Memories of the past pervade many in my generation frequently. 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 served as British Resident of Perak and later, chief secretary of the government of the Federated Malay States from 1930 till his death in 1932.
Imbued with a sense of nostalgia and wanting to rekindle memories, I took the light rail transit from Bangsar to Pasar Seni, and then changed over to the mass rapid transit. Four stops later, I disembarked at Cochrane station.
Walking towards the Shelly Road exit, I was glad to see two familiar landmarks right in front of me: True Jesus Church and the St John’s Ambulance building. I was delighted to see both places remaining at the same spots as before: they had withstood the rapid pace of development around the Cochrane area.
Taking a right turn and strolling a few hundred metres, I spotted Queen’s Hotel at the intersection of Shelly Road and Peel Road. The place may be the same, but the retail outlets have changed owners.
Turning left, I ambled along Peel Road and passed another familiar sight: the Sacred Heart Church – a Catholic church which caters to the spiritual needs of the faithful in the Cochrane and Cheras areas. I noticed a new building next to the church, which serves as a space for other church activities, besides masses.
A few hundred metres later, I reached the Cheras Police station and once again turned left. Wandering along this road, I felt deeply disturbed to see another school at the same spot where my alma mater, La Salle Peel Road, once stood. How they could destroy a 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 jaunt along Cochrane Road, which is beyond recognition today compared to the 1960s.
No more government quarters – in their place, shopping complexes have sprouted.
Back then, the Cochrane area was an enclave of government quarters, where civil servants lived. We were a close-knit community with simple lifestyles who looked out for one another. Materialism did not define our relationships; kindness, compassion, humanity and sincerity did – rare virtues in society these days. In some residential areas today, neighbours don’t even know their neighbours, let alone acknowledge them.
In those days, many huge rain trees graced Cochrane and its vicinity, nestled in greenery.
Children of all races used to play football, hockey and sepak takraw together in the padang (fields). They would also fly kites, spin tops, play marbles and even catch spiders. Many of these hobbies might be alien to children these days.
Hawkers plied their trade, selling a variety of foodstuffs; the milkman promptly delivered fresh milk daily; and school security guards constantly looked out for our safety.
Upon reaching the intersection of Cochrane Road and the former Circular Road (now Jalan Pekeliling), I turned left and strolled past another landmark, which is still around: a noted Buddhist temple, Wat Buddha Jayanti.
I vividly remember this temple being gaily decorated, especially during the Wesak celebrations, and I used to watch in admiration the splendour of this festival.
As I turned into Peel Road, I passed by another historical site: Convent Peel Road. I could not help noticing a meaningful slogan inscribed: “Reach Higher, See Further and Shine Brighter”. Spontaneously, I thought this should be the slogan for our politicians today.
What a whale of a time we had then, and how much fun we had when we were growing up in the 60s. I don’t think children these days have as much merriment as we had then. Sadly, this carefree era has been lost in history. If I had a magic wand, I would turn the clock back to the 60s!
The Cochrane residential areas were then truly an epitome of ‘1Malaysia’: Malaysians of all ethnic groups and religions lived there in peace and harmony, respecting each other’s cultures and religions. There was no need for any sloganeering in the 60s, as race and religion were never an issue.
Each time I reflect on the 60s, I feel deeply dismayed, especially when I see the racial polarisation prevailing at all levels in our country today. Regrettably, there is no sign of any action taken to reverse this trend among the younger generation so that we can relive the glorious era of the 60s.