We just had our dinner of Mee Bandung at the Pak Ma’il’s little restaurant of Kedai Siang Malam. It was a beautiful Friday night with the full moon showing off its bright light surrounded by the countless glittering stars providing a magnificent display of nature’s beauty. The clouds seemed to give way allowing the heavenly scene with its full view be displayed to the eyes of many Muarians. We were cycling home passing by the Court house along Jalan Petri which was beside the Rumah Pasong (Police station) and right across was the town Government building. Cycling slightly further we reached the High School’s sport field and turning left to Jalan Omri where we both lived. The town library hall was on our right and I would frequently visit this place after lunch for some reading materials. After passing through three junctions we reached the tembok of my house. Halim had always been my close friend since we were in Form One and he was schooling at the Saint Andrew’s government aided school. Since the day James Bond ‘came’ to Muar town, Halim became known as Halim Bond because of his great passion in everything attributed to Bond. At the tembok we talked about yesterday, about the day before yesterday and what to do tomorrow. Since tomorrow would be a Saturday, we decided to spend the morning together in town.
A Saturday morning in Muar town of my days was a day everyone look forward to because that would be a day when everybody would very likely meet everybody. If you are lucky, even your sweetheart would be around somewhere. The busiest road would be Jalan Abdullah and would be filled with cyclists from one end to the other giving motorists their most stressful moment. In most cases of heavy traffic, it was the continous sound of an old-style motor horn that would irritate us but in this case the ringing bells of every bicycle that would provide the loud resonant and annoying sound. The whole row of shophouses would be crowded with pedestrians taking their stroll leisurely. Saturday morning was one morning when you could hardly find a parking space for your bicycle and car owners could only frown to translate their frustration at every parking space filled with bicycles.
It was 8.00am when I reached Halim’s house, a distant of six houses away from mine. The sun was still unseen blocked by the slow moving clouds and the still tall branches of dark green on every full grown trees lining up by the road side. Halim appeared fresh after his morning bath and his hair was nicely combed slightly lacking the correct style and shape that of James Bond. He took his bicycle and together we cycled down town to the north end of Jalan Suleiman where the restaurant was situated. As we reached nearer to our destination, the smokey scene at the front portion was the best distinguishing feature of a bursting trade had just begun. We parked our bicycles two shop-houses away and walked to the front to find any empty table available. Almost all the tables had been taken but we managed to share a table seated by two persons.
The restaurant was a typical Chinese Coffee Shop with its table tops made of genuine marble and the wooden chairs rightly designed to suit the round table. The waiters were all quite elderly men and very friendly. At the left hand corner of the front portion was a satay stall owned by the then famous Wak Santano. By 9.00am, his stall would be full of waiting customers for their satay and lodeh. Lodeh is quite similar to lontong except that in lodeh they use ketupat instead of nasi empet and while the gravy is simlilar to that of lontong, lodeh’s gravy must be mixed with satay’s gravy and no sambal is added.
Halim ordered our 434 Muar coffee while I went to Wak Santano to order our satay and lodeh. Almost every tables were filled with lodeh and satay. We had to wait for almost half an hour for our satay as the long queue seemed never ending but we enjoyed our lodeh and the 434 Muar coffee was superb. When our satay arrived, it was juicy and wasted no time to enjoy our indulgence. After our breakfast, we ordered another cup of coffee to kill the time before taking our stroll along Jalan Abdullah.
Minutes later the legendary Master Jabar came and sat at his usual place. The owner of the restaurant always made sure his rightful place was always reserved. Those teachers who gained respect by the community managed to retain their respectful title of Master throughout their lives. Among Master Jabar’s contemporaries were Master Nasir, Master Kamal, Master Ghafar, Master Chiang and two or three others their names I have forgotten. Master Jabar had a private school of his own known as the Muar Hana School and later he set up another school called the Sekolah Maharani situated along Jalan Khalidi. After retiring Master Jabar became a Commissioner of Oath and did many petition writing and this was the restaurant where his clients would look for him. Armed with an Olivetti typewriter, he would normally begin his service around 10.00am and his customers made sure the 434 Muar coffee kept coming. Master Jabar was my uncle as he was a nephew of my grandfather Abdul Hamid Hj.Taib.
By 10.30am, the visitors flocking into Muar town began to increase in gradual and right across the restaurant of Wak Santano was another small restaurant serving the best Mee Jawa of Muar town as well as satay, equivalent in taste that of Wak Santano. To the left of this restaurant was a famous Malay tailor called Lajat Tailor and next to it was the most famous book store known as Manaf Book Store. Manaf was a short fellow and very enterprising and he was the supplier of most of the school books for all the schools in Muar town. He was a very generous man and would always mingle with his customers with a smiling face. As his bookstore was situated at the corner of Jalan Suleiman and Jalan Abdullah, the two busiest roads in town, the front portion of his store became the ideal location to show off your new coloured shirt you just bought at the Husseini Store.
‘Famous Muarians’ began to appear greeting everyone they just met yesterday and whom they would meet again this evening at Tanjung. Salleh Uzir and his teenage street group of the Bad Ladds arrived in style emulating some scene of the ‘West Side Story’. Mat Shah drove his father’s new car passing every road in town with his continous waving. Sahak Doktor managed to borrow a bicyle to make sure his presence felt but this time he was not wearing his father’s overcoat. Then came Dollah Seribu, Usop Sepuloh Sen, Man Tobeng, Ajis Friday, Mustaffa Cliff Richard, Hassan Kit Carson, Man Tortoise, Hashim Keling, Atan Kitang, Ajis Mak Enggor, and many more all adopting their own ‘nom de plume’. When Kadar Shah arrived with his new sun glasses, everyone waved at him even those from afar. All of them had just finished their breakfast of satay, 434 Muar kopi O and either the famous Muar lodeh or the most sought Mee Jawa and their next stop was at the Manaf Book Store.
‘Famous girls’ too came to look for some school books and for any new novels displayed. Yot came with Minah Bonyok, Midah Mata Sepet was cycling along Jalan Suleiman towards town, Zamrah Kacra was wearing a thight skirt walking with some friends and few other notable names but Yam Tetek Besar was not at sight, maybe she slept late last night after a hard work at the Grand Paradise.
After meeting all these names, Halim and me proceeded to stroll along Jalan Abdullah and as we reached the Asiatic cinema the crowd was even more. There was a morning show with Mat Rop, Muar’s Mat Rempit selling tickets at inflated prices. It was a Hindustani movie and almost one hundred percent of those watching were Malays and we could hardly find an Indian watching a Hindustani movie. Once I watched a Hindustani movie called ‘Mother India’ and I remember the hero was Sunil Dutt. When he began singing, the whole hall would sing along like as though they understood every word they sang. When it was a fast and lively number, many took out their match boxes and started to strum along with the song using a match stick to produce the sound. Hindustani movies are full of sobbing scenes and when the scene appears, they begin to cry as well.
Then we proceeded forward and later reached the Tai Tong textile shop. This was the place we could get the best materials for our clothing. Two units of shop-houses away was the place where young lovers met, the Kim Leng restaurant. All tables seemed full with young couples sharing their precious moments and the curtain in every private lots seemed closed indicating it was full house that morning. From afar we could see Salleh Uzir and his band of the Bad Ladds approcahing and so were all others.
Then we walked across the road where the Muar Bazaar stood. We needed to be careful as passing cyclists were endless. Here many girls spent their time gossiping about any latest news they just heard. One Arab man sat right in front at the entrance of the bazaar selling some religious books telling gossiping is a sin. Inside the bazaar were few shop lots selling various items and one or two small cafes. When I gazed at the Kim Leng restaurant, there were Salleh Uzir and his entourage looking at me and we waved at each other like as though we haven’t met for years.
Besides the Muar Bazaar was another famous restaurant serving Mee Bandung, soto and of course satay. It was full as well and the Chinese shop owner kept smiling at every passing pedestrian. Besides the restaurant was a boutique where my friend Jenny Chong lived. When we passed her boutique we looked inside to see whether she was around but was not at sight and so we proceeded with our strolling.
It was now 11.00am and this time we strolled at the other side of Jalan Abdullah. Half way through I saw Salleh Uzir and his gang at the Muar Bazaar and he was waving at me. We stopped at one stall selling the best apam balek and bought some to eat while walking. When we reached the end of Jalan Abdullah, we walked across to Manaf Book Store to meet those we just met few minutes ago. When it was almost 12pm, we went back to our bicycles to return home for lunch. As we began our cycling, there were Salleh Uzir and his entourage chit chatting at the Manaf Book Store.
Next week, on another Saturday morning, the same scene would be repeated and the same people would be waving at each other again except that we would be wearing different shirts and the girls with different skirts.