Thursday, November 17, 2005

X'mas, roost turkeys & Hailam chicken rice

Christmas has always been an anchor of my reminiscences.

When I was very young, grandmother and father used to tell me real stories about how Japanese troops indiscriminately bombed Ipoh in December, 1941 before they occupied the town a day after Christmas. Those stories of Ipoh being indiscriminately bombed and machine-gunned are now preserved in Madam Sybil Kathigasu's No Dram of Mercy (London, Neville Spearman, 1954; Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1983) which is, very unfortunately, out of print and circulation now, although a Chinese translation of it has recently been published to the grateful memory of that great Eurasian Catholic Malayan who had saved so many lives of the Chinese refugees and communist guerrilla fighters in the Kinta Valley but sacrificed her own later as the result of Kempetai's tortures.

My happier memory about childhood Christmas was the roost turkeys father bought for the family on the Christmas eves. It was prepared by the once famous Cold Storage which operated an outlet not too far away from my coffeeshop-house at No. 24, Clare Street. In those days in the 60s and 70s, the Clare Street Cold Storage outlet was THE popular cultural icon of Great Britain in Ipoh.

Now, the building which once housed the Cold Storage outlet has been taken over to sell McDonald Hamburger, a symbol of Pax Americana, probably reflecting the changes of the international balance of power since the British military withdrawal East of Suez in the 1970s and the ascendancy of American 'soft powers'.

When I lived in Australia, my Christmas eves were either spent in Jenny's house or staying alone in my own to read and study Karl Marx's magnum opuses to prepare for assignments and tutorial papers because my Pakistani Marxist professor was a very strict teacher who tolerated no fools. By the way, I scored extremely well in my paper comparing and contrasting the views of Karl Marx and Max Weber on capitalism.

Those that I had been spending after I returned in early 1987 were all in Petaling Jaya, even while I was the MP for Kampar. Typically, before I attended masses at the St. Francis Xavier, I would take my dinner at the Hailam Chicken Rice shop nearby. The meat balls prepared by that shop are very tasty too.

So, no more roost turkey but the spiritual feeling is still the same because Jesus was not a white British or American or an European but a Middle Eastern Jew whose messages are all for all mankind.

This coming Christmas, I will specifically pray for the soul of Madam Sybil Karthigasu after eating Hailam chicken rice in Jalan Bukit Gasing as this year is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and glorious liberation of Malaya (and Singapore) from Japanese occupation.