By Harbans Singh

The next stage of my schooling was in a double storey shop house named Clive Institution in Rawang.

I started in standard 3. One of our class mates found that the shop that sold drinks used a watermarked paper to pick the drink one gets. He got an orange drink. He sneaked the paper to school and passed it to me. I went and got myself a drink. The paper got passed around many times.

Besides the school was the police station. After school I used to go to view the bodies of the communists shot by the armed forces. There would be numerous bullet holes in the bodies. Some were bodies of very young boys, maybe even as young as 12 - 13.

One day a group of policemen dressed as communists was sitting on the road beside the police station. I was standing on the opposite side of the road when suddenly a few trucks of soldiers spotted the disguised policemen.

They were so fast in surrounding the policemen with me in the middle. That was one of my most frightening experiences.

Back in Kundang at the Kundang estate lived a group of trainee policemen who were being trained by one B. Stevens.

One day he stopped our bus and asked me to mend a racquet as best as I could. When I returned home I found a broken racquet and passed the strings onto the racquet given by him. When I returned it to him he realized his message had been misinterpreted.

He saw I had sores on my legs and applied an elastoplast on it. After 3 days when the plaster was removed he cleaned the wound.

Later he showed me what a bullet consisted of. In its casing there were a bunch of strings that burnt very fast giving speed to the bullet. In side the bottom was gunpowder which lighted the strings. One day while he was taking his trainees on a patrol passing my house one of his trainees slipped and fell into the drain. He was immediately given a slap and handed the leaders pistol. Since my house was near the gate the incoming patrols used to stop there and send one of them to the police station some distance away to have the gate opened. The soldiers were very disciplined. Their vehicles would stop as soon as the first vehicle did. One day one of the soldiers waited at my house while my mother cooked him a chapati. He rolled the chapati in one hand and held the dhall plate in the other taking in each by turn.

One day on our way back from school a fellow Chinese student picked a fight with me. He had stabbed a student in school and I was wary of it.

On another day he slipped off the bus but held on to the bar for dear life until we reached Kundang. Another day he was swimming in the stream when he saw me crossing the bridge he started calling me names. I took a stone from the railway line and let fly the stone hitting him in the shoulders. Later when I went to the shop his mother cornered me and when she was about to whack me a singh turned up and made peace.

The police recruits used to be trained at the police station near the railway station. The trainees used to be scolded by the trainer -a white man - very often.


I have participated in big walks playing badminton, throwing javelin and playing hockey. I started hockey by accident. A fellow postal worker came on relief duty to Bentong. I invited him to stay at my place. When he went back to K.L. for the weekend he returned with a hockey stick which he presented to me.

The first time I used it was at the Malacca Power Station where I was under training prior to my posting to the Johor Bahru Power Station. In Malacca I had hit a ball around the field to get acquainted with the stick.

One day we had a friendly game. My participation ended when while running with the ball I collided with the opposing team player.

On the first of March 1963 I reported for duty at the Johor Bahru Power Station. I had been well prepared by Mr. Nadrajah of Malacca Power Station with the rules and regulatiions of the L.L.N. I met my new boss Mr. Alexander Ernest Utas. I learned to admire him as a good boss.

The first thing we had to do was register all our staff and their family members as there was a cholera outbreak then. Surprisingly some of the family members were registered as male while others as memales. I had never heard of that sex. Anyway we got them registered and vaccinated. Next we decided to form a pro-term committee to consider the registering of a Kilat Club for the Station staff.

Once there was a six-aside tournament and we took part as The Wanderers. We had three Singapore Sikh youth players plus three from Johor Bahru. We had scored a goal but for some reason it was disallowed. So we ended up with a draw and had to do a centre bully with the Armed Forces team. The Armed Forces player hit the stick of our player and pushed the ball out of the circle ending our further participation in the knock-out.

Some months later we went to Batu Pahat for an Inter station games where we played hockey as well. Our hockey game was in a mud filled hockey field and all we did was splash mud on each other. That night three of us put up in the Sikh Temple. We were given food and bedding and a lesson in hostmanship. The priest instead of admonishing us for having short hair, took us into his room and showed photos of his sons who had taken part in the Asian games in India. They were wearing turbans and had neatly kept beards. See the diplomacy.

The next time we travelled to Batu Pahat for sports and had a hockey game in their town field. I used to have a heavily wire rolled stick so when I got a chance I whacked the ball so hard that it went not only through the goal's net but right across the next field.



STICK TO A SCHEDULE. Erratic bedtimes do not allow for your body to align to the proper circadian rhythms. Mum was right when she set a time we always had to go to sleep as kids. Also, make sure you try to keep the same schedule on weekends too, otherwise the next morning, you'd wake later and feel overly tired.

Sleep only at night. Avoid daytime sleep if possible. Daytime naps steal hours from nighttime slumber. Limit daytime sleep to 20-minute, power naps.

EXERCISE. It's actually known to help you sleep better. Your body uses the sleep period to recover its muscles and joints that have been exercised. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulates the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult. Taking a hot shower or bath before bed helps bring on sleep because they can relax tense muscles.

AVOID EATING JUST BEFORE BED. Avoid eat large meals or spicy foods before bedtime. Give yourself at least 2 hours from when you eat to when you sleep. This allows for digestion to happen (or at least start) well before you go to sleep so your body can rest well during the night, rather than churning away your food.

AVOID CAFFEINE. It keeps you awake and that's now what you want for a good nights sleep. We all know that.

READ A FICTION BOOK. It takes you to a whole new world if you really get into it. And then take some time to ponder over the book as you fall asleep. As you read you get more tired and so find it easier to fall asleep.

HAVE THE ROOM SLIGHTLY COOLER. I prefer this to a hot room. I prefer to turn off the heat and allow the coolness to circulate in and out of the windows. If I get cold, I wear warmer clothes. It also saves on the bills as you're not going to require the heat all night long.

SLEEP IN SILENCE. I find sleeping with no music or TV on more easy and restful. I guess others are different, but sleep with no distractions is best for a clearer mind.

AVOID ALCOHOL BEFORE BEDTIME. It's a depressant; although it may make it easier to fall asleep, it causes you to wake up during the night. As alcohol is digested your body goes into withdrawal from the alcohol, causing night time awakenings and often nightmares for some people.


IT WAS a Saturday.

At 8.00 am I got up from bed in Kuala Lipis the other KL so they say. We got ready in a hurry for breakfast provided by the hotel.

We went down to the restaurant. The breakfast was plain and simple. There was served fried noodles, scrambled eggs, sausages and baked beans.

After checking out we drove down town thinking of doing some shopping. But no we could not find any place for parking. So I drove down to the riverside street. Here the shop houses are facing the great PAHANG River. By a stroke of luck, a car reversed out from a parking lot. I just slipped my little Kembara in. I saw the signage LIPIS RIVER JETTY. I looked for the jetty, but there was none. The flight of concrete steps down to the river was overgrown with wild creepers. The boat flotilla of housing settlement was gone. That boat people was the main attraction of the town. Whither are they now? Even the river has appeared to have lost its life. The yellowish water flowed sluggishly by. The signage is but a misnomer. What jetty! There is no jetty there!! Why put up a signage at all? To indicate its grave there!

We drove out of the town and came upon a weird roundabout out! It is not round as drawn on the signboard, somewhat oblong! The road branches to Gua Musang, one to Padang Tengku and the one which I took was to Benta. I hit the highway. Traffic became a little heavy and hurried. Vehicles came down from Kelantan and those traveling the opposite direction going up north. I drove at a leisure pace letting most vehicles from the north to overtake my crawling jalopy. Why? I did not have anything in my mind to hurry, just cruising slowly and taking in the scenery. My passenger refused to doze off so busy viewing the scenic view that whisked by.

At a roundabout a km outside the village Benta, I took the three o'clock turn. I entered the road leading to Benta. This little village used to be the stopover place on the way to Kuala Lipis. Now it is bypassed because of the new highway. We stopped at Benta for a bite. It was just a roadside food stall. The food was not very good but the coffee was superb. I took a look at the bridge that we had used to cross on the way to Kuala Lipis. It is a concrete structure now. I remember the old bridge was wooden and noisy when vehicles rolled across.

We pulled off again heading to the gold town Raub. Raub is busy. We looked around the town. Mission accomplished, we pulled out of Raub. Again I avoided the new highway via Bilut. Instead I took the old road. So at a rather vaguely signaged junction I veered my jalopy into the road to Tras. As I drove on those box-like structures also came into view over the hills. There are quite a number of them jutting into the sky capturing the landscape view. I wondered what they were! Some sort of factory? They cannot be else there would be activities. But they are there in solitary; looking rather ghostly!

We passed the ghostly town of Tras that appeared so derelict, so abandoned and the buildings dilapidated. Since its doomsday during the Emergency in the 1940s, Tras had never recovered. It looks like the town is cursed forever never to revive again. Probably the population has continued to decline with more exoduses to the bigger towns and city.

After passing the dead town Tras, I came to the junction to Fraser Hill and Bentong. Taking the turning to Bentong I drove on and Sungai Chetang came into view. Looking over the hills, I saw more box-like concrete buildings. They appeared strange standing on the hills. I took photographs of some. Only later on did I learn what they are for. They are for the swiftlets to build their nest. Why spend so much for the avian population. Yes, this is the new industry in the country. Birds' nest, a delicacy of the Chinese. The box-like buildings are for the swiftlets to nest. While sleeping in their nest these winged creatures salivate. That bird saliva is the 'bird nest' sold in Chinese medical halls at astronomical prices. It is taken as a medicine and also made soup in restaurants. So the new industry is to produce birds' nest.

All along that stretch of Tras road from Raub to the junction of the highway to Bilut were orchards. Durians are their crops. The orchards are also built with houses where the owners and their workers live to be accessible to their farms. Unlike those days when I was younger at school going age, the rubber plantations along the road was all deserted in the afternoon. Oh yes, talking of rubber plantations, few are found now. They have been chopped down to make way for durian trees. Some large estates have been converted to oil palm plantations. Yes, durian is the predominant crop now. Just outside the Sang Lee estate, no not an estate but a settlement with a cluster of houses there are two huge replicas of the spiky fruit by the road side. They signify that the chief crop along that road is durians nowadays.

 X'mas Reindeer
As usual we will visit our mentor and bring in some pot lucks to celebrate X'mas with Dato' Ted Miles. C u there on X'mas day.


Birthday Cake Green

DEC 12
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DEC 26

 Book and Quill
Edited and written by Chan Suy Sang

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