When I was about five, we moved out of the room that was our home and into a proper house with a living room, a kitchen, our own bathroom and toilet and two bedrooms. A row of new houses had been buit in Jalan Lumba Kuda Lama. We rented the first house and we were the first occupants of the new house.
The second house was occupied by three Chinese families. It was here that I made my first friends. 16 year old Sau Siah and her two younger brothers Sau Meng and Sau Leng became our friends. Their parents were the main tenants of the second house. I know that we paid a rental of $100 a month, which was a lot of money. So, we too were looking for someone to rent the second room from us.
Sau Siah's house and our house were on the same level. After that you went down two steps and the next one was a kind of warehouse for Sime Darby. You went down another two steps and there was an outlet that made that dark, hard coconut sweet, that was cylindrical in shape and wrapped in colourful celophane paper. The last shop made and sold balloons. So there were only two real houses in that row.
Sau Sia and her brothers attended Foon Yew Chinese School. They wore white uniforms with silver buttons. Their mother, whose name we never found out, sold eggs in the main market. Her husband was a very skinny man and my mother called him Ellan, meaning skin and bones.
Every two weeks, on a dark night and on a full moon, they offered prayers and food to the dead and flowers too. When it was cake making time to offer to the departed, my hands would be there too, beating the eggs. We would sit and watch them. They would then place fruits and water on red altars.
My brother and I have sat by the roadside after dusk and watched as they placed the cakes by the roadside, lighted the joss sticks and burned paper houses and money for their ancestors. Somehow it made being dead a less lonely state. Although my parents allowed us to eat Chinese and Malay cakes, they never allowed us to eat any of the cooked food that was sent to us. Mother would receive the food with a smile and when no one was around, would pack it and dispose of it.