cheah

I was born and raised in the riverine town of Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan) in Perak. There were several jetties where boats that ferried goods and people from the riverine villages would dock. Traffic on the waters was especially busy during the fruiting seasons, and the jetty nearest to town and the market would be a hive of activities.

Boats, either motorised or rowed in, would jostle and scrape against each other in their haste to get their goods on land and onto waiting carts or lorries, which would already be waiting before dawn.  Rolling waves splashed and crashed against the boats while boatmen and farmers created a din with their frantic shouts and hand gestures. The town would awake from its slumber, to a life it knew best – as a centre to distribute agricultural produce and seafood to a fast-growing populace, and also to the nearby provinces.

The unloading had to be done quickly as the tides ebb fast and boats might be left stranded in the mud if they don’t clear off in time. To hasten the process, we children were often roped in as extra help. There were no questions or objections about being forced or child labour as we were only too happy to do it. We were paid in kind, usually a couple of durians to share among us.

The real fun was in running alongside the laden carts as they made their way to the market. During the journey, fruits occasionally fall off the rattan baskets and onto the roads. The bosses, in their rush to get to the market, would not bother to stop and pick them up. Instead, they simply waved us on as we collected those unexpected bounty. It was always a case of finders’ keepers’ and that was the best part of the experience for us.

Among the coveted fruits of that time were green oranges – Teluk Anson was famous for this succulent citrus, which tasted better than the imported Mandarin oranges we eat during Chinese New Year these days. But alas, circa 1957, the orange plantations were destroyed by an unknown disease and the plants were never revived. Till today, botanists are baffled as to what cause the total wipe-out.

That was nearly six decades ago but it’s a story that needs to be told. Today’s Teluk Intan may be best known for its chee cheong fun but back then, it was the green oranges that everyone heaped praises on. – By Cheah Kok Yoon

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