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THE MESSAGE AUGUST, 2004 NO. 33 THE WONG THIN CHING SERIES.
THE HAJI MOKHTAR BIN MAT PIAH EDITION


"Merdeka." This could be heard from afar. It daily rings in the ear of a baby girl living in Vancouver, Canada. It might be uttered by Kim Miles or Ramona or by a grandfather or a grandmother. It is the name of our mentor's granddaughter.


Malaysia Flag "Merdeka,
Merdeka, Merdeka" Malaysia Flag



THAT is the shout of joy and victory for the independence of Malaysia. At least "Merdeka" is often heard in a country on the other side of the globe now.



Over here 47 years ago, our country's founding father had shouted "Merdeka, merdeka, merdeka" loud and clear impregnating the humid air. So the air was charged with emotions of breaking free from our former colonial domination. M E R D E K A......!



BRINGING HIM A GOOD MEAL IS A GREAT DEAL
Cooking      Tossing Salad
One day the kitchen in my Bentong house was bustling with life. The missus was exercising her culinary rights. She was stirring up a meal to whet the family members' appetite. She washed, she chopped, she boiled, she stewed and she stir-fried. Pots were steaming, pans banging and the wok clanging. Aromas filled the house.

"Why don't we send some food over to Mr. Miles," said I. "Sure, you're right", the missus replied.

After the food was cooked I called Mr. Miles, but there was no reply. That made me to want to go to his house more to find out what was in store.

I drove out and then sped to the third mile Tras Road. My dainty Wira (hero) climbed the estate rugged road. I stopped in front of his pre-war dated bungalow. With the mobile I gave him a call. Mr. Miles was splashing in the bath after all.

Puppies
"Where are you?" He asked. "I've just come up the path, your doggies are greeting me. They won't let me pass," answered yours truly. He asked me to enter the house, anyway, after allaying my fears. Luckily, the canines did not growl. I went straight into the kitchen and waited for him there.

Puppies
Our mentor did not take long to come out. I handed him the food and told him to keep them warm in the tupperwares. He was overjoyed to see the meal. Bringing him some dinner is a fine deed and certainly a good deal, indeed!



THE SKY WEEPS AND GROANS ON THIS DAY

We sat down and talked. He mentioned of the heavy downpour the night before. Suddenly, I realised that the previous day was Good Friday. Christians call it Jesus's Resurrection day. In those old M.E.S. days that would be a holiday. There would be a service at the church and sermons. But now Good Friday had just passed like any ordinary day - over here.

I have also heard of stories from Christian friends that on Good Friday, the sky would cry and shed tears - I mean pouring rain. Thunders and lightning would strike. Yes, there were such catastrophes over here the night before. When we went moody on reminiscing bygone things, suddenly our mentor's mobile started to ring. Someone from KL phoned him to wish him "Happy Easter", for the next day was "Easter Sunday".


Couple
A COUPLE COMES IN

The doorbell went off with a tinkling ting. A couple came in. Most appropriately I wished them "Happy Vasakhi" and very politely the lady thanked me.


I BEAT MY RETREAT


I felt it was the right time that I should make my exit. For on such an emotionally charged and religious significant season I wouldn't like to stay behind for supper anyway. And, I have never done that before. I just wished that the trio would have a nice play! Well, they are scrabble moguls. It is with words that they will struggle!



AT MIZA & ZALI'S WEDDING
Wedding
At 12.00 noon on a most auspicious Sunday, Mr.Miles, my missus and me went down to Sungai Marong to attend a wedding party. Our mentor was at the wheel as we had chosen to travel in his 5-series vintage BMW. It was the occasion when Nurazmiza the daughter of Haji Mokhtar tied the knot with Encik Sazali bin Rasip from Cheras.

Flashy cars and beautifully dressed plus smartly attired people have converged at Haji Mokhtar's house before noon. The luncheon party started so soon. At the entryway, the host was there. This was the first time I met Haji Mokhtar bin Mat Piah. He is a very amicable and robust man. We met so many new people and old friends. We exchanged greetings. We shook hands. Our yackety-yak was so intense.

Buffet
Without delay we joined the queue for the buffet. We helped ourselves to a plate of rice. Someone dished out food like chicken and beef with pineapple and brinjals as side dishes. We were glad that we ate immediately.

For there were no waiting nor any ceremonies. With our plates filled we looked for seats to sit down and eat. We had our meals under the canopies of a tent. We ate under the intense heat. At the table we met Munzir and his spouse.

The food was good as our stomachs were in the right mood. It was actually lunchtime for everybody. We had also oranges, rose water and jelly. It was a good and most satisfying and filling meal.

Member
MORE MESIANS ROPED IN

There I lassoed in another Mesian who still recognised me. It's him: Mohd. Zainon bin Ibrahim. He wished that we old school mates could meet one day and have a chit-chat and a treat. Then Haji Mokhtar also revealed me the address of Datuk Murad Abdul Rani. He is working with the Pahang royal family.

Our master spotted someone that should go into our Mesian list. But in the hustle and bustle of the crowd, we did not reach out. He escaped.


ENTERS THE GROOM

Soon the Kompang troupe beat. The traditionally clad bridegroom came in with his entourage. So the bersanding ceremony began. People came. People went. Our visit ended.



ZULKIFLI CHIPS IN MOST APPROPRIATELY

Stamp   Stamp   Stamp   Stamp   Stamp

Zulkifli has chipped in again to help the MESSAGE in kind, instead. He sent me 200 stamps of 20 sen each. He said this was another way he could contribute to sustain the lifespan of the MESSAGE, whenever he can.

Zul, Thanks.

That is another way to help the continuation of the MESSAGE, by sending me stamps! What a good deed Zulkifli has done. Ingenious indeed, I was stunned!! Lately he has repeated the same feat. Zul, having you around is real fun, indeed!



A VISIT TO JOHN CHINNIAH


One fine afternoon, I had an appointment with John Chinniah. I drove out to KL heading toward Sentul. I arrived at John's house just behind the La Salle School. I was entertained to a sumptuous lunch till my tummy was full. The food was good consisting of rice, chicken curry, brinjals, fried fish and curry gravy. I had a good meal while John told to me stories.


Idea
JOHN'S IDEAS

John is in favour of organising a memorabilia corner at Mr. Miles' house. He was particularly interested to improve the driveway leading up to our master's bungalow. John said he dreads driving up there. So will you, if you dare!

Then he suggested that we should put up the items of interest in our mentor's possession on display. We should highlight the corner with a grand opening to launch its beginning.

Dream on John.



JOHN HAS MANY REAL LIFE STORIES


Like I said before John had worked in our National Museum. So he is a man of historical interest. In fact, John Chinniah has many a real life story to tell down memory lane, or for John, shall we call it down memory highway? Here's one of John's thriller stories:


SHE ESCAPES AN AMBUSH

Back in the 1950's John's family was staying in Kuala Lipis. One day his mother was travelling from KKB (Kuala Kubu Baru) to Lipis via the Gap-Fraser Hill road. Those who have travelled that way before would know that the road snaked over forested steep hills and unfathomable valleys.

As the bus in which John's mom was travelling negotiated a bend, she heard   Bang!   "Bang! Bang! Bang!..."

Bullets rained down on the passengers. Pandemonium broke out. There was a stomping of feet. There was a stampede. People slumped and they could no more get on their feet.

John's mom tripped on a bloody body. She had a fall. She sprawled on the floor. Bodies fell on top of her. They bled upon her. The assailants thought she had bled to death. That saved the attackers a round of bullets and the lady from instant death.


SHE FEIGNS DEATH

She was not hit. Being much alive she smartly feigned death. The Communist assailants thought that she was gone as she was pinned under the bleeding bodies and lying there forlorn. When the security forces (soldiers) arrived she pulled herself up and walked away alive. She lived till the age of seventy.

What a lucky lady! According to John this happened before the communist insurgents netted their biggest fish along that stretch of dangerous road. Remember that bit of our country's history that sparked off the Emergency?



Sipping tea
A TEATIME CALL ON OUR MENTOR

One hot Saturday at four I gave our mentor a call. He missed it but he called me back as his mobile screen flashed my number. Yes, I announced to him that it was teatime - meaning I shall bring him some titbits and have tea with him.

Puppies
THE CANINES ARE FRIENDLY


When I arrived, his doorway was heavily guarded by canines. But I have befriended them for they only let out the customary bark of welcome. As soon as they saw me they went wiggly - waggly with their tails. I have also brought some biscuits to give them a treat. That was another reason why they meekly beat a retreat.

WHAT ABOUT HOMAGE TO THE LIVING?

As we ate, I related to our master my visits of the week. He was glad that I had met some old schoolmates. But we regretted that some of the familiar faces we used to see on Ching Ming were not even around. Have they paid their respect to the death and forgotten those who are still kicking around?


WHERE TO FOR HIS COLLECTIBLES?

When we touched on John Chinniah's suggestion to turn part of our mentor's mansion into a museum, suddenly our master said that some of his collections of artefacts are up for the grab. He mentioned something about a garage sale. However, till now, I doubt there would be such a gala sale.


Bottle
WHAT TO DO WITH THE BOTTLES?

Our mentor particularly wanted to dispose of his collection of bottles. Though Mr. Miles is a teetotaller, he has a huge tall cupboard filled with Whisky, brandy, Henessy, VSOP, XO, vodka, maotai, and you name it, sorts of wine bottles. These are all empties. Where has the contents gone? Down Chinese dinner diners' throats of course. Our master only asked for the empty bottles in dinners to fill up his empty spacious cupboard. He loves and keeps them until now.


DON'T TREAT THEM AS FREEBIES

Now he wants to get rid of them. Not to be asked and be given and forgiven of course. I am sure you wouldn't like to help yourselves to his collectibles, as you would they were freebies. Why not name your price for bottles you like and prize? Then give him a surprise? Good luck to both vendor and treasure hunters! Aye.



A CALL FOR EDITION SPONSORS

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WHAT HAPPENED 50 YEARS AGO?
AUGUST 1954


When I thumbed through the file that still holds the crumbling M.E.S.SAGE, there was no August 1954 ME.S.SAGE.

Picnic
Oh! Now I know August was a school vacation month those days after all. There would be picnics and adventures. I remember a group of us went for a dip in the river down in Benus. We had a gala time running, swimming and splashing to our hearts content.

Swimming
Hey! Just a kilometre further down is the industrial hub of the town, now. The river still runs under the bridge though the noisy Bailey bridge had been replaced with a structure of solid concrete. Remember the rumbling and thundering metal and wooden planks structure spanning the Benus River?

Travelling
There would be visits though most of us remained in town. In those days It was not easy to leave the town. Many of us had no resources to travel even to Kuala Lumpur. Only a few people travelled out of town.

I for one roamed the hills, scoured deserted orchards and waded in the rivers. My brother and I picked fern, cassava and bamboo shoots to supplement and diversify our meagre food supply. Fish was caught from the river and fruits were just taken from unmanned orchards.

Picnic"
The month-long vacation was a drag. The weather was burning hot, and the school was deserted. Even the town looked dead. Only the Perting Dam, the Chamang Waterfall and the rivers were occasionally bustling with picnickers and bathers. Hey! That was a simple life style, wasn't it?

As soon as the school reopened, we were pushed into a spate of busy life. We were preparing for the Carnival that became the talk of the town for all. Bye, bye!


 Book and Quill
Written and edited by Chan Suy Sang who went through a spell of nostalgic reminiscence back to our old but now defunct M.E.S.
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