Saturday, November 10, 2012

The home of Wan Tahir | A true Gelugor hero

The home of Wan Tahir & Che Amah
(my maternal grandparents)
Helen Brown Road
Sungai Gelugor, Penang
circa 1930 - 1980
(click to enlarge floor plan)

Times like this, I really missed my late grandfather Wan Tahir. He was an excellent handyman. He was a fisherman prior to joining the Central Electricity Board. His two other major skills were carpentry and chiropractic.

He built the family home (above diagram) using mostly recycled timber. That's where I had spent my early childhood from 1970 to 1980s. My mother was born in that one and a half storey house. And so was I.

Wan Tahir helped a handful of young men in our village secured a job with the Central Electricity Board. He was also instrumental in keeping our neighbors safe during the Japanese occupation in Malaysia in 1941 (at that time we were known as Malaya). "There were many young ladies in our kampung (village) and very few men then", said my mother. "So Wan Tahir dug out a couple of underground hiding place for women and children."

After Wan Tahir had retired from the Central Electricity Board, he became a full time fisherman and chiropractitioner. I remembered being scolded by him every other day for being loud whenever he took his afternoon nap. I remembered watching him fix his boat on the beach and while I got carried away with my thoughts, his quick action saved me from being bitten by a sea snake. I remembered watching him sell fish. I remembered seeing him treat his patients for fractured arms. 

The home was a minimalist yet so full of activities. I remembered the little space where my grandma Maktok worked on her spice using a large flat mortar and pestle (batu giling); where she kept her pots, pans and piles of sarong (kain batik). I remembered where exactly the chicken coop and the jackfruit tree were. And how I would joyfully play in the rain and ride my grandpa's oversize bicycle.

A few years after Wan Tahir passed away, in the late 70s, we had to demolish his lovely home and built a new and smaller house about 50 meters away. This was to conform to the local council's plan for a more organized village settlement. My uncle took up that responsibility. Since none of us was as talented as Wan Tahir, my uncle had to engage a contractor for it. So a new home was built without the passionate touch of a multi-skilled man named Tahir bin Arif. 

I am just missing my grandpa and the beautiful kampung home he had built with his own two hands. More so now when the family home commissioned by my uncle has been partially crushed by the local council, for reasons which I'd rather not discuss here.

All we want to say to Penangites: consider carefully who you intend to vote for in the upcoming election. Outsiders and unworthy "leaders" who don't deserve to be among us, should be ousted for good. We need true heroes and not plastic politicians.

p/s I just remembered something, my Wan Tahir and Maktok were the only two people who called me Hada and not Ezza or Jaja like everyone else did.
Al Fatihah to Tahir bin Arif & Che Amah.

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