Waller Court in Ipoh | Image credit: Mohd Jayzuan
Bodysurf Music at Waller Court in Ipoh | Image credit: Mohd Jayzuan

Ipoh holds a special place in the hearts of many people. With The Other Festival taking place in Ipoh this month, we asked some familiar personalities to share their memories of the city.

Hadi M Nor

Writer

When I was 16, I decided that in order to be cool in Ipoh, I had to be a rempit. So I got myself a bike, which was a standard black 125zR. This bike was every 16-year-old’s wet dream. But I didn’t modify it, because I didn’t want any problems from the authority. I hung out with the rempit crowd and learned to speak their language. This was not my best decision, but at least I now have many stories to share.

Mohd Jayzuan

Musician and founder of art collective Projek Rabak

Ipoh ada tempat paling istimewa di ruang hati aku paling dalam. Ia untouchable, terutama di satu kawasan ini; Wallercourt. Pekerja seks, bapuk pondan, gangster, pusher, orang mental, homeless, bohemian, working class people antara yang menghuni kawasan ini. Kuala Lumpur ada Chow Kitt, Ipoh ada Wallercourt.

Di gritty Wallercourt juga wujudnya Bodysurf Music, label muzik alternatif yang tertubuh sejak 1997 lagi!

Masa remaja aku banyak dihabiskan di situ, Bodysurf adalah rumah nombor dua. Di situ aku jatuh cinta dengan rock n’ roll dan ‘graduate’ dalam bidang art. Aku boleh ingat lagi bangunan-bangunan buruk di sekitarnya, jalanraya hectic dan waktu malam yang dark kerana ia adalah kawasan ‘ghetto’. Dan masih, aku jatuh cinta dengan Wallercourt untuk entah buat ke berapa kali.

Tanpa Wallercourt, I am nothing dan kerana Ipoh aku bloom.

 

Kuala Lumpur has Chow Kit; Ipoh has Wallercourt.

 

Ipoh has a special place in my heart. It’s untouchable, especially at this one spot called Wallercourt. Sex workers, the LGBT community, gangsters, pushers, persons with mental illness, the homeless and the working class were among the people who lived in this area. Kuala Lumpur has Chow Kit; Ipoh has Wallercourt.

Gritty Wallercourt also held Bodysurf Music, an alternative music label established since 1997. Much of my teenage years were spent there and Bodysurf was my second home. It was where I fell in love with rock n’ roll and ‘graduated’ in the arts scene. I still remember the buildings around it, the hectic roads and dark nights as this was a ‘ghetto’ area. And still, I fell in love with Wallercourt for what seemed like the millionth time.

Without Wallercourt, I am nothing and because of Ipoh, I bloomed.

Lainie Yeoh

Curator of The Other Festival

When I was a child, my family relocated to Bercham, which seemed like the end of Ipoh at the time. Growing up, it felt like only bumpy dust roads led to the taman I stayed in. It was great for me. I frequently explored the neighbourhood alongside other children who lived nearby. We mostly improvised our own games. For example, a cowherd would bring cattle to the field behind my house, leaving many cow patties along our road — we would race amongst them to the end of the street. The state you arrived in at the finishing line was up to you (and how much you want to win). I still find it easy until this day to entertain myself — I don’t have much time or opportunity for boredom. Also, I take my desire for victory with a pinch of salt. Bercham was good for that.

Mano Maniam

Actor and writer

I was born soon after the Japanese Occupation and raised the first 11 years of my life on Lahat Road in Ipoh. My grandfather, a goldsmith, had his shop downstairs, sharing the other half of the space with an Indian barber and a Pakistani tailor, all existing cheek-by-jowl at the retail end of the shop floor. No modern compartments or screens divided the businesses, all co-existed seamlessly in a babel of Indian patois by varying numbers of men, with the ubiquitous Tamil channel from Radio Malaya forever on the “ON” mode.

Goldsmiths would sit cross-legged aside an 18-inch high small table which served as the workplace, replete with all the goldsmith’s tools – a block of wood about two feet wide and eight to ten inches high with a square metal anvil embedded in it on which various sized hammers would pound the gold into desired shapes and designs; there were saws, chamois, short metal blow-pipes to keep the fire glowing in rice-husked ceramic pots, crucial for melting and moulding the gold to jewellery which will adorn Indian ladies literally from various parts of head to toe. Men wear gold too, on their fingers, necks, some on their toes, and, least known, some wore gold chains around their waists as well!

Grandfather and his clutch of workers, all imported from India, would never see an idle day. There was always some function in every Indian community the whole year round which will involve gold ornaments for the body, or for the various deities the Hindu faithful pray to daily, at home and in the temples.

 

It always amazed me that nothing was ever written down; the word of mouth was as good as any written guarantee.

 

Right in front of the shop was a locked glass showcase displaying the various types of patterns, designs and examples the artisans were capable of creating, and potential customers would make their orders based on these. Orders are made, some via book catalogues, some from the displays, and some from model pieces the customers bring.  Prices are haggled and agreed, dates set, down-payments made and the work gets going. Almost always, the dates were noted on a much-abused monthly calendar hanging pathetically on a wall.

It always amazed me that nothing was ever written down; the word of mouth was as good as any written guarantee. Things did sometimes go awry, like deadlines being missed, or designs becoming modified, or buyers overestimating their ability to make full payment for completed items. But they somehow got solved without anyone suing anyone else. Trust, acceptance, and professional and artistic pride were the cornerstones among the customers and goldsmiths. There were the few who were not so trustworthy, even criminal, but they were always effectively dealt with by the goldsmith clan, and the offenders would never get a second chance in any other establishment; such was the order of those days.

I lament over the evaporation of the degree of trust and honour and pride in the professions of those days. I miss my grandfather on whose lap I sat as a little child as he sat cross legged by the five-foot way, doing his goldsmithing, the last of the doyens of Lahat Road, Thiru Muniyandy Pather.

Do you have distinct memories or special places close to your heart in Ipoh? What are your stories?

Justine Tan

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Left to right: David and Yusep. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Lion.