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(The old neighbourhood – today Institut Megatech stands on its ground and the uncle’s barbershop used to be where Intec College now stands. The only thing that has not changed in the last 40 years is the Shell Petrol Station. It has been there as far as I can remember. It is a big surprise to see the houses that used to stand between the main road and the river is no longer there. Image source: Google Map)
Still, remember your very first neighbours or your old neighbourhood from your childhood days?
In the late 1970s – mid-1980s, we were living in a single storey, single bedroom rented house along Old Klang Road. The neighbourhood was closely knitted one, mainly because we all shared electricity and water. The landlord paid for the water and electricity to the authorities and then charges us for the utilities in the rent (RM30 monthly but it was big money back then).
We had to divide the time among ourselves when it comes to getting water for the house. The main pipe runs along with one of the houses and we had to take turn changing the connecting pipe to our houses (my Dad put up 2 huge oil drums in the bathroom to store the water and a smaller plastic container in the kitchen for drinking water – no water filter of any kind).
Disputes among our neighbours are very, very rare but I have seen some minor skirmishes when one of the neighbours bypasses others to get their turn of the water.
Our house was part of several houses connected longhouse style – so interaction with the neighbours was quite close. There was another row of units in front of us before the main road.
Immediately to our left, the house was empty but we can see some suspicious characters staying in the house occasionally. My dad said that they were drug addicts but I never saw them coming in and out and despite being drug addicts, they always kept a low profile and never disturb the neighbours (nothing got stolen the whole time we stayed here).
Thereafter to the left, I don’t recall who the neighbour was but soon after that was a Chinese uncle who drives a taxi for a living. His wife was a housewife and they had about 3 – 4 quite rough, kids (I think so) – we used to play badminton with them but they were too rough for us, the smaller kids.
The last house to the left had different neighbours at different times. At one point, a Eurasian family was staying in the last house – I still recall their 2 pretty daughters (who I met again several years after we shifted out). Later an Indian couple stayed in that house – the aunty used to sell nasi lemak in the morning.
We, however, did not interact that close with them. Somehow, we kept looking to the right for closer interactions.
Immediately to our right, the house was occupied by workers who worked in a noodle factory (which happened to be at the front row houses). There was a couple of them stayed there – working all day long and only coming in at night for shower and dinner. And after that, they will stand outside our window if we had the television on.
And they don’t mind if we were watching classic Tamil movies – our television seems to be their only entertainment back then. Immediately after that, I don’t recall who the neighbours were but at a later point of time, an Indian family stayed there but we did not get along well with them.
Thereafter was an Indian family who was we were quite close – the uncle was a barber (who had the shop on the other side of the main road and who is the one who cuts all the male’s hairs in the neighbourhood. My dad was very close to him).
The aunty (big sized lady) was a housewife and they had 4 kids – 2 boys and 2 girls (their house was unique – it had a staircase to the attic where the boys slept). The 2 boys, who we call big brothers often, take care of us whenever we go out with them or when we were forced to do revisions.
The eldest boy (his name was Mogan) was highly educated and later studied to be a lawyer. My dad often uses him as an example for us to excel in our examinations.
The second boy (we call him Karna Anne) excelled more in sports (he was a good runner) – we often follow him to sports meets. He is also the one who takes us to the National Palace during the open house for Hari Raya. He will come over to our house and talk to my parents on letting me and my siblings follow him to the National Palace.
My parents usually do not hesitate to give their approval when the request comes from Karna Anne (he is very responsible and know how to take all of us). The daughters (big sister Gomathi and another – the younger one, I can’t recall the name) were not that close to us, the boys but we join them in games in the evenings.
At the very end, was another Indian family – the uncle had a small truck and the aunty was a housewife. Their kids – 1 boy (Babu) and 1 girl were quite close to us (in fact I was almost the same age as Babu and went to the same school but with different sessions).
At the row, at the very right, the lot was used by a furniture shop owner to keep his old stock – the stock must have been very old, it was full of dust and rust and you can find huge lizards in it. Immediately next to it was an old uncle who was an electrician and his homely wife and their only son.
Their house was quite unique as it was roomier and their front door is often left wide open. It looked fun too. They often leave the front door open for one good reason – there is a big menacing dog standing guard tied to the side.
Their neighbour is the noodle factory – another open area so we can see how they make the noodles. The noodle factory owner and this electrician would often get into a big argument on condition of the drain in front of their premises.
The electrician often claims that the left-over noodles often cause the drain to get clogged whilst the other party would claim that the dog’s waste is the main cause.
At the very left, the house was much bigger – it was a double-storey and it belonged to the grand lady of the area (the grandmother of the landlord). We don’t see her often but she did look very grand and elegant but hardly smiled.
One of my uncles when got married, rented one of the rooms with his wife whilst they looked for a more permanent house, I got the chance to go into the house couple of time. It was clean but everything looks so 1950’s.
The other end, quite detached from our housing area was another grand house – this one was an old bungalow (I gather had about 6 rooms) and had its own garden (where we often played almost every evening and when the area was demolished many years later, was found to be the home of a large python and a large cobra!).
I have never ventured into this large house but used to go and stand at the main door to purchase numbers (ya, they were 4D bookies). And if we venture to the back portion of the house, the ground was full of shells and small snakes! Great place for small adventures!
The only regret is we did not take enough photos of the old neighbourhood whilst we had the chance but then again, a camera was a luxury thing back then (it can pay several months of rent).