Today I want to share with you about Hulu Langat and why the place holds a special place in my heart. But first, let me tell you a little about my mother’s background:
My mom was the 7th daughter born to a poor family of all daughters. Not long after my mother was born, her father passed away and her mother sold my mother to a servant family. The times were not easy- my mom basically grew up not having enough to eat. But her adopted mother (who I call as my grandaunt who was a servant all her life till her retirement at almost 70 years old) believed in an education.
She was constantly hungry and had to fill up her stomach either by scrapping the bottom of the pot for leftover overnight rice that got stuck to the pot, drinking pipe water from the bathroom during school breaks or climbing up the jambu tree to help herself to the fruits.
Despite the odds, my mom was able to pass her Senior Cambridge, and first became a clerk with the examination syndicate. She later transferred to train as a staffnurse- staying in Johor, Penang and Kota Bahru.
My grandaunt decided to reunite my mom with her real mother and sisters. When my mom was reunited with her sisters, they immediately bonded as if they had never been separated.
The thing is that my grandaunt was a real selfless lady as she was worried my mom would not have any relatives should she pass away as she was about 50 years older than my mom. My mom was an extremely filial adopted daughter who when she got married, she requested to have my grandaunt move in with my father. She took care of my grandaunt till she passed away at the age of 91 years old.
Till today, my mom still misses my grandaunt terribly even though it has been decades since her passing. They were not related by blood but their love for each other runs very deep.
To me, Hulu Langat brings a special memory as few of my mom’s real sisters stayed there (well, one eventually move to Cheras but it was very near there).
When I was young, my mom used to bring us here via the bus- we have to take 2 buses before we can reach here. My mom’s 3rd sister previously stayed in a very old wooden attap house not far from the main road (where you turn into Hulu Langat from batu 9, Cheras police station). But later her family was offered land when they have to demolish the entire village (kampung) to make way for development projects.
Hulu Langat has undergone tremendous development over the past decade. It is almost unrecognizable. However, I would always recognize that it is time to turn in from the main road when I see this old structure, Eng Soon Hoong bearing the label of 1929- meaning it has been build in 1929:
Turning into the road would be Jalan Sungai Tekali where a few of my relatives lived at houses off that road:
Usually, my role is the driver- for the moment my mom meet with any of her sisters, they would be chatting with high speed Hakka dialect which I can only partially understand but could not speak.
Even though I do not speak much to them due to the language barrier, but there is always a sense of warmth and the feeling of being welcomed. Of course, they could converse in Cantonese as well but when they get together, they always fire away in Hakka.
My mom had tonsil cancer in year 2000. Within the span of 5 years, my mom lost her 3 closest sisters who passed away from nose cancer, stroke and dementia. It was sad and something we totally never saw coming. But before this happened, we have held a number of gatherings in my auntie’s house in Hulu Langat.
We have gotten two of the best pet dogs from there… the first one was Mushy, a black dog from my mom’s cousin sister’s house who is also a durian farm in Hulu Langat. Mushy used to be quite a cheeky, cheerful and naughty puppy who was especially close to my father. My dad passed away suddenly from stroke when Mushy was one year old. I remember, as my dad’s body was being brought back in a coffin at the front, Mushy was chained at the back (as we were worried he could be his usual mischievous self).
I do not know how he knew- but he was not his usual self. He had such a sad look in his eyes and he actually hugged me back when I hugged him for some comfort. From then on, he was never the same. Mushy became very withdrawn and was not friendly to anyone- he basically just stuck to himself and would sometimes give me the sad look. He passed away after about 16 years.
When Mushy was about 3 years old, while there were a gathering in my 3rd auntie’s house, a white cute puppy ran into the house and was caught by my mom’s 5th sister. My mom took the puppy back and we named him Prosper. Prosper was very attached to my mom and would follow her around. I believe Prosper played an important role as a nurturing and selfless companion that helped my mom in her cancer recovery.
Prosper lived till 8.5 years old before he passed away. Prosper holds a very special place in my heart and whenever my visit my 3rd auntie’s house in Hulu Langat, I would think of it was where Prosper was born and would miss him all over again. He is a very special doggie and to me, is irreplaceable.
We stay in Petaling Jaya. While I was growing up, my 5th auntie and uncle used to come all the way to our house from Langat area bringing a car boot full of rambutans, durians and mangosteens as they knew my mom loved them. They only stopped coming when their old car broke down halfway and they also gotten a little confused at the new roads.
But I would still drive my mom over to visit them. Once we went to our 5th auntie’s flat during housewarming and my uncle cooked a lot of delicious dishes for us. He was also experimenting with baking and was making jam tarts. The small flat always had a lot of warmth when my auntie was around. That day, we had delicious food and Mandarin ballads playing at the TV in the living room.
Sadly, my mom’s 3rd sister passed away from nose cancer. Few years later my mom’s 5th sister was fully paralyzed due to stroke- she was able to move her eyes only. She spent her last 2 years at a nursing home where my uncle went to visit her everyday without fail and took care of her. My auntie never had a single bed sore as my uncle took care of her so well and lovingly.
I took these photos as we recently went back to Hulu Langat to visit our relatives. My mom admitted that the reason why she has not been visiting much after my aunties passed away is because she felt so sad of their passing. I too, feel very sad.
My 5th auntie’s husband has developed cancer in the past few years. He had always been on the plump side but now has lost tremendous amount of weight. The cheerful brightly lid flat which used to come alive with my auntie’s voice is now dim and dark. When I visited my uncle in September, he told me he knew he was not going to live long.
In November when I go back to see him, he has lost even more weight than previously. And he looked considerable weaker. When he walked it was as if he was floating for he was so thin and weak.
I wanted to take a picture of him with my mom and me. He told me quietly that it is a good time to take for perhaps there would not be a chance to do so next time. He tried to put on his best smile for us.
When I took leave from him, he told me that perhaps this would be the last time we saw each other again. He told it in a calm way as if it is going to be finally a relief. I know for a fact that he never stopped missing my auntie for he loved her dearly- that is why even though he was so weak, he still insisted to stay in the 3rd floor of the flat where it was their home for the happiest times of their lives.
Each time I drive Hulu Langat, the highway along the Pheonix complex (now known as Cheras Sentral), the memories of happier times always fill me with a feeling of nostalgic sadness.
Do not take anyone for granted and lose touch of the truly important priorities in your life.