I remember that I used to enjoy going to visit my friends living in the kampong located behind our house in Penang. It was a mixed race kampong. We were living in the government bungalows at Lahad Road; our house help, the trishaw pakcik and others were from that kampong.
All the bungalows in the area including the low rise apartments had no fencing. Similarly, the houses in the kampong too did not have any fencing. Most of the time, the doors to our house, as well as to the other houses both the bungalows and those in the kampong were left open. Perhaps this is what Open House really means.
Everything was peaceful; very few cases of housebreaking and theft. As children, we were running in and out of each others homes. We enjoyed our childhood. We were blessed with the life and soul of community living.
I recall how when my friends went through their passage to adulthood ceremony; the circumcision, the other boys were there to lend our moral support. When they had their religious classes, we were hanging around outside waiting for them to finish so we can go back to being the police or thief.
Today, we still have this kampong, community living atmosphere in the cities. We call them apartments or condominiums. The compound are fenced-up with private security guards on duty. Despite the fencing and guards, most of our doors are kept tightly shut with perhaps two or three sets of high quality locks and latches!
We call this progress and development but in truth we are losing our freedom, we are caging ourselves. Our confined space than contributes towards increasing our stress levels and blood pressure. We hardly know our neighbours; and when we do meet them it is just that pretentious smile and a quick hi-bye routine.
Lets ask ourselves; if you are out and something is being delivered to your home, do you have your neighbours telephone number? Can you call him/her to accept the item on your behalf first? Oh, by the way, do you even know who your neighbour is? Sad isn’t it?
I have been going round many apartments and condominiums meeting owners and residents to share information about the formation on the Joint Management Body to manage these properties. I always have the same feeling in these places be it a middle cost apartment or in a high end condominium.
I always get the feeling that many residents are suspicious of each other. Many residents know the face but do not really recall their neighbours name. Infact, if they bump into each other on the streets, they may not acknowledge each other.
Where is that community spirit – that good old kampong, all neighbours are my family feel? I say the fault lies within each and everyone of us. Lets get out of our shell; bring back that glorious good old days of true My Community, My Family. RUKUN TETANGA, Semangat Muhibbah!