The Night My Mother Broke Curfew

Darkness blanketed almost everything before us, save for the incandescence of an electric bulb escaping through the gaps of shut windows from the house on our far left. In its compound stood an imposing tree, its immense trunk and thick foliage was veiled in a shroud of black. Even in daytime, it always invoked a sense of unease in me. Towards our right, a fence of rusty zinc sheets hammered together towered over us.

The trail wound its way around houses built haphazardly. Construction debris, sand and gravel were dumped discriminatingly to fill up indents in the ground and also to prevent puddles from forming during the rainy seasons. It was the same narrow scraggy trail my mother had traversed many times every day. This time, it was different, though. There was urgency in her steps.

A few paces ahead, our next door neighbour led the way with a torch light in hand. She was a few years old than my mother. I was later taught to address her as tua ee, eldest aunt in the Chinese Hokkien dialect, although we were not related in any way. My mother and tua ee spoke little along the way. When they did, it was in hushed tones.

I could feel the thumping of my mother’s heart as I rested on her shoulder. Even in the coolness of the night breeze, her blouse was damp with perspiration. I was too exhausted to be bothered, my energy sapped by numerous episodes of diarrhea and vomiting earlier in the day.

From the narrow trail, we emerged into a wide open space and a crossroad. Before us, it sloped down towards Jalan Balik Pulau. The houses on both sides of the incline were mostly unlit. A solitary street lamp illuminated the road in the distance. My mother and tua ee made their way down one careful step after another. Certain parts of the trail were steep and slippery. A wrong footing could send all of us tumbling down.

Just as we were crossing the road at the foot of the slope, the whirring sound of an approaching vehicle broke the silence of the night. My mother and tua ee quickly ran and hid behind some cars that were parked nearby. They both crouched there, listening intently to the roar of the engine that grew louder and louder.

Google Earth image of Ayer Itam town with the route that my mother took during the 1967 Penang Hartal
Google Earth image of Ayer Itam town and the route my mother and tua ee
took during the 1967 Penang Hartal.

Red – route that my mother and tua ee took
Blue – route of the lorry
A – the house we stayed in
B – the house tue ee lived in
C – the house with the big tree
D – open space and crossroad
E – car park where my mother and tua ee hid from the approaching lorry
F – Beng Chim Garden kopitiam
G – block of shophouses opposite the Ayer Itam bus terminal
H – Ayer Itam police station
J – Ayer Itam wet market

I peeked out from between cars and saw the headlights of a lorry as it passed by. My mother shushed me. The lorry turned the corner and disappeared down the road. It all became eerily silent again. Except for the illumination of street lamps, there was no sign of life in the entire town of Ayer Itam.

When all was clear, my mother and tua ee quickly crossed the road and ducked into a side lane between a kopitiam and a tailoring shop. Walking as fast as their legs could carry them, and me, they appeared at the other side of town opposite the bus terminal.

The shadows in the five foot way provided some cover for the short distance to the balai (police station). The policemen were surprised to see us. He scolded my mother and tua ee for breaking curfew and said that we could have been shot if we were caught en route. My mother explained that I was ill and needed to go to the hospital. The policeman made a phone call and then asked us to wait.

When a police jeep arrived, we were ushered into the back. Two policemen climbed in to accompany us. There were road blocks along the way. We were stopped several times. The people manning the checkpoints would shine their torches at our faces and then waved the vehicle on.

I remember my mother carrying me down from the back of the jeep at the main entrance of the Penang General Hospital. I still remember the dimly lit corridors and the wooden benches. I also remember the nauseating odour. I remember the nurses moving about in the darkness. My mother held me in her arms the entire night after I was treated. The next moring, after curfew was lifted, my father, who was away the night before, came to pick us up.

Three decades later, I asked my mother about that incident. All the while, I thought that it was the curfew during the May 13 riots in 1969. She could still remember clearly the harrowing experience that she and tua ee went through that fateful night. According to her, it was during the currency and coin riots. She did not elaborate about the causes and consequences of the events though. I had no idea when that happened and what transpired until recently when I read about the Penang Hartal of 1967.

In November 24 of that year, following the devaluation of the Malayan currency a few days earlier, businesses were closed as a sign of protest. It turned violent and racial when the different ethnic communties clashed and lives were lost. Curfew was imposed in Penang island and several districts in the mainland. Malay and Iban soldiers were sent to quell the violence.

I was just fifteen months old in November 1967. Although my memory of those times are sparse, every now and then, I would have occasional flashbacks of that night, like hiding behind the cars, the time in the balai and the dark corridors of the Penang General Hospital.

The toddler in me then could not comprehend the danger that my mother and tua ee put themselves through. As I reflect back now, I am thankful that my mother and tue ee risked their lives to seek medical attention for me. Thank you! They have both passed on. There is no way for me to express my gratitude except to share the story of their bravery here.

Water Supply Disruption In Kuala Lumpur And Selangor

There has been no water supply since early yesterday. According to the recorded message at the toll free number (1-800-88-5252) at Puspel, Customer Services Department of Syabas, there would be a disruption of supply for 15 hours on Wednesday from 8am to 12am. Affected areas were large parts of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. This was due to the upgrade and maintenance of the Sungai Langat water treatment plant.

I called the toll free line at 6am just now when the taps were still dry. The call went unanswered for 10 minutes. 24 hours without water is a great inconvenience. Not knowing when the supply will be restored is even more disconcerting. I have to wash up after catheterising every 3 hours. Wuan could not cook this morning. It is ham sandwich for lunch today. She bought two bottles of drinking water when she came back from work yesterday. We did not bathe yesterday. Flushing the toilet is like playing Russian roulette, not knowing whether the water reserve would run out the next round. Our daily routine is greatly affected.

Syabas and Puspel could do better managing this matter. Since they are already in Twitter and Facebook, the least they could do is to provide regular updates on the progress of water supply restoration. Keeping customers in the dark by announcing the disruption and keeping quiet after that, and not answering calls to the toll free number is sure to raise the ire of many. I am going back to sleep in a while. Hopefully by the time I wake up, water will be flowing from the taps once again.

Affected areas as listed at SYABAS website:

Wilayah Kuala Lumpur Taman Connaught; Taman Taynton View; Taman Segar; Taman Gemilang; Taman Bukit Segar; Taman Mutiara; Taman Supreme Jaya; Taman Bukit Hijau; Desa Tun Razak; Taman Jaya; Taman Mulia; TUDM Sungai Besi; Jalan Lapangan Terbang; Jalan Lapangan Terbang Lama; Jalan Sungai Besi Batu 4 ½ (JKME dan Kuarters JKR); Jalan Chan Sow Lin; Kampung Batu Kong; Jalan Wisma Putra; Jalan Bellamy; Jalan Bukit Petaling; Jalan Kerayong; Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka; Wisma Putra; Wisma Perwira; GAPENA; Jalan San Peng; Dataran F&N; Persiaran Syed Putra; Persiaran Putra; Jalan Robson; Taman Seputeh; Taman Desa Seputeh; Taman Bukit Seputeh Heights; KL Sentral dan kawasan sekitarnya; Taman Midah; Taman Cantik; Taman Pandan Hilir; Taman Angsana Hilir; Taman Desa Aman; Taman Rajawali; Taman Cheras Makmur; Taman Bukit Ria; Taman Pertama; Taman Ikan Emas; Taman Tenaga; Taman Maluri; Taman Ampang Putra; Taman Bukit Pandan; Taman Pandan Pertama; Kampung Cheras Baru Bukit A; Kampung Sungai Kerayong; Kampung Pandan Luar; Kampung Pandan Dalam; Jalan Tenteram; Jalan Salak Selatan; Taman Billion; Taman Cheras Makmur; Taman Bukit Mewah; Taman Sri Bahtera; Taman Supreme; Taman Mutiara Timur; Taman Mutiara Barat; Cheras Hartamas; Taman Bukit Segar Jaya; Taman Orkid Desa; Taman SPPK Bukit Cheras; Alam Damai; Taman Bukit Anggerik; Taman Len Seng; Taman Suria Jaya; Taman Cheras Mewah; Taman Bukit Angsana; Taman Seri Bahagia; Taman Minang; Taman Damai Indah; Taman Cheras Baru; Taman Koperasi Polis; Taman Desa Baiduri; Taman Cheras Utama; Taman Desa Cheras; Bandar Damai Perdana; Taman Desa Bukit Cahaya; Taman Damai Impian; Taman Alam Jaya; Taman Emas Cheras; Taman Mudun; Taman Hijauan Residen; Taman Sunway Cheras; Taman Wangsa Cheras; Taman Cheras Permata; Taman Cheras Awana; Taman Masria; Taman Cuepacs; Taman Fern Grove; Kem PGA; Kem FRU; Taman Cheras Zen; Segar Perdana; Bukit Hartamas; Kampung Cheras Baru; Taman Muda; Taman Mawar; Taman Mastika; Taman Putra; Taman Pandan Mewah; Taman Lembah Maju Taman Teratai; Taman Saga; Taman Melur; Taman Seraya; Taman Mega Jaya; Taman Maju Jaya; Taman Bukit Permai; Taman Kencana; Taman Pandan Indah; Taman Pandan Perdana; Taman Cheras Utama; Taman Cheras Indah. Wilayah Hulu Langat Taman Desa Budiman; Taman Ikhlas; Taman Makmur; Taman Rakan; Taman Bukit Permai; Taman Seri Kenangan Sungai Long; Taman Suria Sungai Long; Taman Cheras Idaman; Cheras Perdana; Batu 10 (Jalan Puyuh, Nuri, Cecawi, Balam); Taman Damai Indah; Taman Murni; Taman Megah; Taman Megah 2; Taman Sri Cheras; Taman Seri Cheras Jaya; Kuari; Bukit Dukong; Jalan Suasana Seksyen 1, Bandar Tun Hussein Onn; Taman Cheras Permai; Pekan Suntex; Putri Jaya; Sungai Ramal Dalam; Sungai Ramal Luar; Desa Meringin; Taman Ramal Indah; Taman Sri Kenari; Rumah Murah PKNS Sungai Ramal Luar; Kampung Sungai Ramal Baru; Desa Surada; kawasan industri Bukit Angkat; Bandar Sungai Long; Taman Sejati; Jalan Suasana 2, 3, 4; Suasana Damai; Jalan Suakasih, Sri Tanming; Koperasi Maju Jaya; seluruh Puncak Perdana; seluruh Taman Kota Cheras; seluruh Taman Tun Perak; Saujana Impian; Impian Murni, Impian Indah; Inpian Gemilang, Impian Jaya; Taman Sri Aman; Taman Rasa Sayang; Taman Cheras Mas; Taman Lagenda Mas 1; Taman Lagenda Mas 2; Taman Uda; Jalan Kuari Sungai Long; Taman Lagenda Suria; Kampung Sungai Sop; kawasan industri Sungai Tekali; Kemacahaya; Taman Pinggiran Delima; Taman Wawasan; Taman Perkasa Fasa 1; Taman Perkasa Fasa 2; Taman Sri Nanding; Taman Putri (Venicehill); Rancangan Peringkat 1, 2 dan 3; Taman Perkasa Indah; Sungai Michu; Taman Impian Den; Felcra Semungkis; Sungai gahal; Taman Desa Pelangi; Taman Impian Langat; Taman Langat Ceria; Taman Desa Raya; Jalan Dusun Taman Bukit Raya; Kuarters Loji Langat; Sekolah Dusun Nanding; Lorong Serai 5; Kampung Bukit Kudang; Kampung Kenanga; Flat Sri Kundang Dusun Tua; Taman Titiwangsa; Kampung Sungai Kapor; Kampung Sungai Makau; Kampung Kenangan 18; Taman Indah Jaya; Lestari Indah; Taman Sungai Sering; Taman Orkid; Bandar Mahkota Cheras; Jalan Sungai Lalang; Kampung Pasir; Jalan Kacau; Kampung Sungai Pening-pening; Kampung Pasir Baru; PLKN Sungai Lalang; Rumah Murah Sungai Lalang; Taman Impian Semenyih; Taman Semenyih Ria; Taman Aik Ann; Taman Utama; Taman Hiew Piow; Kampung Baru China Semenyih; Taman Gembira; Taman Desa Semenyih; Taman Baiduri Jaya; Taman Semenyih; Taman Paling Jaya; Taman Manikavasagam; Pekan Semenyih; Kampung Sungai Buluh; seluruh Taman Sri Haneco; seluruh Industri Villa Raya; seluruh Taman Desa Mewah; seluruh Sunway Semenyih; seluruh Industri Kajang Jaya; seluruh Tasik Kesuma; PKNS Beranang; seluruh Taman Pelangi Semenyih; seluruh Beranang; Universiti Nottingham; seluruh Pekan Beroga.

Puspel Twitter update at 10:29am
@Hiphog Now water resume by stages and expect will fully recover by 12am (3/6). Thank you.

Ugly Malaysians

No, I am not talking about the shock most of us experience when we look at the mirror in the morning. The ugly Malaysians here are those inconsiderate few who make life miserable for many disabled people. Their acts have caused a great deal of inconvenience to us, directly and indirectly.

Accessible parking at Lot 10 blocked by a sign
Accessible parking at Lot 10 blocked by a sign.

They park indiscriminately in bays allocated to disabled people, blatantly ignoring the clamp and fine warnings because most times, this ruling is not enforced. To stop such abuse, car park managers barricade these bays with parking cones or chain them up. However, this does not solve the problem at all as the barricades also prevent disabled people from parking in the bays.

Security personnel unlocking chained up accessible parking at Jusco Kinta City Ipoh
Security personnel unlocking chained up accessible parking at Jusco Kinta City Ipoh.

Some car park managers leave a phone number to be called for assistance. Others have security personnels nearby that can be summoned by a honk. The real problems are in car parks that are barely manned, and especially when the disabled driver is unaccompanied. This restricts disabled people driving solo to only a handful of places.

Accessible parking bays at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur blocked by traffic cones
Accessible parking bays at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur blocked by traffic cones.

The act of having to put up warning signs and barricades at accessible parking bays clearly shows the mentality of some drivers. These inconsiderate people would park in one, without a second thought, if they could get away with it, and most of the time they do. This perpetuates the abuse as offenders are emboldened by the lack of enforcement.

Signboard at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur warning against abusing accessible parking
Signboard at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur warning against abusing accessible parking.

As I see it, putting up barricades is not a solution to stem this abuse. Car park managers, including local authorities, must strictly enforce the clamp and fine rule, or tow away offending vehicles. It is only through severe punitive measures that these people will be forced obey the rules and hopefully learn to be more considerate.