Monday, January 25, 2010

The House On Top Of The Post Office

I pass Jalan Bagan Luar maybe once awhile. Not as always I used to. It used to be the main road that leads to everywhere. With the opening of the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), I seldom pass that road anymore. The BORR has become my frequent route to get me to the other side of town in Prai, or to use the bridge, or to take the ferry, all in less than ten minutes from my place in this northern part of the mainland. The time travel does make it shorter but the money spent on tolls is a bit exorbitant! But I like using this new route mainly because I enjoy driving along the coastal road where the sea is so scenic.

From the flyover at Jalan Pantai, I could see the house above the Post Office. I never miss giving it a glance every time I pass by. But today, I just had to stop and feel the energy of this old house that was once my childhood playground, and not to mention, the favourite place of all of my siblings and cousins...

As a little girl, the only 'kampung' I knew was this place. My late grandmother lived with my aunt whose husband was the Post Master. Obviously, every school holidays and Rayas, that was the 'kampung' we went back to. A 'kampung' in a busy town of Butterworth. This house faced the busy road and across was the district hospital. We would cross over to the seaside passing through the hospital grounds and played at the beach. But I'm telling you now, there is no more of the old hospital nor the seaside. The BORR has taken up most of the land that leads to the sea and with the newly built North Butterworth Container Terminal, the area by the seaside is out of bounds.

Sitting in my car, I eyed the steps that would take us upstairs to a wide grille-door and again up the equally wide stairs that led to the main entrance. There stood the main hall, the family corner and the formal dining area. The house was so big in the eyes of this once little girl that she thought if it were to detach from the post office downstairs, it could easily pass off as a bungalow on a sprawling land. Ah, it is very nostalgic just by looking at its facade. You know, the old charm feelings...

I really wanted to knock on the door and help myself inside the house but fearing I would intrude the privacy of the new master, I simply allowed my mind do the wandering. Every single moment in that house came alive as I reminiscing. In fact, every time I pass by this house I swear I could have seen my cousin, Kak Ja standing near the banister! It is as if they have never left...

My eyes caught the 'lemuni' tree still standing tall near the staircase in the medium-sized garden. I remember stirring up Sunday mornings to the sweet aroma of nasi lemak lemuni wafted through the whole house. It was on my aunt's menu that nasi lemuni was staple at Sundays breakfast. My late opah was an excellent cook and with the help of my youngest aunt, and a maid they would be cooking a storm for the whole bunch of forever hungry kids. Needless to say, breakfasts there were almost a riot! Our opah had a tough time disciplining the young ones... yours truly, included!

The house was always abuzz with activities when school was out. Every room filled to the brim with wailing babies, jovial teenagers and sometimes grumpy cousins... er...thousand apologies to the 'tuan rumah' cousins... hehe...Doc Faisal and her youngest sister Da! But of course, we were small and we quarrelled and made up again and fought again.... still there were no love lost!

There was this room at the back of the house where all of us loved to hang-out. A raised platform was built for reasons I did not know to this day; but it sure was our very own stage for performing our 'beauty contests' and 'talent time' shows. It was hilarious as I recalled. The winner seemed to be losing 'friends' when the game was over! Getting silent treatments and cold shoulders were normal that we stopped playing until everyone had forgotten and the game resumed when we got bored again!

And when it rained every day during the monsoon seasons, I watched in glee as the elder cousins and my siblings gathered around the record-player, put the vinyl records on and sang along to the old folks songs endlessly. I really loved this moment. Silently I sat in a corner and sang too to, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again', "Goodnight Irene", "Greensleeves", "Clementine", "Oh O Where Have You Been Billy Boy?", and many more. That was the only time when the house was in order and we became so affectionate to one another...

Opah's room had two windows. One, facing the road. I loved lounging in here and watched the world go by. At night when we were fast asleep, the sudden screeching sound of fast cars rudely awaken us. It was something we accustomed to that going back to sleep was no hassle, unless, of course accidents occurred which somehow, very rare.

The other window faced the neighbouring police station. From this window we could see the activity that took place below. There were also two police officers' offices facing directly toward the window. It was at that fated window when on one fated day, my late sister who was sitting on the ledge had caught the attention of my soon-to-be brother-in-law. From that moment he set eyes on her, he made inquiries about her through my 'tuan rumah' cousins. Opah's room suddenly became the 'head-quarters'  for deploying the young ones as messengers and for holding the many late night snack parties with food came from the man whose heart had been stolen. Opah was indeed very sporting. All these were done stealthily from our formidable uncle and aunt! I hope Doc Faisal remembers this because he was one of the very daring messengers... hihihi!

I guess this is all for now and will continue in the near future. I'm back at the present, very much alert from my constant musings as I see someone flipping the curtains upstairs looking down on me... Gotta go now!

12 comments:

Doc Faisal said...

Oh my god... Reading this makes me mesmerized the good ol days... in fact the anak cucu cik lat photo was taken in the same mentioned house...

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Lili, I can imagine your thoughts and feelings seeing your childhood memories infront of you.

I had that when I balek kampang in '96 and visited Malacca, saw the house I grew up in.
As well later the KL house when grown up....
and the house when I first started working...in Ampang.

Really nice reading your memories Lili. Stay with your memories, they are too beautiful to let go.
You stay young and keep well, senang datang, Lee.

lili said...

Oh dear Share, you came!

I forget to mention the fire-escape at the back of the building... one way for us to sneak down and run across Heng Choon Thian Road to get our mid-morning roti canai at kedai mamak-paling-best-kuah-dal-dia!

Thanks for coming... and have a nice trip to Ahmedabad, Pakistan!
(Asyik pi lecture jer..bila nak makan angin betul-betul?):)

lili said...

Hi Lee!

I've been meaning to write this piece for quite some time already. Now that I've written, I'm so glad that I get to share this with everyone. I must stress though, that I did not grow up in this house but visited it more than often.

Thanks for sharing the same memories too.

anneaziz said...

Salam Ateh,

Your walk down memory lane brings back memories of my own, in my maktok's house at Lrg titi Siam (have you read my post on this? I have to write the sequel!)

I worked at a Bank on Jalan Bagan Luar in early 90's. Those days the hospital was just down the road and all the places you mentioned, hmmm nostalgia comes a knocking again!

Nasi lemak lemuni is my favorite to this day!

lili said...

Salam Anne,

Yes, I've read that piece of yours about your maktok's house. And you'd better come up with the next installment!

Hmm...actually, the hospital building/wards are still there but have been converted into nurses' hostels or whatever...hehe!

I've ben fed nasi lemuni since a child of ten, memang berkenan habis kalau dapatnya. I baru aje buat two weeks ago. Memang berulang makan... sedap! er..awet muda kan?

p/s I sakit perut this morning.. sebelum Subuh dah meragam perut. Ni ler akibat meratah pucuk geti masak lemak tu! Bagus gak ek, geti ni ada laxative properties kan? Haha! ;-)

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Lili, I busybody checked out your song collections, can see you love Carpenters. They are nice, love their songs too.
Happy listening, Lee.

lili said...

Hi Lee!

How was your birthday dinner? Lobster, lobster, lobster, eh?

You are most welcome to help yourself with the songs... I dedicated them to my soon-to-wed cousin, Yana, to our Malaysian Sprint cyclist who now ranks world no. 1
I'm happy for them.

Thanks for dropping by.

somuffins said...

lili, baca al-kisah you brought me back to being kecik ati with kerajaan Johor. U know why? Cos tempat I jatuh lagi dikenang dah diratakan jadi hi-way.

Did you watch pemakaman almarhum Sultan hari tu tak? well, my hse is just around d corner. Sedeylaa :-(

lili said...

CS,

In the name of progress,kan? Samalah juga rumah kampung opah sedara I and a few houses where my late grandmother used to live dah dijadikan hi-way ke Gerik...dah takde apa-apa.... cuma jalanraya jer.
Nasib baik rumah I mentioned ni masih teguh berdiri, walaupun kan, bukannya rumah pesaka sesape! Hehe!

Oldstock said...

Lili,

It would've been lovely to have a pic of the house to go with your interesting post.

I've learned something new today... pokok lemuni and nasi lemuni. Camna rupa pokok lemuni ni ek?

lili said...

Oldstock,

I wanted to put up some pictures of the house but segan nak snap snap gambor depan that very busy road! Will update later when I get my hands on some photos from Doc Faisal's mum in Taiping.

Come on, don't tell me you've not eaten nasi lemuni? It has purplish shoots when blended yields a blackish substance added with santan, slices of ginger, shallots to make nasi lemak lemuni. It has a refreshing aroma, a level of acceptable bitterness, and most of all SEDAP! And eaten with the usual sambal tumis bilis, ikan masin goreng and cucumber. It is an acquired taste to some people... but for me, 'boleh aje' asal nama MAKANAN! Hehe! ;)