Friday, 31 January 2014


That would be our greetings for Chinese New Year to our family-friends - who just happened to be Chinese.

 These are friends like Seng Teow (the taukeh of the little kedai in  Kampung Abu Kassim), Ah Bok  (Abah's wonder-mechanic), Gemok (the taukeh of the timber shop) and Seng (the driver of the lorry that brought my Abah and colleagues to their work place at Nee Soon).  Then there's Kedai Ah Chwee.  To learn more about them,   Read:

But Tahun Baru is not Tahun Baru without Uncle Joe Nee, Auntie Nelly and family.

The children are from left to right:  Rosie (my age), Pauline, Ah Pet (Patrick) and Bobok (Robert)
We would get a tray full of goodies every year without fail.  The four of us would demolish them within two days and then unashamedly hop over to their house and get more from Auntie Nelly and Tah Chi ( Auntie Nelly's mother).  At times, one of us kids would join Uncle Joe Nee, Auntie Nelly and their kids on  Tahun Baru visits to their friends and relatives.  What fun it was - filling up our bellies with cakes, and cookies and our pockets with little ang pow packets!  The packets were made up of gloriously red squares which were wrapped up so neatly with the dosh inside.  Of course when I got home and showed off my loot, Mak would take over and declare that it's to be shared with the other three .. YUCKS!

We often say of friends: "they live just across the road" - like Zarina and Ken and family at Setiawangsa.  But our Uncle and Auntie were unique - they were just across the river, the Sungai Nipah.  Whenever Mak wanted us to deliver food to them, one of us - usually me - would make the crossing.  Rosie or Bobok would do the same for us, from the other side.

Within the green box  our house is marked  brown and Uncle Joe Nee's is pink.  I have added the river (in blue) in the map.

My sister Maznah, bless her cotton socks, kept and treasured her Autograph books.  And these gems from Uncle Joe Nee and Auntie Nelly - I have managed to scan.

From Uncle Tan Joe Nee

From Auntie Nelly Ang

Our two families were very close friends and I regret very much that we have lost touch.  I blame it entirely on us, the kids.  When we moved out to Jalan Mas Kuning and  Johor Baru and especially when my mum got older, from her mid-50s,  she often mentioned her wish to meet up with Nelly and Joe Nee.  Of course she would need our help, but we were always "too busy" !

We grew up with Selamat Tahun Baru for our Chinese brethren - not Khong Hee Fatt Choy or Gong Xi Fa Cai.

That was the Golden Age - an Age of good and honourable people, like I described in my posting on Tuberculosis, Teapot and Tears.  But you may say, we old people always romanticise the past.  That may be so, but at least we have that to keep a warm glow in our hearts.

 Much later - when I became an adult and a teacher at Jurong Secondary School, Singapore - I could hope for (and re-live a little) the way we were  and should be with these Rainbow Kids.

The mixed - salad kids circa late 1970s.

If only .......

SELAMAT TAHUN BARU - as I would greet Auntie Nelly, Uncle Joe Nee, Rosie, Bobok, Ah Pet, Pauline, Ah Chwee, Ah Seng, Kerani, Seng Teow, Ah Bok, Seng ............

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