THE familiar aroma of idli, chutney and mutton curry filled the air of Ramesh Nadeson’s home and wafted beyond its four walls, bringing neighbours Alias Ismail and Low Yon Sang to his door.
Ramesh, 46, and his wife, Kanimoli Krishnamohan, 43, are used to having their neighbours over, after all it was a tradition they observed back at their previous abode at Jinjang Utara longhouse in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur.
The couple was relocated to the longhouse more than two decades ago as part of the Government’s squatter eradication policy in the early 1990s.
Last month, after 26 years of living in cramped quarters with very little amenities, they finally moved into PPR Seri Aman in Kepong, along with their neighbours such as Alias and Low.
A total of 770 families received keys to the PPR units, of whom more than 50 have moved in.
To celebrate the occasion, they decided to have a pre-Deepavali open house in their brand new 700sq ft unit.
“It is small, but it is ours,” Ramesh told StarMetro, which was invited to join in the celebration.
“This will be our first Deepavali in our new home and I want it to be special for the children, so I tapped into our savings to buy a few things for the house,” he said.
While most of their household items were from the longhouse, the family decided to splurge on new curtains and a home entertainment system.
“I wanted new curtains while my son Prabhu wanted the entertainment system.
“My daughter Uma Devi’s dream is to have Internet access, which we are still working at getting,” said Kanimoli.
Despite the limited space, Ramesh’s family has turned the unit into a cosy place and a few vibrant Deepavali decor items give their home a festive vibe.
A simple white kolam with two kuttu vilaku (brass oil lamps) greet guests at the door.
Their neighbour, M. Arumugam was seen helping them light the oil lamps.
On the door frame above, hung a blessed ash gourd or melon, which Hindus believe absorbs bad energy.
“Lamps are important for Deepavali,” explained Arumugam.
“Each house must have light,” he said, adding that one could use candles or colourful lights if they did not have oil lamps.
Arumugam said the light itself was significant because it symbolised good triumphing over evil, which was what Deepavali was about.
“For us, the victory here is finally having a roof over our heads, one we can call our own,” said Arumugam.
“Words cannot describe my happiness about this home,” Uma Devi said when asked how she felt about the new place.
“It is bright, private and the best thing is that there is water supply. The water pressure is strong, too!” gushed the 16-year-old.
“My elder sister Mageswary is now married and does not live with us anymore, so I get to have a room all to myself,” she added.
Each unit has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small area to dry clothes.
Devi Ayyavo, 48 and Tamilwani Selvaraj, 25, who also used to live at the longhouse, were equally thrilled about their new flat.
“We are beyond happy,” said Devi.
“There were snakes, uncollected rubbish and, most of the time, there was no water supply at the longhouse,” Tamilwani recounted.
Rani Muthiyah, 63, another former resident of Jinjang Utara longhouse, said she had often thought that the move into the new unit would never happen.
“You pray and pray for years, and when it finally happens, it feels like a dream,” she said.
For some families though, it is a dream that has yet to come true.
Single mothers Kamala Jeganathan, 62, and Murugamah Samy Kannu, 58, are still waiting to have a place of their own.
“I put in my application after my husband passed away, but it is still pending approval.
“I hope it will be approved soon as I have been living at the longhouse since 1992,” said Kamala.
“We hope that DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) will look into our applications as soon as possible because we are eligible,” Muragamah said.
In 1992, DBKL relocated more than 6,000 people from various squatter areas to Jinjang Utara longhouse.
There, they lived in 400sq ft units made from asbestos and zinc sheets, which was meant to be their home for only five years.
After over a quarter of a century, they are now the first group of squatters in Kuala Lumpur to get homes from the Government.
The PPR Seri Aman of 1,600 units, a project under the Housing and Local Government Ministry, was built at a cost of RM215mil.
One thousand units were allocated for eligible longhouse residents while the remaining 600 were reserved for deserving candidates from other areas.
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