Picture Daze #3

Spread the love
The Old Neighborhood

From the time I was born until the age of 17 I lived in this house. The house was a “class 4” government quarters situated in the Kampung Pandan area of Kuala Lumpur. The ethnic make up of the neighborhood included Indians, Chinese, Malays and us Eurasians, the population make up of the country. As a result of this cultural mix I spoke 4 languages until I was the age of 9 or 10. Lost a couple of them due to lack of use… I still understand pretty well and can still cuss in all of them.

The old house was a modest semi-detached (duplex), 2 bedroom abode. When I say modest… I mean small. The entire area was built on old defunct tin mines. In fact, the city was founded on Tin. Being so close to old mining pools actually provided me with a Tom Sawyeresque childhood that included fishing, swimming and frog hunting. It also included celebrating each others festivals.

This was the view across the street. Behind that row of houses was a small expanse of secondary jungle foliage that separated us from the squatter village that was featured in a recent HNT posting. Being the highest ranking government employees living in the hood my father was addressed as “Tuan” and my mother as “Missy.” There use to be a cattle farm not too far away. Twice a week cows would be walked on this road to and from grass fields. They would drop their dung on the road. This was called “gold” by the neighbors who would wait for a day or two for it to dry and…presto… free fertilizer!

This was what the living room looked like. I remember in the late 60’s my parents bought the first TV set. Word spread fast and soon this little living room was filled nightly with neighbors sharing a communal TV experience. They were usually polite enough to stay for 1 or 2 episodes of “Combat” or ” Have Gun Will Travel” and the living room would be ours again by 8 PM. That’s a pic of Mum and me in the pre-TV days.

This a a pic of some of the neighborhood kids and a couple of cousins in our front yard. I (second from the right bottom row) grew up with these guys. We ate together, played together, hunted frogs and all manner critters together and fished together. My best friend was Subramanium (top left) who was a mute. Everyone called him “Tambi” which translates to “boy.”

He wasn’t really a mute. Due to a childhood illness, some kind of nervous short circuit caused his tongue to be pulled to the left hampering any sort of proper speech. Because we grew up together we developed our own language. Only his mother and I knew what he was saying. He would take me on his bike (before I learned to ride) and we would get into all sorts of adventures. We even camped on the side of the house once… stayed there all night too.

Due to his condition he could not go to school. I taught him to read a little but I ended up writing all his “love letters” for him to the various girls he fancied. This of course was when we were a little older and at that “girl chasing age.” In this pic Tambi is on the left and Ganeshen is on the right celebrating Christmas with us. Tambi and I had a falling out when I was 16. We never spoke to each other again. (There is really no pun here because we really did speak to each other.) I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is married with 6 children. (Evidently, he did a lot better without the love letters I wrote for him.) I hope he is well.

And so ends another edition of Picture Daze.
Click here for other editions: Picture Daze #1, Picture Daze #2


  1. Lecram —
    yup! you’ve found your groove — seems like the stories are writing themselves.

    So which Monopoly marker did you always pick? I wanted the shoe….don’t know why, just did.

    Sorry bout last night (Hmmm, think that was title of a bad 80’s movie) — was sitting on the couch, ready to go….then suddenly found myself opening said eyes on said couch — and it was 10:30PM. oops! fell asleep….what a lightweight.

    I’m going to R&J on thursday – so I’ll see ya’ then.

  2. wow, such beautiful photographs and your mother was so lovely. i can see i have a lot of catching up to do. how long have you been in california? sorry, i seem to be late to *this party*… any cocktails left? i’ll be back.

  3. This is so interesting to me. What a neat upbringing. I love the old Monopoly box….

  4. APJ & Aughra – The monopoly set I had was the British version with street names like “Regent”, “Leister”, etc. My favorite token was the iron.

    Ms. Bees Knees – Thanks for coming by. I’ve been here for 25 years. Be ha[ppy to buy you a coctail when I’m up in the city this weekend

  5. thanks for sharing 😉

  6. Yes, just by the Royal Selangor Golf Club. Things I remember about the place: cooking (stewing?) your pet rabbit, the lily pads in the pond (tin mine), listening to Phoenix by Grand Funk Railroad, Sun Godess by Ramsey Lewis, Osibisa, Satisfaction by Rolling Stones, seeing the (partial?) eclipse of the sun, pineapple wine, visiting Justin Henry, firing matchsticks, Zel!!
    I miss the time and the place. It lives very dearly in my heart. It is a part of me.

  7. art -Thanks for reading. Glad to share.

    kien – Glad you mentioned those. I’ll post some of what you have mentioned in another Picture Daze edition. Glad you have it in your heart as I do. Definately a different time and place.

    p.s. found a pic of you at camp in ulu langat.

  8. wow, lecram. i’ve known you for how many damn years? but this is my first real tutorial of your upbringing. nicely done. i’ll never think of burma the same way ever again…

  9. Just say “diggery-don’t”.

  10. but seriously folks, it is nice to hear some of Lecram’s ‘back story’.

  11. Some of these stories I’ve heard before, some I haven’t, but it’s nice to finally have visuals! Huzzah for Mud Junction!

  12. Great story and I loved the pictures! The more I see, the more I want to travel that way. Especailly if you are any indication of the people who live there. Simply wonderful.

  13. It looks like a really cool place to have grown up

  14. scarysquirrelman – some time you need to put up your pics and tell us about your charmed childhood in Firebaugh as a cross-dressing latino.

    thereminman – diggery -doodah!

    zonthar – photographic proof is fun, ain’t it? I may actually post a pic of the actual “mud junction.” soon.

    kfarmer – I’m not sure the world I grew up in exists anymore… nevertheles, it’s still a beautiful country.

    art – I am thankful for my experiences and upbringing. Seems like several lifetimes ago. It has been fun remembering them.

  15. Wonderful story and pics cuz…my profile pic is of lil brother Tony and me during our time in Malaysia, all kitted up in brand new gear for our jungle trek. I’ve finally responded to your ‘tag’ by the way!

  16. lelly – love the new profile pic. don’t you just love jungle treks? BTW thanks for responding to the tag… it’s a really good one!

  17. I’m a few months behind but I’m enjoying your pics and stories.
    Your friend Tambi reminded me of my best friend who lived next door, from age 0 to 7. He had a cleft palate (hare-lipped) and couldn’t talk well. I just couldn’t talk well, but we understood each other perfectly. We both had to take speech lessons when we started kindergarten!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.