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During the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri season in the 1960's, I used to visit my Muslim friends. It was easy, it was convenient and I needn't take a bus nor drive a car. There were no MRTs then. The afternoon sun could be cruel and be walking or cycling visits around the kampongs of Geylang and Changi could be warm and humid indeed.
The best mode of transport then was the scooter and it was either a Vespa or a Lambretta. I used to own one, a faithful Vespa fully made in Italy that came with a comfortable rear seat and a spare tyre especially hidden below the fat behind of the vehicle. The number plate was SAB 8254 (image below: Mr Aziz on my scooter).
He was an Indian Muslim, well-endowed with a huge tummy, thick, curly and shiny hair. We knew him because he rented a space at our shop front along Geylang Road to run his business. He became a family friend.
The kueh-mueh (Malay cakes and delicacies) would be ready and I would spend time in his beautiful attap house trying out the Hari Raya cakes and Malay cookies like pineapple tarts or coconut biscuits. Mrs. Abdul Karim was just as gracious and usually dressed with her colorful baju kurong and simple selendang.
My next stop would be Kampong Melaka, where Lion City Hotel now stands. It is very close to Sandy Lane near the Catholic Church. It would be a 10 minute ride to my good friend's home, Moyah.
Moyah was Bawean (Boyanese) and played the guitar extremely well. The instrument was always with him and he would carry it around everywhere, in the house, around the kampong lanes and even on his scooter, strapping it on his back as he went on his household chores at Geylang Serai Market.
He was a Beatles expert and played Deep Purple intros like they were his own compositions. And he had only a basic acoustic guitar. If only he had a solid guitar, he exclaimed. I can believe him. Yes, he would show the other boys at Kampong Melaka the riffs that he could emulate before he sang his piece. Could Moyah be one of the boys who started the Pop Yeh Yeh craze among the Malay musicians?
By then it was lunch time and I would be gobbling Moyah's delicious lontong, beef rendang and chicken curry. Cooked by his mother, I could taste the santan (coconut milk) in the food and it would have been from the fruit itself and not from some canned product. And the satay with ketupat was unbelievable.
I would reach home with a full stomach and set out again at 4 pm to a colleague's home at Pachitan 8 (Delapan) where the present Eunos MRT line is today. At the kampong house (image above with Mr. Aziz), I would spend hours with him and his parents, brothers and sisters.
We were so close I would bring my Telefunken reeled tape-recorder and leave it at his home. We would record songs by Elvis, Tom Jones and Engelbert. These singers were Mr Abdul Aziz' favourite. He loved listening to P. Ramlee and Saloma songs. One of her top hits was the original, Selamat Hari Raya.
Dinner came with lauk2 (dishes) like ayam kormah, sayur lodeh, ikan belado, daging kambing and sayor-sayoran. There was always a plate of kerupok udang (prawn crackers) at centre table. Desserts would include Malay cakes and biji delima drink. By eight in the evening, I would be staggering home on my scooter, heavier and bigger with the food in me.
The above picture shows dinner at Mr Ahyar's home during another Hari Raya visit. My wife and I have been visiting his home nearly every year, even up till today. His wife cooks delicious ayam goreng (fried chicken) and sayor lodeh. By this time, but, still in the 60's, many Singaporean families would have moved to high rise apartments or HDB flats.
Today the tradition goes on, still visiting Muslim friends in the East Coast area. There's Mr Eusoof Angullia and his visitors (above) where friendship, food and music rule the Hari Raya visit. His karaoke set has thousands of songs, some I've never even heard of.
They range from English, Malay, Hindi and Tamil classics throughout the years. All at the flip of the finger. And Mr Eusoof with his family sang, Besame Mucho, Paper Roses, Please Don't Tease, Casablanca, Colors of the Wind and Rindu Rasa Hati Ku.
And I drive a car now... On beautiful roads. Not many scooters today. And the kampong houses have become modern bungalows, terraced abodes, spacious apartments and condominiums.
Such hospitality, kindness and care. How could I forget the neighborliness, friendliness, goodness and love of my Malay friends during such gatherings after the fasting month?
Images: A Private Collection; 3 from Google.
Video: You Tube from itsmeijan.