berendut period, every time each of them wanted to extend some messages, they would each write something on a piece of paper and placed it inside an envelope. The envelope would then placed in between some branches of a selected tree in front of Aminah’s house. That night Ahmad wrote something very long and in a hostile text. Having done so, he cycled to Aminah’s house and quietly making sure nobody was around, he placed the envelope in between some branches. In the morning before cycling to school, Aminah knew that would be a letter somewhere in between some branches of a particular tree. She would only read the letter during recess and tears began to drop. During the whole remaining classes she understood nothing with her mind dancing all over the place. If a teacher asked her who was the first President of the USA, the name ‘Ahmad’ would come out from her mouth quite easily.

When school was over, she waited for Ahmad but he was nowhere at sight and so that day she had to cycle home alone. Immediately after lunch, she replied his letter explaining everything that could come out from her mind. Her male cousin was only visiting her parents as he would be leaving for overseas in a month’s time to further his studies. The letter was then placed at the same place in between some branches and Ahmad would later cycled along the road to pick it up. This letter writing between the two of them took some weeks to finally able for the two of them to reconcile. But that was the only available communication method they could think of; there were no other ways.

Many years later they got married and have children. One evening while waiting for Ahmad to return home from work, Aminah noticed her fifteen year old daughter so absorbed pressing some buttons on her smartphone. The speed of her fingers pressing the buttons was faster than any pressing machine found in town. Out of curiosity, Aminah asked her daughter with whom she was chatting with? It was with a boy she knew who was staying in Singapore. Aminah smiled and her mind began to rewind those period when the only mode of communication was through letter writing and to receive every reply would take a day but she had never complained.

Organizing a Party

Muar town of the 50s and 60s offered no entertainment outlets other than the cinemas. By 9.00pm, the town would be very quiet and shops would have been closed. Some closed as early as 7.00pm. However, a few shop owners decided to have theirs opened for twenty four hours and became known during my growing years as Kedai Siang Malam ( shops opened day and night). It consisted of four shop-lots; a coffee shop serving all kinds of drinks (including beers) and a special noodles known among Muarians as Mi Bandung; a bicycle shop to serve those who had punctured tyres, to replace dynamos, brakes failure,etc; a workshop for motorcars and and a shop selling essential items like toiletries. What a brilliant idea these entrepreneurs came out with. The coffee shop would be filled with customers even after twelve midnight. Sometime the stall selling Mi Bandung would serve Nasi Briyani. The workshop received endless customers during the night and likewise the bicycle shop too. Muar town of my time was a town for bicycles and each house would have at least a bicycle. These Kedai Siang Malam were situated along the busy road of Jalan Sisi.

Besides these shops was the famous ‘Grand Paradise Amusement Park’ with nothing to be amused with. The whole area was covered with wooden walls, many were worn out. The interior was filled with some shops mostly serving alcoholic drinks. There was a tailor known as ‘Mary Tailor’ whose owner was an elderly Chinese man with a front tooth missing. It would have been appropriate if he had named his shop as “Merry Tailor”. Further inside was a cinema and a theatre. This theatre was the place where the legendary stripteaser Rose Chan made all the cheeky men gravitate whenever she stopped by to perform. “Was your meeting last night successful?”, a wife would ask her cheeky husband the following morning.

We had wanted to organize a party and the venue was chosen…Ghandi Memorial Hall situated along Jalan Suleiman. Six of us had earlier decided to have a meeting at the coffee shop of the Kedai Siang Malam. We had agreed to meet at around 10.00 pm and everyone must be present. Ajis and Halim were already having their coffee when I arrived at 9.50 pm. We discussed about the fees to be charged, the food and drinks to serve and the cars needed for transportation.

In those days, getting girls coming to your party was like asking our grandmothers to dance the twist in a public place. So we had to offer them few incentives; free entry, transport provided and and they could eat as much as they liked. In spite of these incentives offered, only a handful gave a positive reply with a condition they must be transported back home by 11.00 pm.

It was almost 10.30 pm and the other three were still not at sight. Decisions must be made tonight because the scheduled date of this party was a few days ahead. The only way to find out was to go to their houses. I volunteered to look for Yem and Razak as they both lived nearby while Halim would look for Haron. Ajis would stay put at the coffee shop.

Half an hour later, I arrived with Yem minus Razak. Yem had a punctured tyre and the reason he couldn’t come earlier while Razak was already asleep as he wasn’t feeling too well according to his mother. A few minutes later Halim arrived telling us that Haron would be joining us soon as a far away uncle had come to pay him a visit. These unnecessary delays could have been avoided had the smart phones of today were at our disposals. But in spite of the poor speed of communication of that period, we managed to overcome many important issues.

The 50s and 60s may not be as exciting as today’s era, but it was a period of many happy moments and if I were to be given another choice in life, I would gladly wish to be transported back in time, some 50 years back when life was never stressful in spite of the poor speed of communication.

Have a wonderful day guys.

 

 

 

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TRIGERRING A CASCADE OF EMOTIONS

When I started to blog about my growing years in the town I love, it was done to bring back those wonderful memories that time had given me. Those wonderful years are gone but the memories will linger on, reluctant to leave my faculty of thoughts. Some of my contemporaries have passed on bringing with them into oblivion those precious moments that should have been shared. I have my fair share of those memories and I will not let those memories fade away and rot with the passing of time. We can’t rewind the clock to visit the past but we can visit the past by unveiling them from our memory bank and that was what I did in January 2013.

Since then my blog had been visited by many readers not only from Malaysia but  throughout the world. I reckon those from abroad must be mostly Muarians who must have missed home greatly.

On the 24th November 2014, I launched my first book carrying the same title “Pages From My Past” reminiscences of my early years in Muar town; a collection of 40 stories taken from this blog. Although there wasn’t much promotion done, the response I received was something I had never expected. Most of my readers enjoyed reading my stories which obviously gave me great satisfaction. Maybe it is good to recollect those wonderful years when time took longer to last. As Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said, “When we reminisce, life feels more meaningful.

On the 16th October I launched my second book “More Pages From My Past” and again it was well received and obviously mostly from Muarians. Since then I have been receiving messages from people thanking me for the effort I took. Let me share with you some of the messages I had received so far.

Dear Encik Kamaruddin. My daughter found your book at the MPH bookstore and bought it for me as I am from Muar. I did not read the book not after more than a month after receiving it from my daughter. When I started reading the book, I could not stop and kept on reading until I noticed it was almost 2.00 am. Thank you for such a wonderful book and I truly enjoyed reading it. (Muhamad Salam Omar).

I am halfway reading your book and I must say it’s funny and entertaining. I m enjoying it. Although I am not from Muar, I can visualize wat you wrote. For someone who never had any training in writing you sure did a wonderful job. (Rahmah)

When I read your book I laughed and I laughed and I laughed till the end. It is so funny but I guess it must be the truth as I experienced them myself when I was growing. Your book is so entertaining. You should continue with a second book. (No name was given).

Dear Kamaruddin. I m not from Muar but your stories bring back my own memories. I told my children to read your book because the stories are similar to mine when I was growing. Children these days must know how people like us grew up. (Lee Kok Chai)

For the young, it should be a postcard of the past written with passion and conviction by someone who cherish the great days that were. And in no ordinary town- in Muar no less, the town that meant a lot to Din, to me and many hardcore Muarians of our generation. (Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar)

Please keep writing. I love reading your stories. (Tan Sri Arshad Ayub).

To me, the fact that it is told not in the detached dispassionate tone of an academic scribbler but through the personalized flesh and blood voice of her very own son, increases its value-it makes it far more real. Additionally, though ‘Pages From My Past ‘ is ultimately the personal story of Kamaruddin Abdullah, nonetheless, in another sense it is also the story of the Muar generation that he belongs to. So for that we have to thank you Din- in recounting your story, you have in a way , also told ours. (Prof. Malek Munip)

Good morning Sir. I am very interested to purchase the books you are offering for sale as I am also a Muarian. I think you have done a very good job highlighting muar history. (Baljit Singh).

Thank you to all you readers for the many messages that I have received. You give me the strength and encouragement to keep on writing about the good old days of growing up.

I am coming up with a third book “The Ultimate-Pages From My Past” to include many more untold stories that must be shared. Stories that please the mind and warmth the heart.

To Muarians who may want to share their stories, please write to me (kamabdullah49@gmail.com) and let us share these wonderful moments that we once cherished to others.

 

 

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LAUNCH OF MY TWO BOOKS IN MY HOMETOWN

On the 2nd November 2016 I paid Muar’s District Officer, Tuan Hj. Ramlee A.Rahman, a visit at his office to extend to him my two books as a gift. During our brief meeting, Tuan Hj. Ramlee asked me why aren’t my two books sold in Muar town? Some Muarians who wish to read my books find difficulty in getting  them in any  bookstore of Muar town.

As a matter of fact, there isn’t any of my books sold in Muar town. My publisher Kalsom Taib Publishing made no attempt to promote my books in the town I was born.

It is rather peculiar not to find these two books in a town that provides much of its settings as described in the two books.

It was at this juncture of our conversation that Tuan Hj. Ramlee suggested to me that another launch of my books should be held in town and he offered the official residence of the District Officer as the site of the launch. After a brief discussion, we both agreed to have a second launch of my two books in the town I was born and raised.

The District Officer of Muar is a very senior post and it has been a tradition that those having serviced the Muar district as its District Officer will eventually rise to become the State Secretary of Johor State.

The official residence of the District Officer is situated at the mouth of the Muar River. It was built even before I was born in 1949. At the rear part of the residence is the Muar River and in the evening one can clearly see the sun set at the western horizon.

It is my honour to invite Muarians to the launch to be held as follows:

Date of launch   : 19th November 2016 (Saturday)

Place                    : Official residence of the District Officer at Tanjung Emas.

Time                    : 10.00am

Lunch will be served accompanied by a Ghazal performance.

To all Muarians who live outside the district, jom balek kampung.

 

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PUBLICATION OF MY SECOND BOOK “MORE PAGES FROM MY PAST”

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It had been quite a while since my last posting as many things happened unexpectedly.  I was extremely busy with the publication of my second book “More Pages From My Past” which was successfully launched by Tan Sri Datuk Seri Utama Arshad Ayub on the 16th October, 2016.

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The launch turned out to be a gathering of Muarians, those residing in the Klang Valley and few others who came from Muar. We had a good time meeting old friends talking about the good old days of the 50s and 60s.

500 over copies were sold during the launch and I wish to thank those who came and gave their full support.

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The book is now on sale at MPH bookstores. Those who wish to purchase the book may whatsapp/sms me direct on 013-6041071. The price per book is RM40 (excluding postage).

An on-line sales service as well as e-book will be set up soon.

More stories of the 50s and 60s will be posted soon.

Thank you.

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THE LEGENDARY MASTER JABBAR (PART TWO)

Master Jabbar

continue from Part One

Now no longer a single father, he could find more time to devout not only to his family he loved most but to his career as well. He was extremely happy to note how his three little children adapted very well with their new mother and likewise. To him that was very important to maintain a good family life.

Abdul Jabbar loved children and beside his own, he loved all his nephews and nieces treating them all like his own. Even children from the neighbourhood would find comfort in him. A great storyteller, he would tell stories to them whenever he had the time to spare. Whenever there were school holidays, these nephews and nieces would flock into his house and they would enjoy every moment when Wak Bar (as they all called him) spent the time with them. Even when these nephews and nieces grew into adulthood, they would still love to be with him. He was perhaps the only uncle that could give them the affectionate bond greatly yearned. He understood their feelings, each and every one of them. On one occasion when he was riding in a trishaw, the trishaw man told him that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. When the trishaw man asked him to suggest a name for his baby girl, Abdul Jabbar immediately suggested the name ‘Shamsiah’. The name came out from his mouth without hesitation because at the time the question was asked, Abdul Jabbar was thinking about his niece Shamsiah, the daughter of his eldest brother Ibrahim. A few years later, he rode on the same trishaw and the trishaw man remembered him vividly. The trishaw man told him that his daughter Shamsiah whom Abdul Jabbar had suggested for her name was now schooling at a primary school and excelled well in her studies.

A nephew who lost his mother at a young age of ten would always look forward to be near him. Azmi Ismail, the son of his immediate elder brother would always find solace with his uncle Wak Bar. He would tell him stories that warmth the hearts and the young Azmi would sit by his side listening diligently as the story progressed. Such was a man who would always find time to enlighten the young ones. He would advise them the good values of life.

He advocated greatly the importance of good education for children during their growing years. To him good education was the best investment any father could give to their children. For his three young children, he had plans for them but the time wasn’t ripe.

The education policy of that period emphasized the importance of learning the English language and failing this subject in your examination meant failing your examination in total. Realizing the fact that many young Muarians of that period lacked the knowledge of the language, he mooted an idea many would shrug. In 1956 he built a school on a piece of land along Jalan Khalidi, an idea nobody of that period would even dream of. After getting all the necessary approvals, he began his school project. It was built by using wooden planks and consisted of two blocks. The first block could accommodate five classrooms and the other block consisted of three classrooms, an office, a library and a canteen. There was a small field suitable for light recreational activities. The school was named “The Muar Hana English School”, located at 100, Jalan Khalidi, Muar . It was named after the first Englishman by the name of Captain Hana who arrived at Muar town after the Japanese surrendered. Abdul Jabbar must have liked this Englishman to have named his school after him.

A great teacher himself, he roped in few of his cousins and nephews to be the teachers of the school. Among those who were teachers in this school were Aris bin Abdul Aziz (cousin), Karim bin Othman (nephew), Kamar bin Othman (nephew), Maznah binti Mohamad, Selamat bin Johari and Abdul Ghafar bin Ali (who himself earned the title Master Ghafar in later years). When the school opened for registration, the response was unexpectedly overwhelming. He had to rent a vacant house across the road that could accommodate three classrooms. Students of all races were enrolled and among them was my uncle Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid (first cousin to Master Jabbar). Uncle Aziz had many fond memories of the school before being admitted to the Muar High School.

The school functioned like any other schools and produced many outstanding students in their own fields. His uncle Abdul Rahman Hj, Taib who was younger than him took charge of all the administration of the school. The school had a football team and participated in few local tournaments. The team was named after him known as Abdul Jabbar 11.

The following year in 1957, the Bar Council of Malaya recommended to the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ibrahim that Abdul Jabbar be honoured with Justice of the Peace (JP). In the same year, he was awarded the prestigious Bintang Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim. He became a Magistrate in the Juvenile Court and Rents and Control Acts. Later in the same year he was appointed a member of the Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri Johor, Public Service Commission and the Johor Civil Service.

When everything was in place and the school he set up had made a name for itself, Master Jabbar now focused on his children. In 1958, he brought along his two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin to India with a big hope to have them registered at one of India’s well known university-the Aligarth University at Agra. The three of them went on board the ship RMS Rajuna from Singapore to Podicheri, South India. They then proceeded to Madras by rail and the journey took them three days to arrive. It was perhaps during this long trip that many things began to creep into his mind. The thought of his first wife Zaharah, the fate of his children, his new wife Kalthum and his children that would come from her. He had always wanted to be a good and responsible husband and father. He had plans he’d wish he could implement and carry on and prayed that God would grant some of his wishes. He was compelled to his own conviction to accept anything that God refused to grant, treating them as blessings from the Knower of the future.

In Madras, he met the student representative for the university and was advised to abort the idea of sending his two sons to the university. His two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin could not be enrolled to the university as age forbade their admission. Furthermore they were too young to be left in a faraway country. In his moments of quiet reflection, he reminded himself that patience and steadfastness were valuable virtues to be preserved at all times. Before leaving India, he remembered his old friend from Muar, Abdullah Ali, who was then the First Secretary to our High Commission in New Dehli. They met and both of them spent some valuable moments reminiscing those good old years they had left behind. Father and sons then left for home on board RMS Madras.

In 1962 he received an unexpected call from someone he knew when studying at the Raffles College. It was from his old friend who was now the Deputy Prime Minister of the country. Tun Abdul Razak had wanted to see him and they were to meet at the residence of the Johor’s Menteri Besar. It must be an important meeting for a Deputy Prime Minister to summon him and so he left for Johor Bahru and headed straight to Saujana, the official residence of the Menteri Besar. Upon arrival he was greeted by Tun Abdul Razak and Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos the Menteri Besar. The three discussed topics of development and areas for improvements for the state of Johor and in the midst of their discussion Tun Abdul Razak asked him something that served the actual purpose why he was called. Tun had wanted him to join UMNO and the plan was for him to be the next Menteri Besar. Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos was on the verge of retiring and the state needed someone to steer the wheel and they both thought Master Jabbar was the most suitable candidate. It was not long for him to respond and there wasn’t any reason to delay why he had to reject the honourable request from the second most important person in the country.

Master Jabbar was a good practicing Muslim. To him a mere declaration of faith was insufficient, it must be firmly rooted within oneself. Politics is the art of the possible, where back stabbing is the norm. He had enough of that and had learned enough to understand the dirty side of politics. The experience he had personally gone through taught him many valuable lessons some of which he wouldn’t wish to repeat. He had watched and observed some of his family members being vilified through politics. His own uncle Dr. Hamzah Hj. Taib, the first Malay doctor of Johor State, who was partly instrumental in crushing the British’s dream of creating the Malayan Union suffered such a fate. He was adamant that politics would no longer play a part in his life. This was evident when in 1976 after the death of an UMNO assemblyman of Parit Bakar YB. Abdul Aziz Ishak, he was offered by an opposition party to stand for election against the Barisan Nasional candidate which he refused without having to think twice. Politics was history to him.

The education policy changed with the introduction of the Razak Report rendering many private schools in the county to close their operation. After some consultations with family members and close friends, Master Jabbar too decided that the Muar Hana English School should ceased operation. It was in 1965 when he was only 44 years old, still young and energetic. He began to plan few other things to make ends meet but Master Jabbar had his life full of unexpected tragedies. He had lost his wife for the second time in 1961 due to some complications after delivering their last child Shirazah. The nature of her death was quite similar when his first wife slumbered through eternity.

Nobody for sure knew how heart broken he could be for he never let loose any of his negative traits to others. Behind that happy face that he had always extended to others was perhaps to secretly keep the agony and pain that had deeply cut his heart. Who would know how many tears he had shed alone? Who would ever know that every night before retiring to bed he could be crying alone thinking about his two wives, taken away from him during the time he needed them both? He concealed his frustration only to himself and to God. His life was an illustration of one’s great faith to the Almighty. Perhaps it was too much for him to bear and the reason why he had shunned any idea of having another wife in spite of his young age.

 

1967 was my last year in Muar town and I can still remember most vividly on one December morning of that year when a classmate came looking for me. Hassan had wanted to see Master Jabbar for some advice on land matters for his ailing father. He could have easily met Master Jabbar by himself but instead chose to bring me along. He knew I was related to this great Muarian respected by many. Yes, Master Jabbar had a close tie with my family and his childhood friend Abdullah Ali was my father. His relationship with my father became closer when my father married his first cousin Kamariah, my mother. My mother passed away in 1949 when I was three months old and I was then looked after by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather Abdul Hamid Hj. Taib was Master Jabbar’s uncle, younger brother to his mother Aishah. Obviously I knew Master Jabbar although I wasn’t too close to him. He was a frequent visitor to our house.

Much as I can remember, Wak Jabbar (as I called him) was a tall man, chubby but well built, bespectacled and would talk with a loud voice. Every time when he visited my grandfather, I knew it was the voice of Wak Jabbar even from a distant and without having to see him. He would be talking to grandpa on subjects of interest to both for hours. Grandpa seldom talked at home but he would turn into a fine conversationalist every time when Wak Jabbar was with him. That was Wak Jabbar’s special talent; he could turn a dull person into a lively one.

Both Hassan and I cycled to Apong’s restaurant that morning hoping to see Master Jabbar. It was still early but we planned to have our breakfast before he arrived and of course if he was in town. It was a gloomy morning with dark clouds looming over many parts of town. When we arrived the restaurant was crowded as it would always be every morning. We shared a table with two others who were absorbed with their discussion. Ah Pong was at the counter looking happy with the continuous flow of customers that kept coming. He knew me as “Din anak Kolah” and was a good friend of my father. I went to see him and asked whether Master Jabbar would be coming this morning? He gave me a positive answer for he knew too well the schedule of his special customer. All the tables were filled with customers except the one with a typewriter on it.

At slightly above 10.00am, Master Jabbar arrived on a trishaw, his usual daily transport as he couldn’t drive. In spite of not being able to drive, he had an amazing record of being the first to ride on a moto-moped in Muar town; a small motor bike slightly bigger than a normal bicycle with a small engine. It could be peddled as well as riding like a motor bike. In fact he was the first in Muar district to own a Lambretta scooter. He had told to his children how he had gone to Malacca to collect his newly scooter. Being the proud owner of this ‘fascinating’ vehicle, he rode it home to Muar town. Halfway he stopped at one village to take a rest. When the kampung folks saw the scooter they were amazed at seeing a peculiar vehicle never seen before. Many came to view for themselves this new invention. When he reached Muar town, the first thing he did was to ride straight to Aman Workshop and met the workshop owner Pak Man himself. He told Pak Man to keep the scooter and study the parts so that it would be convenient to repair it whenever the scooter gave any problem in the near future. He always think ahead, just in case. In the evening he would ride the scooter bringing along his little children who would stand behind the center of the handles.  His five young boys namely Ali, Shamsuddin, Abdul Majid, Hanafi and Abdul Kadir would  enjoy the riding spree around Muar town ridden by their father. Sometimes the four of them would be on the scooter with Abdul Majid standing at the front in between the handles while the other three would be sitting behind him. All heads would turn to the strange moving vehicle.

As he stepped out from the trishaw, few people were already waiting for him at the entrance of the restaurant. Some had come as early as 8.00am to see him. It was like a typical scene in a busy clinic with patients queuing to see a doctor. Master Jabbar greeted them and invited them to his table. His hot black coffee was already on the table. They always had it prepared the moment he showed up. Both Hassan and I decided to let the others conducted their business with him and finally when he was sitting alone, the two of us approached him.

“Salam Wak Jabbar, my friend wants to see you”, I told him as I extended my hand to his. He invited the two of us to take our seats. As we sat in front of him, he looked at me and asked, “You look so familiar, have we met somewhere before?” Then I told him who I was and he immediately smiled and said, “No wonder I thought I’ve seen you somewhere. Ok let me deal with your friend first.” Hassan explained to him the problem his father had with regards to some land matters and he advised him accordingly like a true professional. When he had done with Hassan, he turned to me and asked:

“So young man, are you still schooling?”

“Yes Wak Jabbar. Just sat for my form five examination last month,” I answered.

” And what are your plans? Aren’t you going to pursue higher education?”

“I have no plan for the moment Wak Jabbar. I will be leaving for Kuala Lumpur in a week’s time and will decide after that”. We talked for a few minutes touching mainly on my immediate family members whom he knew them all too well. He described the nature of man my grandfather was, about my late mother and how she was supposed to marry her cousin instead of my father and he could even described how soft spoken my grandmother was.

When I noticed the people wanting to see him had built up, I decided that we should leave. Hassan asked how much was his service to which he answered smilingly, “I don’t charge anything for just uttering some words”. Before we parted, Wak Jabbar told me to come and visit him at this place whenever I had the time.

I did not. That was the last time I met him but the memory of this great man will lingers on. I remember few things about him. There was one evening when he came to our house looking for my grandfather, in fact he wanted to see my uncle Aziz who made the grade and was accepted to be admitted to the Muar High School. Uncle Aziz who was a student of the Muar Hana English School was playing football with his friends at the field of the police barracks nearby. Both grandpa and Wak Jabbar walked to the field looking for uncle Aziz and I followed them. They both were more like friends rather than uncle and nephew. Whenever there were family gatherings Wak Jabbar would surely be around and as usual he would always be the center of attraction.

 

After completing his terms as a magistrate as well as with the Johor Civil Service, Master Jabbar had more time to himself. To fill in the gap, he took interests in few hobbies; collecting stamps, writing, music and even weight lifting. He liked listening to music and had himself not only a radio but a Hi/Fi Amplifier, something not many had in those days. He almost got himself hooked into running the Amateur Radio (ham.radio) but aborted the idea because he had to learn the Morse-Code as required by the Communication Commission to get a license. For weight lifting he had a full equipment at his disposal well placed inside his house.

He even took up photography with all the necessary equipment including a picture processor. For the dark room, he used a toilet and the pictures would come out nice and clear. During the rush for the identity card, he went inside few villages and took the photographs of these people so that they would not have to go to town to have their pictures shot. That was how kind and considerate the man was.

Friday morning being a weekend holiday was reserved for his children. He would treat them lavishly and of course at Ah Pong’s restaurant. A trishaw would come to fetch them with the father sitting with his eldest daughter Mihrimah, his youngest daughter Shirazah on his lap while the boys squatting at the small space by the front. The family would be enjoying their breakfast of satay and lodeh, mi jawa and Ah Pong’s home made drinks.

In 1988 he performed his Haj pilgrimage on the first flight to the holy land and in the same year he received the medal PIS II from the late Johor Sultan DYMM Sultan Iskandar.

Sometime in 1990, he noticed his grandchild who was schooling in the afternoon session did not perform her zuhor and asar prayers. When asked why, she answered by saying there wasn’t a suitable place for her to pray. The next thing he did was to write a letter to the then Education Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the needs to provide facilities in schools for Muslim students to perform their prayers. The letter was registered and he had it posted personally. A week later the Education Minister instructed that all schools should provide facilities for Muslim students to enable them to perform their prayers. A small thought from a great man could change a policy of a ministry and that what made Master Jabbar a great man in his own way.

 

All close family members had been informed of his deteriorating stage and how his health had failed him by the hour. They all came to spend the last few hours with a man they loved most. Some grieved silently with great pains while some others cried uncontrollably. The thought of losing a lovable man who had been unconscious for the last three days in the hospital was truly unbearable and prayers kept coming continuously for his recovery. When doctors advised that they should bring him home, they knew that his audience with God was now near. They made all the necessary preparation and the house of his son Shamsuddin in Sungei Mati was ready to accommodate more close family members who were on their way to Muar.

On the night of 8th October 1992, Master Jabbar was brought home in an ambulance accompanied by his eldest daughter Mihrimah and her husband Daruish. That was a journey they both wished did not happen. Holding the hand of his dear father who was motionless, she kept on crying and praying for the best but her dear father did not respond. Strange as it could be, she noticed the lips of his motionless father moved slowly chanting the name of his Creator throughout that short and painful journey. Even at the time of his near death, Master Jabbar did not fail to remember God.

When they arrived home, the house was already filled with close relatives; his children,his siblings, uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces all with teary eyes as they watched with great pains the man they loved being carried to the bed already prepared. They all sat by his bed side offering prayers and many began reciting the surah Yassin. Even at the time of his death he was not alone but surrounded by many who kept on wishing that God would extend the life of a man they loved most. But his life must end and slightly before dawn, Master Jabbar peaceful slumbered through eternity having successfully uttered There is no God but Allah.

They buried him at the 6th mile Jalan Bakri Muslim cemetery.

….to be continued Final Part.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE LEGENDARY MASTER JABBAR (PART ONE)

master jabbar 3

Along the road of Jalan Suleiman of Muar town leading towards Tangga Batu on the left side was once a kopitiam that would serve its customers as early as 6.30am. A few distance from this famous restaurant was the site of the ferry services where commercial activities were always bustling. Office workers and school children from the other side of the Muar River would arrive to proceed to their working places and schools respectively. Fishermen with their catch could be seen along some parts of the shore negotiating with wholesalers from the town’s wet market. Buses would begin to ferry passengers and the trishaws had by then positioned themselves to receive their passengers to carry them to their respective destinations. As the eastern sun began to rise, the Tangga Batu of Muar Town would repeat yesterdays’ activities and the lively scenario would continue to gain momentum as the clock ticked. This kopitiam thus played a very important role to complement the early hours of the broken morning.

Filled with round tables made of marble and chairs of high quality wood, customers would flock to have their first meal of toasted bread spread with butter and kaya, half-boiled eggs and black coffee. The owner known simply as Ah Pong to the locals would be serving his home made drinks of hot and cold barley. By 7.30am, more customers would flock into the kopitiam and this time it was the grilling smell of satay that caused them to gravitate. Owned by one of the Muar cartel satay families, Wak Santano had one of his outlets in this famous restaurant. This setting of the mid-sixties was a typical scene of Muar town and as the clock ticked further reaching to 10.00am, more customers would fill the kopitiam, some craving for the satay and lodeh, others would be enjoying their toasted bread but there were few others who came with a different agenda. They came to this place in search of one man; a tall, chubby and bespectacled elderly gentleman known affectionately by Muarians of my early years as Master Jabbar.

Muar town during my growing years had quite a number of English teachers whom we referred to as “Master”. We had Master Nasir, Master Daud, Master Ghafar, Master Khaled but the most outstanding was none other than Master Jabbar. Once a proud owner of an English medium school known as the Muar Hana English School, Master Jabbar was regarded by many as a man of great vision adhering to the flow of development in parallel with the needs of the western world. My contemporaries looked upon him with great respect extending him the honour like all other humans of great wisdom. Always hardworking and alert, he kept on pursuing tirelessly the good values of society to justify the time bestowed by God. Now in his twilight years when some of his contemporaries would succumb to old age and spending more of their time at home, Master Jabbar refused to kick the bucket and kept on charging his energy to the fullest that could shame his younger generations. At the left side inside this kopitiam was a table with a typewriter on it and some documents. This table was reserved only for him. Refusing to accept his declining stamina that time had taken much of it, Master Jabbar made himself to be a Petition Writer, after all he was qualified to be one; he was bestowed Justice of the Peace (JP) by the Sultan of Johor in 1957 at the recommendation of the Bar Council. Reaching the zenith of his life and wisdom, he spent his last years using his mental skill more than his physical ability bowing gracefully accepting the fact that age had finally caught up with him.

This article is dedicated to a man Muar town of his era owed so much.

Abdul Jabbar was born on the 4th of January 1921 to Abdul Majid bin Ahmad and Aishah Hj. Taib. His father Abdul Majid was a Javanese descent tracing his roots to the monarchs of central Java, Indonesia where Kings and Queens were next to gods and goddess. His mother Aishah on the hand was a thick blooded Bugis whose ancestors were sea warriors who hailed from the Celebes providing excellent services to the Johor Sultanate in driving away pirates over the South China Sea borders. The blended characters of both husband and wife produced children of strict discipline, articulate in characters, good morals and Abdul Jabbar lived up to these expectations and disciplines.

His early education started at the Sekolah Bandar Maharani situated along the same spot where stood the central wet market. The young Abdul Jabbar exhibited his early intelligence with his fast learning skills and went on to proceed his education at the Muar High School. Among his classmates were Abdullah bin Ali whom in later years became our country’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Talib bin Darwish who became Brunei’s head of the Public Works Department (PWD). Abdullah’s relationship with Abdul Jabbar became even closer when Abdullah married his first cousin Kamariah Abdul Hamid. Both Abdul Jabbar and Abdullah went on to pursue their education at the Raffles College in Singapore and it was here that he became friends with students from other states most notable was Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak.

Abdul Jabbar excelled in his education and dreamed of becoming an architect but that dream was vetoed when he received a scholarship to study Law in London. Destiny and fate are written, so they say. While waiting for the date of his departure to London, the Japaness attacked Malaya and it was in that year of 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army landed at Kota Bahru, Kelantan to begin its rule over British Malaya. The good life began to change and the administration became everything Japanese. Abdul Jabbar had to abort his plan and worked temporarily at a rice warehouse situated on the same area where once stood the Muar Daimond Jubilee along Jalan Sultan Ibrahim. He worked as a Clerk and because of his proficiency in the English language, the Japanese Commander who could speak the language well became close to him. Impressed with the Commander’s command of the English language, Abdul Jabbar lend him some of his books much to the delight of the Japanese master. At times he would relate stories to the Commander in English and over the time their relationship grew.

Among those who worked at the warehouse were Mat Indera and Margono and because they were anti-Japanese to the core, they soon joined the underground unit of the Malayan Peoples’ Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA). However, they did not look back and continued their struggle for an independent Malaya after the Japanese surrendered and joined the the Communist Party of Malaya.

A year later in 1943, Abdul Jabbar got himself a wife. As a matter of fact, he had been engaged with this girl even before the Japanese invasion. His father had a relative named  Shamsuddin staying in Batu Pahat and was a very influential person of that district. It happened one night while having dinner with his family that his father told his children how he’d wish to see one of his sons to marry one of Shamsuddin’s daughter. Without hesitation Abdul Jabbar was too happy to fulfill his father’s wish and so he was officially engaged to Zaharah, one of the daughters of Shamsuddin. He was 18 years old then and his fiancee was still schooling.

They were both pronounced man and wife when he was 21 years old and it was held at Sungei Ayam, Batu Pahat where the bride’s parents stayed and a few days later another ceremony was held at his parents’ house along Jalan Omri, Muar. Awkward it may seem, Abdul Jabbar had never met his wife in person even when they were both engaged. That was a risky venture he took, not knowing how pretty or ugly his future wife could be. Some of his friends would tease him but he was never perturbed and instead would answer resolutely “no money can buy the thrill”. His first sighting of his wife was on the day they both sat side by side during the bersanding ceremony and he must have sighed a great relief to see for the first time the pretty face of his dear wife. (Malay weddings during the Japanese occupation could only be done during the day). Deep in his heart he vowed to be a good husband and a good father to their children. Now his dream to pursue higher education had turned into a distant dream  It was however a good marriage and they were blessed with three children; Mihrimah the first child and a girl followed by two boys Mohammad Ali and Shamsuddin. The happy marriage life turned tragic when his wife passed away in 1948 after giving birth to their third child due to some complications but life had to go on and the single father weathered through the stormy life raising his three little children with great care.

When the Japanese surrendered and Malaya was again under British rule, Abdul Jabbar became an English teacher teaching at the St. Victoria School which was then situated next to the Christian church along Jalan Salleh. It was in this school that he taught one student who later became the head of  MCA and a Federal Minister. That student was Dato’ Neo Yee Pan. When the school was closed he went on teaching English at KK English School and later at the Maharani English School. The same school where St. Victoria was later became known as St. Andrews School.

Abdul Jabbar was the seventh child in a family of eleven siblings. The first four were girls followed by seven boys of which he was the third boy. Although unable to pursue his dream for higher education abroad, he received a number of good working offers but outside Muar town. Among the few offers he received were to be a Police Inspector and a District Officer of other district. His two elder brothers Ibrahim and Ismail had made their grades and were on their way to their exciting careers and so Abdul Jabbar decided to accept these offers to enhance his own destiny. Again fate had it written that he must stay put in his hometown. His mother forbade him to leave town and was asked to take care of his younger brothers who were still in their schooling years. Furthermore his mother’s health was deteriorating and being dedicated and loyal to the family, Abdul Jabbar agreed to sacrifice.

In 1954 he was appointed as Ahli Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan for a one year term which was extended for another year in 1955 and it was in this year that the British government decided to have a local council election. Now Abdul Jabbar was beginning to taste the bitter side of politics. He decided to stand as a candidate but not under the wings of the established UMNO party, he was adamant to stand as an independent candidate. That was one big risk and which also meant that he had to fork out all expenses on his own. Some friends advised him to think twice but Abdul Jabbar was unperturbed and knew he could sail pretty well. He had many friends of all races and his two year term as Ahli Majlis had gained him worthy experiences that could be used during the campaigning period. The race was set and the whistle blown. Abdul Jabbar began his political battle with an UMNO candidate under the Alliance Party.

Almost all family members, close and distant relatives gave their undivided support and Abdul Jabar went around the constituency which was along the road of Jalan Salleh towards Parit Stongkat with his fierce rhetoric. Words began to spread among the UMNO members that he was a force to be reckoned with and should be treated as a heavyweight and treating him otherwise was a great mistake. They sent their best orator to counter Abdul Jabar’s excellent public speeches. A young lawyer by the name of Saadon Zubir arrived in Muar town and was invited to speak for the UMNO candidate during one night at the Padang Muar Club. When he received the news, Abdul Jabbar went to the police station and applied for a permit to speak at the same time and venue where Saadon Zubir would be speaking. Apparently his permit was approved but later when it was discovered that the same permit had been given to the Alliance party, the OCPD went around Muar town looking for him. When they met, the OCPD requested that Abdul Jabbar cancelled his intention so as to avoid any undesirable incident. He flatly refused and told the English Officer of his rights to keep up to his schedule.

That night the Padang Muar Club received overwhelming response from the public all wanting to hear the speeches of two great orators from both sides of the fence. But Abdul Jabbar applied a witty and cunning strategy. Earlier during the day, he had summoned his close friends of various races and trades and told them he needed their cooperation for the night. The owner of the Grand Paradise cinema was to supply him the best movie they could find and another friend being a Quarry operator to get his lorry full of granite and pebbles. Although unknown to them what was in Abdul Jabbar’s mind, they gladly extended their full cooperation.

That night when the battle began, Saadon Zubir took the microphone and began to speak. There wasn’t any stage, both sides used lorries as platforms to speak. Just as the crowd began to fill the field where Saadon was speaking, Abdul Jabbar showed an exciting movie over his side. A free movie with so many fighting scenes was obviously more thrilling than listening to a political speech and so most of the crowd began to disperse from the UMNO area and turned their faces toward the screen. When most of the crowds were absorbed with the exciting scene, Abdul Jabbar killed the climax and stopped the movie as intermission and that was the opportune time for him to reach the crowds with his speech. Both sides began to hurl disparaging remarks at each other and the situation became almost chaotic with each side of the supporters almost engaged in a scuffle. That was the time the lorry full of granite and pebbles arrived at the site where Abdul Jabbar’s supporters were. The granite and pebbles served as their arsenal, just in case. However, there wasn’t any bad incidents and the OCPD sighed a great relief saying “This incident never occurs anywhere except Muar”. Later Saadon met Abdul Jabbar’s eldest brother Ibrahim and told him “Yem, adek engkau Jabbar hentam aku kiri kanan” (Yem, your younger brother Jabbar ‘bombarded’ me in his speech endlessly).

Another strategic plan employed by Abdul Jabbar was to write letters to all the voters in his constituency. When the polling was over, some of the voters confessed that they voted for Abdul Jabbar because the letters they received instructed them to do so. When the result was out, he won with a handsome margin and was declared as the new Ahli Majlis Daerah. 

As a representative for his constituency, Abdul Jabbar executed his responsibilities well and introduced reforms beneficial to the people. It was during this period that he was appointed as a panel of Prison Inspectors, Johor State War Executive Committee, Commissioner of Oaths, Chairman of the Penarik Beca Association, Board of Governors Sekolah Ismail School Two and a panel of Jury of the High Court. His popularity was at its height but yet he knew no glory and he became even more closer to the ordinary masses.

1955 was a good year for him and it was even more exciting when he met a beautiful young woman who was destined to be his future wife.

Malaya was fighting for its independence from the British and UMNO played a leading role headed by its President Tunku Abdul Rahman. As a young political party, it lacks many things among which was finance. A delegation comprising the three major races of the country was invited by the British government to begin negotiation in London. They needed funds and UMNO members throughout the country were requested to raise the fund. In Muar town, some of the members likewise did the same and went around to collect donations and financial contributions from those who could afford. Among them was a young woman named Kalthum binti Anuar who hailed from Parit Keroma, a village quite near the town. She was a dedicated Wanita UMNO member who sacrificed much of her time going around the housing areas looking for donors. Every time when she came to Muar town, she would be staying with her cousin Arfah binti Abdul who stayed along Jalan Joned.

Kalthum had few close friends in Muar town and among them was a lady known as “Mak Jah Kucing”. What an amusing nickname but such peculiar nicknames were common among Muarians of that period. Mak Jah Kucing knew Abdul Jabbar as well and it was her who suggested to him to take Kalthum as his wife. He had never met Kalthum and had no idea how she looked like. But being Abdul Jabbar that was never a priority, after all he only saw for the first time the pretty face of his late wife on their wedding night. It was Mak Jah Kucing who kept telling him how beautiful Kalthum was.

One night there was a Fun Fair at the Padang Muar Club and that meant night outing for many Muarians. Muar town of that period had not much entertainment outlets and so when a Fun Fair came to town, nobody wished to be left behind. Abdul Jabbar was neatly dressed and ready to show his presence at the famous field. Likewise Kalthum was ever ready to spend the evening with her friends at the same place. Earlier during the day there was a heavy downpour and some parts of the field were muddy.

Like in a love story of a typical Hindustani movie, the hero Abdul Jabbar arrived at the Fun Fair with style and on the other side of the field was the heroine Kalthum mingling among the crowds with her friends. The hero waved tirelessly every time he bumped into some friends while the heroine kept giggling listening to some funny gossips. They both kept walking and as they were about to cross path, they both noticed a muddy area in front of them. As they both tried to avoid the muddy area, both of them almost skipped and when that happened their eyes met. When the hero saw her, he almost got himself electrocuted from the power supplied by the heroine. It was obviously love at first sight and Abdul Jabbar took no time to inform Mak Jah Kucing that he would obediently heed her kind suggestion. Arrangement was made for both of them to meet and they eventually tied the knot.

It was a happy marriage and they were blessed with four children; Abdul Majid, Mohammad Hanafi, Abdul Kadir and Shirazah.

To be continued….Part Two.

 

 

 

 

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