I live in a gated community but no, it’s not one of those upscale neighbourhoods where houses cost close to or upwards of RM1 million. Mine is a regular housing area and the gated element is just simple metal bars that are manually controlled by guards whom every household in the neighbourhood pitched in to hire.

The guard house is more of a guard post, with just a few chairs and a fan. Yes, one of those that you see everywhere in the Klang Valley these days.

Whenever my Appa visits us, he would take a jibe at this security measure. Back in those days, he would say, the men took it into their own hands to keep the neighbourhood safe. He was referring to Rukun Tetangga, the community service programme that involved volunteers from each housing estate forming patrol units to walk the streets at night and look out for suspicious activities.

Appa was an active member for as long as I could remember.

He took great pride in it and on those nights when it was his turn to serve, he would have an early dinner followed by a nap – so that he would be fresh and alert when his shift began, at midnight. He would also take it upon himself to call and remind his fellow Rukun Tetangga friends who were on duty with him, usually Uncle Tan and his son.

I would be fast asleep by the time he left the house and still in dreamland when he returned, but the next day I would press him for details.

Did you catch any robbers, Appa? Were there any bad men last night?

Thankfully, we never encountered any untoward incidents throughout the years. Sure, one could argue that crime rates were lower back then but I like to think that it’s thanks to my Appa and the other men who kept the Rukun Tetangga going.

The Rukun Tetangga programme is still active in certain parts of the country. Are you a member of it, or any other neighbourhood programmes? Or do you remember your father being in it and what his experience was like?

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