THE MESIAN - MESSAGE 144, NOVEMBER 2013
THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE EDITION SPONSORED BY HARBANS SINGH
A VISIT TO MY DAD'S MENTOR
By: Chan Yew Kuen
My Dad regularly visits his mentor, who is also his close friend. He lives in the outskirts of Bentong. On the 15th Sept 2013, I happened to be in Bentong and Dad took me there. I was transported there, by a time-machine in the form of my Dad's blue Perodua Kembara. We arrived at an old but well kept half-concrete half-wooden double storey detached house. It was perched on top of a little hill past a short and well worn path.
Although the massive house was at close proximity to the main road, it was still secluded and hidden, canopied by rainforest trees with a thick blanket of green leafy foliage. The leaves were so massive that a caterpillar would barely be able to consume a quarter, before its transformation to a butterfly.
The dweller in this house is an often discussed, well respected, universally admired 'gwailo' or 'orang putih' or white man amongst the harmonious Malays, Chinese, Indians and most recently Bangladeshis, Myanmaris, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thais, Indonesians and Filipinos.
Dato' Ted Miles is a remarkable man living in a remarkable house. Either one of them would get your attention without effort. I was fascinated with Dato' Miles' antiques collection. I was even more intrigued that he has not lost his American accent despite having lived in Malaysia for decades. What I particularly noticed was his choice of words. They were what one would use in the olden days, spoken in a manner expected of a well educated person, of course in his case, he certainly is one.
It was enlightening to see that Dato' Miles had a good sense of humour as well, bantering a lot with Dad. This put me at ease. As soon as I was seated in a comfortable armchair with wide hardwood armrests one of Mr Miles' dogs came towards me suspiciously at the same time curiously. It didn't take me long to warm up to the canine. It took me even shorter to secretly name it 'Patchy'. Patchy had long fluffy white fur with black patches, and was slightly bigger than a cat but without a doubt he was cuter. Please don't ask me the breed because I am as familiar with breeds of dogs as I am with models of smart phones.
Given the permission, I toured around the house with my Dad as my informative guide. I felt I had traveled back to circa 1930s-1940s. I was awestruck and speechless in admiration; it was like I was in a museum, but better. Alice never had it so good in wonderland! Since I was in my Balinese top, I superficially blended in with the classic interior.
Upstairs was even more eye-catching. There was a massive room that looked like a library or in the olden days it would be called a drawing room. It had 8 traditional wooden double-leaf windows. The reason I chose the word double-leaf instead of double-pane explains the size of the windows. Ironically, double-leaf separated us from the massive leaves outside.
Next, I bumped into a set of angklungs in various pitches. Oh My Goodness! OMG! I know, I know; I tend to overuse my OMGs but this set of angklungs was worth my umpteenth OMG acronym. I had always wanted this instrument since I was a little girl to the extent of having the desire to make one myself when it became clear that making music was the last to almost non-existent priority to Dad. At that time his priority was understandably not in buying me expensive instruments but in raising a big family. Ask any millennium child at random how they feel about the Minions, that was how I felt about angklungs back then.
I'm sure every piece of ornament in the house has a story to it. Dad was and still is interested in taking photographs of each of them and compiling all the pictures into a book or stop-motion video.
This beautiful house was recently used to shoot a Taiwanese horror film titled 'Seventh'. According to Dato' Miles, the film should be out by October 2013. A framed group photo of Mr. Miles with the crew and casts of the film was displayed on a side table in the living room.
The tour lasted quite a while. I would have loved to stay longer to explore the house in greater detail but not wanting to overstay our welcome, Dad and I thanked our host for the pleasure of his hospitality and we parted company.
Thank you Dato' Ted Miles for your hospitality during my visit. I had a good time that day!
HOW HARBANS SINGH SURVIVES THE HARD TIMES IN THE 1950S
By Harbans Singh aka Harwan Singh
When we moved to Serdang in 1954 we had nothing to support ourselves. Only the people we stayed with were very supportive.
We in turn helped to care for their buffalos. They had two oxcarts with beautiful pairs of oxen to go with. I was given charge of one pair and the job of getting sand to make new sleeping space for the buffalos. The first trip I made to collect sand I was surprised by the intelligence of the oxen who decided when to move off with the cart when the weight was to their limit. They bolted home with me chasing after them.
The next time I had to send firewood to Kuyoh in Sungei Besi I found that as soon as I had unloaded the firewood the oxen bolted. I collected the payment and chased after them for a few hundred yards before catching up with them.
Another time we picked up rocks from a mining area. As soon as the weight was enough for them the oxen tried to bolt but the weight was too heavy. We had to reduce the number of rocks on the cart before they moved.
On other days I had to take the herd of buffalos to graze sometimes more than a mile away. Whenever the grazing lalang grew old we set fire to it so that the next time the buffalos would have new lalang to graze on.
One day one of our buffalos slipped into a drain in the rubber estate. When we noticed it missing the next day we went looking for it. We found it and had it rejoined the herd.
On another day a buffalo fell into a sinkhole. As we called for support and dug from the sides more and more sand collapsed. Finally the buffalo made a dash up the pit and was gone missing for days. The trauma had frightened it. After some days it was found in the Serdang agricultural college and the herd was taken there so it could rejoin its mates.
One day as the buffalos were returning home walking along the slope above the railway line I threw a stone at a hornets' nest. This mischief caused the hornets to rush out onto the oncoming passenger train.
One evening I was taking the herd of buffalos home. As a buffalo tried to cross the little muddy stream it turned around and charged at me tossing me into the mud and running over me. That was a close shave that almost sent me to meet my creator!
Another night when the lorry was returning home it turned short of the side track and lay on its side. We had to get our bullock cart to help right it. Unfortunately the bullock cart also overturned!!
Another time the lorry was transporting pebbles from the mining area. The track was so uneven that the driver had his hands full trying to avoid the potholes.
By the way I had driven our Morris oxford when I was only six.
Later I was to become the rubbish collecter for Serdang town.I had a new ox cart and a fresh pair of oxen.
One day while unloading the rubbish by tilting the cart my shirt sleeve touched the ox which retaliated by kicking me on the leg. It caused a gash on my lower right limb and I had to be taken to the clinic in Sungei Besi. The wound was dressed and that ended my rubbish collecting career.
Another day I was challenged to lift a railway slipper off the ground. Try as I did I could not do it. I lost the $5/- bet.
Another time the house owner went cutting firewood from the rubber estate. His axe slipped from the tree and hit his calf. It left a big gash in it. He was rushed to K.L. hospital where they made him wait for hours. In the meantime the wound had been bleeding for some time and a good amount of blood had been lost. When they finally decided to attend to him they started stitching the wound without giving him any pain killers. He screamed away.
While at the hospital we heard that a Pakistani cowherd had his manhood cut off by a woman who got too thrilled by his love making.
Another time one of our workers cut his hand with a sickle when he slipped with sickle in hand. The same story of transporting to hospital repeated itself.
In Serdang the intelligent pair of oxen were given toddy to drink. They raised their tails up high and started running around the compound until they got tired. It was a sight to watch. In the evening I too would sneak up the short coconut tree besides the house and get about one-and-a half gallon of sweet toddy. All of us would share it on our happy hour 1950s style!
One evening as I was returning with the herd and carrying an earthen ware pot the pot dropped and broke into pieces. Immediately I received whacking from my mother. I was told it was bad luck to break a pot. It meant that some family member had passed away.
Sure enough next morning news was received that my elder sister had hung herself. My mother attended the funeral.
Sometime later we moved to Bentong. In Bentong lives went on..........
A DAY OF INDEFINITENESS - THINGS WERE DONE ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT.
SO UNCERTAIN YET ENJOYABLE AND FUN
Friday the 27th of September, 2013
AT 7.00 we hit the highway down to the city. At Sungai Besi I veered the car into the outer ring road. At the old airport stretch of highway the missus complained of having growling bowels. It was so bad that she said she was going to........ OMG! This later were to change the whole course of events for the day. Our intention was to go to Genting Highlands.
She really could not contain her bowels anymore. I drove passed our turning junction. There was a Petronas station. I parked the car and let the missus to do the needful in the loo.
We continued our journey. The missus said her pants were wet. She decided not to go to Genting Highlands. Fine, I did not mind. I suggested that we could make a trip to Raub. She Agreed. I said we could even go to visit Kuala Lipis. She said fine. So we reached the Bentong house. We bathed and rested for an hour.
We were famished. So we had lunch at Toki's eatery at the road junction to our house. The food was good. With full bellies we were ready to start the north-bound journey. I cruised along The Bentong to Raub road. At the fifth mile where the Lee Rubber factory is, I veered off the main road. I took to the old Tras road. Fortunately, the tarmac is still maintained by the authorities. Even the Bentong to Raub and the Raub to Bentong to Kuala Lumpur Central PAHANG buses still use this road picking up passengers all along. The road is familiar except for a few bends had disappeared as they have been straightened. The drive is not so meandering like before.
Up on the hills, I saw box-like buildings whose purpose I will find out later. Yet they looked weird in the hills now occupied and cultivated. Rubber trees have disappeared from the landscape. What we see nowadays are durian orchards and oil palms. We passed Sang Lee New Village. The population must have declined as few people were seen around. The little roadside coffee shop has no crowd.
On moving on, we came to the Sungai Chetang New Village and then we were at the T junction branching out to Fraser Hill and Tras. This is Tranaum. We took the way to Tras. Soon the ghostly town came into view. The row of shop houses were deserted like before I remembered in the 1950s the place looked eerie and scary from the fear of being ambushed by communist terrorists. Since its cursed history with the murder of Sir Henry Gurney, this place had never recovered from its glorious past as a rubber rich area.
Soon the road joins the new Bentong-Raub highway via Bilut Valley. We were soon in Raub. An extraordinary downpour welcome us to and sending us off from Raub. We hit the asphalt to Kuala Lipis. We saw a signage saying "KAMPONG DURIAN SEBATANG" meaning THE ONE DURIAN TREE VILLAGE. A signboard said the roadside stall is selling cendol, a shredded ice dish mixed with cooked kidney beans and strings of jelly-like stuff in green. On this oven-hot day, it is a very welcome drink.
After refreshing ourselves with cendol, we continued our journey to Kuala Lipis. We missed the village called Benta at a roundabout we took the 12.00 o'clock turning and travelled along a new highway to our destination. We reached Kuala Lipis. After checking into a hotel we roamed the town. Kuala Lipis is a busy town now. The narrow streets were crowded with vehicles! At the open night market we mingled with the local people. - By CSS.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE FOLLOWING IN NOVEMBER
||JOO SHEK PHIN (WILLIAM)
||MOHD KHALID M. YUSOFF
||YIP FOOK KHIM
||LEE YEW KWONG
||ISMAIL B. MOHAMED
||NG KAM THYE
||JOHN D CLEMENT
||CHAN SEE PHONG
||TAN GEE SIN
||TONG AH TAI
||WONG FOONG CHAW
||LAI HAY YIN
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