Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Journey Begins

Eighteenth December '79 was the departure date from Changi Airport to London and a few days before that saw a whirl of activities, which now comes back to me as a montage of events in no particular order. There were visits to get to know newly acquired relatives in Terengganu, where I was instantly bestowed the title of Mek Jarroh, introduced to keropok lekor which I had an instant dislike for and brought back bales of batiks in all forms and sizes as proof of acceptance into the Wan family.

There’s also the trip to my home town in Alor Setar to introduce my husband to relatives who couldn’t make it to the do in KL. If I was confused by the names of relatives and friends I met in Kuala Terengganu, my husband was just as puzzled – there’s Pak Teh Man, Pak Teh Ei, Tok Su Pa, Pak Long Ei, Mak Teh Tah, Tok Cik Mat, Tok Cik Mei, Ngah Nab, Mak Njang..and not to mention the hundreds of cousins with names that defy logic.

I remember the look on his face when the whole clan came to say goodbye at the MARA bus terminal. He didn’t realise until then that he’d married into half the population of Kedah.

At that bus station, it wasn’t just goodbye to my aunt, uncles and cousins. It was also a sad farewell to Mee Sup Omar Bom, the smell of which still haunts my nostril, especially on this cold winter evening. Apart from Mee Rebus Abu, which had by then moved to Jalan Teluk Wan Jah, Mee Sup Omar (or Omark) Bom was high on the list of things that would make me plan a quick escape from cold dreary London.

The then new bus terminal was the home of Mee Sup Omark Bom, nestled amongst new shop lots not far from the droning sound of revving buses going to Kubang Pasu, Langgar, and Pumpong. It was at this bus terminal too we’d meet Ngah Chan who was a bus conductor. I was always very impressed with Ngah and his pouch of coins which he jingled as he walked up and down the aisle, collecting his fares. He’d give us a miss, with a wink of his left eye. As children, we looked forward to trips to Ngah’s house in Suka Menanti. It was like an adventure. Where the bus left us at Pantai Johor, we’d have to walk a short distance to wait for a perahu, which would take us on the swollen river with its teh susu like water, across to the other side where Ngah Nab would be waiting for us. Sometimes, we’d have the privilege to go on Tok Jam’s rakit, shrieking with excitement as Tok expertly pushed the raft with a long pole along the river bank. Sometimes, she’d do so with one hand trying to secure her sarong around her bony chest.

During the last few days in Alor Setar, I tried to take in the old St Nicholas Convent where I had spent a lot of my formative years being disciplined by nuns from Ireland and the majestic looking Sultan Abdul Hamid College where I had my first formal introduction to boys after a strict regime at SNC. Needless to say, it still holds a lot of happy memories. I remember the cycle on minibikes with ‘the gang’, our pony tails in matching ribbons, flying in the air as we zoomed past SAHC boys cycling in the opposite direction.

A trip to Pekan Rabu was mandatory, of course. Tok Su used to be the chairman of Pekan Rabu, a much respected figure in those days. Near Pekan Rabu was Cathay cinema where Pak would take us in two trishaws for a treat every month when he received his pay packet. Along the sidewalks were Gurkhas selling their wares; lots of trinkets and precious stones.

Anyway, leaving the house that Pak built for the last time, I took with me a piece of his old blanket, which had an aroma unmistakeably Pak – a blend of sweet Curve Cut tobacco and Tokohoon plasters that he used on his aching back.

I was not prepared for London as London was quite unprepared for me. My husband said there was no point buying thick winter clothes from the likes of Globe Silk Store or Kamdar, as usually they were two seasons behind. As my only knowledge of London was only from visuals on TV and from his letters when he was here earlier, who was I to argue. But I insisted on bringing one thing, which I thought was compulsory for all long distance travellers. I had seen many times on TV, British maams carrying them when they boarded planes or go on voyages. I had seen Chah leaving for Australia, carrying one. So, I had to get one – a vanity case that I was to carry on my maiden flight to London. Apart from that, I only had a whole suitcase of kebayas, photo albums and of course all our letters ito each other in blue air mail envelopes, that document the beginning of our journey together to this place that we now called home.

Kak Teh's other journeys

Down Memory Lane

50 comments:

Naz said...

I love reading this.
Yes, half of the Subang Airport was filled with my gerombolan too ... the day I left Msia for the first time ever :D

AuntieYan @ Makcik Blogger said...

Salam Kak Teh...

Alahai!!!!...nostalgik sungguh...

He!...he!...jaman kita dulu main turun naik bas saja...tak macam bebudak sekarang...masa kat kolej lagi dah bergaya dengan mobil sendiri.... ;-)

Kak Teh said...

Naz, i bet! macam nak hantark orang pi mekah! luckily my point of departure was from changi. kalau tidak bah subang.

auntieyan, dulu nak naik kapal terbang rasa macam tak balik dah. la ni, with air asia and what nots, siap duit sajalah.

Ezza Aziz said...

dari citer Kak Teh ni,saya rasa Kak Teh ni rindu kampung ya...

Dulu kalau ada sedara yang pi belajar ke luar negeri,rasa besar sangat la hati kita. Pi menghantar jer dah dekat sekampung. Nak ke subang tu rasa macam syok sangat. Dulu kita nampak orang tu naik kapal terbang,amboi kita ni dok lambai lah sampai plane tu terbang....ni citer orang tak dapat naik kapal terbang laa..hahhaha

Kak Teh said...

ezza, rindu tu rindu juga, but this is also about what happened 29 years ago, as we prepared to come here. I have to document my thoughts and feelings before i forget.

ya, i remember, hantar cousins, brother and sister at the airport. dok ingat, bilalah masa kita pulak.

Ordinary Superhero said...

Salaam, Kak Teh. Very very nostalgic.

Zawi said...

Kak Teh,
Give us more of what happened before the departure from Changi. Haven't heard enough of that yet. Nostalgic betul.

Aida said...

Kak Teh,

Oh so the vogue.... with a vanity case and a bag full of kebayas ehehhe sure class lah.

Can't wait to read more.

maklang said...

ingat ka teh kat singapore tadi..he..he..

MrsNordin said...

Eh, tak habis lagi!! Sambung cepat, K. Teh!

MDL now in Spore said...

Kak, I love this posting so much.
You had me kat Mek Jarroh. Nasib baik kita tak panggil your mekja. Niaya!

DonCorleone said...

Salam Kak. Not sure if u remember me. My name is Saniboey and we met when i was in London with M Nasir. Saje nak tegur Kak.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh,
Now you remind me of AloK Stak pula (my other half is from there). Lots of changes there and Mee Abu is not as nice any more.
We returned to M'sia in December 1979, after 2 years in Birmingham. So we may have just missed each other in London, was there for a week before leaving for home.
Oh, to be in London now that Christmas is near...(the Oxford Street Lights, Selfridges' Windows, Harrods X'mas Decor!). Enjoy the sights for me, Kak Teh.
Salam, NanaDJ

Queen Of The House said...

Kak Teh, I pun rindu Mee Sup Omark Bom tu. The past few times we went back, my husband pi makan sorang dia saja, or with the boys while they left me to shop at Pekan Rabu! But he says dah tak sesedap dulu lagi ... agaknya the original Omark dah tak ada (mati ka?), same as Mee Abu ... mamak yang dok goreng dulu pun dah arwah dah.

I only pernah naik bas MARA to KL - boarded at the Station Bas MARA (what else). You naik bas apa tu kat Station Bas Baru?

edelweiss said...

Kak Teh dear,

god, you really brought back old memories...

penuh sesak subang airport masa tuh..kawan, sedara mara.

bila sampai sana 15 degree cel. kira dah sejuk sangat lah tuh kan...berbunga kembang di hati nih...dah jejak london kekekek.

Desert Rose said...

Kak Teh,

Ha ha I pun ingat that bihun sup Omark Bom, and Mee Abu..... Still around masa zaman i kecik2 (early 80's) kalau org Kedah tulen tak taw those things, bukan org Kedah sejati la kan.I 'm not sure ada lagi tak kat kat Aloq Setaq.

Anyway Kak Teh thank u for accepting me as ur new fren in FB....

Anonymous said...

Komen Pak Malim kucing ray yg alim.

Waaah, seronoknya dapat ahli keluarga dan saudara mara hantar Kak Teh ramai-ramai, kata Pak Malim sambil bermain pok amai-amai. Adakah Kak Teh rasa gembira campur terharu, kata Pak Malim sambil makan ikan cencaru.

Chahya said...

:)
Walaupun sekarang "everyone can fly" bak kata AirAsia, rombongan Cik Kiah untuk menghantar takkan pupus!!!

ipv6 said...

pretty confusing names indeed..hehehe

mekyam said...

just love it when you go all proustian, kt.

your kenangan2 "du temps perdu" - like ag's - make me stifle a sob even as i chuckle.

i say that because it is of a malaysia that is no more...

Manal said...

You got married in KL instead of in Alor Setar?
That means u get to mengelamun longer on those yesteryears as the night gets longer? I reckon london knew both of u (kakteh and AG) more than kedah and terengganu put together.

Mama Rock said...

ka teh, the gerombolan of the mak and pak sus, mak and pak tehs. mak and paklongs...the list can go on and on, is from my side of the family. my mum has 11 siblings and poor hubby sometimes still struggle to remember them.

ps - errr when you were leaving to london, i was in form 1 thinking of what choices do i have after form 5 - uk, us, autralia or local malaysia :)

mamasita said...

Hai KT, as usual your recollection is so enjoyable and beautiful and melancholic..
Your cerita memang always2 sedap!

Tumpang lalu jap KT, hai Mekyam.Lama you tak singgah Kuantan?Hope to hear from you soon.Best wishes to you and your Cikabang ye!Walla tengah ada rheumatism.Next week agaknya we might meet up with him kalau we jadi gi KL.

DonCorleone said...

Sure Kak Teh. Link me anytime and i shall link u too. But my blog is a bit kasar ye...saje nak ingatkan. :)

D.N.A.S said...

Kak Teh,
kalah rombongan orang pegi Mekah agaknya, kan?

Kak Teh said...

OSH, it is that time of the year when nostalgia stalks the deep recesses of our minds.

Zawi insyaallah. Tapi pengalaman di Changi tu a bit blur sebab banyak air mata!

aida,yes, i thought i'd be so vogue to carry a vanity case while boarding the plane! Macam movie stars , gitu.

Kak Teh said...

Mak lang, tu 29 tahun dulu...entry ini mengimbas kembali. sepanjang jalan kenangan....

mrs N, will do, will do! It'll have to be on 20th Dec when we landed!

MDL, I think mekja is quite nice!

Kak Teh said...

DonCorleone, Of course I do! It was such an event, wasnt it? But I wish he wasnt moody during interviews. ENjoyed his songs - although that's the first time I heard all of them.

NanaDJ, you left in December 79 and we arrived 20th december 79!! Laaa kalau tidak boleh jumpa kat airport minum teh sat. Ya, UK is bathed in Christamas lights. Some houses in my area look like deco pieces. I'd hate to see the electric bill.

QOTH, tu laa kak teh pun dengark mee sup omark bom dah tak sama dah. Kak teh tengok di KL pun dah ada, tapi tak serupa. apa agaknya dia boh dalam sup tu? hehe, macam mee abu kut!

Kak Teh said...

edelweiss, nasib baik our departure from Changi - kalau dari Subang, mestilaa penuh sesak dengan Tok Nenek.

Desert Rose, memang betui. Kalau orang kedah tulin tak kenai Omark bom and mee rebuih abu and satu lagi laksa kola kedah - memang bukan kedah sejati!

pak malim,
Memang hati kak teh gundah gulana dan perasaan yang berkecamuk, kata kak teh sambil tampar nyamuk. Maklumlah nak tinggalkan mak yang disayangi, melangkah beribu batu jauhnya, sebik kak teh sambil pakai bedak nyonya.

Kak Teh said...

chahya, itukan dah adat kita orang melayu. Di sinipun, terminal 3, kalau orang pakistan and India nak berangkat, sorang yang terbang yang hantark 30 orang! macam kita jugak.

ipv6, confusing? yes, and puzzling too.

mekyam, yes, so we had better write them down before our grey matters go, dont you think? and you had better do your bit as well.

Kak Teh said...

Manal, yes, we got married in Bangsar - my brother's house.
That is true, we have spent more years here than in Malaysia. Tapi kenangan masih lagi banyak di malaysia.

mama rock! you are still a spring chicken compared to moi! Ish, baru form five! Masa tu kak teh dah kerja, kahwin and embarking on a new life in a foreign land.

Kak Teh said...

mamasita, thank you. Saja nak melayan kenangan lama yang mengusik jiwa.

DNAS,hehe, memang kalah!

DonCorleone, dah!

Akmal said...

Kakteh, saya cuma mampu senyum aje :D

Kak Teh said...

Akmal, tak apa. Senyum, jangan tak senyum.

D said...

Eh, confuse jap - Mek Jarroh ke Mek Ryan? (LOL!!)

Dec 1979 - i was probably admiring my new school pinafore before stepping into Standard Two!

:) You're right... we should all get nostalgic and write about our pasts before they are forgotten. Only thing is, not many can write so vividly as you do!

Kak Teh said...

D, honestly, Mek Ryan would have made me walk on air. But a title more apt then would be Mek Meroyan!

and...my dear D, stop rubbing it in! I know, i know...you were admiring your new pinafore before stepping into std two!

Ms B said...

I was only 2 going to be 3. *winks*

I wish I can write as good as you, well actually better memory. Mine is so bad!!! Age is catching up really fast. *LOL*

Kak Teh said...

Ms B, I sense a conspiracy theory between you and D! hish! anyway, before memory goes - cepat tulis semua dalam blog/journal/ whatever!

Life for Beginners said...

"He didn’t realise until then that he’d married into half the population of Kedah."

:)

Now that's what I call Family. Hee.

Kak Teh said...

kenny, perhaps a little over exageration but he sure felt like it.

jaflam said...

Kak Teh,
Nothing like good old memories and thanks for sharing.

I will have my fair share of walking down the memory lane with my visit to UK this coming week. Will be staying at Holiday Vlla, Bayswater from 25 to 28 Dec and hope to catch up with you and AG.

Kak Teh said...

Jaflam!!! We will be here waiting for you! Holiday Villa is our playground. Will email you my phone number.

Imah said...

salam kak teh....

i was just like you too...starting our marriage life 7 years ago in this foreign land but for me it was more of a balik ke asal as we both meet in london before. 7 years on (22/12) and i never regret any of it and glad that we begin a family here rather than back home....

Imah

Kak Teh said...

Imah, I wish you all the best too. I think the best place to be after a marriage is away from home. And that could be anywhere. It gives you space and time to get to know each other as husband and wife. I;d hate any kind of interferance as I would want to sort things out myself. I'd want to be able to grow up- be a wife, mother and learn along the way. Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

I, too, like you brought back a box of letters, hoping one day that I'll pen about it and churn it into a story but..... First, I don't have the flow of words (I wish I could write like you!), second, it contained some sad and bitter episodes, and third, I don't know how the story would end. I just found some time to read this wonderful journal of yours this morning. Will be leaving blogsphere soon.
(Alice)

sue said...

Kak Teh time boarding tu mesti vogue habis dgn kebaya and bintang film's bag.. ;-P

Omar Bom tu pun pandai 'berubat' juga- ala2 dukun, anak dia sama hostel dulu

Kak Teh..tempat kenangan di Aloq Staq banyak dah hilang..i mean the spirit of the place..mcm SNC kita tu...

Kak Teh said...

Alice, it'll be a sad day when you leave blogosphere, but I respect yr decision. You've been such a wonderful friend on this blog, encouraging me to write etc. I still remember finding your blog and how we became friends. But, hey, we can still be in touch, right?

Sue, huish, in my mind's eye, memang kak teh vogue habis!! Tu belum sampai heathrow - but that is another story - hehe!
oh you se kelas dengan anak omark bom? has anyone discovered the asal usul of Bom tu? I used to wonder.
Ya, i know the spirit of alor star is gone - but it lives in our memories, kan?

Mat Cendana said...

[Please delete this one if there's a duplicate]
There are PICTURES in this post! I've only realised it when coming to leave a comment. Actually, I had seen this post since a few days ago - your blog and that of a few others are in my FeedDemon RSS client. And I keep your blog and Puteri Kamaliah's on my harddisk...

This one has so inspired me that I had wanted to write a post of around that period too - circa Dec 1979 - at my "Recovery" blog. But the words didn't come out... maybe it's because I had not mentioned "something" that happened before this particular time - TWO big things actually, that would have been "The Dark Side of the Moon" Part 2 and possibly 3. But anyway...

I was amused that Wan H had found all those relatives' names odd, especially the "Pak Njang" - anyone in the east coast would, for this particular "gelaran" is non-existent here:-P

I remember my own elder sister's farewell to a foreign country too - in 1976 (she went there immediately after the MCE; after a few months at SAHC from Sultanah Asma). But her trip to KL (and Subang) was by train. And yes, it was like half of Kedah turned up at the railway station too:-)

The MARA bus-station... this is the one near Convent and Sekolah Rendah Tunku Abdul Halim, I think... Yes, it is - the other one was at Jalan Langgar.

BTW there's an excellent new terminal just across Jalan Suka Menanti. I was back in 2004 - the "Barakath @ Cold Storage" that was near the Sampan jetty is no more, of course. Jalan Sultanah now "becomes longer", with a bridge joining it to Mergong and the bus terminal.

Kak Teh said...

Mat, write about 'that period' when you are ready.
Thanks for telling me abt the developments aorund Suka Menanti. I have always wondered what's the origin of the name Suka Menanti. Is it because people waited on both sides of the river banks for the perahus to cross over. But what was it that made them Suka menanti?

Mat Cendana said...

That "Suka Menanti" name sure is odd - as if someone in the town council had a sense of humour, which I doubt very much.

You know, I keep coming back to this post over and over even before I sent in the previous comment, for I can feel that "circa 1979 period" too. Actually, just six months after that, I was to leave Alor Star too - for KL. And after that I'd come back only during the holidays. Then it became more infrequent. And when I got into "those troubles"... Before the 2004 visit, I can't actually remember when the last before that was. So, I'm almost as "foreign" as you are now when it comes to Alor Star.

The MARA bus-station: I remember it was an event when the area first opened - of the Kubang Pasu, Gunung and Bas Bandaran Alor Star moving to this terminal from Jalan Langgar (20 sen fare to Bakar Bata in 1979, IIRC). Omar Bom, Mee Abu... Yes, everyone in Alor Star knows these two.

BTW, ever since I realised that you were from SAHC, I've been trying to remember which one you were in 1974/75 [I must say that I was/am damn proud when I realised that you were from SAHC too:-) ] Heck, there weren't too many girls there, and I'm *sure* to have noticed you, definitely. Too bad that I don't have the school magazine with me now...

Oh, I do know "Zaharah Othman, the London Buzz writer" - anyone who doesn't is sure to be an `English language illiterate', because that column was as iconic as "Johan's Bag of Marbles" or Adibah Amin's ... erm, "As I was passing"?? [Was also quite envious that you were writing from London; when I was in NST... "You were with NST?! When??" Heheh, in good time]

But anyway, I think I have you pin-pointed in my memory; from these words: "I remember the cycle on minibikes with ‘the gang’, our pony tails in matching ribbons," You had a pony-tail too... Were you a Secretary of my sports house once - Sultan House? Or maybe it was with another house, but I think I remember one Malay girl who was the secretary of a sports house. And these posts were PRESTIGIOUS and GLAMOROUS... And were you involved with the school magazine too?

By the way, just to show how clueless I am and how `slow' I could be: I knew who Wan is - or at least "the name". However, all these years, I never knew that he was your other half until you mentioned it! And to think that you, Wan and Haliza are, in my mind, synonymous with "Malaysians in London". In fact, the three of you are etched a lot deeper in my mind than Jimmy Choo is.

I'm going to ask my father whether he knows your family - I'm 99% sure that he does. Was there some "nama timangan" of your father and mother among the people in Alor Star?