Approximately 8 kilometers away from Muar town is a very small village known as Parit Bakar. For the last forty seven years, this small village had undergone many changes and the population has increased quite substantially. Parit Bakar today is a far cry from what it was once forty seven years ago.
I am going to turn back the clock and transport you back in time, some forty seven years ago where the place you are about to visit was once a small sleepy village when time took much longer to last. It will be a distant visit you will never wish to forget. It was a true event that took place in one of the houses in this small village. Try to fit yourself into this story and imagine that you are part of the action. The experience you are about to encounter could be spooky or hilarious and only you can tell. Fasten your seatbelt, you are now travelling into the past, some forty seven years back in time.
1967, Parit Bakar, sometime in the month of October and at 5.30pm on a Saturday evening; few of the village population spending their time at their working fields was ready to leave for home. Those working in Muar town were cycling home to catch the time. At a coffee shop along a short row of shop houses, customers began to pay their bills before the shops closed at around 6.00pm . Children playing at their house compounds were being called by their parents for their bath. Every cyclist there was on the road was heading for home. The sun setting at the western horizon was slowly beginning to fade from sight turning a bright day into a dark scene. The village population must slumber by 9.00pm and within these few hours they need to perform both the maghrib and the isya’ prayers, have their dinner and off to sleep. Some school children might stay a little bit late completing their home works and reading some history books. The few rows of shop houses would be closed by 8.00pm and so there won’t be any ‘night birds’. Once in every half an hour, you could see a car passing by towards the south and hardly a cyclist could be seen. Parit Bakar during the night of the mid sixties was one place you wouldn’t think of going unless you had to for some good reasons.
At about the same time, eight kilometers away from Parit Bakar, my uncle Wak Mod ( Mahmood Abdul Hamid ) was with me at the tembok of our house. It had been a boring day since morning but that was what living in a small town like Muar was anyway. You must be creative, plan your activities well and make them interesting. Take a stroll along the stretch of Tanjung and enjoy the breeze while pleasing your eyes gazing at the girls walking by. But that evening we both thought that this daily routine had been quite boring. Wak Mod however had a better idea and so he asked me:
“Shall we organize a house party?”
“What? A house party? At this time of the hour? I replied.
“Why not? We still have time. It’s only 5.30pm”, continued Wak Mod.
Wak Mod was working in a Bank at Malacca and almost every Saturday evening he would come back to Muar to visit his parents. Sometimes he would bring along his younger brother Wak Yem ( Ibrahim Abdul Hamid ) who was working in the capital city with FLDA (now Felda). Both brothers were very close to each other and they were still bachelors. Their youngest brother Wak Jis (Aziz Abdul Hamid) was already working in Pontian with the Lembaga Letrik Negara but this weekend, he was not home, maybe he had some better things to do.
“We normally organize a party two weeks before the day but now you want to organize it tonight?” I explained quite disapprovingly.
“Yes, we can do it. Let’s get whoever we can contact now”, continued Wak Mod.
“Ok, but where are we going to have the party?”, I asked him and this time more seriously.
“I heard that Tok Jilah is in Kuala Lumpur and since her house is empty, why not organize the party at her house?”, Wak Mod replied.
“What??? Tok’s house at Parit Bakar? No, you can’t be serious”, I said seriously to him and hoped that he might just be joking.
“Why not?” answered Wak Mod and this time he was more adamant. After some persuasions from him, we discussed many things; whom to invite, what to eat, where to get the turn table/transistor, the records and transportation.
Finally we both agreed to organize the party at the house of our grandmother, some 8 kilometres away and we need to think fast. My first contact person was Zainal, Kak Shidah’s boyfriend (In later years they were married) and told him of our plan. He laughed upon hearing the proposed house for the party. Nevertheless, he cooperated and assisted in carrying out the idea. His and Kak Shidah’s mission was to get as much friends to join the party and at this time of the hour, the mission was almost impossible but still possible since we had quite a number of close friends who would always cooperate
“I can’t believe this.. a house party at Tok’s house in Parit Bakar?”, I said again to Wak Mod.
“Come on, let’s not think too much as we now have the numbers. Follow me to town and let’s buy some foodstuff and drinks”, Wak Mod said to me as we both walked towards his Sunbeam Alpine. As we were about to start moving, we noticed my brother Farouk on his way to our house. He had just arrived from Port Dickson and had recently been commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in the Armed Forces. As he approached us, we told him about our plan and likewise he was taken aback and asked us, “What??? A house party at Parit Bakar?
It was 1967 and both grandpa and grandma had since passed away. Wak Mod was now working in Malacca and since it was nearer to home, he would always be around our house in Muar town on every Saturday evening. He had told me earlier that he had finally found a suitable life partner and was now ready to be a married man but until that day arrived, he would like to continue enjoying the life of a bachelor.
It was now almost 6.00pm and by now we had quite a number of ‘guests’ who were ready to ‘rock’ Parit Bakar. Wak Mod’s younger brother Wak Yem with his childhood friend Ismail Ghani, my older brother Farouk who was on a short holiday while serving in the army and Zainal. So we had six males and six females whose names I would not reveal; anyway they were all cousins and close friends.
For transportation we had three cars; Wak Mod’s Sunbeam Alpine, Zainal’s Ford Prefect and another car I can’t remember belonged to whom (maybe that of Ismail Ghani, just maybe). Parit Bakar is approximately 8 kilometers away and we could not simply be riding our bicycles at this time of the hour and the three cars were most ideal to transport us to our destination.
When we reached town, Wak Mod asked me where could we buy some cakes and my immediate answer was the ‘Kim Leng Restaurant’. Situated along the famous Jalan Abdullah. The restaurant was the place for young lovers who would spent their time during the late afternoon. This was the place where many Muar Town boys would flock showing off their latest attires trying very best to woo girls who would normally come in groups. We bought three whole marble cakes, cookies and tit-bits.
Back home many had already gathered at the tembok of our house discussing to bring along the turn table/transistor, some good records of our singing idols and any other things deemed necessary. It was almost 6.30pm when both Wak Mod and me returned home with the food and drinks. The evening was getting darker with the sun ready to set at the western horizon. As the population of Parit Bakar began to rush for home, a small group of urban youths were ready to ‘invade’ this small village with their swinging attires. While the people of Parit Bakar were getting ready for the maghrib prayers, we were busy preparing for the party that would soon rock the village. And while many of the elderly people of Parit Bakar would be reading some verses of the Holy Quran, we were ready with our records of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and the Beatles. Tonight we would be ‘invading’ the sleepy village of Parit Bakar.
It was now time to leave and the three cars began to ignite with the passengers on a journey of less than twenty minutes. While the rear booth of Zainal’s car was carrying the necessary items to make Tok’s house a lively night, Wak Mod’s booth was filled with the food and drinks.
The three cars convoyed, beginning the journey from Jalan Omri and turning right along Jalan Ibrahim towards simpang lima, the only junction that connected to five roads. As we reached the junction, we took to our right along Jalan Suleiman where on its immediate right stood the Padang Muar Club. It was already 7.45pm and the sky was not too bright with the absence of the moon, although some twinkling stars could be seen at the highest heavens. Traffic as usual in 1967 was never heavy with few cars on the road, but the number of cyclists were still in great numbers, moving in both directions of the road. As we reached the end of Jalan Suleiman where stood the Central Electricity Board building, the stretch ahead of Jalan Temenggong Ahmad would bring us to our destination.
When we passed by Jalan Temenggong Ahamd towards Parit Korma, the scenario changed drastically. By now we could hardly see any cyclist on the road and most houses were closed providing some dim lights piercing through the wooden windows. One or two cars could be seen passing through the opposite direction and as we reached Parit Bakar, it was almost 8.00pm and the village was dark with the silent night providing a soothing atmosphere for the village population. Soon one house would be fully lighted with some inside dancing the twist and swinging to the rumba tune.
As we reached the front of Tok’s house, we saw Zaharah sitting at the front stairs waiting for our arrival. She was a year older than me and had once stayed with us and helped grandma with her daily routine. She was in fact quite a pretty girl whose parents was Tok’s neighbour. Every time when Tok’s house would be empty, she would look after it and returned home for lunch. Earlier before buying the food and drinks, both Wak Mod and me had met her to inform her of our planned social gathering and needed the key to the house.
Sometime in the year 1968 when I was already staying in Kuala Lumpur, I became close to a TV presenter named Othman. If any of you of my age can remember the programme “Musik, Musik, Musik” (later changed to Bakat TV), Othman was the first host when the programme started sometime in the early seventies. Years later when I met Othman again, he told me that he was already married to a Parit Bakar girl named Zaharah, apparently the same Zaharah who used to help grandma at our Jalan Omri house. What a small world. Anyway, Othman too is from Parit Bakar. How I wish I could meet with both of them again and I wonder whether Zaharah could still remember the night when she waited for us to hand over Tok’s house key.
Back to 1967. Zaharah stood up when she noticed the three cars entering the compound of Tok’s house. As we reached the compound nearer to the stairs, I went out to collect the key from her who was smiling cynically after observing some girls coming out from the car. She then told me to place the key at a certain place when leaving the house later and bade me goodbye.
Tok’s house was empty with the light on at the living room while the other parts of the house was dark. After unlocking the front door, all of us ushered inside bringing along the necessary items; the turn table with a transistor, the drinks, some cakes and tit bits. Everyone was now inside the house and we all sat at any chairs we could find. It was a quiet night and obviously so because we were in Parit Bakar. When many of the neighbours were having their dinner with some perhaps still on their praying matts reciting some verses of the Quran, twelve young lads and lasses from town were about to begin their rumba steps and do the twist.
“Ok guys, place the turn table on top of this table and let the party begins”, Wak Mod said and as Zainal was nearer to the set, he picked it and placed it on the table. Having switched it on, he then looked around looking for the records. Everyone did the same but there wasn’t a single record around. The three car owners went to their respective cars to check whether the records we brought were in one of the cars. They returned empty handed and so obviously we had forgotten to bring the records. What a lousy planner all of us were forgetting to bring along the most important items. Now how could we dance without the music? Someone suggested that we searched for some English programme that could provide good music but to get the programmes in 1967 was almost impossible but nevertheless, we tried. Most programmes we got were still highlighting some local and world news but we kept on trying.
While waiting for some music to fill the air, we decided to enjoy some of the cakes that had been bought earlier. Now someone had to go to the kitchen and come back with a knife and some plates. Everyone looked at each other trying to figure out who could that be? To go to the kitchen was like entering into a dark tunnel with no light at the end. The only person around who knew the house very well was me and now all eyes were on me. But I told them that they can forget the idea unless someone accompanied me. Not for a ‘million dollar’ would I dare to go to the kitchen alone. Tok’s house during the night was like a dark cave and going to the kitchen which was situated at the end which was near to a secondary jungle was even worse. Wak Yem volunteered to accompany me and although I knew some secrets of the house, I preferred not to tell him.
There had been talk that in Tok’s house lived a family of three orang bunian. Although none of her children and grandchildren had seen any orang bunian around, there had been some reports of peculiar sightings of shadowy figures, voices from nowhere and few other eerie experiences with nothing at sight. During some of my stays with Tok, I wasn’t scared because Tok’s assurances of free from any interferences from the ‘other dimension’ were good enough for me to move around the house but tonight Tok was not around. Wak Yem was oblivious of this and it would be good that I remained silent. So the two of us proceeded towards the kitchen.
As we reached the stairs leading to the dining hall, it was complete darkness. Now we had to look for the switch light to brighten the hall but I could not remember where the switch was? I then walked very slowly descending the stairs with both my two hands trying to hold on to something in front. Wak Yem was behind me assuring me that things should be alright. It was easier for him to say that, not knowing the secrets of the house. Halfway the stairs I stopped because suddenly I felt a presence and was already having goose bumps all over my body. Immediately I remembered about the three orang bunian. I told Wak Yem that I dared not go any further because the kitchen was still a long way and it was so dark that you could not even seen your own hands. Wak Yem too agreed that we might as well forget the idea. If only he knew what I knew.
“Sorry guys, I don’t think I dare to go to the kitchen”, I said as we both came back from the stairs. So now no music and no food. But we still had the cakes and the drinks. Since we had no knife, we all agreed that we claimed our shares of the cakes by just tearing apart from the whole bun. Now we needed the drinks but we had no opener. “Wow, how are we going to have our drinks”, I told everyone. And now no music, no food and no drinks.
As we were thinking how to open these bottles to quench our thirst, we heard a ringing sound of a bicycle bell outside the house. Then we heard someone calling out loud, Salamulaikum. We kept silent for a second, then we heard the second call. Who could it be at this time of the hour at Parit Bakar? There was only one way to find out and Wak Mod opened the door to answer the call while the rest of us kept vigil. There was indeed a man with a bicycle and Wak Mod approached him and seconds later he came back into the house.
As he entered the house, Wak Mod suggested that we need to call off the party because a neighbour very close to Tok had just passed away. The bicycle man came to inform that a tahlil would be conducted shortly and had wanted to invite Tok, in fact he even invited all of us to the tahlil. What a party, we all thought to ourselves.
“Let’s just pack our things and go home”, Wak Mod immediately suggested and so we did just that. As I switched off the light, everyone walked towards the front stairs heading to their respective cars. I closed the front door and placed the key at the place as suggested by Zaharah earlier.
As we reached home, we sat at the tembok enjoying the cakes and the drinks because by now we had a knife, some plates and the bottle opener. While enjoying our indulgence, we laughed out loud and recounting back the earlier moments at our stupidity.
Parit Bakar in 1967 was not ready to have a house party of rock and roll. The spirit of that small village did not permit it to happen.
Three day later, Zaharah cycled from Parit Bakar looking for me. As I came out from the house, Zaharah was standing by her bicycle. As I approached her, I asked for the reason why she came looking for me? She then showed something on her rear carrier and said, “You forgot to bring home these records. I found them on the front stairs when I came the next morning to open the front door”.
Not only the spirit of Parit Bakar did not permit our planned house party in 1967, perhaps the three orang bunian too did not approve.