i've not been to JB, where i was born & bred, for over 3 years since the old man passed on. so, it was a homecoming of sorts when i met up with my remaining relatives & friends this lunar new year.
catching up gave me a glimpse of my past again - rediscovering my roots & experiencing a sense of deja vu. it was all too familiar, this JB town - the dirty streets, the crowded food courts, the recognisable faces. & yet JB the city felt strangely foreign - flyovers appeared where there once was only roads congested with traffic, residential areas that were previously considered "ulu" are now townships in their own right.
this trip also provided the opportunity to speak my native teochew again - words, sentences & their intonation that were kept in the back-burner all these years jumped to the fore. but alas, they sounded foreign to my kids & for that, i take responsibility for not passing down the clan's legacy. i consoled myself that millions now speak mandarin instead of dialects.
i foresee that these trips to JB would be less frequent in the future. once the old guard fades away, there's no reason for their kids who now have their own families & who do not reside in JB, like me, to return to their place of birth.
JB would be like ground zero. a happy place once alive with people i know & loved, but soon to exist only in distant memories. i felt a sense of belonging & yet the detachment from the images that i know & remember so well is obvious.
i smiled knowingly, chuckled to myself at people & events past, & then move on.
**my profile picture was taken at my great-grandma's attap home in jalan ngee heng, right where danga city mall now stands**