101 Gedong Lalang was the house my father built for retirement on an abandoned tin mine overgrown with lalang. I suppose that’s why the area is called Gedong Lalang located just beyond Ampangan, the bigger and better known Malay kampung in Seremban. Beyond Gedong Lalang  is Paroi  which marks the entry into the snaky road to Kuala Pilah, one of several Minangkabau strongholds in Negeri Sembilan. In this district is the royal town of Seri Menanti – home of the Antah and Melewar clans.

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Teratak Jasa, as my father’s cottage was called, is a combination of two syllables ja and sa which were part of my parents’ names ( Khadijah: ja + Said: sa ). The alternative saja was rejected after much deliberation because  Teratak Saja would have sounded too falsely modest. Jasa was thought more appropriate in representing what service to the government and the country meant in those days. Besides, though modest in size and cost Teratak Jasa was huge in spirit as it is to this day long after Said and his beloved Jah have gone.

This was where the family moved  to after 4 Lake Road. From the colonial bungalow originally built for the British Adviser in the rolling hillocks and dales of the Seremban Lake Gardens later named Taman Tasik , we moved to the Malay kampung house set in the derelict lalang manufacturing field. I was the only daughter whose wedding was held in a humble teratak in Gedong Lalang, four of my sisters having celebrated their nuptials with distinguished government guests in the glamour of the government residence.

The small plot of land may have cost a paltry sum even in those days,  dust cheap by today’s inflated land prices but the wooden house which was modelled after his ancestral Bugis home in Linggi was my father’s pride and joy. He planned its design meticulously,  incorporating the concepts in Malay traditional living – anjung, rumah tengah, rumah dapur each slightly higher or lower than the other making for a rather interesting layout connected with steps. He supervised its construction diligently, dragging us there on regular visits after work or in the weekends.

And so the family lived here and watched Gedong Lalang grow first  at a snail’s pace but picking up later when retirees wanted an affordable piece of land to build an affordable home with their hard-earned government wages and pensions. And so we acquired new neighbours some of whom were old neigbours, and life settled steadily in the neighbourhood.

101 Gedong Lalang progressed slowly too as my father acquired the adjacent back lot to have bigger grounds for the herb garden and the fruit trees which my mother tended to besides the hens and roosters. There was room now for their own expanding brood to stay during the holidays- for the menantu menantu to park their identical volkwagens and for the cucu cucu to aim their fancy football kicks and shuttlecocks without knocking down the stilts.

The main house extended too as we added another anjung, a bigger dapur, another bilik and a rumah luar to accomodate the seven families that came on regular visits. The bawah rumah surrounded by stilts and popular with the over-fed family cats was soon to be cordoned by a brick wall and floor-tiled with mosaic. This provided a large sitting area where the ladies sewed or weaved their crochet and tatting in-between downing sticky hot black kopi or milky teh and munching on kuih kodok and pisang goreng.


Meanwhile my father faithfully wrote, cursive in his diary every morning without fail and on his tatty typewriter in the late afternoon after a without-fail siesta. While the women of the house chatted and cooked, and cooked and chatted, he read without fail. 

Life was literally and figuratively simple and sweet as we tucked into mouth-watering dodol, baulu and kuih bakar  painstakingly made over firewood, charcoal or sabut- laid stoves and ovens. Life was also hot and spicy with each helping of asam pedas, masak lemak cili api, sambal tumis and rendang expertly prepared by Saminah and Yam, strictly supervised by my mother!

It was a blissful time!


2 Responses to “”

  1. September 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

    As i read this lovely post in Milano while tucking into vegetable biryani, potato gobi and chicken masalla just before imsak, I’m drooling for masak lemak cili api.

    I gave my utmost for the plenary presentation yesterday and hope the Special Issue Editor and Co-Editor and their committee deem it to be of sufficiently high quality. The discussion was frank and constructive. It’s now back to the drawing board and my co-author and I will incorporate the comments as best as we can, and fix a few fixable wonky things. And I must also tell you that the prepartion leading up to my 15-minute of fame was as nerve wrecking and intense as my PhD viva.

    We shall leave for Venice in an hour’s time, with Eurostar. We deserve that, don’t you think?

    Ciao Senorita.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    September 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Of course you do! More than the sumptious Indian food of all things in Milano you and your co-author deserve accolades for a job well done by international standards. Do let me have a copy when it’s been edited.

    I’m trying to establish a schedule of writing so that I don’t lapse once again into inertia! It’s so easy to make excuses when it’s a private project and you’re not beholden to anyone.

    But I shall persevere! Have a safe and pleasant trip home!

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