Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Some change , please.

So change is not a buzzword in Alor Setar. That’s what I read in the papers today. And sitting here 8,000 miles away, I am a tad worried. And we are just five days before the big day.
In the next few days, Mak is flying back to her beloved Alor Setar, the name forever on her lips during her waking hours and in her dreams during her restless nights. I can imagine her excitement as she boards the plane in her wheelchair, pushed by the ever so friendly MAS stewards. She is going home to the house that Pak built for her.
Yes, she is not likely to see much change around the area where Pak built the house for her. May be the traffic from Kepala Batas will get a bit busy by the time the car gets to Pekan Cina. She’d cast a glance over the bridge of Seberang Perak and scan for MAHA clinic, the clinic she used to frequent where a young doctor once held court before becoming the Prime Minister.
She’d smile at the sight of Ali nasi lemak for that is where her offsprings would rush to as soon as they drop off their luggage in the front room of the house that Pak built.
As the car swings into the small lane past the kilang ais, her tired eyes would take in the clogged drains, a sight that repeats itself right up to the front gate of our house and beyond. For as far as I can remember, as a child I used to squat by the side of the drain, usually swollen after a heavy rain, to try and catch those little catfish just for fun. The water, all muddy and filthy had no where to go with over grown grass and lalang from the neighbour’s neglected piece of land spilling into the already clogged up drain upstream. Just the right breeding place for mosquitos.
The house that Pak built would be just as she had left it. Nothing would have changed except there’s no more laughter and screams of children running up and down the house. It has been left empty for so long. The old iron swing would be just where it has been left some forty years ago.
The wooden stairs leading up to the upper front door, has been the setting for so many family photographs and as I looked at it again, I notice d that so many uncles and aunts have left us.
As Mak steps into the house, she’d be reminded of the newly raised floor that she had done from the monthly pension that she receives. Once the floor was raised and leveled, she could sleep soundly at night. Before that, she’d be woken up in the middle of the night by the heavy rain and with Tok and Tok Som and with some energy left in them, they would roll up the carpets and beddings before the front room got flooded with water from the clogged up drains seeping in through the door.
Mak never slept soundly during the rainy season. She wanted to display her beautiful carpet that she bought with her kutu money, yet, she knew that if she and Tok Som couldn't move fast enough the carpet would be ruined.
With the rapid housing developments in the surrounding area, where we are became like a valley with rainwater rushing in and no where to go. Every time we went back, we see new housing developments but we don't see any improvements to the drainage system. Mak can’t afford to keep raising her floor anymore.
And I do hope that the stench coming from the fish factory is no longer there. Mak used to remind us to open the doors and windows early in the morning for rezki to come in. But of late, it was the stench that kept our windows firmly shut. And another reason why those windows and doors remained shut, with grills firmly locked is the rise of crime rate in the area. Young thugs roam the place during the nights and once during our return we saw evidence that our backyard where abang used to grill ikan kembong and cut the ulams, had become a meeting place for drug addicts.
I have read several atrocious crime committed in that area but I was quite unprepared when I read about the Indian Muslim shopkeeper who was slashed to death in his little shop up the road – the shop where we as children used to go and play tikam, buy kacang tumbuk and gula-gula Hacks, the little shop that our children started going whenever we went back on holiday. Mamak Zakaria, fell victim to the increasing criminal activities in the area. Most probably he fell victim to the very customers who frequented his shop and befriended him.
No, I do want to see some change, please Datuk Chor.


NorAiniJ said...

Aah... I can envisage this as the intro to your blook, GUIK*

Can't wait to read the subsequent entries ma’am.

wonda said...

When I was a child, I passed by many houses with opened doors to let the cool air in and we could see the inside of their houses. Crime was not so rampant those days and roads were not so congested. I feel stressful whenever I go back to Malaysia - always have to watch out for snatch thieves, etc...

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh tak balik mengundi? I heard you can claim the airfare from the party which you want to vote for!

Uncle said...

Dear Kak Teh.
You reminded me of my kampung. Arwah Bapak was from Seberang Perak. His good friend has a small shop there called "Bunga Tanjung"

Maha Klinik? 2 orang abang I sunat kat situ. Sapa lagi kalau bukan Tun yang sunat......

Nazrah Leopolis said...

balik jugak ya? i guess there is no place like home. teruk2 pun, biar rumah sendiri.

MA said...

Everytime we visited our aunt in her big kampung house overlooking the South China Sea, the first thing the men in our family asked is for the tikar mengkuang to be laid on the verandah, my brothers would stripped to their Tshirt pagodas and let the sea breeze lull them to sleep in between the kopi kaw cap kampung while us ladies would gather to chat and gossip in the kitchen, amidst the chasing off the chickens that wander in, curious about the visitors.

Nice memories, that is.

Typhoon Sue said...

ah... alor setar, that's where my heart is, yet i only go back there once a year. Sungguh tak patut....

everytime i balik to A/S, my friend would pesan to get belacan and asam jawa from Pekan Rabu. They're the best. In KL those things are sooooooo lar tak sedap!

A lot of people want change kak teh, but sadly there are a lot of ignoramus who are complacent. They want to remain where they are and do not want to move either fwd or backwards. I'm sad for those people who can't see beyond the folds of their kain pelikat.

Kak Teh said...

nj, thanks for that vote of confidence. Insyaallah, insyaallah. doakan.

wonda, i think everywhere is the same. The thing is that, we do not want our place to be like that - the place that we grew up in, where we used to play and live, we dont want our place to be a nest for crime. London is the same - but we can say - "But this is London, ! kan?

mama irma, betui ka??? I herad duringthe last election a planeload of students went back to vote - semua yang club umno!

Kak Teh said...

Uncle, I used to stop at Bunga Tanjung after work. The nasi lemak there wasn't bad. I remember i was then a guru sementara - and since then, i was known as cik gu to them.

as for Maha klinik - it will always have a place in my mak's heart.

nazrah, this will be homecoming after a long time. and then i think she will think of Bangi pulak.

Kak Teh said...

MA, nothing beats kampong life - i like that hampar tikar, buat kopi, and makan dengan kacang...then tidur!when we were back in trengganu recently, i couldnt get over being woken up by the azan coming from all corners of the kampong. and walking through the kampung early in the morning to visit someone - without even a phone call first!!! yet, u can be sure that u are welcome in and treated to nasi lemak and roti canai.

sue, pekan rabu is a must! You know, once when i was back there, went to pekan rabu and there was a kind of reunion - unplanned of course, with ex schoolmates, all living and working in KL!
as for change - well, people are scared of the unknown. They would rather go with the flow. It is sad, I know.

AzeedA said...

Assalamualaikom, KakTeh!
hehehe love reading ur posts too.. slamat mengundi.. :D

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh,

Owhh pekan rabu penuh dengan great stuff. Kalau bulan puasa pergi lagi best. I dont know kak teh. I think I can feel the aura perubahan ni.


Kak Teh said...

azeeda, kacang tumbuk and those asam that the nyonya wrap in plastic and newspaper. When you eat it, you must remember to get the pieces of newspaper stuck in it - tapi sedapppp! But dah lupa nama apa.
Buah cermai and asam kelubi in jars, sagon...hmmmm, bring back all those childhood years when additives and preservatives were not classified as dirty word.

arena, pekan rabu is the happening place, eh? I hope there will be good changes. We need the power tha tbe to deal with the drainage system. It has been a problem for so long.

Azmi said...

Salam Kak Teh,
lama tak visit and regret missing you when on the GUIT trail back home in KL, I was travelling myself, balik kampung! Sure glad you sound more cheerful than your last post - read it but at a loss for words to comment, being a sentimental cat lover meself! I have lost many, many of my feline darlings so I can feel your pain. Who was it who said "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened".

Hope your sniffles will be gone soon...that's the price for living in colder climes..daffodils..Paris a short hop away etc...take care Kak Teh, try Echinacea tablets ( for 10 days, not more), my sister swears by it!

Warm greetings,

Kak Teh said...

azmi, I am so glad to see you here. Yes, I was hoping you'd appear at one of our do's. It went very well and GUiT is already in its 3rd print. Alhamdulillah.
Yes, am still quite tearful abt Jasper. yesterday my husband also called out his name and i went all teary eyed again. We've lost quite a few too and I worry for the five that we have.
My sniffles are gone and am out trying to catch a bit of the sunshine. As Paris is a tad expensive, I will take Echinacea and whatever husband prescribes every morning noon and nite. Take care and my salam to aziah.

SimplyMas said...

Oh how I would love to go back to my kampung, tell stories about my kampung, remembering the good old kampung days... but, but, but... there's no kampung waiting for me in Singapore! Concrete kampung? I can imagine from your reminiscing and pretend that I'm at your kampung kak teh!!!

Kak Teh said...

mami jarum, wlecome to my kampung , though i wouldnt say that its exactly a kampung. The only singapore kampung i can picture in my mind is the one that exists between the pages of the novel salina by A Samad said. Go and read that - and if you dont have one i will gladly lend it to you if you promise to return it. Take care. and how's the little one?

zlaa said...

Kak Teh,

Down memory lane la.. Ali nasi lemak? Craving for his nasi lemak. Bunga tanjung too. Last year before coming to Notts, dan pi makan nasi lemak at that area. But, the taste is not the same anymore.. But found one (sedap jugak) kat stesen teksi di Limbung Kapai.

Maha Clinic? My mother insisted that I took the same medicine lepas bersalin macam dia kat Maha Clinic. Forgot the name but my husband not keen me taking any medicine from there. hah..hah..

But I think among all the area in Alor Setar, Seberang Perak area is a true face of Alor Setar. Dari seteruk orang (drug addicts etc) until the popular one (Tun Mahathir and Tun Daim) were from there.

Anonymous said...

Some changes are good but in this case, Malaysia being Malaysia, it will not have the same feel without the kampungs, the beautiful, well kept wooden houses on stilts.

Sadly, some changes have caused Malaysia to be opened to a lot of crimes which make everyone fear when they are out on the streets. No one feels safe anymore regardless whether it is walking with friends on the streets, parking in crowded car parks in shopping centres or simply minding your own business washing your car in your own porch! Great post!

Kak Teh said...

zlaa, thanks for the comments. Kak teh pun dah lama tak makan nasi lemak ali dan tak tau pun abt the one kat limbong kapai. nanti mesti try. Ada nasi depan market baru tu - tapi pedas sangat! selalunya kak teh makan mee sup pak musa dekat simpang depan kilang ais tu.

Judy, how true. But i wish they'd remedy the basic necessities like drainage, mosquito breeding grounds, the only talk any city status. Take care Judy. I know u live in a beautiful kampung here.

Alang said...

Kak teh,

Seronoknya baca pasal Kedah ni.. Like what Nj has said, you could start writing GUiK (Growing Up in Kedah) :)

Rindunya nak balik Kedah, I'll go back to Kedah tonight. Dah plan nak beli asam jawa dan belacan kat pekan rabu. :)

my kampung still like my old kampung, just that no more home with "pelita minyak tanah" which I normally use for study. No more TV "hitam Putih", no more "changing of buka puasa meals during ramadan".

Ooo.. what a beautiful culture back then.

Just started reading GUiT, what a beautiful writing of Trengganu. Kirim salam to AG. Hope the books will go to more hands and bookshop.

simah said...

salam akak... lama saya tak ke sini..akak sihat?

change is unevitable...but when things change for the worse.. sedih kan?

ur description is so vivid....rasa mcm saya pun kat sana...

the fact that ur mak will still vote at that age... i think she is to be saluted :0)

akak tak balik tuk mengundi?

Kak Teh said...

zuraini, i remember the day we had out first hitam putih tv - that was when we lived in Yan. and our house would be packed with people from nearby kampong when RTm was showing gambark melayu! Hehe - will blog abt it one day. Enjoy alor setar when you are there. GUiK sounds like a good title - yes, perhaps!

Simah, I dont know whether Mak will be back to undi, She is too frail but I know she will want to. But she will be so happy to be back, even if for a while.

Pak Tuo said...

Dear Kak Teh,

I kinda of like the tittle
'Some change,pleased' ,very tactful and resemblence of a polite gentry lady.

Instead of
Malaysia style.


Kak Teh said...

pak tuo, this is what we called the softly, softly approach. Kalau tak dengar juga - then we use that tactic...hehe!

Ordinary Superhero said...

Mmmm...Peraih undi from faraway land? Jom nyanyi sama2. "Mari lah mari kita mengundi, jangan lupa kewajipan pada negara"

Kak Teh said...

OSH, selamat mengundi dan pilihlah dengan betul. Negaramu negara kak teh jugak.

Anonymous said...

awhh.. Your mother is back at Lorong Ayer Puteh ! My grandmother Tok Tam is still around and I hope I can take her to see your mother. They used to be such good friends and visit each other almost every other day during those times....

and yes they are still thugs roaming around Lorong Ayer Puteh and just a few days back they broke into Kak Chah's house (next to my grandmothers')

Kak Teh said...

ann, mak is back for a while. Like you said, with the thugs roaming in the area, it is not safe to leave her there - even if someone is there with her.
Is your grandmother well? Yes, she is close to my Mak. Used to visit my mum everyday. Tell me, who are your parents? I believe i know them.

And by the way, mamak karia's shop was in front or very near your tok's house kan? It must have been terrible.

noorizeyes photoworks said...

Pics of kenduri at the house Wan built for Tok at noorizeyes.blogspot ..Am

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum Kak Teh,

it s me, Ann again. I am the eldest daughter of Faizah, the eldest daughter of Tok Tam. I saw your mother almost everyday whenever I was at my grandmother's house. I remember your mother as a nice, soft spoken and beautiful lady even at her age. The last time I saw her must be about few years back when I went to her house for the "bunga melur" ! And yes she sometimes gave Tok Tam bunga melur for free because my grandmother used the flower for her bedak sejuk which she will then gave some to your mother too.

Yes, Mamak Keria lived very near to Tok Tam's house. Tok selalu kata Mamak Keria tu tok wan kami sebab kami (cucu2) asyik dok pi angkut barang beli macam2 kat kedai dia, especially bila Tok ada buku hutang tiga lima (555)dgn Mamak Keria tu. She canceled the book sometimes after that (jenuhlah dia nak bayar lepas tu !)


Kak Teh said...

Am, thanks for the photos. How i wish i was there. Tok nampaknya seronok balik rumah dia sendiri.

ann, of course i know your mum! kirim salam kat dia ya? La ni Ann dok mana?

Anonymous said...

saya cikgu midad dari kuala kedah. bila ada pembaca yg sebut lrg ayaq puteh dan rumah kak chah.... macam tau pulak kat mana. sebab, saya ada sedara nama mak chah dekat-dkat situ. org yg sama kah?

Kak Teh said...

assalamualaikum cik gu Midad, kita kena tunggu jawapan drp ann lah nampak gaya. Saya pun dah lama dah tak balik. Nanti nak tanya adik beradik di sana.

elisataufik said...

ye lah kak teh, you should write Growing Up in Kedah :)

I'm only a Kedah-an by marriage, but I can appreciate your stories on the Alor Setar of yore , because it has only changed so rapidly recently.

Kak Teh said...

elisa dear, thank you si much. yes i think a growing up in a kedah is a must before growing up in london takes its toll. have you got yr GUiT yet?

Adi Iskandar said...


Kak Teh.. nak tanya sikit.
Kak Teh ni related dengan Tok Det ka?

Adi Iskandar bin Iliyas

Adi Iskandar said...


Kak Teh.. nak tanya sikit.
Kak Teh ni related dengan Tok Det ka?

Adi Iskandar bin Iliyas