THE article on Jalan Masjid India in the New Sunday Times on July 20 brought back wonderful memories of the 1950s and the 1960s. I happen to live in Batu Road behind one of the shophouses opposite Coliseum Theatre. Our backdoor opened up to Batu Lane, or Belakang Mati, as it was known then.
There were no Selangor Mansions, or Malayan Mansions. After 7pm, the area was dim. In the mornings, there used to be a wet market where those residing in the street would do their marketing. I still remember that for five cents, one could buy vegetables. There was a coffeeshop with a juke box blaring away Hindi songs. One could slot in 10 cents to select a song.
Batu Road, or now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was a two-way street in the 1950s. Christmas was celebrated on a grand scale with the Mat Salleh, especially sailors, walking drunk and singing away.
At times, they may become rowdy and smash up the crockery and glassware in shops. Fights also took place but all these were taken in stride and did not escalate.
Batu Road or, now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was a happening place in the 1950s and 1960s.
There were about four cinemas in the area — Coliseum and Odeon (which exist till today), Hindustan theatre in Jalan Campbell and not forgetting BB Park, where the Rialto Cinema is located as well as the venue for the famous Rose Chan performances. One could see her shows for only RM5.
Being a teenager, I could not afford this amount. So, the best way was to sneak in under the tent from behind the stands for a free show!
BB Park was also the place for the famous Ronggeng dance where kebayagirls would sit on chairs and anyone wishing to dance could do so (without touching one another) for 50 cents. It was fun, especially as those on the floor were mostly oldies reliving their younger days.
The famous businesses in Batu Road were Globe Silk Store, P’Lal Store, M.K. Doshi’s, Sharafali’s, Motilal Store, P. Pasram’s, Jubilee Book Store & Azmi Restaurant, Crown Aluminium Mart, B’Deen’s, Jiwan Singh Juneja, Jaswant Singh & Sons, Kesarmal Ramlal’s, Makhanlal’s, T. Kaderbhoy’s and Oasis Bar.
Further up was the famous Style Mart, behind which were the Suleiman Court Flats. The China Insurance Building at the corner housed Kashmir Arts as the tenant. Along Mountbatten Road (now Jalan Tun Perak), was Robinson’s & Ubaidullah’s, which were household names.
Malay Street, which is now Jalan Melayu, housed the famous Pahang Khalsa Store, Harbhajan Singh’s, Jai Hind Restaurant, Ceylon Restaurant and a row of shops selling batik and kain pelikat. Opposite Malay Street, across Batu Road, was the lane leading to Gombak Lane, which housed the Lakshmi Narayan Temple as well as the Sikh Temple.
The Selangor Club padang, now known as Dataran Merdeka, hosted games where world-class cricketers, such as Rohan Kanhai, Welsey Hall and Kallicharan, thrilled the crowd by pitting themselves against our own greats like the Shepherdson Brothers, Alex Delikan and Gurucharan Singh. The club was then for the British until it was opened up to others later.
Those were the good old days when there was hardly any crime and no such thing as being identified as a Chinese, Malay or Indian.
Everyone accepted each other as his own with open hearts. Tarun Sheth, Kuala Lumpur. NST Letters 3 August 2014