The way things were


IT WAS past two in the morning when we stumbled down from my local watering hole, The Attic, after a few drinks. Some of us were hungry so my friend Siti suggested the famous Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng in Bangsar Baru.

We all knew which stall she was talking about, but I clarified anyway, asking her if it was the one at Jolly Green Giant. She looked blank but our friend, Tony, exclaimed, “You also know it as Jolly Green Giant!”

Jolly Green Giant, for those of you who don’t know, is the medan selera (food court) of sorts currently located next to Bangsar Village II. I don’t remember ever seeing a sign, so I’m not sure where the name came from but this was about 15 years ago I think when they first built it and moved all the hawkers scattered around Bangsar Baru into the building. I suspect the name came from its green roof back then.

When Tony reacted, I got excited as well. These days, few people know it as Jolly Green. I wouldn’t refer to it any other way, but I can’t blame everyone else for not knowing it either. After all, things change so fast in a city, and its hard enough keeping up with the present, let alone cling on to the past.

That has always been my problem though. Dad often reminds me (scoff, would be a better term actually) about how nostalgic I can get, short of referring to it as an annoying trait. I am frequently told that because of my penchant for walking down memory lane, I come across as two things: A) an old soul in a young-ish person’s body and B) annoyingly pretending to be old when I’m really not.

My argument has always been that if we don’t remind ourselves about the little things in our past, we would probably forget it eventually. These days, I drive around KL and PJ easily because I have lived here all my life. Yet, I find it hard to remember how certain roads and areas looked like before they were upgraded into highways, or before that new building came up from nowhere.

What was Bangsar Baru like before the shopping centres were built, and how did the houses along Jalan Maarof look before they were converted into shops? Was there a road where the LDP is now located, and was the area just empty land before The Curve, Ikana Power Centre and Ikea was built in Mutiara Damansara? I can’t remember too well.

I still remember once, in the late ‘80s I think, when there was a massive laser show happening and we all drove up to Jalan Ara and sat on a cliff of sorts overlooking the houses in Taman Bandaraya for a good view. Today (and probably since 15 years ago), huge houses lay where we sat as a family watching the laser beams shoot into the sky. I have memories of the event, but I barely remember how the spot looked like.

On the way to work (and back), I drive past Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC) – currently undergoing a major transformation – and am reminded about how little I, well, remember of its past.

I keep trying to recall how the old wing looked like before the construction happened. This is considering the fact that I live just down the street from it, and was playing around the construction site when the original wing was being built (never mind the dangers of cycling and skating in a construction site).

Some may think that I am simply hanging on to trivial things, but all these (and so much more) were such a major part of my life that it is sad to have so little memories of them.

The scary thing is that I am feeling this way in my late 20s. Imagine what would have changed by then and how much more difficult it would be to remember in the next decade or two as I grow older.

I don’t know if many people feel the same way I do but I believe that I am not alone.

In fact, it’s not just KL that is changing so fast — it is the same everywhere around the world.

Many people find different ways of immortalising the past and one of them, I have encountered, comes in the form of photo-blogs dedicated to taking pictures of a locality around the world daily.

Until recently, my friend Edwin was taking pictures for his photo blog Kuala Lumpur Daily Photo (http://kualalumpurdailyphoto.blogspot.com/) and another friend Jerome is still actively uploading pictures of Hanoi (http://www.hanoidailyphoto.com/).

It’s too late now to capture how the old BSC looks like, but I’m already thinking of taking a walk up there now to snap a picture in case they decide to change its look again in a few years, or worse, tear it down.

Perhaps this is the solution to my concern. Hmmm … I wonder if I should start carrying my camera everywhere I go.

> Niki Cheong blogs at www.nikicheong.com/blog and Twitters at http://www.twitter.com/nikicheong/

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