Life in an es­tate

Change has crept in over the years but the warm­hearted sim­plic­ity of the peo­ple re­mains.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By SHANTA NAIR CHAN­DRAN

IHAD just fin­ished my LCE (Lower Cer­tifi­cate of Ed­u­ca­tion, now PMR) when my fa­ther told us of his plans to leave our rented house in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, and move in with my brother in a rub­ber plan­ta­tion near Klu­ang, Jo­hor. All our pleas fell on deaf ears.

With a heavy heart, I left KL to­gether with my par­ents and five sib­lings and ar­rived in Klu­ang on a wet, dark night. The road in from the en­trance of Ladang Bukit Benut was more of a gravel path­way, filled with potholes. It was hedged on both sides by tall rub­ber trees with thick lush un­der­growth. Ex­cept for the lights of cars, it was pitch dark and creepy.

If first im­pres­sions are any­thing to go by, our house looked bad. It was a big spa­cious bun­ga­low with lots of land all around. Lit­tle did I know then that the bet­ter part of my life would be spent here.

On rainy days, the tap water used to look like di­luted teh tarik. We had gen­er­a­tor-pro­duced elec­tric­ity from 4.30am to 6.30 am, and again from 6pm to 11pm. But there was never a short­age of ser­vants. Many would come to our house at night to watch tele­vi­sion, and on days when Tamil movies were screened by TV Sin­ga­pore my house would be like a mini the­atre.

I started Form Four in Canos­sian Con­vent Klu­ang and for the first time in my life I en­joyed go­ing to school as the bus was filled with young, bois­ter­ous and play­ful teenagers. The rap­port be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents at school was also good.

The bus driver would pick us up from the es­tate and send us back on good clear days. On rainy days it was a dif­fer­ent ball game al­to­gether. He would take us to the en­trance and we would have to walk about eight kilo­me­tres into the es­tate. But we would make a fun job of it.

I com­pleted my Se­nior Cam­bridge, but as my par­ents were adamant that girls should not go out to work, I got mar­ried and set­tled down in this sleepy hol­low.

Life was very bor­ing in the be­gin­ning and all our at­tempts to leave were in vain. In the 1980s, the era of Euro­pean man­agers came to an end. A Malay man­ager took over and the first thing he did was to pro­pose a staff club as all work and no play was mak­ing his staff dull, he said. Once the club was ready, a com­mit­tee was formed to plan and ex­e­cute ac­tiv­i­ties for the staff and their fam­i­lies.

Slowly things be­gan to move. It started with bad­minton in the evenings. Then vol­ley­ball, ta­ble tennis, darts and car­rom were in­tro­duced. From monthly gath­er­ings to an­nual meet­ings and din­ners, there was plenty of friendly com­pe­ti­tions, prizes and good food all the way.

The man­ager did not stop at that; he ar­ranged for in­ter-es­tate games, af­ter which he would take us for din­ner at open air stalls. Since my hus­band and I were both in­ter­ested in sports, we got to go ev­ery­where. It was not about the games or the food; it was the ca­ma­raderie that we en­joyed.

The ac­tiv­i­ties con­tin­ued when the next man­ager took over. On the per­sonal front, I at­tended a kinder­garten teach­ers’ course con­ducted by Per­sat­uan Tadika Malaysia at Univer­siti Malaya. When the es­tate started a “play­group” for the work­ers’ chil­dren, I was their choice of teacher.

While their peers were en­joy­ing dis­cos and the like, the es­tate chil­dren had to be con­tent with “hap­pen­ings” in the es­tate. This augered well for them as many of them ex­celled in their stud­ies and went on to com­plete their ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in es­tab­lished uni­ver­si­ties.

I do not know if it is the ris­ing cost of liv­ing or the es­ca­lat­ing price of palm oil, but it is all back to square one now.

The club still stands, al­beit a white ele­phant now. But things have im­proved tremen­dously, with treated water, 24-hour elec­tric­ity supplied by TNB, tele­phone ser­vice, etc. Most of the es­tate work­ers own cars and the com­pany has built lighted, fenced park­ing lots for them. Health and safety is given top pri­or­ity by the man­age­ment.

Although many things have changed, one thing is still the same. That is the warm­heart­ed­ness, hu­mil­ity and sim­plic­ity of the peo­ple, ir­re­spec­tive of race, colour or creed.

My par­ents have passed on, my sib­lings have left for greener pas­tures and my “birds” have flown the nest. Soon it will be time for us to leave, but I shall carry with me fond mem­o­ries of my life in an es­tate. n Old is gold, and bold. So, let us hear what you have to say, about what­ever ex­cites you, makes you happy, sad or con­cerned. E-mail your views to star2@thes­ Pub­lished con­tri­bu­tions will be paid, so please in­clude your full name, IC num­ber, ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber. in July; the last test showed “no ev­i­dence of ac­tive lym­phoma”. So I am now hap­pily in re­mis­sion and have started tuck­ing into lunch or din­ner buf­fets, and am back to min­gling so­cially with­out my “mask”. It’s so good to get out there and feel more of the sun and wind, to freely browse at the su­per­marts, be part of the noisy crowd in cof­fee shops, gin­gerly de­vour durian and move around again like any healthy Malaysian!

But I’m more care­ful now with my food and con­scious about the lim­i­ta­tions of age­ing mo­bil­ity. We’re born with an im­per­fect body and are sus­cep­ti­ble to “at­tacks” in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally. But we should re­spect our body, for we live within it. We need to re­mem­ber that over­all care en­com­passes the phys­i­cal, men­tal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual.

God does not play favourites – dis­ease and dis­as­ter can af­fect the good and bad, the rich and poor, and what­ever colour or creed. He gives us the free will to do our part, so let’s be more re­spon­si­ble and not be car­ried away by greed or lazi­ness, anger or stub­born­ness.

Now that I am “lib­er­ated” from the chemo ses­sions and their side ef­fects, I still feel a glow at hav­ing been on the re­ceiv­ing end of so much love and con­cern. To all those who have con­trib­uted to­wards my well-be­ing, thank you.

Yes, I keep count­ing my bless­ings, and there are times I re­mind my­self to count them twice! And so, for me, an­other chap­ter be­gins.

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