13 May 2012

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 24 ) – My Brickfields, the Little India,


Today is 13th May, a date which brings back sad memories of this day forty years ago – May, 1969 (click here for the earlier posting). Fate had it that I was made to play a role following the tragic incident of that day. Brickfields happened to be the focal point for me. Coincidentally this little enclave of Kuala Lumpur, now the Little India, played an important role in the early days of Pakcik’s family as well.
One posting may not do justice to the importance of Brickfields to me and family. So this one is likely to be followed by another at a suitable time later

 Kuala Lumpur 13th May, 1969


My recent trip to K Lumpur

By coincidence I got swept by the flood of traffic along Lornie Drive ( now Jalan Syed Putra ) into Brickfields Road (now Jalan Tun Sambathan). A sense of panic was beginning to creep in when, to my relief, I caught sight of a vaguely familiar school grounds and buildings I knew so well as La Salle (Primary) School. Hence I knew where I was driving and heading for. In those days I could probably proceed blindfolded from that point. As expected a row of old two-storey shop building came into view on my left. There used to be the large Anthonian bookstore which I frequented long, long ago before the birth of today’s larger bookstores.

Following that building there should be a familiar hotel on my right just before coming to a three-way junction. I had intended to turn left into Traverse Road and to Bangsar, but I found myself too late and was again swept staright ahead.  Had I turned left I should pass a building which housed a clinic used to be run by a Dr Rashid Malal, a distinguished Malayan amateur golfer. This fellow member of RSGC (Royal Selangor Golf Club) was our family doctor for years and years.

So I missed that left turn and had to go straight. Immediately on my left I could see in my mind's eye the picture of an oil depot with a tank farm containing some six huge cylindrical steel tanks standing upright in a bund wall. (The wall was designed to contain oil spillage in case of an incident which should never happen) Those huge tanks contained petrol, diesel and kerosene which supplied consumers in and around Kuala Lumpur. I was made to be in full charge of that complex during the infamous May 13th 1969 riot to make sure that the police and the military vehicles would have uninterrupted supplies of fuel. I was a civilian with a curfew sticker on my car driving the deserted and eery streets of Kuala Lumpur. 

All those oil tanks had gone and now I was approaching KL Central instead.  Gone was the parcel office of KL Post Office where I had to go sometimes to collect parcels posted from abroad which needed to be checked by Customs office for dutiable goods. On my right I should see a long row of two-storey shop building  where I used to have lunches. In particular there was a Makcik shop, a very good family restaurant serving genuine Malay foods. I am certain that Malay shop was long gone.

I wonder if I did pass Scott road and the old cinema. Before I knew it I was again being swept by traffic into the road leading to Pudu Raya and into Mountbatten Road (now Jalan Raja Chulan - Oop, I am wrong said GUiKP in his comment below. It should be Jalan Tun Perak. You see, I still live in the past, Batu Road, Foch Avenue etc.) From there all was familiar again. At last I was out of the wood.

How did Brickfield become so prominent in the life of my family?

Fifty years ago this year I started my working career in Singapore where the multinational I worked for had its  regional head office. From time to time I was to travel to its KL office which was not very far from Brickfields, and also to visit  the oil depot mentioned above. For my convenience, on each of my trips to KL a room was booked at a reasonably good hotel within a walking distance from the depot and also from a ‘taman selera’, a well frequented row of food stalls along the road past La Salle school. I belive this 'taman selera' is still in existence.

On one of my visits to KL office I returned to the hotel fairly early and without the normal company of an office colleague.  Early in the evening I drove to the ‘taman selera’ and returned to the hotel immediately after having my supper.  I decided to stay in to catch up with my work.

It was near midnight when there came gentle taps on my door. I wonder who could the late visitor be. Immediately on opening the door there was whiff of perfume and a young pretty face was smiling straight into my eyes. “ Saya datang kalau encik hendak apa apa. Saya boleh tolong.” was her gentle stream of words. I knew what a suitable answer ought to come out from me.

My oh my! Did this bachelor executive look lonely enough and still hungry after after that supper? He was sorry that he had too much work to finish! Or shouldx she be invited to finish off his work? Anyway that was his last stay at that hotel, a place and an incidence to remember. 

Insya Allah I will have more serious subjects to write about in due course.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.


GUiKP said...

Mountbatten Road, is it not Jalan Tun Perak now?

Ismail aka Pak Mail said...

Do you also spare some of your time to frequent Lido theatre to watch Hindustani film, sir.

Lido theater is just few hundred meters away from your workplace.

I enjoyed very much watching hindustani film of yesteryears.

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
This certainly brings back memories.I stayed in another part of town. But I certainly remembered Brickfields - the Indian shops,Lido cinema and the host of others mentioned. It's just amazing of your special position during the May 13th tragedy. That was a great responsibility!
As for me,it was over a year after graduation. I was a young Second Officer holding one of the Strong Room keys in a Bank's sub-branch. The Manager, myself and the cashier must all be there to open the Strong Room. When banks were told to open the following Monday, I was in a dilemma. I didn't have a car then and the bus service was disrupted. I had to call Head Office to fetch me from the house.
I was brought to the Sub-Branch just in time before the opening time that morning.Later in the day, I was brought back to my house, collected my clothes and squatted with friends in Petaling Jaya which was a 'safe haven' then. I thumbed lifts from those who still had their 'varsity bikes' for 2 weeks to the office and back. Those were the days!


Pak Idrus said...

Thanks for narrating that story Pokcik Hassan. It does refreshes my memories too.

Have a nice day.

Al-Manar said...


Nothing, no matter how small an error may be , can pass being detected by a professor of taraf antara bangsa. Thank you. I will have it noted as an error.Thank you, sir.

GUiKP said...

No lah, i love that iconic road. nowadays i often walk along that stretch from pudu sentral to masjid jamek, passing arenaa hotel, mcD and reggae hotel (notorious for its once discriminatory policy of not allowing malaysians to stay there). now i heard that the management of the hotel has come to their senses.

KotaStar said...

Sdr Al Manar,

Thank you for the glimpses and especially for reminding us of today's historic date. Present situations in the country seems to harbour a return to such calamity. May we pray that sensibility over rides all.

Surely present Brickfield is a far departure from what it was. I do remember a good cafe somewhere amongst the taman selera there. In 1973 I was offered an apartment at Brickfield for RM27,000 and I turned it down because of its Indian community and outback of KL.I would have a treasure now. Your episode of May 13 need to be repeated with other details that you may missed out before. You are not the only who heard knocks on the door. I did too. But a male who declares my manliness etc attracted him. 'He' must have observed me when I was in the hotel foyer. Kena jadi psychologist to help him. Ha ha.

All the best to both of you.

Al-Manar said...


You know Lido. It was not showing just Hindustani films then. I passed that cinema several times a day on my way to work, to lunch and to pick up my children all of whom went t schools in that area.

Al-Manar said...


Aren't we lucky to have had such an experience in our younger days. It is for our children to understand the days we went through.

Children of today cannot understand what it means when we have to go through racial turmoils. It is also for the those who see equal right for every one is a must at whatever cost it takes.

Al-Manar said...

Pak Idrus,

The idea is to record and one's experience; just as you have been doing, recording what every one commonly sees but does not observe.

Al-Manar said...


You are not as old to talk like that. But you are right that there days when certain places were meant for certain community. From Mounbatten Road one walks towards Babk Negara and passes the Padang and the exclusive club where we can imagine the days when Mat Saleh sat with a glass in hand watching their friends hitting cricket ball.

One walks further past the bank to reach another very exclusive club when, in the good olden days, even a Malay Sultan could not be allowed to be a member.

Al-Manar said...

Kota Star,

I am pleased that I have managed to stir up old memories.

If only youn had invested RM27,000!

We have seen how ugly things could develop to be. It is often the minority who choose to ignore previleges accorded, demanding for more.

You should post your 'knock-on-the-door' experience, my friend!

nwar said...

La Salle Brickfields ! How can i ever forget. That was the place where i spent 5 wonderful years of my primary school days... 10 things that instantly came to mind :

1. 50 sen pocket money well spent during recess time : a plate of mee goreng (30sen), best ever syrup ais (10 sen), fishball on a toothpick dipped in soy sauce (10sen).. if they ran out of fishball i would save 10 sen!

2. Looking after my little Std-1brother when i was a prefect in Std 5 (end of my fishball days as he was an eater, so i'd spare him some change)

3. Having plenty of non-Malay friends. Best friends were Jasmeet Pal Singh and Lee Veen Hui. (still looking for then on facebook with no avail)

4. Mom taking me and little brother to the barber across the road every 2-3 months. No fancy cut.. just the usual "belakang paras telinga, trim atas sama tepi"

5. Mallal Dispensary just a shout away from school. This is THE family clinic for the quick-and-easy fix-it for health matters.

6. Anthonian bookstore (THE Kinokuniya in its heyday). This 3-storey bookstore is THE place then.

7. Taman Selera across the road from the school's main gate, one of the 3 regular places where dad would take us all out for dinner (the other two being seafood at Campbell, and Taman Selera at Section 16)

8. Walking tall and proud having my dad as one of the school's PIBG AJK.

9. (Mom would get worried sick if she knows this) Scaling Brickfields to home if the bus did not turn up - happily walking up & across the rail track with my indian friends... oblivious to our safety.

10. And last but not the least, i can vividly picture Ajay, the big bully who constantly ridiculed and teased me for many months when i started wearing glasses...until i finally gathered enough courage to kick his legs. (as the story goes, we became friends after that incident)

Brickfields... sweet sweet memories.

naniasda said...

Salam Pakcik,
Brickfields was familiar to me too when after 2 weeks finishing college I was employed by Nestle Products (M) Ltd., HQ Office in Jalan Brickfields in the late seventies. That was my first working experience in an office where Malay employees were a minority. I can still remember the personnel manager who was an elderly Tuan Haji explaining to me on the first day of my recruitment that he wished to see more Malays working in that company and not be like 'Rusa Masuk Kampung'...his exact words really! Of course I have wonderful memories (which were many) while working there and my bestfriends were a Chinese girl and a Campurlah (a very pretty mixed Chinese Indian girl) and I bet anyone working along Jalan Brickfields in those days one day or other must have given a helping hand to a blind man/woman to cross the road because there was a famous blind association there btw our telephone operator was a blind man too (I forgot his name) and his English was flawless with the right intonations when answering calls. I was familiar too with Mallal clinic you mentioned since it was one of Nestle's clinics panel and the nearest clinic to go to for any health problems. I did not work long with Nestle and left reluctantly for a new job in my hometown after three years. Nestle's HQ office is no more there, it had to be demolished a few years after I left to make way for KL Sentral.

Wan Sharif said...

My first visit to KL was in 1968, a vist to my friend house in Kg Limau about 100 meters from Chow Kitt wet market. I remembered we took a bus from there to Foch Avenue and I have my first Tau Fo Fah there.. I remembered having a gala time at the Pasar Malam in Jalan Hale in Kampung Baru area.. I could not get out of Tanjung Malim few days after 13 May 1969 incident .. Have some problem getting food supply there then -:(

MamaTim said...

KL/Selangor may be where I used to live from 1986 - 1994 (except the couple of yrs I attended University) but I don't miss the places. I dread if told we need make a trip to KL.. yes, because of traffic mainly and the roads all look so different now, also the cityscapes.

I'm glad now living in kampung.

(psst Pakcik, insyaAllah by coming 28th will be travelling back to KT. To visit my inlaws for a few days..)

Al-Manar said...

Nwar ( Pakcik's No 2 )

Babah know you will never forget those days if at my age I can stll remember vividly what you said. We did not know of your crossing the railway tracks and the bully. Iam sure there are other pieces of skeletons that you wish to keep in your cupboard, perhaps to share with your own children when Mami and Babah are no longer around.

Babah will mention you, Enon and Meran when more about Brickfields will be featured later.

You have corrected Babah about Anthonian being a three-sgtorey.

Al-Manar said...


I remember Nestle Head Office and MAB (Malaysian Association of the Blind) was. MAB was very active in training and getting jobs for the blind. My office had an operator from there.

I knew of a senior Nestle executive of that time but passed away a few years later. And in the 90's the post of Personnel Manager was held by a close friend of mind.

You recall those days and you make me remeber more of my past and of Brickfields. Thank you for dropping by, Naniasda.

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

You had your share of May 13th then.Tg Malim is just about 5 miles from Makcik's home, the durian land of Kelumpang. But we were all in Damansara Heights having a houseful of friends we hosted during those 'dangerous' days.

Al-Manar said...

Mama Tim,

You have Terengganu connection? 28th week is a week of weddings. Call on us if you have time. Email me about your plan - almanar@pd.jaring.my

MamaTim said...

InsyaAllah I will..

Cheqna said...

Assalamualaikum Pak Cik,

Interesting reading on this and a glimpse from your no. 2 as well.

Anyway...dropping some lines especially to wish you a happy "Teacher"'s day...semoga Allah SWT kurniakan rahmatnya ke atas Pak Cik...dan dikurniakan kesihatan yang baik untuk menjalankan tugasan2 dengan sempurna..

My assalamualaikum to mak cik too.

Al-Manar said...

You come to bring me good wishes. Thank you Cheqna. There were a couple of weddings qround Losong and Hiliran areas last week and wondered whether you happened to be one of the guests. I am very bad at faces, unlike Makcik, and would not recognise you even if you knocked me down!

Do you know there will be a new fish market in Chabang Tiga? Next time you return take a drive there. It is over the part of the river I used to swim in time of my childhood.

Cheqna said...

Pak Cik,

I didn't go to any kenduri(s) when I made the unscheduled (and surprised) visit home last week.

Oh I won't knock you down, insyaAllah I can still remember yours and mak cik's too..if not I'd check out Ainun's facebook..hehe..

The new fish market is the one that is still in construction right? and may be during your childhood you had stopped to buy my grandmother's meehoon/mee goreng at pasar then :-)

MamaTim said...

Pakcik, just sent an email to U, harap2 tak masuk spam folder :)

Temuk said...

The last bus that I boarded from Foch Avenue was torched by I don't know who, once it reached Kg. Pandan. And I quickly ran to my Mak Angkat's house. Can't remember whether that was 12 or 13th May 69. I was an undergraduate at UM, then. Terperangkap at Kg Pandan for many days, eating canned sardines and kangkung lombong. Horrible incidence!

Al-Manar said...


Indeed I might have tasted that Chabang Tiga meehon.

Al-Manar said...

Mama Tim


Al-Manar said...


I am certain it was 13th evening. That was scary indeeed. Imagine the streets of KL without any signs of life except for occasional patrol car. Those who went through that would want to avoid that at all cost.

Anonymous said...

Oh Pakick, terima kasih for such memories reading your blog. I was on facebook and saw the word Anthonian and remembered that same big bookstore in Brickfields. Well, thats where I use to get my school books. My family use to live in Bangsar untill about a year ago when my parents decidedto move. My brother goes to La Salle and my sisters and I use to go to the Methodist Girks School at Jalan Marsh. Yes, not far from the cinema Lido. Malal dispensary was also our family clinic too until Dr Rashid decided to sell off his clinic and move back to the UK. Both huhsband and wife were great doctors . I remember the names of the roads you mentioned up there as they were the same same my parents use...up till now. I remember taking bus No.5 from Brickfield to Bangsar when I missed the school bus or sometimes just walked home all the way.
A couple of years back I brought my daughter to visit my primary school. I was so proud to take her there and show her around. What use to be a very big school to me now seems to quite small but having seeing the old building still strong there, really brings back good memories. Thank you so much for this ...brings smiles on my face today :) - Adila

Al-Manar said...


You arrived to read this ten months after I had posted it. I am pleased to have given you glimpse of your past. You are likely to be of my daughter's age. She was in the same class at Methodist with Sheila Majod, the singer. Her two younger brothers were La Salle booys.And we used to live on Jalan Kemaris, Bngsar.

I am very curious who your family are. I may know your dad. Would you kindly email: almanar@pd.jaring.my please? Do come again to Pakcik's bblog and leave comments.

Salaam to you and family