Hujan Datang, Kambing Lari

18 09 2009

The rain brings a freshness to the day, a welcome relief to the sweltering heat of tropical Singapore. As a child I imagined the trees dancing in glee and laughing as the rain fell. As a child I also enjoyed playing in the rain, splashing through puddles of water, often arriving home drenched, my white school shoes soaked brown with muddy water, much to the consternation of my mother and my grandmother.

A rhyme my granmother would recite each time it rained rings through my head with the rain – it starts with the line “Hujan datang, kambing lari”, which translates to “(as) the rain comes, the goat runs (away)”. Besides this I remember the shouts of “hor lai lor” or “rain is coming” in Hokkien, puncturing the air, followed by the commotion of the neighbours’ scampering to bring their laundry in and the shutting of windows. Often with the wind, you would also hear the sound of doors slamming shut.

The Rain

The Rain

Flooding was a common occurance in Singapore then. The vantage point offered by the flat in which I lived in provided views of the flooding of the low lying areas around Toa Payoh, especially by the banks of the Kallang River which ran through Potong Pasir, a farming area adjoining Toa Payoh. There was one occasion when there was massive flooding and from the flat, we could only see the roofs of the houses in Potong Pasir,and through the binoculars, pink carcasses of pigs floating amidst the debris.

I have on several occasions, been caught in a flood, as well. I attended a kindergarten in a low area along the banks of the Rochor canal along Kampong Java Road. I remember my father having to wade waist deep in the flood waters as he ferried me to the car, when he picked me up from the kindergarten on one occasion. Drainage in Singapore has certainly improved tremendously over the three decades that followed and flooding isn’t as common as it was back then.

The rain also provided me with some frightening moments, with lightning having struck an area of the sea where some of my friends and I were playing in moments before. When I was in Secondary 2, I had a lucky escape in the rain at the junction of Waterloo Street and Bras Basah Roads. It was one of those days when I had technical classes at the McNair Road Technical Institute and having had lunch at the Waterloo Street sarabat stalls in between technical classes in the morning and regular classes at school in the afternoon, I was making my way back to school when the heavy downpour had eased somewhat. With the light at the pedestrian crossing on Waterloo Street at its junction with Bras Basah Road in my favour, I had started to dash across from the sheltered five foot way of the shophouses to get across to the other side of the road where school was, when at the corner of my eye, I saw a car turning left from Bras Basah Road. I tried to stop, but too late, my momentum had already taken me onto the crossing, and before I could blink my eye, I was staring at up at the bumper of the car! I had slipped as the braking car was about to hit me and somehow, I had landed on the road partially underneath the car without any part of the car touching me. The driver rushed out to check on me, and I remember telling him that I was okay. He did offer to bring me to the hospital to check that all was well, but other than the shock of realising what had happened and a wet and dirty school uniform, I was indeed alright!




4 responses

14 05 2010
Philip Chew

Hujan Datang, Kambing Lari is not complete. I believe you know the next verse (W….. Datang, K….. M…) but did not want to offend others. Potong Pasir had a few hyacinth ponds with profuse mosquito breedings. I remember walking from Potong Pasir to Braddel Road passing some vegetable farms. There was also a cattle shed.

15 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

There were a couple of versions I heard, Philip, one which contained the verse that you referred to, which I remembered better. My grandmother had another version – but I just can’t remember how it went. The impressions I have most of Potong Pasir are the plots of vegetable farms which could be seen from Bradell Road, and seeing the farmers balancing watering can like containers on the ends of a stick balanced over their shoulders, watering / fertilizing the plots of vegetables.

5 10 2010
Josephine Chia

Hello! I was googling for actual dates of the flood in Potong Pasir when I came across your site. Well done! Very informative. Thought you might like to know that I was born and raised in Kampong Potong Pasir so I experienced the floods there first-hand. I wrote it in my book, Frog Under A Coconut Shell, (non-fiction) the second edition was released in January 2010 by Marshall Cavendish. I also gave a talk at the national Library about Kampong Potong Pasir when I visited Singapore in June. I am now living in West Sussex, England.
Best wishes,
(Josephine Chia)

5 10 2010
The wondering wanderer

Hi Phine, thanks for the kind feedback! 😀 Nice to know that you were from Potong Pasir! Waht were your impressions being caught up in the floods? Must have been terrifying! I have a look around for the book you wrote – would be nice to read your account of it! A good resource for finding dates of events is the online newspaper archives that the National Library maintains: Nice part of the world that you are living in now! Best regards, Jerome.

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