Julian Selvanayagam

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Life in Kuala Lipis --the Bachelor days.

The beginning years in Kuala Lipis was peaceful for Papa. though there was always the need to save money to send back to Ceylon to his siblings, life was good to him in this new land. As time went by, he began to play soccer and hockey, and later,badminton as well. though food was simple, he was not starving. Slowly, he began to try out the various local food of the Malays and the Chinese. He found that he could enjoy most of these different types of food.

Papa was very focussed. He made sure that he did his job well. He learnt many things from his friend and mentor, Mr. Nadarajah. He began to do well in his departmental exams, and got pay increments. Time went by, and soon he began to get to know many people and have many friends as well. He felt less and less alone. In his heart, though, he continued to nurse his hatred for his Uncle and Aunt back in Ceylon.

Finally, the time came. He had applied to Raffles College in Singapore, to further his education. With all the money that he had saved, and with much encouragement from Mr. Nadarajah and other friends, Papa left for Singapore. It was not as bad as when he first came to kuala Lipis!

Life in Singapore was not easy for Papa. He enjoyed his studies and did well. he also excelled in athletics, soccer, hockey, cricket, and rugby. He also played badminton and tennis. He was a very tough person, and all these sports were very refreshing for him. Meals were provided, and he ate whatever was set before him.

The tough times were during the college vacations! Most of the students had homes to return to, but Papa had no where to go to. He could travel back to Kuala Lipis and stay with Mr. Nadarajah, but it meant spending his hard-earned money. So he chose to stay at the hostel itself. He had to manage by buying cheap food sold in the stalls, or he would buy something and cook a simple meal. Often, it would just be one meal a day, as he wanted his savings to stretch! Papa had very thick, curly hair. Usually, he would allow his hair to grow until it was really time to cut--usually once in 3 months! Sometimes, he would ask some of his classmates to give him a haircut, using scissors. Often, he would have a messy, peculiar haircut--but it never bothered him, even when his friends laughed at him!

Vacation times were the times that he would feel very lonely. So he would bury himself in his books, and spend hours studying. In his final year in College, he had an invitation to stay with a family--Mr and Mrs. S.C. Samuel. He was a Railway Station Master. This time, Papa went for a holiday. The Samuels had three daughters and a son. It was wonderful to be able to visit a family and stay with them. And Mrs. Lucy Samuel was an excellent cook! Papa ate to his fill, and enjoyed every home-cooked meal. It was a real treat for him!!! And he even got to eat chicken and mutton and fish as well! And to top it all, he got smitten by one of the Samuel girls!!! It was like being in heaven! Papa was tall and dark and rough. And he had an unruly curly top as well! He did not think that he had any chances of any response from any of the Samuel girls! It did not upset him at all--this was his best holiday yet! He could go back to College, knowing that he had had some excellent food and some wonderful company!

Soon, College was over. Papa had graduated. He had specialised in English Language and English Literature. Now, he was qualified to be a teacher in a Government English School, anywhere in the Federated Malay States. Papa headed right back to Kuala Lipis! That was the only place that he knew well. He had friends there, and he could apply to teach in the school there. He had made it! He had managed to stretch his money. He could start afresh now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

1926-- The Great Floods

During the time that Papa worked in Kuala Lipis, there was an event that left an indelible mark on the whole town!

The monsoon had started, and the rains were pouring down. Day and night, the rains continued. The level in the two rivers began to rise and rise. Soon, it had reached Jelai Street, and it was still rising. People were evacuated to higher ground. The rising waters were almost reaching Main Street. There was panic and people did nor know what to do. The waters came on to Main Street, but fortunately, the Police Station was a few feet higher. Finally, the rains subsided, and the water level began to recede. Even to this day, the water level is marked on the buildings, to remind the people of that frightening experience of the people of Kuala Lipis.

There have been many floods in Kuala Lipis since that time, but none have ever reached the level of the Great Floods of 1926!

New Beginnings

Papa was very well looked after by his friend. Mr. Nadarajah told Papa to rest for a few days, and to be refreshed. He told Papa that he would try to get him a job as soon as possible. So after a week of rest, Mr. Nadarajah came home with the good news that there was a job available as a junior clerk in the Police Station itself. Papa got the job, and began working as a junior clerk. His first pay was Straits Dollars Twenty! To Papa, it was such a great blessing.

Within a short while, Papa did very well in his job, and was confirmed. After one year, he was promoted to being a clerk. His pay was now Straits Dollars Twenty Five. He worked very diligently, and he was very frugal. He managed to send money to Ceylon to support his siblings in school. He also managed to save some money for his future as well. He had very simple meals, and he lived a very simple life. He tried to save every cent that he could. His friend, Mr. Nadarajah, was very kind and helpful to him, and always encouraged him.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Final Leg-- Raub to Kuala Lipis

When Papa woke up in the morning, he felt much better! Some one had reached out to him and helped him. It lifted his spirits,and there was a sense of hope now. This kind man and his wife asked Papa to stay for a day or two, to be refreshed, before he continued his journey. Papa thanked this couple profusely for their hospitality and kindness to him. He was very grateful to them, but he wanted to reach his destination as soon as he could. So this couple packed some rice and vegetables in banana leaves, gave him a bottle of water, and gave him some money as well. Papa was overwhelmed, and was in tears, at their kindness.

The final leg had begun! He had no idea as to what lay ahead of him. He knew of the many dangers that he could face along the way. But he had to press on! So with the trunk on his head, he was on his way.

This time, he passed three groups of labourers working to improve the rough road that was there. He took his breaks near these groups of workers for safety. The workers encouraged him on, and that helped him. It was a long and weary walk, lonely, tiring, and frightening. This time though, he had some food to eat, and water to drink.

Eventually, he reached the town of Kuala Lipis! Now, he had to locate his friend who was working in the Police Station. When he finally found the Police Station, he asked for Mr. Nadarajah. Someone at the Police Station took Papa to the quarters where Mr. Nadarajah was staying. When he finally met Mr. Nadarajah, he wept with joy. He had finally arrived at his destination-- alive!!!

Mr. Nadarajah and his friends were amazed when Papa shared with them about his journey from Port Swettenham to Kuala Lipis.

They gave him a room to stay in, and after a bath, they gave him dinner, and he went to sleep. He was very tired, but he was overjoyed that he had made it! That night, he slept very soundly.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Bentong to Raub

When Papa woke up in the morning, he was really feeling very sad and miserable. He was wondering if he had made a mistake leaving Ceylon. At least there, he had a job, his siblings were there, and he had food to eat, and water to drink. Now, he had nothing! He looked around, and found a public tap, and he took a good, long drink there. But he was not able to get any food to eat. There were Malays and Chinese people there,but he could not communicate with them. When he found an Indian man, he asked for directions to Raub.

Again,he began his trek. He knew that it was a shorter journey than the previous day's one. And that was a big relief to him. Again, it was through the thick,virgin jungles of Pahang. There was danger all along the way, from wild animals. This time, he passed two groups of labourers, along the way. He managed to drink water from some streams along the way, but he was not fortunate to get any food along the way.

The trunk felt heavier and heavier,as time went by. He felt afraid of making a wrong turn, and getting lost in the thick jungle. He determined to push on. He took short breaks to rest, and then, he pushed on. He saw a small herd of wild elephants along one stretch, and he ran and hid in the bushes. After they had gone off, he resumed his journey.

Eventually, he reached Raub. He was really tired and very hungry, as he had not had any food to eat that whole day. He met an Indian man, and in desperation, asked him for some food to eat. The man asked him where he was coming from, and when Papa explained his situation, this man asked him to follow him to his home. There, his wife gave him food to eat and water to drink. He had a bath-- his first since he began his journey from Port Swettenham! They gave him a mat and a pillow, and he slept soundly in this home.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Papa's Journey

Papa began his journey-- with a metal trunk containing his worldly belongings. It was difficult to carry the trunk by hand. It was much easier to carry it on the head-- the balance was better. From Port Swettenham (presently called Port Klang), he walked to Kuala Lumpur, and there he rested for the night. After enquiring from people, he began his journey to Bentong, in Pahang. Papa did not realise what he was in for! It was about 54 miles, through the virgin jungles of Malaya.
He walked through Gombak, and up the Main Range to the Genting Simpah Pass. Then, it was downhill, all the way to Bentong. By the time he reached the Pass, he was so tired and hungry and thirsty. And he did not have anything with him, as he had no money to buy! He found a stream flowing down the mountain side, and he had a drink there. But there was nothing edible that he could find to ease his hunger.

As he continued walking down the rough road that had been built by Indian labourers, he passed a group working on a stretch of road. They used changkols (hoes) to dig the earth, and there were elephants that were used to clear a path through the jungle. As he walked by, some of the Indian labourers asked him where he was going to, and he told them. They were shocked that he was walking alone through the jungle road. They told him that there were tigers and elephants and snakes that could easily kill him.
They suggested that he travel with them later in the day to Bentong. And they asked him if he had eaten any food. When he said that he had not, some of them took pity on him, and shared some rice with him. He was very grateful for this kind gesture. He was able to rest a while, and he began his walk again. He felt very lonely, frightened, and tired. Eventually, he reached the small little town of Bentong. He found a place where he could curl up for the night, and went to sleep.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Papa's Adventure.

Richard K. Selvanayagam landed in Port Swettenham, Malaya, in 1926. He was an orphan, and did not have any relatives that he could turn to, in this new country. All he had, was an address of a friend in Kuala Lipis, Pahang.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Malaysian Adventure

I was born in Kuala Lipis on the 19th of January, 1939--just before the outbreak of the 2nd World War.

Kuala Lipis was the State capital of the State of Pahang, Malaya. It was a lovely little town, nestled among the the hills of the Main Range mountains (Titiwangsa) of Malaya. It was a place tucked away among the lush, green, tropical rain forest. The town was built on the confluence of 2 major rivers of the country--the Pahang River, and the Jelai River. These rivers were full of fresh fish, and ideal for fishing, swimming, and boating--but there was also the danger of crocodiles!

Kuala Lipis had all the facilities of a State capital, but the town itself was small! The main part of the town was made up of 3 streets. Main Street was on higher ground, and Jelai Street was on lower ground, and it was on the bank of the Jelai River. It was in the shape of a crescent. And directly in the middle, was Cross Street. It connected the Main Street to the Jelai Street. At the point where Main Street and Cross Street connected, was an open space. This was the place where the Bus Station was located. And next to it, was the Railway Station. On one end of Main Street, was the Market and the Post Office, at the other end of the Main Street was the Police Station and the Fire Brigade Station. Main Street was where you could get all your groceries, provisions, photographic equipment, stationery, tailors and sewing materials, jewellers, and so on. Jelai Street was where you would find all of the craftsmen--tin and iron smiths, cobblers, tailors, carpenters, etc. And Cross Street was the delight of every child--that was where you found the hawkers, ice cream and iced-drinks, food stalls, and all kinds of preserved fruits to satisfy the variety of different tastes!

This was the town that my Papa had chosen to come to live in. This was 1926, and Papa had come all the way from Ceylon (Sri Lanka).