TODAY, one of our former neighbours, Azida, will be tying the knot. Jida, as we call her, is the youngest among three siblings; the other two being Azlan and Azmer.
Their parents, Uncle Shah and Aunty Asmah, moved out about three or four years ago.
We had been neighbours since the early 1980s, short for a couple of years when they moved back to Ipoh.
As such, all five of them hold a special place in the hearts of my family and I. There are many reasons for this.
Back then, it was a different deal when you were neighbours.
We used to spend many hours talking to each other across the fence and exchanging news about the happenings in our lives. These days it’s merely a nod that’s being exchanged.
Our relationship with the Shaharuddin family was more than just being neighbours.
We would watch over each other’s house whenever the other family was away on vacation.
We had spare keys and so we would water the plants and for a brief period when we had pets, Azida and her siblings would help to feed them.
I have really fond memories of our days as neighbours.
I remember the times before cellphones when I would be trying to call home and the phone would either be engaged, or accidentally off the hook.
I just had to make a call to Azida and she would shout across the back fence to relay a message to my sisters (usually, “Get off the phone!”).
When I had an accident in the bathroom as a kid, which caused me to bleed profusely and required five stitches on my chin, it was Aunty Asmah and Uncle Shah who sent me to the clinic (even though the latter was squeamish about blood).
Of course, seeing that we were all about the same age, my best times were with the kids playing games.
All the neighbourhood children along the road would gather at our houses on weekend evenings and every day during school holidays for a game of badminton over our respective gates. Azmer and Azlan were particularly good at the sport.
Azida used to also come over very often to play - usually girly games like masak-masak or Barbie Dolls.
The funniest moments naturally came from our ingenuity.
Our parents used to ground us as a form of punishment and whenever that happened, we were not allowed to leave the house or have friends over (this happened very often, actually).
Of course we did not give up.
We would gather at our respective porches in front of our homes and play games through the fence.
We justified our actions by arguing with our parents that we were still within the house compound.
We would play numerous games - the congkak, batu seremban but it was Uno that created the most havoc.
Imagine this: up to four or five teenagers huddled together on different sides of the fence trying to play card games.
On rainy days, we’d place an umbrella to shield us.
However, as we grew older, we drifted apart and lost touch.
My sisters and I each left the country at some point to further our studies and Azmer didn’t return from the Britain where he went to continue his studies.
It’s a good thing that we have all these good memories.
It’s not so much about the things that we used to do together, and our individual stories that we were able to share.
I think the relationship the Pudina Cheongs had forged with the Shaharuddins’ reflected a time in my life when we weren’t so caught up with city life and our personal routines.
And if there was a truth in the saying that “There’s no place like home”, then I’d say that neighbours are pretty darn important, too.
Today, as we celebrate Jida’s wedding, I’m sure we would be thinking about those great moments we had, all the while thinking: “My, how much we’ve grown.”