In the mid-fifties, Muar town was begining to experience some light development in particular the extension of electricity in some housing areas, water supply and the improvement of the drainage system. Although most of the housing areas had been developed with the infrastructure well in placed, there were still areas where electrical extension was not warranted due to its density. One of these area was a piece of land about two hundred meters away from the main road belonging to my great grandfather Hj.Taib. The land in question was situated along Jalan Khalidi and not far away from the private school of Sekolah Maharani belonging to Master Jabbar who himself was the grandson of Hj.Taib.
Mohd.Noah Abdul Hamid was the eldest son of my grandparents and he was fondly known as Atan, hence we all called him Wak Tan. During his younger days, Wak Tan was a keen sportsman and his favourite game was badminton. Other than his sporting activities, Wak Tan’s gifted talent was his ability in impersonation and he could imitate voices of our relatives in near perfection. Once when I was running all over the house with Kak Fuzi, Wak Tan impersonated grandpa’s voice and we immediately stopped running only to realise later that it was Wak Tan who did the trick. Another of his talented ability was to create a complete replica of ghosts. I remember most vividly one night when I could not stop crying as I was the champion in crying, grandma had to ask Wak Tan to create a ‘ghost’ and within minutes there was a figure of a ‘pontianak’ being displayed before my eyes and grandma said this ‘pontianak’ likes to eat boys who like to cry.
Hj.Taib my great grandfather adopted three Chinese girls the second eldest was Khatijah. When he died, the house he stayed was given to my grand auntie Tok Yang Chick and Khatijah stayed with her.The house was situated in front of the Muar High School. Perhaps it was during some frequent visits to Tok Yang Chick that Wak Tan fell in love with Khatijah and they eventually tied the knot. During their early marriage life they stayed with grandma and their first born was Nordin and grandma loved him so much that she called him Tamal. In fact Tamal slept with grandma all through until he was about four years old. At one time I thought he was my younger brother because we both slept together with grandma. Their second child was a boy named Zainuddin and it was after his birth that the couple decided to have their own privacy of raising their own family and the most ideal location for their house was that piece of land behind the Sekolah Maharani in Jalan Khalidi. By then the land was given to Khatijah (Mak Jah) even before the death of her adopted father Hj.Taib.
During the construction of the house I had the privilege to view the surroundings and it was then akin to a secondary jungle. I was still small perhaps less than five years old and remember but vaguely how the house was constructed and it was grandpa’s kin Pak Ali from Terengganu who supervised the works. When it was completed, no electricity could be extended and when nightfall, the whole area was very dark. During the first few days, they had to use kerosene lamps to light the whole house and months later they used the ‘lampu pam’. I don’t know what is the English word for this kind of pump and it was bright after pumping and decreased its light every hour and eventually by morning the light just went off.
When they both stayed in this house, Tamal did not follow them and still stayed with grandma. It took quite sometime for Wak Tan and Mak Jah (Khatijah) to persuade him to return to their fold. Later two other boys were born named Razip and Mohd.Halim. During my younger days between the age of four to ten, I was the most frequent visitor and would stay with them almost every Fridays and Saturdays. This house gives me many memorable events of my early days and I will always treasure every moment I spent the time with them.
After breakfast we created many games and sometime we played the roles of Hang Tuah and his four brothers and of course I would be Hang Tuah. Tamal being the second youngest must take the role of Hang Jebat but Zainuddin (Zainol) insisted that he wanted to be Hang Jebat and Tamal normally gave in. Halim the youngest obviously would be Hang Lekiu but because he was still too young, every ‘adventures’ we had in the nearby jungle, he would be barred from following and so he would cry until our return.
However, Wak Tan was working outstation and would only return every Friday evening and so it was Mak Jah who looked after their four young boys. She was truly an amazing woman who raised their four very ‘naughty’ young boys until they became so useful to her. Of the four boys, Zainol was the most rebellious and would always fight me back whenever he thought I gave a wrong decision. In spite of our many ‘misunderstandings’ we never quarelled and Zainol would just stayed away for sometime and returned to the fold when he had cooled off.
During the night after our dinner together, Mak Jah would teach us the muqadam and we always pretended to be sleepy especially Zainol. After she slept, we became very much awake and began to plan some other ‘adventures’ for tomorrow. When sleeping time we always argue about our sleeping position and everyone was scared to sleep at the end row. Zainol would always volunteer to sleep at the end row as he said he was not scared of ghost. Then he exhibited how he would defeat the ghost by kicking and even showing off some his silat dance.
Once we planned to attack an ‘enemy camp’ somewhere in the jungle. We built our own weapons, complete with sheilds and some ‘hand generades’. Halim wanted to follow us but we coaxed him by saying that someone need to look after our fort and we all have agreed that he should be the one. So we made for him some ‘important weapons’ and told him to stay and always be on guard just in case an ‘enemy’ approaches. We took some old newspapers and created a cap for him and told him to stay put and be on guard all the time. He nodded with great pride and assured us that our fort would be looked after. So the four of us went inside the nearby jungle looking for ‘enemies’. Then the shooting began and we shot at everywhere in front of us and sometime we pretended to be hit and even pretending to die, only to rise back and fight.
When the fruit season arrived, this house was like a carnival. There were many fruit trees and we would climb every tree there was and enjoyed our hard works eating together. Then in the evening Mak Jah would cook many Malay delights using the durian. Sometime she would make jam out of these fruits to be eaten with bread. There was only one durian tree but enough for our own consumption. Behind the house stayed Pak Ali and his daughter named Zaleha. She was like a tomboy who could even climb a coconut tree and when she did that she was hardly ten years old.
The four boys were once like my own brothers especially Tamal (Nordin). Zainuddin the second, although rebellious was more attached to her mother Mak Jah. Once I saw Zainuddin being beaten by his father Wak Tan because of his ‘naughty’ attitude and the spanking was really painful as I could observe, and Mak Jah tried to stop her husband from hurting the boy any further. Razip was a very quiet boy while Halim although beginning to show sign of becoming ‘naughty’ somehow was quite reserved. After Halim came their first girl I remember only as Noni and later another girl named Faridah. As for their mother, she was like my second mother.
The games we played were of various nature. We played ‘chaptay’, a product made of chicken feathers and place vertically on top of few layers of rubber, we played guli and gasing, we played hide and seek in the nearby bush and we even played Tarzan but we did not have Jane. We even played cowboys and red indians and by evening we would be too exhausted to even talk.
Months later, the electricity was extended to the house and we had no more problem of having to light the ‘lampu pam’ every evening. The house may be situated right within the vicinity of Muar town but the atmosphere was very much like living in a kampung. It was another of my many wonderful years living in Muar town. These days whenever I am alone, I will always rewind those periods when such precious moments could only be felt by those who have gone through the experience themself and staying with the family of my uncle Wak Tan was surely among the best period of my younger days.