Memories of the past frequently permeate many members of my generation.
Life itself has undergone a complete transformation since the 1960s, when I was growing up in one of Kuala Lumpur’s well-known suburbs, Cochrane Road.
Then a green belt, Cochrane Road was named after Charles Walter Hamilton Cochrane, who was British resident of Perak and later Chief Secretary to the Government of the Federated Malay States from 1930 until his death in 1932.
Filled with a sense of nostalgia and wanting to rekindle memories, I took the light rail from Bangsar to Pasar Seni and then changed to rapid transit. Four stops later, I disembarked at Cochrane station.
As I walked out of Shelly Road, I was happy to see two familiar landmarks right in front of me: the True Jesus Church and the St. John Ambulance building. I was pleased to see both places remain in the same places as before: they had withstood the rapid pace of development around the Cochrane area.
Turning right and walking a few hundred yards, I spotted the Queen’s Hotel at the intersection of Shelly Road and Peel Road. The location may be the same, but the outlets have changed owners.
Turning left, I walked along Peel Road and came across another familiar site: Sacred Heart Church – a Catholic church serving the spiritual needs of worshipers in the Cochrane and Cheras areas. I noticed a new building next to the church, which serves as a space for other church activities, in addition to masses.
I kept walking a few hundred meters until I reached the Cheras police station and turned left again. Driving this road, I felt deeply disturbed to see another school in the same location where my alma mater once stood, La Salle Peel Road. How they could destroy part of the history of a La Salle school in Kuala Lumpur was beyond my comprehension. Mission schools like La Salle Peel Road have assumed a pivotal role in providing quality education to Malaysians of all races and religions.
I continued my walk along Cochrane Road, which is unrecognizable today compared to the 1960s.
More government quarters – in their place commercial complexes sprouted.
At the time, the Cochrane area was an enclave of government quarters, where civil servants lived. We were a tight-knit community with simple lifestyles that looked out for each other. Materialism has not defined our relationships; kindness, compassion, humanity and sincerity did – rare virtues in today’s society. In some residential areas today, neighbors don’t even know their neighbors, let alone recognize them.
At the time, many giant rain trees adorned Cochrane and its surroundings, nestled in the greenery. Children of all races played football, hockey and sepak takraw together in the padang (fields). They also flew kites, spun tops, played marbles and even caught spiders. Many of these hobbies might be foreign to kids these days.
Hawkers plied their trade, selling a variety of foodstuffs; the milkman promptly delivered fresh milk every day; and the school security guards constantly watched over our safety.
Upon reaching the intersection of Cochrane Road and the old Circular Road (now Jalan Pekeliling), I turned left and passed another landmark, which is still there: a famous Buddhist temple, Wat Buddha Jayanti.
I remember very well this cheerfully decorated temple, especially during the Wesak festivals, and I watched with admiration the splendor of this festival.
Turning into Peel Road, I passed another historic site: Convent Peel Road. I couldn’t help but notice a meaningful slogan inscribed: “Reach Higher, See Further and Shine Brighter”. Spontaneously, I thought that should be the slogan of our politicians today.
What a whale of a time we had then, and how much fun we had growing up in the 60s. I don’t think kids these days have as much joy as we did then. Sadly, that carefree time has been lost to history. If I had a magic wand, I’d take the clock back to the 60s!
The residential areas of Cochrane were then truly the embodiment of “1Malaysia”: Malaysians of all ethnicities and religions lived there in peace and harmony, respecting each other’s cultures and religions. There was no need for slogans in the 60s because race and religion were never an issue.
Whenever I think back to the 1960s, I feel deeply dismayed, especially when I see the racial polarization that is prevalent at every level in our country today. Unfortunately, there are no signs of action being taken to reverse this trend among the younger generation so that we can relive the glorious era of the 60s.