Sunday 6 July 2014


We made a trip to Singapore just before Ramadan to spend time with old friends and as always, a visit to Abah's and Akim's grave  ( with assistance from Jai, as usual), and a special call on Jai's mum, Macik Alimah.

Macik is a very special Malay lady, nearly 89, and I reckon one of the very few remaining "native Singapore Malays"  who lived and remembered her life as keturunan Orang Pulau Singapura.  I moan about the loss of  our kampung at  Kampung Abu Kassim, where we used to live at Pasir Panjang Road.

Memories of my kampung life immortalised by the spouse's drawing.

And on this trip I discovered that my last abode in Singapore , at Block 217 Boon Lay Avenue had been demolished to give way to higher blocks and smaller flats. Hard cheese Ash!!

Block 217, Boon Lay Avenue. Our  flat is on the 15th floor, second from the top.

Looking down to the car park from the 15th Floor.

15-89, the door to our flat from 1975 to 1995.

As for Makcik, her ancestral family home in the Southern Islands to the Southwest of Singapore was first used as a firing range for the Singapore Air Force and later stitched up with loads of imported sand and soil
into a world class oil refinery and industrial zone - into Jurong Island!  And they say,  "Only God can make a tree".

This was what happened to Macik's ancestral abode and world - which is more devastating than what  kampung Malays and my family went through.  I managed to load these images from US Geology Survey (USGS) - showing satellite images of Environmental Changes.   What a bland description of the demise of a people's physical and cultural landscape.

( In the images below, red = plants, blue-black =deep clear water, light blue = shallow and silty water, almost white = bare soils and pavements, grayish mottle = cities.)

Singapore - 1973

Singapore - 1990

Singapore - 2002

I hope this video (2012) of a conversation with Macik Alimah when she was about 87 will bear testimony to what can happen to the culture and way of life of a people when development and greed take over. They remain as memories, lovely and painful at the same time for those who still remember.  The younger generation, so immersed in their hi-tech and comfortable modern life will rue the day when they search for their cultural landscape and discover they're all dead and gone.  ( or will they? - especially when we have well heeled and well-endowed Malays in Malaysia who are so keen on  "emulating Singapore" )   See :

Is there a lesson here for Tanjung Putri  (Johor Baru) and Johor?  But I reckon it is too late.  It started with Raffles who re-scripted Singapore's and Johore's  history and heritage for his country's benefit and created the ripples of wealth and development that involved mainly the immigrants and constructed modern Singapore today.  But the Malays, the elite Malays of the old days and the corporate Malays of today, are too happy to collaborate, manage and profit from this globalisation of  'progress and development'.

In the above 2012 video, Macik is talking about the origin of Tanjung Keling, the 'town' on the mainland nearest to her Southern Islands.

She had become much more frail when we visited her this time.  She has lost her eyesight - the breast cancer is becoming more aggressive but her spirit remains as cheerful and positive as ever.  Macik used to supplement her family income by selling epok epok.  When Jai was a schoolboy he would help to sell her epok epok and kuih to workers at the  many construction sites in Jurong in the 60s and 70s.  She would also leave trays of her epok epok at  various Indian and Chinese shops.  " Epok epok saya laku cikgu.  Semua orang suka isi curry kentang.  Saya gunakan rempah asli, goringkan ketumbar, jintan , tumbuk dengan kelapa.  That's Macik's secret ingredient -  for making epok epok.  Curry puff and karipap is not in her vocabulary and I second her on that.

The most heart warming part of going to Singapore is to hear Jai, Lely and Irene calling me "Miss Hamid".  And when Macik reaches out her hands to hold mine and she says,  "Saya kenal suara Cikgu",  then my cup runneth over.

When Jai played this song for Macik , tears ran down her cheeks.

Ditto for me Macik.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mak Ngah,

The following conversation took place :
Me : D! Ada gambar pintu 'kampung' kita dalam blog Mak Ngah!
(For that was indeed our 'kampung' for the longest and fondest time)
D : oh my god oh my god oh my god! Spent so meany nights dreaming about this door!

Mak Ngah, its confirmed , your niece D is weird !

Thanks Mak Ngah , for putting images to our memories! 😘😘😘

Anonymous said...

The kampung illustration evocative but tudung wearing in those days?

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Anon July 7, 2014 at 3.21am

I failed to mention that this drawing of the kampung is taken from the spouse's book "Fatimah's Kampung" (2008)which takes on a parable of the life and death of a kampung - set around the beginning of the 'tudung' era. (Please note I'm not plugging the spouse's book here).

So that image is not based on a kampung in the pre-'tudung' period of the 1950s.

But the setting, the landscape, the coconut trees, the chickens and cats, and the houses are from my memories of Kampung Abu Kassim and other kampungs I've been to in Singapore, including those on Pulau Merlimau and Pulau Seking from the Southern Islands.

In general most Malay kampungs retain their early originality- only the Malays have changed - 'tudung' or no 'tudung'.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you dear weird niece,

Do stop reminiscing about that door - you will only make me cry

I remember the mob from Batu Pahat, laden with bags going down the stairs and your Tok Mok will be waiting by the open door. You also know there will be all sorts of 'kuih-muih' and goodies like epok epok waiting for you.

Treasure those memories Dayah.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Maria,

I realised after I had my afternoon nap that you were the writer of the Comment at 3.09am, not your weird sister Dayah.

But everything else applies except for one addition. I wish I had taken a photograph of Dayah's snotty sister sitting on the settee in Boon Lay to show to her brood of five!