Friday, August 6, 2010

The Klang I used to love

I was home in Klang for nearly 3 weeks during July. I lament the fact that the Klang I used to know is not anymore the Klang I can claim to know. Growing up in 68 Jalan Meru, everyone knew everyone on the street. If I did something silly, my neighbours will be the first to tell my mom. The first shop on the block was a coffee shop (owned by a Hainanese); the 2nd shop was a car workshop/sales showroom (owned by a HockChew); the 3rd shop was us, the laundry (owned by my grandpa a Cantonese)…and so on and so forth. We chatted with our neighbours everyday. I played with the kids on the street for hours on the weekends.

Back then things came with little or no packaging. We recycled our coconut oil bottle, going to the local grocer to get fresh supply which he pumped out of a bigger tin. We went to the Wonton Noodle Seller with our stainless steel or aluminium carriers which we used for decades. Back then, 20cents was a lot of money. Back then, my dad earned $200 per month and fed the entire household.

Reunion with old classmates, Class of 79 at Convent Klang

Back then, Klang was a sort of happening place. The circus used to come to town every year. I would watch from our shopfloor, upstairs, the parade of animals, jesters and circus managers – elephants and horse plied the main Jalan Meru to get to the big tent set up for the circus about 5 mins from my house. It was such a crowd puller – the big tents, the weird and wonderful, the smell of animal defacation putrifying in the tropical heat; the flies swarming on elephant poo…The trapez artist arms and legs of steel. The lady cuddling her giant pet python in a box which we had to pay 50cents to watch.

We kids used to roam along Jalan Meru, crossing the road into the huge padang across our shophouse. We flew kites in the backsteet, learnt to ride our parents' bicycles on the gravel road. When election time came, our streets were filled with party propaganda. We watched the Barisan National posters overtake every other party, but somehow the DAP surreptiously, manages to get in their posters up in obvious places.

These days, Klang is a veritable mess. There is so much traffic I am too scared to go out. I can’t drive so I need to be ferried around. This is what it feels like to be displaced. I have no sense of where things are because I haven’t lived in Klang since 1990 (and from 1979-1985 I was in Canada).

When we go to the Malls, I feel like Klang is an alien land – all dressed up with the latest laptop skins, fashion accessories, big labels; the Americanization of the world...everyone wants an Iphone or an Ipad. Trends get to Klang quickly.

Klang has money pouring out of its pores. Everyone seems to drive around in shinny cars. Every kid has tuition either in the morning or at night. Every parent seems to work late into the evening or night. Every house has several locks and many metal grills. Every other house seem to have a maid – an Indon or a Cambodian - these days. Every employer of a maid has a nasty story to tell, of a maid having stolen money; of a maid having an affair and getting pregnant; of a maid running away. Every road seems packed head to tail with cars, going everywhere, going nowhere.

Agar agar is the only constant in an ever changing world. One of my favourites as a child.

Princess and I were glad to touch down in Auckland where the air was clean and everything looked perfectly green. The traffic towards our home was manageable.

I have grown attached to Auckland. It is home for me now. I know where the bargains are; where the cheap haircuts are and where to go to for my foot massage. I know the back street to Princess’ school; I know the lady from the local Paper Plus and the Cambodian lady who cuts my hair, the local chemist who dispenses our drug.

Leaving Klang, I felt a sense of loss. Of times gone by. Of a place I have loved but cannot claim to love anymore. Of family members I do not get to see except once every so often over a few years. My aunties are getting old; my cousins have all got kids who are growing so fast I can't ever catch up. We are all getting old. Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. Absence for me, leaves huge gaps unpatchable.