Mo Gi Paser

Bert Tan

Orang Kubu
Bert Tan, 52

Conversation on
22 August 2020
at Taman Rumpun Bahagia

It was in the early 1970s, another trip to the dreadful, smelly and wet market. Walking past the fire station, Mummy held my little hand tight as we crossed through Pay Teck School. Passing the grand old Kampung Hulu  Mosque we walked straight to Kampung Hulu bridge that connects Kampung Hulu to the market. The bridge was made of steel but the flooring was of wood with lots of gaps in between, Many children cried refusing to walk over the gaps, I on the other hand enjoyed the bridge walk, with tongkangs passing below us, a half naked man bathing on a tongkang as it manoeuvred its way on the water. From the bridge, I could see everything in the boat below: fishing nets, old tyres, boxes of ice and more ice, blue flags waving on top of the boats: I could almost touch them, from my position. After passing the bridge the grand old market loomed in sight, it had a huge entrance. By this time the stench began to appear, the noise of chickens and other creatures, old people sitting at the coffee shop opposite the market, boys slightly older than me pushing carts with goods, cigarettes in their mouths. 

Entering the market was the most harrowing and disgusting experience for a six year old boy. I wished my feet were covered so the blackish smelly wet floor wouldn’t wet them, I could see small drains passing through the market floor, bibik! enchim! nyonya! makcik! kakak! akka! achi! sister! and aunties! could be heard from the fishmongers and vegetable sellers yelling and laughing loudly. Stacks upon stacks of mountainous vegetables, green and yellow and red, cendawan getah on the side, tomatoes, brinjals, ladies’ fingers in large baskets. Ladies bargained to the lowest, fishmongers and meat sellers would negotiate. 

On the other side of the market facing Kee Ann Road, posters of cow heads were pasted all over the walls, this part of the market much cleaner and drier.