i ate tiong bahru coffee glass

The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (2/4)

A meditation about Ronnie and the Burns, Singapore’s first rock band. This will be rewritten a bit and appear in the updated version of i ate tiong bahru.

Ronnie and the Burns

Tiong Bahru Mouth is the title to the sequel to iatb


  See Kim Huat, a ten year old boy, is at the Outram Road police station, explaining Section 55. In Hokkien. Listening to him is a tattooed, angrily defiant Chinese man, in his forties.  Section 55 is a statute that enables the Singapore government to detain a suspect without a trial. Kim Huat is often at the station, sometimes acting like a little policeman. Sometimes he reads the Oxford dictionary and asks the officers for the correct pronunciation of words. Sometimes he asks about a neighbor’s case. Sometimes he goes to the kopi shop with the officers when they makan and talk cock.

Kim Huat is the second oldest son of Heng Chwee Peh. Kim Huat’s brothers and sisters go to British schools, where among other subjects, they learn to read, write and speak English. This makes them traitors in the eyes of some of their neighbors. However, when anyone in the kampung has trouble with the police, or needs to read something in English, they know Kim Huat will be there to help.

Kim Huat is wise beyond his years. He scolds gangsters. He asks the police to be lenient. He does his best to calm the family of the accused. Though he grew up in a poor family in the most criminal place in Singapore, Kim Huat never begged or stole. Once, he charged gangsters a fee for storing their weapons in an unused part of the family home. He believed this to be a helpful service until his father patiently explained the dangers. As a teenager, Kim Huat  worked in an opium den, rolling balls and preparing pipes. He made it clear that coins were to be placed in his hand, not tossed at him.

Gangs wanted Kim Huat to join. “I’ll join your gang,” he told them, ”only if I’m the leader.”


Part 1 is here.

Part 3 is here.

1 thought on “The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (2/4)”

  1. Pingback: The Man From Silat Road/Tiong Bahru Mouth (1/4) - blacksteps

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