Archive for September 19th, 2011

A reason to hit the road again…

“Yes, I am definitely coming with my family,” I told Ian Anderson when he invited me to attend his “Ipoh, My Hometown” book launch on 17th September 2011 at Ipoh Royal Club.

After all, my daughter’s examination will be over by then and the family has a reason to go back to Ipoh for a week-end break. Yeah, we can get away from mad Kuala Lumpur for a few days and that would be heavenly!

So off we “balik kampung.” Balik Kampung simply means going back to one’s hometown.

What a small world!!

On the morning of the launch, we were a bit early than the rest when we reached the venue. Save for a few people running up and down for some last-minute preparations before the event proper came up, we just walked around taking some photos of the panoramic Ipoh Padang from the verandah near the visitor’s lounge.

As my kids were busy with the camera, my eyes wandered around and caught the sight of someone familiar. A  tall and dignified Indian lady was chatting with her friends and instantly I could recognize her as Miss Rita Irene Thavarajah who used to be my class teacher in 1972, almost 40 years ago! I was her student in Standard 2C in Methodist Girl’s Primary School along Kampar Road.

Amazingly, she still looked the same after four decades. Her hair-style, her spectacles, her sari and her soft voice, nothing had changed for Miss Rita! With confidence, I walked over to her and introduced myself to this lady teacher.

“Excuse me, are you Miss Rita Irene Thavarajah, a former teacher at MGS?” I asked smilingly.

She looked stunned and speechless for a moment before she smiled and nodded, “Why, yes I am!”

“Look, my name is Yip Yoong Fong and I was your student in Standard 2C way back in 1972. I could still recognized you well enough!” I offered and with that the ice was broken and we were like old friends catching up.

“Am I a fierce teacher?” she asked me with curiosity on her face.

“No, far from that. You are one of the most friendly teacher I have ever met,” and that bought smiles to her face.

“I also remembered how you drove a little green Morris Minor to school every morning!” and she was laughing so hard.

“Yes, I drove all the way from Greentown where I lived to Kampar Road. It was a feat in those days, a feat for a woman!” she proclaimed proudly.

We took photos and chatted the morning away. I never expected to meet up with my former teacher after 40 years and it was just fabulous. It was a very pleasant surprise indeed for both of us. And to make it even more bewildering, Miss Rita was the aunt of Felicia, Ian’s assistant. Isn’t it a small world?

The home I once knew…….

Ian was resplendent in his native Scottish kilt while his lovely wife Meng Wai looked so beautiful in a set of nyonya kebaya. They made a stunning couple.

Ian presented me with a complimentary copy of the book. After a brief chat with him and as the crowd started pouring in to view the books, I excused myself from Ian and found myself a quiet corner along the verandah overlooking the scenic Ipoh Padang to have a look at this much talked about book.

As I flipped through the pages with my family, I was touched to read back the few stories which I contributed to “Ipoh, My Hometown“. I took a brief walk down memory lane of my childhood days at 188 Hugh Low Street. I explained to my children and husband the days of a bygone era which will never come back again but still remained vivid in my heart.

“Look Mommy, the photo of  Gung -gung (maternal grandfather) with us both taken on Chinese New Year’s Day in 2004. It appeared in the book!” my daughter Alexandra exclaimed excitedly upon seeing her photo appearing in the book.

“I am going to tell my friends about this,” she laughed. Alexandra was the apple of my Dad’s eyes and she loved him too. She was very happy to see herself sitting beside her grandfather and brother in that memorable photo.

I am pleased to see that Ian and his team also included some photos of a scissors sharpener taken along Cockman Street. What a shame that we do not have a camera to take some photos of my Dad sharpening scissors in those days for I believed such photos are valuable and will further enhanced the stories of how a man strife to make a living sharpening scissors and knives.

“Mommy, where can we buy this book?” my boy Nicholas asked.

“According to Uncle Ian, this book can be found in MPH bookstores and also buy online at ipohworld website.”

I am glad that with the encouragement from my family, I could write down these memories into words as a tribute to my parents.

At this book launch I also got to meet two other writers whom I have enjoyed exchanging wonderful comments in ipohworld. They were Katherine Wong and Aaron Ong. Thank you Katherine, you are so sweet and jovial. And to Aaron, thanks for your photos of Hume Street, the place that once held sentimental childhood memories for us both.

This is simply amazing!

To complete the morning full of surprises, this is the mother of all surprises. The mother of Captain Ho Weng Toh, the oldest contributor, was the elder sister of my maternal grandfather, Chow Yue Phui. Thus, this former war plane pilot was my Mom’s cousin brother. He and I are related through my Mom’s side. In short he was my grand-uncle! Through the years we had lost family contact. I found out after reading a few chapters of the book once I got home. Names like “Heng Woh Shoe Shop” in Market Lane and his father Ho Kok Lim sounded very familiar because my Mom once told me about this family of shoe-makers whose eldest son ended up being a war hero in World War Two.

Aren’t you convinced by now this is indeed a small world? Ah, what a morning!

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