Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coming to terms with Kuala Lumpur in 1985

On my arrival to KL on 15th July 1985, I took SriJaya Bus No. 40 from Klang Bus Stand to University Malaya. After that I hardly travelled except for coming into university and returning to my grand-uncle's house in Old Klang Road.

So in theory that is all I knew about KL. Then comes a day when we needed to buy some drafting instruments. Our classmate Charles Narasiman (who happened to be a KL born person) gladly said "Come with me and I will bring you to Petaling Street where there is a good shop"

yes, shop was indeed good and we got all the necessary tools. Prices were mind boggling since I have not bought such expensive pens and pencils in my life! They were those special Rotring size 0.3mm gold tip roller ball drafting pen and the like.

After the purchase, then it is game for me to come back to Section 10 PJ where I was staying then. Charles simply says "Go straight, turn right then left and you will see lots of buses" he must have meant "lots of multi coloured multi sized confusing buses" because that is what I saw!! None looked like the Minibus 35 that I needed to go back to Section 10. Now I keep walking and ended up in a place where a "Petaling Jaya" bus became visible.

As expected I boarded the bus and it ended in PJ Old Town ... then it is a long story of finding a connecting bus and returning to section 10 before nightfall.

But that took my fear out of KL buses.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keretapi Tanah Melayu

"SILA LAPORKAN DIRI DI UNIT PENTADBIRAN AKADEMIK SELEWAT-LEWATNYA 15 JULY 1985 ..." This was the telegram that we received asking me to report to University Malaya on 15 July 1985 for Chemical Engineering.

Off goes dad to buy ok our train tickets from Kluang to Kuala Lumpur for the 14 July. The "Night Mail" that passes Kluang at 10:45pm and arrives KL at 06:15am. It was a very emotional send off by mom who has not had me being away from home for longer than 10 days in a stretch ... "Be careful Thanggamani, eat on time and take care of yourself!" ... She calls me Thanggamani!

The whole looks of the Kluang railway station was rather "foggy" for me though I have been there many times in a better mood. The usual memory of the station is that of our travels to Paloh to grandma's house to celebrate Diwali. But today it is to a land of nowhere. It was a very mixed feeling of missing my home, anxious of my future and afraid of the new challenge.

The distinct smell of diesel can't be neglected. The usually vibrant station now smells of diesel and at 10pm it all works up to create a sombre mood. The single excitement that kept the night alive was the fact that I am admitted into University Malaya, the oldest university of the country.

The train was ontime to kick start my night of many dreams! Town by town it screeched past until Gemas ... a sudden burst of "Karipap, nasi lemak, teh panas, kopi!" (curry puff, nasi lemak, hot tea and coffee) ... old ladies selling snacks to sleepy passengers of the stopping train! The train stops here to split to east coast and another section (ours) to north. Dad did not buy anything, we just slept.

As the train "ooses" out of Gemas, we suddenly saw uncle Ramasamy, one of our fellow "village-mates" who works with dad in the same rubber estate. Oh my, the sudden brilliance in dad's eyes when he saw a familar face! And the "excellent coincidence" that he was also going to KL. That made our day! The least is we had one known soul to guide us out into the KL wilderness.

Slowly the train inches into KL station by 6am. And he I arrived to Kuala Lumpur, the city of dreams.

My travels

I had been a very timid "katak di bawah tempurung" (translation: Frog under the coconut shell!) for most of childhood. The only travel I knew was the daily bus journey to my school and back. Other than that I probably was familiar with the word "Paloh" a "distant town" some 2 hours away by the slow moving train of the 1970s.

We visit Paloh once every year for Diwali celebrations in my grandma's house. Oh yes, sometimes we do go to "Pamol" another "distant location" some 1 hour away by bus. And that is where my uncle was.

So in 1983 when I was selected to attend a seminar in Kuala Lumpur (the Kursus Tatanegara organised by Minstry of Education) ... well, well ... it was a big thing for me! I WAS GOING TO Kuala Lumpur!!

In 1985 I finally entered University of Malaya (which was again in Kuala Lumpur) and that broke my boundaries. And the job with KWH Pipes in 1991 onwards took me on a spin all around Malaysia and beyond.

The travel within Malaysia took me all states and most roads.

Ever since I have travelled to more than 10 countries (not including Singapore! ... for us Johoreans, Singapore is just a neighbourhood modern outpost - NOT a country! We can even walk into Singapore.).

So where have I set my footprints? Hong Kong > Thailand > Brunei > Phillippines > India (several times) > Sri Lanka > Nepal > Indonesia > UK > USA > Australia > Korea > OK lah ... Singapore.

Now is my time to recollect some of the interesting memories and reflect here.