Sunday, 27 May 2012

Tok Chu

I spent the entire day today outside the house. I met with Tok Chu (husband & wife), the parents of Prof. Ahmad Murad Merican. This was the first time we met.  We met at his residence in Ayer Itam, and I interviewed both of them. Tok Chu knows a lot about Penang history. He can remember street names, people and events.


25 May 2012 - I left a note in the Facebook account of Datuk Jenaton group. 

26 May 2012 - I received a hp# of a lady (Kak Yang Kalsom).

26 May 2012 - My husband Affandi called Kak Yang Kalsom as I had the pictures to edit and upload. She SMS and informed of Tok Chu, who would have the key to Datuk Jenaton's graveyard in Minden Heights. Since it was about 1 am, I didn't call the # provided. It was a good thing I did not call.

27 May 2012 - Affandi called Tok Chu and asked about the key to the graveyard. Tok Chu said to come and see him. We went over to Tok Chu's house in Ayer Itam. Earlier after breakfast I checked Google Map for directions to his residence. The landmarks he gave were Kuil India and Kg Melayu. 



Tok Chu lives in Ayer Itam in Penang.

We decided to go down Jalan Masjid Negeri (old street name, Green Lane). We passed by Jalan Thean Teik - a narrow congested road, and the BHP petrol station on the left. We passed by Jalan Satu on the left. We passed by the Indian temple  on the right (Affandi recognised the temple first) - I took some photos of the temple. Then we reached the turn-off for Jalan Dua and finally Jalan Kg Melayu on the left. 


We followed Jalan Kg Melayu to Jalan Ayer Itam and got lost. We U-turned at the school and went back on Jalan Ayer Itam till we reached Jalan Pisang Embun. All the roads here were named after bananas. We turned right into Jalan Pisang Embun and went right till the end. Tok Chu's house is on the right, at the end of the row.

When we arrived, Tok Chu was outside sweeping his porch. We parked in the street (turn right) after his house. Tok Chu met us at his front gate and was happy to see us. He's 83 and still strong. He called out to his wife (also called Tok Chu) and she came to greet us at the door. Tok Chu invited us in and we went inside. 

We started with introducing ourselves. I said I am looking for the key to Datuk Jenaton's graveyard and that we had been there yesterday. I introduced myself as the 10th generation of Muhammad Saleh of West Sumatra (who was well-known as Nakhoda). I also introduced myself as a granddaughter of Dr Che Lah. Once Tok Chu knew where I stand, it was easier to talk as relatives, rather than interviewer-interviewee.


Tok Chu is Mohd Noor Merican  bin Ahmad Merican bin Osman Merican. He was born on 13 June 1929 in Penang and grew up in a big bungalow, now lies empty beside the Chinese girls' school in Jalan Dato Keramat. His mother was Zaleha bt Haji Yasin.

Tok Chu worked as an apprentice surveyor in Sungai Petani. He resigned after working less than a year, for some reason he explained but which I couldn't understand. He then returned to Penang and was with the City Council of Georgetown for 25 years, then with LLN and later TNB. He's retired 25 years ago in 1984.


Tok Chu's father-in-law was Haji Yasin, who was in charge of Masjid Titi Papan in Georgetown. Masjid Titi Papan is named as such because long ago the parit (drain) was large enough for sampan and tongkang to enter right up to the mosque. A wooden plank was used, and thus the mosque was named after the plank.

Haji Yasin was a goldsmith from Medan in Sumatra. His workplace was at Kinta Lane and later in Burma Road. According to Tok Chu's wife, last time there was no lock and key to keep the gold and gold ornaments safe at home. Haji Yasin had to hide his gold ornaments, stuffing them in between anything - books, clothes, etc. That worked fine.

Tok Chu showed us the Silsilah sheet for Datuk Jenaton and other ascendants. From what I understand Haji Muhammad Saleh (Nakhoda) had 4 siblings - an elder brother, himself, a younger brother and a youngest and only sister. Datuk Jenaton married the youngest and only sister of Muhammad Saleh. Thus, they became related by way of marriage. They were also blood relatives even before marriage as their ancestor cousins married in Sumatra. Datuk Jenaton was the younger brother-in-law of Nakhoda.



Tok Chu said long ago, Burma Road was a Malay place with many Malay families. Sir KM Ariff's house was opposite the Telekoms (I have not seen this location).



The Chowrasta School moved at least 2 places - Transfer Road and Jalan Hatin.

JALAN HATIN (old street name was Hutton Road)

The present Chowrasta School is at Jalan Hatin.


Tok Chu knew Dr Che Lah bin Md Joonos.


Tok Chu's wife said a lot of Arabs reside in Batu Uban and their graves are at the cemetery attached to Masjid Batu Uban. There are also a large number of them in Jalan Kelawei (Kampung Syed).

Tok Chu also knew Aziz Yamani (my paternal granduncle) who was popularly known as Abdul Aziz Al-Yamani. Aziz was an anglophile. He was of short stature and wore shorts and shirt with short sleeves. He did not come from Yemen (Yaman) but from Malacca. Aziz Yamani had a garage at the corner of Anson Road and Dato' Keramat Road. The British gave him the European car business. (I remember being at his garage in the early 1960s.) They also gave him a double-storey bungalow behind Masjid Jalan Hatin - the bungalow still stands today - it is a bright yellow building (photographed 9 Oct 2011 and 27 May 2012). According to Tok Chu, the house is before '7 hotel'. Aziz Yamani married Nenek Jepun. The mother and child (Mazalifah) often returned to Tokyo.

Front gate of Ami Aziz's residence. His house is the yellow bungalow behind the mosque
(at far left, and partly hidden by the mosque in this pic).


Eastern Smelting was initially at ______________? It is now just flats.

See updates on 22 August 2013.


Tok Chu's wife is Hendon bt Ahmad bin Abdullah. She was born on 2 August 1932. She has 5 elder brothers - Zainol Abidin, Zainudin, Mohamad Tahir, Ibrahim and Abdul Halim. Hendon is descended from Datuk Jenaton.

The Founding of Penang

Who found Penang? Francis Light or someone else?

It was not Francis Light. He did not come here first. He obtained Penang illegally and without papers from the Sultan of Kedah. The Portuguese got here first, at Batu Feringghi (Portuguese Stone). The Dutch didn't set foot here and there is nothing Dutch on the island. The first Muslim to arrive here was Nakhoda and his brother/pal, Datuk Jenaton. Nakhoda (or his real name Muhammad Saleh) built a prayer place, now the mosque, at Batu Uban, called Masjid Batu Uban. He was Khatib Muhammad Saleh. 

The Sultan of Kedah had sought help from Datuk Jenaton from attack by Siam. Datuk Jenaton defeated the Siamese attack. The Sultan of Kedah rewarded him with a large land acreage on Penang island, the entire area today called Minden Heights plus Universiti Sains Malaysia plus Batu Uban, right down to the sea.

The problem now is some people (developers) want to demolish Masjid Batu Uban. Why do they want to destroy our heritage? Don't they know Penang history? Don't they know that Masjid Batu Uban is a tourism spot and under Malaysia Tourism? Don't they know this mosque is 278 years old in 2012? It has a village, Kampung Batu Uban, where a lot of Malays reside - including my uncle, Pak Cik Syed Ahmad bin Syed Sahil Jamalullail.

I think we are at a crossroad now, where we need to sit and re-think about what is becoming of our madness for wealth creation and wealth accumulation. We destroy everything beautiful in our state (Penang) and in our country (Malaysia) and we do this because we see a lot of money coming into our big ever-hungry pockets. Because greed overtakes us, we are blind and tend to take risky roads to any decision, make ruthless decisions, make heartless decisions - with no ending to upsetting and hurting people - the very people we are robbing in order to become rich and super rich. We are killing the poor people who want to remain on their land and use that mosque, as their ancestors have done before them - since 278 years ago.

Please remember that there is a verse in Quran, where Allah SWT says, He wants to destroy this land where heartless people dwell (orang-orang zalim), like the greedy developers who prey on poor people, but He can't do so because there are good people as well in that land, who pray to Him and ask for His Mercy. So, those heartless greedy pigs out there and up there, you must be thankful to that little mosque down below from your high-rise. Stop for a moment and think what it feels like if you were in the mosque and people start attacking you and the mosque. Stop throwing water bombs at the mosque just because you worship a motionless tangible god while the people at the mosque pray to Allah SWT - the God that created you in your mother's womb, even if your mother was a bitch or a slut. Just open any medical textbook and you will see this leech-like structure which is called Halaqah in the Quran - also described as chewing gum with teeth marks - that's how you were made in the beginning. Did your scripture teach you about what was developing in your mother's womb? There is no scripture in this world that tells about Creation of Man except the Quran. So please, read the Quran and stop disturbing the little mosque down below and stop hurting its people. There is always room to learn from the poor people - they live without fear of not becoming rich but they fear becoming rich. Why? Because you become rich at someone else's expense. So becoming rich and richer actually is a deadly weapon of mass destruction that kills. So don't start but stop hurting Masjid Batu Uban - let it live. The mosque was there first - 278 years ago. You don't kill your own father. Give your respect to Masjid Batu Uban.

I married a very poor Chinese man and he is a Muslim, and prays at that mosque, the same mosque that you wish to demolish. He can read the Quran for you but you got to come down to the mosque to hear him read it for you. Learn not to be greedy and uncaring. Learn how to be caring from poor people, like me and my man. It is alright to be poor but there is every wrong to be rich. So the next time you hold your money in your hand, ask yourself where and how you got that money. Those thugs in Ayer Itam are a dying fad - they will grow old and sick one day. Learn to be good for once in this life. That's my medicine for you, greedy pigs.