THE MESSAGE NO.106 SEPTEMBER 2010
- THE ANONYMOUS LADY’S SERIES - THE UNSPONSORED EDITION
HARBANS SINGH IN PUNJAB
The adventures in Punjab
The train from Calcutta arrived to a town called Ludhiana in Punjab quite early in the morning. We - my friend Avtar Singh (Jesus)
and me – alighted and the train from Calcutta moved on.
I had been taught that Sikhs do not smoke! So what I saw knocked me off my feet. Every porter at the station was belching out smoke! Some
had visible cigarettes in their hands but others were letting off smoke from invisible fags.
It was winter and my cousin in Calcutta had kindly equipped me with warm clothing.
When I asked Avtar Singh about the smoking Singhs he explained that in winter the outside air is so cold that the hot air we breathe out is frozen
and looks like cigarette smoke! Well that cleared the invisible cigarette smokers but it still left some Sikhs with fags in their hands.
That made me concluded that not all Sikhs do not smoke. (I have a Sikh friend now living in P.J who is affectionately called SMOKEY.)
Our local train journey started more than an hour later with the train appearing to take us back in the direction we came from.
What I noticed from the station was that Ludhiana also boasted of the same box-like single-storeyed, occasionally punctuated with double-
The train chugged on for more than an hour passing small villages on either side of the track, the type you see on tv in the poorest African
There were clusters of them small villages. Other than the villages I saw miles and miles of wheat fields in every direction. Then we came a
railway station now and then. The same scenery I had seen when the express from Calcutta had passed during daylight hours.
We were heading towards Ferozepur Cant. Cant is short for cantonment (army base). One of the stations we passed was Jagraon. Jagraon is a
Mukim in Ludhiana District. As in Malaya, Mukims are a sort of sub-centre of administration in a District. Avtar Singh's village - Mehna - was
further up. Between Avtar's station and Jagraon lies my uncle's village - Kaunke - with no railway station serving it.
After a half dozen or so stations we arrived at Avtar Singh's home. We left my bedding roll at the station and marched to his house (a double
storeyed decent looking one) which was a few hundred meters away.
At my newfound saviour friend Avtar's house we had a hot water bath, breakfast and later lunch, topped up with evening tea before catching
the train to a station back the way we came.
While going to Avtar's house and back we passed the village where my uncles (mother's brothers lived). On reaching that station we tried to
hire a horse carriage (two wheeled) to my next destination.
As it was evening and getting dark the carriage owner wanted a guarantee that he be given a bed to sleep on, food for himself and fodder for
his horse! Such high demand! But we realised his predicament.
Instead, we tried a trishaw man. He agreed and we set out back tracking to my uncles' village. The main road at that time were just only one
wide enough to drive one vehicle at a time on the bitumen surfaced section. On-coming or crossing traffic: the weaker hearted had to swerve
to the mud lane on either side from the centre surface. If none of the drivers moved off then the two bulls would crash in the middle of the road;
head-on and might literally lock horns!
We managed to reach the turning to my uncle's house which was only a purely mud road. Actually it was of very fine dust and sand and
extremely soft. The trishaw man could not pedal on that kind of mud path. So we had to disembark and help push the trishaw forwards. Boy, it
was tough going! Finally after about an hour's struggle we reached the village.
How were we to find my uncle's house in the dark?
Again, some unknown power came to our aid. Someone who looked like a Mongolian was squatting beside the road.
When we told him we wanted to go to my uncle's house he stood up and said he was the person (my uncle).
We paid the trishaw man and soon he was on his way going happily away.
We entered a mud-walled flat-topped place which my uncle said was his house.
I was introduced to his family members, including my very old grandmother. She was almost bent double due to age. We were served food and
there we spent the night with the family members, goats and buffalos all under one roof in one room.
The first thing I noticed there was that the house was actually a four-wall mud-plastered flat roofed enclosure with no electricity, no tap water
and worst of all no toilets!
Inside it was a mound of maize from the previous harvest, buffalos, goats and fortunately, there were enough manje (charpoi the Punjabi string
beds) for us all. Being winter time there were no flies or mosquitoes either.
For toilet urgency one had to rush or walk to the wheat field which virtually surrounded the house. Luckily not far to go.
Water was taken from the well outside. Kerosene lamps provided the light. Next day Avtar Singh and I parted company and we have never met
again to this day. I was given to understand that he was actually a PR of the U.K.
The animals were fed hay and some green plant specially grown for them. The buffalo's dung is dried and used as firewood. I saw a camel at
one of the fields. It was attached to a wooden extension that had its centre attached to a simple gear (like the one we see on the rear wheel of
a bike over which the drive chain turns.)
At the other end was a rod, which led to the buckets, which brought up water from the well. The water was pouring into a drain, which went on
to irrigate the field.
Uncle' village - continued
My mother had two brothers. Both lived in the same village.I was stationed at the younger one's house. I had five cousins at this house. I clicked
well with the elder boy who was a few years younger than me. We would walk or cycle to their second field which was some distance from the
house. Some farmers water their fields from their own wells by the help of the camels while others wait their turn from the irrigation canals. Some
may get their turn in the dead of night when it is virtually freezing.
Just like our rubber tappers the farmers are early birds. They are in the fields the whole day and it is the ladies who take their food to them over
there. Strangely there is no place for the animals to graze once the fields have been planted.
The buffalos only get to go out after the fields have been harvested. Unlike in Calcutta virtually everything is produced at home. The milk,
yogurt, ghee the women even weave most of their own cloth! They are not idle for a moment. They hace their charka (a two feet or so high spin
wheel) to turn cotton into thread. I even saw some women on the train spinning away their wheel. Even the food is home grown. Vegetables,
wheat, maise, and vegetables. For the women the morning starts with using their manuel (not electric as today) blender which makes a
groaning groom, groom sound churning the yogurt to get butter. The buffalo provides milk for drinking, butter, cheese, yogurt and cream.
(To be continued)
HEY. HERE’S A MORE RECENT TRAVEL STORY
By Chan Suy Sang
Just in the middle of August 2010, I had the good luck to travel to Guangxi China for a look see of my ancestral county. I took the well-
advertised Now Everybody can fly flight from LCCT and landed in Guilin. This former capital city of Guangxi is surrounded by a jungle of karsts
(rocky) mountains topograhpy. Guilin is not a fast moving city very suitable for retirees and tourists as the tour guide told me. Buildings are
limited in height - maximum height seven storeys. Why? The authorities there do not want to see a jungle of concrete and steel to overshadow
the mountains of stones and rocks, which give the city its impressive and spectacular natural beauty!
There is a saying that goes like this: East or West, Guilin's scenery is best! The former vice-president of China Chen Yi said: "It's better to be a
resident of Guilin than to live with fairies in fairyland."
On the second day we took a boat cruise on the Lijiang River that lasted for five hours. As the boat chugged upstream, we treated our eyes
with the most panoramic sight of natural beauty.
The water of the Lijiang River was clean and clear. A flotilla of boats each carrying more than 50 people cruised up the river. On smaller boats
and even bamboo rafts, there were tourist travellers. We had lunch on the boat. We climbed up to the upper deck to catch the breeze and to
view the mountains all along the river.
At a bustling city called Yangshou, we disembarked and checked into a hotel for the night.
From the city of Yangshou our tour coach pushed off with us on board heading towards the city of Rongxian. Here everybody speak the
Rongxian dialect like we do in Perting Village, Bentong. We felt so at home. Most of us in the group have our ancestral villages around this
place. As our tour leader Mr. Leong Yen Kwong, knows some prominent people there, we were treated to a huge banquet on a gigantic round
dining table that seated all the 24 of us. Everybody spoke the pure Rongxian dialect here and everyone felt that he or she was like at home.
Even yours truly whose ancestors were from Beiliu not Rongxian, just have to speak the Rongxian dialect!
The next day, we visited our tour leader’s ancestral farm village. After travelling a half hour, the coach hit a muddy road and stopped at a
village. We went to the farm on foot. Here, for the first time I saw dilapidated mud huts abandoned and neglected. The people there do not
seem to like their ancestral homes to be torn down. By the side of the mud huts, were erected modern brick farmhouses. Chickens, ducks and
dogs ran helter-skelter searching for bits of food to peck.
Members of our group whose ancestral homes were there went to pay homage to their family shrine and graves of the departed souls. They let
off roll after roll of firecrackers to create a din to inform the villagers of our presence. Imagine each roll of firecrackers cost circa RM40.
We lunched at a local restaurant. Food was in abundance and drinks seemed to flow freely.
The following day, my missus and I with my nephew and his wife, headed to Beiliu by the local bus. The ride was a good learning experience as
far as the habitual local lingo was concern. The bus driver and the ticket conductor of peer age engaged in a very amicable conversation.
Gosh! Every sentence was punctuated with profanity and obscenity mostly referring to the feminine body’s private anatomy! Now and then they
stressed and emphasized their stories with male and female procreative activities!! That is still the local lingo of the people of this part of the
Just before we left the town, a topless ticket inspector boarded the bus and did the ticket checking fast. He must be in his sixties for besides the
wrinkles on his body he had nothing on his crown.
On the way, the bus stopped to pick up a woman with a child under her arm. Seemingly, she looked like a dowager. She dumped herself and
her child on top of a box behind the driver's cabin. OMG! She pulled down the pants of her little emperor and literary coaxed him to empty his
bladder!! Hence the floor of that part of the bus was wet with stinking water. That was the way of life of that little rural part of China.
After being bombarded with the obscenities of the local lingo, we were dumped in a nowhere land. The driver said to reach our destination we
had to hitch a ride on motorbikes. There was a little stall owner by the roadside. He told us that we had another 10 km to go. My nephew
phoned our relatives - thanks to the availability of the cellular phone service here. Soon two men rode in on two two-wheelers. We hired two
more bikes. We were then transported pillion-riding on motorbikes to our ancestors' and relatives' hamlet.
There was a cluster of broken down mud huts now dwarfed by two rows of modern concrete buildings - one row four storey high. Some of our
relatives lingered in - men, women and children. They were people I had never seen nor knew until then.
There was a dilapidated shed that we called our ancestral altar. Soon foods were laid out and we paid homage to our ancestors whoever they
were - those lost souls. There weren't even any pictures of the departed souls. There were just some Chinese characters written on crimson paper
pasted on a broken down wall. Ancestors? That was all!
We feasted on the offerings and then sat around to talk. We tried to sort out what generations we were. There was a sort of book of records
wherein we could find our names-though with lots of inaccuracies. Wow! I came to know that I am in the 19th generation of a long list of
From the small talks, I found my roots! Our first ancestor came from Fujian (Hokkien). Due to the harsh and over-populated conditions in Fujian
those days, he went west to Beiliu where he settled far from the township and found the Pomegranate Hamlet (Zhi Liu Jong). We had an
outstanding and robust great grandmother, they said. She was a sort of empress dowager of the family who encouraged and arranged for her
descendants to migrate. That was how I happened to be born in Malaya!
Three of my cousins are faring well in the now developing China being manufacturers and businessman and an official. They are putting up
impressive concrete buildings in the farm. From the economic viewpoint those buildings are just white elephants - uninhabited, left derelict and
mainly for show! Even for that, who would be the people seeing those buildings? The population there is continually dwindling because of the
rural-to-urban migration and the government's one child per family policy.
On the next day our tour group visited Nanning the new capital city for Guangxi. It is a modern city with lots of skyscrapers. After visiting another
city called Liuzhou, we returned to Guilin and left for home.
WHAT HAPPENED THIS MONTH 50 YEARS AGO
Our mentor's diary recorded that he took a group of students from Bentong to Kuala Lumpur to see the film 'Ben Hur' a box office hit those days.
To do that, he had to apply for a police permit for crossing from Pahang state into Selangor. I wonder if this rule is now still in force!
Names mentioned in the diary were: Virasamy aka Muthu, Murad, Sohan, Lau Ah Ngau, Cheng Yong, Kim Choo, How Seng, Fook Cheng,
Dzulkifli, Ng Siew Ling, Say Kuang, Lan Chan, Mohd Noor, Samah, David Liew, Gnanasakunthala, Kang Hoe, Brian, Munzir, Annuar, Chee Lian,
Anthea, Zubir and Yeng Kee.
Many of the above people are still safe and sound and kicking around.
FROM SIR WITH LOVE
Living on a hill has certain advantages. First and foremost, there's usually a breeze, even on the hottest days, so while people elsewhere suffer in
the stifling heat, up here it's bearable.
The most obvious advantage, of course, is that there is never any danger of flooding. It would take more than forty days and forty nights of
continuous rain to encourage me to vacate and look for higher ground.
There are disadvantages to living on a hill, too, closely related, ironically, to the two advantages just mentioned. Heavy rain, for example, might
not flood the house, but it could cause a landslide. I'd hate to wake up some morning down in the neighbour's durian orchard.
Then there was that awful experience in September 2006 when a mini-tornado came through. The house, exposed to the storm's fury because of
its hilltop location, had roof tiles blown off and windows smashed by falling trees.
There are two sides of the coin, as they say.
The thing about my hilltop existence that most visitors complain about is the noise created by traffic down on the road. As every schoolchild
knows, sound travels up, and ever since the old winding road through the estate became a highway gateway to the East Coast, traffic had
become horrendous: cars, lorries, motor-cycles, all trying to out-noise the others. Thank heavens the mat rempit haven't made the road into a
When my six dogs hear ambulances or police-cars whizzing by, their sirens wailing away, they raise their noses in the air, wolf-like, and howl. I
call them the Miles Family Singers, and we’re thinking about producing a canine "Sound of Music". If anyone reading this has a dog who could
play the role of Maria, send her over for an audition. I'm looking for a dog who can teach mine to howl, "Doe, a deer, a female deer....."
- Ted Miles. -
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE FOLLOWING IN SEPTEMBER
||LAI KIM CHOO
||ZAINAL B. HJ. HASSAN
||LOKE MOOI THYE
||ABDUL WAHAB AB. RAHMAN
||HONG CHEE SET (RONNIE)
||DORIS LOW AH MOY
||WONG SUI KONG
||WONG KIM FOO
||CHAN SUY SANG
||HO CHIN CHING (DR)
||YAP KIM HEE
||TAN KOW KHIEH
||WONG SWEE YONG
||HO MEI YOON
||WONG THIN CHING
||YAP NEW CHYE
TO ALL MUSLIMINS AND MUSLIMATS.
AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO THE REST.
SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI
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