by Kruz Aibrahms
Not many of us can claim having more than ten homes while growing up yet I had sixteen by the age of thirty. This was due to my father’s vagrant duty stints. He was a cop with uncompromising loyalty to his master.
In the sixties, transfers were the order of the day for policemen. We never stayed long in any one place. I don’t remember much about Kerayong and Pengkalan Chepa as narrated by my mother but I could picture Rasa, before moving to Kelian Intan, at the border.
I was six; I remember staring anxiously at the tall, fierce-looking ‘mat salleh’ officers who had come around for barrack inspection while at the same time being perturbed by their appearance. By then, my elder brother and I knew that being woken up early meant barrack inspections. We knew ‘silvo and brasso’ too, which we used to help Dad shine those sparkling uniform buttons, and other shiny paraphernalia.
Calls of ‘Ganyang Malaysia’ by our neighbor peaked in 1964. We were trained well to rush into a nearby bunker whenever the clangs of ‘loceng gila’ broke the calmness of the day. We had to stay quiet, heads ducked, inside that bunker.
By 1966, we were transferred to our fifth home in Kuala Lumpur. Dad was posted to Jalan Campbell station which is now Jalan Dang Wangi. We had our home at Jalan Raja Alang which was Jalan Perkins then, close to the inter-section of Jalan Raja Abdullah, formerly Jalan Hale.
Policemen housing was not what we see now. Most policemen, including my dad, had to rent houses back then. Not for long though, as we soon moved to another home in Jalan Watson, now Jalan Hamzah. For unknown reasons, barely a year later, we packed our stuff again and made our way to another home in the squatters of Kampung Datuk Keramat.
We lived in a dilapidated house on a hill with a small creek down the ridge. It was there that I started taking up my share of the daily grind of life at the edge of poverty – helping Mom sell homemade food, yelling ‘Nasi lemak! Karipap! Pulut Panggang!’ along the stretch of Datuk Keramat Road.
One day, our small house got badly drenched inside out. A fierce storm had soaked our newspaper-pasted wall and it sagged beyond repair; the cost of which was certainly beyond Dad’s wallet. A kind-hearted neighbor, who was about to leave his house for a new one, offered us his place and even moved out earlier to accommodate us. That was our eighth home – I was ten.
After May 13, we moved to the Pekeliling Flats, our ninth, in line with the government’s order to house policemen in a single community. Here, on the sixth floor, we lived the longest, as could be attested by the soot from oil lamps blackening our ceiling for failing to pay the electricity bills. In 1974, Dad was transferred to Sagil, near Tangkak.
When I had my first job away, another new home welcomed my ‘balik kampung’ in Bukit Gambir. We had homes there twice, at the new and old police stations. When the new station was completed, it was already our thirteenth before moving to a nearby ‘pondok polis’ in Sengkang.
Dad finally retired at Balai Polis Pagoh. We finally bid goodbye to government facilities but Dad didn’t even have a small house to spend the remaining years of his life, let alone a piece of land. I knew well that he had been an honest policeman living from the drawing of his meagre paycheck. No matter how frugal we tried to shape our life, things were barely enough. After finally hanging his proud uniform for good, all he possessed was an old, beat-up motorbike .
My mother’s step-brother offered to sell a piece of land in Asahan to Dad. He bought it and built a house on it with deductions from his pension fund – our sixteenth and last, a place that we could finally call HOME.
About the author – Kamarun Zaman Ibrahim goes by Kruz Aibrahms in his writing pieces. Educated at ITM and furthered to Western Michigan University, USA, he had served two law-enforcing government agencies before being unceremoniously terminated and had to raise his family as a freelancer.
He endured much suffering during his incarceration in Taiping for an indefinite period but it was also where he started writing. Despite all the hardships post-detention, he soldiered on and is now peacefully retired south of the city.