Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jelutong Revisited


The old Post Office is still in existence! I sent my first letter to eldest brother in England when I was eight years old!

Jelutong market, as busy and bustling as ever!

The row of old shop houses are still thriving!

The "mamak" stall which is still in operation. Now it is manned by the previous owner's son.

Whenever I am back in Penang, I would always make it a point to visit the place where I used to live in - Jelutong! I do not know about now, but when I was a teenager, I remember Jelutong was known as a place of pugilistic gangsters. I remember once my boss, Pamela Ong, dropped me off, and she dropped me off at the outskirts of Jelutong. Jelutong - a place where angels feared to tread!

But for us who were born and raised in Jelutong, the place is full of charm. The village was our playground, and my siblings and I would run all over the village with our neighbours' children. We were quite close to the sea, and my elder brothers and their friends often tried to row some boats. Now, the sea has been reclaimed and an expressway has been built.

Whenever I watch the current Channel 8 Serial "Togther", I become quite nostalgic. I could relate to the movie because life was then as portrayed by pushcart stalls,
caring yet sometimes overly inquisitive neighbours. My siblings were good at climbing trees - coconut, rambutan, chiku and guava trees. Due to my short legs, I was always at the lowest rung of the coconut trees, and of course, in those days, pants were wide like skirts! Whenever I looked up, guess what did I see!!???

During weekends we would play from sunrise to sunset, much to the consternation of our parents! My complexion was dark and I was often mistaken to be a Malay, and of course, with the many activities, I was somewhat skinny! We would spin tops, play with marbles and catch spiders. Being a nature lover, I would often try to release the spiders whenever my relatives were out of sight. I detested those spider fights which the children seemed to enjoy watching. We did not have money to buy toys, but we were resourceful enough to create our own games and had so much joy and fun!

Some of the old coffee shops and grocery stores were taken over or demolished. I was therefore surprised that the old mamak store was still in place. Except that this time, the business is done by the owner's son. I talked to the son and found out that his father had passed away. I noticed that the son only sells edible stuff, and there was not a magazine or comics in sight. When the father was alive, I used to visit his shop, and would sit there for hours reading comics, magazines or story books. I thought it was a good investment of 5 cents for some candies which would entitle me to read for hours! Sometimes the vendor did not have new books, and I would reread the ones I had read. Hence, I could still remember in details all the fairy tales that I had read and reread!

My favourite was "Happy Theatre" which had been demolished. I often had free entries to the movies because I befriended the staff of the theatre. If the theatre was jam packed, I would be contented to sit on the floor. Once Sister Ean Ean was annoyed with me for frequenting the theatre and reminded me to study for my exam. "Exam over already!", I screamed with joy. "You never studied!" admonished Sis. But my results were surprisingly satisfactory except for Mathematics and Science, subjects beyond my comprehension!

In the television serial, "Together", the village produced a top scholar in Huimin. I remember there was this boy who scored the highest marks in the HSC (Higher School Certificate) with all distinctions. He was in the newspapers for he topped everyone in the country. I remember neighbours flocking to the attap house to congratulate him and it was such a joy to see his parents beaming with pride. Papa and mama too were proud of my eldest brother, Kee Yong, when he was featured in the newspapers for his musical and artistic talent. Jelutong Village also produced a beauty queen and she even competed in the Miss World competition! If I am not mistaken, she even entered the semi-finals. At that time, that was about the closest to winning the title that Malaysia could get. In the movie, "Together", Jinhao is also a beauty queen.! Gosh! I wonder if there is any slightest chance that the TV producer is from Penang? Maybe not. I guess life in the 1960s would be quite similar in Malaysia and Singapore.

Looking back, my heart is filled with gratitude to the Creator, for He has blessed my family and villagers. Most, if not all of us are doing well now. As children we had such a wild childhood, yet He has protected us from harm and danger. He has protected our house from being burnt down so many times. Once it was when someone had forgotten to switch off the iron which was left on the ironing board the whole night.! We did not have three pin plugs then. There are just too many examples to elucidate.

My readers can perhaps understand now why I am so easily contented and happy. When you have lived in a house filled with holes in the roof, a small hdb flat is a luxury! When you have enjoyed simple, tasty meals with your family, sumptuous food in restaurants is a luxury! When the nights are very dark, the stars seem to shine even more brightly!

Jelutong Village will soon be demolished in a year or two. I just know that the land is owned by one Malay family, and we pay little for the rent of the land. Soon, houses and condominiums will replace all the attap and wooden houses. Although the buildings will be gone, the happy and sweet memories of our wild childhood would be forever etched in my memory.

I will never forget my roots. We were not rich but were extremely happy. I will always count my blessings and name them one by one!

No comments: