Monday, January 14, 2008

PARIT SULONG - My kampung

Kampung life for my family was a little town called Parit Sulong. It was where my father was born on August 6, 1926. This little kampung was amongst the many kampungs around the Batu Pahat and Muar area, with the word Parit attached to it. This is because in the 'old days' (well old meaning up til the late 60s), the villages were interconnected with parits - canals (small ones) - and the canals or parits were big enough for us to swim in, catch fish and do our washing. I remember as a little kid being quite terrified of the parit in front of the family kampung home. The water was murky and dark, with all sorts of vegetation protruding. Most of the villagers built a verandah or even a gazebo-like structure by the parit where they would sit for hours during the afternoons having the tea and kuih. Some would take out their joran and fish for ikan sembilang (catfish).
Parit Sulong was also famous for its pineapple estates. Even til the seventies, if you had taken a drive to the area, you would see pineapple estates that stretch into the horizon. Today, like most other states, Parit Sulong is covered by oil palm estates and abandoned real estate developments. Hardly a trace of the pineapple estates can be seen today.
For some war buffs, the name Parit Sulong may sound familiar. This is because in the
annals of history, Parit Sulong has also made its mark. The bridge at Parit Sulong (pictured above but has since been demolished and replaced in 1994) was the last bastion of British defence in Malaya during the early days of the second world war before the British fled to Singapore and later surrendered. The battle of Parit Sulong has been recorded as one of the most tragic and most infamous in the early beginnings of the Pacific war .
In fact, many books has been written about the infamous Parit Sulong massacre of Australian, British and Indian soldiers under the sword of the Japanese army on the 22nd of January, 1942. According to my father, who witnessed the aftermath (depicted above in vivid oil painting is the siege of Parit Sulong as visualised by Murray Griffin - painted in 1943), the river under the bridge turned red with the blood of the massacred. Headless bodies of Australian soldiers, with their hands tied behind their backs, were seen floating down the Parit Sulong river by the dozens. Some of the murdered, according to my father, had been brutally burnt by the Japanese before they headed down south to lay siege on Singapore. (The above black and white photos were of the various battles that occurred just prior to the massacre. The photos were taken by a friend of one Sergeant Charles Parsons near the town of Bakri, not far from Parit Sulong). During that incident, my father was around 16 years old. He wrote of this incident in his autobiography Warisan dan Wawasan published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. The book should be on sale this month (January 2008).
Today, Parit Sulong isn't much of a bustling town. Due to the North South Highway, the town is by-passed by the northbound and southbound traffic. The old Radin cinema which hold many memories for my father, and one particularly fond memory by myself as related earlier in my blog, still stands. But today, it is a furniture hall (picture below) - its name covered partially by the new signage hoarding.
The old kampung house where we used to stay in was located behind the Parit Sulong polyclinic grounds. The house has since gone - burnt to the ground in a fire in the mid 80s.
Many things have changed - but my father's old school still stands. As the old JKR quarters (pictured below), which, according to my father, used to house the wounded Australians before they were massacred in 1942.
Only my auntie, Mak Ning, lives in Parit Sulong now, alone with her granddaughter. Her children - two sons and a daughter are now living elsewhere. Another auntie of mine, my father's youngest sister, Mak Busu, now lives in Singapore with her family. Another auntie, Mak Itam, lives in Sungei Siput, in Melaka, with her family. On the first day of 2008, on my way back from Singapore, I stopped by to say hello. (Below is a picture taken on that trip - myself, Mak Ning and Puteh ). It was also one of the rare trips to the kampung for my own kids. I'm sure they enjoyed the trip there to their grandfather's kampung. At least now they can appreciate the history of Parit Sulong a little bit more.

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