Part 2 – A glimpse of kampung scenes of old Geylang Serai

(“A glimpse of kampung scenes of old Geylang Serai” is given below this reminder of our current national concern – Covid-19.)

Covid-19: We’re in critical stage, so let’s heed expert advices in fighting against the deadly virus

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on TV on 3 March announcing the implementation of “Circuit breaker” to stop the rising virus infections. (Photo: TV screenshot of Mr Lee making the special announcement on CNA.)

********* Before I begin the second part of the article about my talk on my book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky, at The Arts House recently, let us ponder over the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic that is worsening, and strictly follow the advices of the Singapore Government and the health authorities.

On 3 March 2020, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the enforcement of a “Circuit breaker” to curb the escalating number of virus infection cases. A number of measures were emphasised for the good of Singaporeans and the nation, including safe distancing if one has to go out of the home to attend to unavoidable matters, such as going to the stores or markets to buy essential requirements.

Three professors, too, urged Singaporeans to minimise contacts with people. Their valuable advice as reported on the front page of The Straits Times of 4 April are:

“By staying at home, you have less chance of getting infected. And if you are infected, you have less chance to spread it.” – Professor Wang Linfa

• “Many people are infected and infectious before they develop symptoms. To protect others, you should try to minimise contact.” – Associate Professor Alexander Cook

• “Avoid social gatherings beyond your immediate family. If all of us can do this, we will succeed in overcoming the virus.” – Professor Tan Chorh Chuan


We need to do our part seriously and responsibly as advised by the authorities to beat the onslaught of the coronavirus.   *********


Part 2
A glimpse of kampung scenes of old Geylang Serai  

I was invited by the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to give a talk based on my book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky”, at The Arts House on 14 March 2020.  I was among the local writers who participated in the event, themed “These storied walls” under “Textures – a weekend with words”, which was held from 13 – 22 March.

Describing the events, the information pamphlet says: “First launched in 2018, Textures – a weekend with words, is now positioned as one of The Arts House’s signature programmes. The festival celebrates the power and beauty of words.”

The following are some of the photos (almost all taken from the Internet) shown to the audience during the talk. (If you have not seen  Part 1, go to the previous article, “At The Arts House: A weekend with words”.)

The author’s kampung days

The talk, “My kampung days”, is based on the speaker’s book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Sketch map showing location the of author’s home

Map of Geylang Serai in 1953 showing the location where Shaik Kadir lived after the death of his father that year when he was seven years old.

Kampung houses in the 1950s

Coconut trees were everywhere: In Chapter 2, “Comics and Coconut Trees” of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”, a conversation goes: “Let’s not play under a coconut tree. A person can get killed if a coconut falls on his head,” I said.  “No, it won’t fall on our heads,” Mahmood replied. “Coconuts have invsible eyes. They avoid falling on people’s heads. That’s why, while you see hundreds of coconut trees everywhere, you don’t hear of accidents of coconuts falling on people’s heads!” I was awed by his air of wisdom and…

Almost all the kampung houses in the 1950s had attap roofs (thatched palm leaves roofs).

The houses had no fences, hence neighbours easily dropped by for friendly chats.

My father died when I was seven. Together with my mother and sisters we lived in a room of a kind of attap-roof “long house” without waterpipes and electricity.  We used kerosene lamps and I fetched water from the roadside government community stand-pipes.

Kampung houses in the mid-1960s

Houses standing on stilts could escape damage to the home from floods. Floods easily took place during a couple days of continuous heavy rain.

In the 1960s, some houses had zinc roofs.  Many houses even had electricity.

My home still had no electrical lights, and my family still used kerosene lamps.

Kampung scenes (1955-1960) – Toilets and standpipes

A joke in Malay wrtten on the side of the jamban (toilet) says:  “Please don’t throw a lot.”

Sometimes people queued up in a line to use the shared bucket-type toilet which might be some distance away from their homes – it’s the bucket collection system.  The “collection” was uses as fertilisers for vegetables in the nearby vegetable farms owned by Chinese farmers.

Using two hand-held pails, I would fetch water from the standpipe which was about 150 metres away from my home.  I had to make a few trips till the water drum in my tiny kitchen was filled.

Most Chinese from the nearby farm houses used kandar (bamboo poles) over their shoulders with pails hanging from each end.

Geylang Serai bus terminal in 1960

Today, the Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre stands exactly at the same spot where the bus terminal had stood in 1960.

 Home appliances of the 1960s

Important things used in the kampung home: Kerosene lamps and charcoal-iron. For cooking wood stoves were used.  Some houses had the battery-operated radio. 

Playing with kampung friends

Boys played bola hentam, chapteh, marbles, and tops among other games with their friends in the neighbourhood.

Children played teng-teng (hopscotch), skipping, batu selembat (5-stones), hide and seek, rubber-bands and other “invented” games. 

Buses and trolley buses of the 1960s 

Kampung boys even bus tickets were used to play games.

Today, each bus is manned by one person only – the driver (called the Bus Captain) but in those days each bus had a conductor, too, who would be walking up and down the narrow aisle of the bus issuing tickets by punching appropriate holes for distance marking, receiving cash and giving the changes.  Buses had no air-con. The trolley buses run on electricity from overhead cables.

Kampung boys would collect the thrown away bus-tickets at the bus terminus to play ticket games – guessing the last two digits of the ticket number.


Apart from Malay movies, Malays love to watch Himdi movies shown in cinemas in the vicinity of Geylang Serai  – Taj, Garrick and Queens.

There were three cinemas in the Geylang Serai area. There was an open-air 10-cents cinema (later on, the cinema charged 20 cents per person) at end of the long road, Jalan Alsagoff.  With a friend or two, we often went to this cinema to watch western movies like cowboy and tarzan films.

The Taj cinema was a proper cinema showing Malay, Tamil and Hindi movies. (Later, Taj became Singapura Cinema).

The Garrick cinema showed English and Hindi movies. (Later, Garrick became Galaxy.  Currently, “The Galaxy” building is occupied by the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore or Darul Arqam Singapore.)

Queens cinema at the Guilimard Road-Geylang Road junction also showed Hindi movies.

Kite flying

A decade ago, the speaker wrote about his kite playing experiences in the kampung in The Straits Times’ Review of 27 September 2010.

Today, young and old could be seen playing colourful and fancy kites in some open-space areas.

In those days, when I was in upper primary school level, I would just watch kampung youths fly kites.

For kite battles, the string had to be “glassed”, but being still young, I would just watch the older boys engage in kite battles.

Chasing lost kite was fun.  Together with a few other boys of about his age, I would chase after those kites that were lost in the battles – the string being cut from the way the kite was maneuvered in the fight by the skill of the opposing “fighter”.  The defeated kite would fall to the ground in a slow, wavy motion.

The boys chased the descending kite with poles tied with twigs at the upper end of the pole to catch the string of the falling kite.  I usually sold the kites I salvaged.

Malay wedding

Wedding patterns are the same, then and now:  From the photo on the left, the Mak Andam makes up the bride and is her companion throughtout the function; the bride and groom sit on the pelamin (wedding padestal) becoming the “Queen and King” for the day for the guests to congratulate and wish them well; the hadrah group plays hand-drums to announces the arrival of the “Queen and King” and accompanies them to the pelamin, and a musical band entertains the guests while they take their lunch. 

Whenever there was a wedding, the neighbours and relatives would gather to help out in the preparation of food and other wedding arrangements.  This was the spirit of the kampung people.

Often a musical band would be hired to entertained the guests. The kampung boys loved to watch the popular band, Chandniraat, wherever in Geylang Serai they were performing.  I would follow them. The photo above shows Chandniraat in action with the band’s main singers, Halim Marican and his sister, Azizah, singing Hindi songs.

Geylang Serai houses in mid-1960s

Better looking with better facilities:  Mores houses had electricity and water taps.

In around mid-1960s, many of the kampung houses look better and had better toilet facilities.

Many houses had electricity and even water taps in their kitchen.  But the author’s home still had no tap in the kitchen but by now the situation was better – the “ long house” tenants fetched water from the owner’s house nearby (instead of from the standpipe). For light, my family still used kerosene lamps.

1970 & today: Front view of Geylang Serai

The busy junction: Where four roads meet, an area as popular as in the past.

This road junction (as seen in the old photo) is special – four roads meet at the junction: Joo Chiat Road, Geylang Road, (Jalan) Geylang Serai and Changi Road.

Currently, the well-known junction has four busy buildings:  (Clockwise from top, left) Joo Chiat Complex, Tristar Complex, Wisma Geylang Serai and Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre.

So, I wrote a book

In ending the summary of my talk on “My kampung days”, I would like to indicate what initiated me to write “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Well, in mid-1980s, I walked into Eunos Road 5 (the former Jalan Alsagoff) off Sims Avenue in the vicinity of Geylang Serai wondering if I could locate the exact spot where I lived.  It was not possible as the area has changed drastically, becoming an industrial estate.

The Epilogue of my book mentions my thoughts about that area, thus: “This environment is now history, but it will always remain in the memories of those who once lived here…I must say that I’m one of the lucky ones to have lived an interesting kampung life and experienced all its peculiarities as well as its special qualities, and then to live in a satellite town…I enjoyed kampung life with all its difficulties…And there was that kampung spirit we cherished – neighbours mingled and helped one another.  Children played together.  It was fun.”

It was this thought that made me begin to recall my kampung experiences.  I penned them down, and the book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky” was the result. It was published in 1989.

Shaik Kadir
(Author of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”)
7 April 2020



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 Part 1: At The Arts House: A weekend with words

(“At The Arts House: A weekend with words” is given below this reminder of our current national concern – Covid-19.)

Covid-19: Let’s fight to eliminate this menace together

Mr Lawrence Wong overwhelmed with emotion. (Photo shot off the photo in The Straits Times of 26 March 2020)

********* Let us comply with the safety instructions to keep coronavirus at bay. Let us fight to eliminate this menace together.

Before I begin the article, “At The Arts House: A weekend with words”, I would like to take this opportunity, like our National Development Minister Lawrence Wong did, to show my appreciation to all those healthcare workers as well as people from the other sectors such as cleaning, security and airport management staff for working tirelessly during this time in the light of the spreading coronavirus. Yes, I do join hands with him to say as he did: “I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who is doing their part.”

Indeed, when we do our part responsibly as advised by our healthcare experts, “we can beat the virus together.” (I was really overwhelmed to see Mr Wong teared up when he spoke in Parliament last night on the worsening pandemic.) ********** 

Part 1
At The Arts House: A weekend with words

As the author of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”, I was invited to give a talk, “My kampung days” at The Arts House recently.  The talk was among a number of talks by local writers.

The speaker of the talk with Ms Sylvana Ryan Mulia, an Indonesian guest, in front of The Arts House.

The event, themed “These storied walls” under “Textures – a weekend with words”, was held from 13 – 22 March from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Describing the events, the information pamphlet says: “First launched in 2018, Textures – a weekend with words, is now positioned as one of The Arts House’s signature programmes.  The festival celebrates the power and beauty of words.”

The speaker with Ms Martini Ali Wafar, Assistant Manager, Programmes, Arts House, in front of a poster carrying a quote from “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Book sellers in one of the halls in The Arts House selling books up to 50% discount. Among them was Marshall Cavendish, the publisher of “A Kite in the Evening Sky” and the book went on sale for just $10.00 (50% discount).

Shaik Kadir with Ms Joyce Teo, Vice Dean, Arts Management Programme, School of Arts Management (left); and Ms Juliana Lim, guest, who requested the copies of “A Kite in the Evening Sky” to be signed for her granddaughters – the “vintage 1989 copy” for Anna (elder) and the latest 2018 edition for Zoe.


Ms Juliana Lim

I purchased a copy of A Kite in the Evening Sky by Shaik Kadir in the late 1980s.  It is an autobiographical novel that offers the experiences of the author’s kampong life in Geylang Serai in the 1950s and 1960s.

Then, two weeks ago, I spotted an advertisement about the talk by Mr Shaik Kadir at The Arts Centre on 14 March.  I registered for it, retrieved the book and re-read it.

At 2 pm of that day, I watched a play enacting the life of Mr Kadir.  It was performed most charmingly by a NAFA student, Xenon Koh. The performance also comprised story-telling and kampong craftwork for children as well as gamelan music and a dance item.

Later, at the book-sale hall, I purchased the latest edition of Mr Kadir’s book.

I value the book for its insight into the Malay lifestyle and customs, such as how the author went through the Ramadan fasting and his circumcision, how the kampong folks came together to prepare for wedding functions, how they came together to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri as well as how the boy Kadir participated in the various kampung youths’ pastimes and social and religious events.

Then, at 4:30 pm, I attended Mr Kadir’s talk and learned how he went through a difficult pace of life amidst the poverty of his family.

– Ms Juliana Lim, a retiree from the civil and community services, who loves reading local literature. (See “An afternoon with Shaik Kadir” in Ms Lim’s blog: )


From pamphlet: Information for the “Adventures of a kampung boy” performance with background music by the BronzAge Gamelan. Held twice (at 11 am -12 pm and at 2 pm-3 pm), the main actor was Xenon Koh who acted as Shaik Kadir, the kampung boy. He and the others who assisted him were all students from the Arts Management and Theatre Programme course of NAFA.

Actor Xenon Koh (wearing Malay sarung), acting the kampung boy, Shaik Kadir, accompanied by gamelan music; and his assistants in the performance helping children to play kampung games like marbles, chapteh and paper balls, and make kites and ketupat cases.

Pamphlets and notices announcing the time and room of the event, “In conversation with Mr Shaik Kadir.

The talk, “My kampung days”, is based on the speaker’s book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Shaik Kadir starting his talk about his experiences during his kampung days.

The team from NAFA who were the project managers for the event. “We work with The Arts House to organise the event which was held in the Chambers at The Arts House,” said team leader, Syafiq Syazwan. The team comprised (back row from left) Syafiq Syazwan and Lee Tae Su, and (front row from left) Eunice Salanga, Ms Martini Ali Wafar, and Hasha Yaqazhah.


Muhammad Syafiq Syazwan

This year’s ‘Textures’ at The Arts House was a wonderful experience for me and my team-mates. We are happy to be involved in this amazing event.

When given the task of helping to organise this festival, we students of NAFA were excited as we know, we would learn so many things and meet and work with many different people.  Indeed, that happened, and we are so glad to have gained so much experience from it.

Being part of this event also allowed us to utilise our knowledge we received from our course, and applying it to make things work beautifully.

By attending the talk by Mr Shaik Kadir, I was able to learn so much about the kampong days and the living situation then.  He told us about how he grew up as a poor kampong boy facing the challenges of those days, and how, without technology and fancy gadgets of today, kampong children would come together and play, inventing games and game rules.

He talked about the kampong spirit which can hardly be seen today – a spirit of togetherness that we need today in Singapore.

It is interesting to know that he grew up from old Singapore and lived to enjoy modern Singapore. We learned a lot from his talk. It is a lesson of facing challenges of life.

– Muhammad Syafiq Syazwan Bin Abdul Razak, Final-year student of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, who was in the team that helped organise “Textures” at The Arts House.


A summary of the talk together with relevant photos will be given in Part 2 of “My kampung days” soon.

Shaik Kadir
(Author of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”)
26 March 2020 

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Geylang Serai – as vibrant as 60 years ago

Geylang Serai – as vibrant as
60 years ago


A section of the Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) building.

Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) grandly celebrated its first anniversary for three days from 17-19 January 2020 with lots of activities, including a record-breaking Community Batik Painting attempt.   It was a community event and anyone could participate for any lemgth of time in the painting event which started at 4 pm on the first day of the celebration and ended at 4 pm on the last day.

Enthusiasts engrossed in their painting of the rolled batik cloth with judges keeping an eye on their effort.

Among the participants were my family friends Ms Syabanun (holding her handphone) and her mother, Mdm Salmah. 

Dr Mohd Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hailed the record-breaking achievement of the community in producing a batik painting of 550m long, smashing the previous record of 300m.

The community broke the previous record:  Dr Maliki (right, white shirt) holding the certificate that shows the painting effort stands at a record-breaking length of 550m. (Screenshot from WGS Facebook)

In launching the celebration on the first day, the Guest-of-Honour, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, in his concluding his speech, said: “While the Government can set aside the physical spaces, and build structures like Wisma Geylang Serai, it is you – the people and our community – who are Geylang Serai’s true heart.”

Indeed, we have come a long way from the days when Geylang Serai was a kampung where I lived when I was from 8 years old to 21 (from the late 1950s and in the 60s). My growing-up days in Geylang Serai is recorded in my book, “A kite in the evening sky”.

From left:  “A kite in the evening sky”, was published by EPB Publishers in 1989, republished by Federal Publications in 2000 as a school literature textbook, and republished again by Marshall Cavendish in 2018.

The blurb: Message about the story on the back cover of the book.

To but to get a glimpse of my kampung days from the late 1950s and the 1960s, do read the article, “Geylang Serai: The kampung memories that lasts a lifetime”, in The Straits Times of 22 July 2009, reproduced for easy-reading here, below this photo of the ST article.

The story of my kampung days in The Straits Times of 22 July 2009…


Geylang Serai: The kampung memories that last a lifetime”

THE new Geylang Serai market opened earlier this month – on the very same site as the old one.

The event brought back many memories for me for I lived in Geylang Serai from the age of eight to 21. I had seen it grow from a kampung into a conglomeration of ultra-modern buildings. But it is the area’s kampung days that I cherish most for they are associated with the days of my childhood.

After my father died, my mother, my sister and I moved from Chinatown to Paya Lebar and then, in 1954 when I was eight years old, to Geylang Serai. We lived not far away from a kampung mosque, Masjid Aminah, now relocated to nearby Jalan Eunos and called Masjid Darul Aman. My mother rented a room in a row of attap houses for $14 a month.

My house had no tap, so I had to collect fresh water from the government standpipe a little distance away. I usually did this at night, carrying two pails. It took a few trips to the standpipe to fill the water-drum in our tiny kitchen area. On my last trip, I would bathe at the standpipe, enjoying the cold water, before returning to my room.

There was an entertainment centre in the area called the Eastern World Amusement Park. It had rides, games galleries and snack stalls. Though the entrance fee to the park was a nominal sum, we children would insist on sneaking into the park through secretly-made holes in the zinc fence.

Beside the park was the Taj cinema, where Tamil, Hindi and Malay movies were screened to packed houses during weekends. We boys found it more fun to watch cowboy and Tarzan films at the open-air cinema located at Jalan Alsagoff. It cost only 10 cents to watch movies there.

Once, as we watched a travelling wagon being set on fire in a cowboy movie, we suddenly realised that the screen was really burning – perhaps because vandals had set it on fire. The show was abandoned, much to our dismay.

Another popular cinema was The Garricks, which showed English movies. Located at the junction of Onan Road and Geylang Road, where The Galaxy is currently located, the cinema screened English and Hindi movies. Its front seats cost 50 cents, as at the Taj, and so we seldom patronised it, though we often went there to look at the photos of the movies being shown.

In front of the Taj, in the area where Northlight School is now located, there were many food and drinks stalls. Men would play sepak raga there, standing in a circle as they used their legs, shoulders and heads to toss a rattan ball to one another.

Nearby, in an open field, we boys would play with tops and marbles. In the kite season during windy April, we would watch young men fly kites and engage in ‘kite battles’. Boys carrying salvaging poles would run after the ‘losing’ kites, often stepping on food spread out to dry on the ground or on roaming chicks. With the curses of residents ringing in their ears, the boys would run away.

Beside the amusement park was a bus terminal fronting Changi Road. The diesel buses plied routes from the city to Jalan Eunos, Kaki Bukit and faraway Changi Point, while the trolley buses, which ran on electricity from overhead electric cables, plied routes from Geylang Serai to the city.

The terminal area was often crowded with people who had made purchases at the popular wet market on Changi Road, where the Joo Chiat Complex is now located. Trishaw riders waited in the vicinity to take housewives with their heavy purchases home to the kampungs nearby.

The terminal was littered with leaves from the many Madras thorn trees in the area – and also with used bus tickets. I would go round with a friend to collect clean used tickets and arrange them according to value, the lowest being 5 cents. We used the tickets to play number-guessing games.

One day, as we were collecting these tickets, my friend found a 10-cent coin. We rushed off to buy a packet of nasi lemak – coconut-flavoured rice with sambal, a piece of cucumber, a tamban fish and a bit of fried egg, all wrapped up in banana leaf, which in turn was wrapped in old newspaper. Between the two of us, the food was gone in no time.

Finding the 10-cent coin was a piece of good luck. But there was another time when I was even luckier. At the edge of the present Malay Village, there used to be four rows of shops. One afternoon, I went to a bookshop there to look at some Malay books. As I was leaving, an elderly man in the shop tapped my shoulder and gave me an old English book.

That book – Grimms’ Fairy Tales – stirred my interest in reading, and I went on to read most of the books in the library cabinet in my classroom. I was then a Primary 6 pupil at Telok Kurau Primary School.

Some time in the middle of that year, my principal, Mr Ratnam Sabapathy, a strict man who walked around with a cane in his hand, made an announcement during the morning assembly.

‘Singapore now has a Prime Minister,’ he said. ‘He is Mr Lee Kuan Yew – and he was a student at this school.’

The year was 1959, when Singapore became a self-governing state.

Shaik Kadir, a retired teacher, is a freelance writer.


Three quotations from my book, “A kite in the evening sky”, are exhibited in the exhibition hall of WGS, the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery.  The gallery, apart from showcasing the history of the precinct and tracing its growth from an outlying settler community in the 19th  century to the suburban business precinct as it is today, also features the memories and experiences of its past and present residents, and interweave these stories with thematic displays of images and objects.

I lived in a room of a “long house” with attap roof that leaked when it rained…

My “house” had no electricity and water tap.  We used kerosene lamps. For water, I had to use two pails to carry the water from the government roadside standpipe. The bucket-drawn toilet, too, was far away.

I walked to and from school every day, a distance of more than 3 km.

The blurb (back cover message) of the Federal Publications’ “A kite in the evening sky” says: “Besides depicting the the kampung activities, the book brings out vividly the cultural and religious practices of the kampung folk of Geylang Serai and their close-knit community life.”

Shaik Kadir
22 January 2020

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Part 2 “We are a family forever.”

Part 2

“We are a family forever.”

With 30 years of experience in hosting the Participating Youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Programme (SSEAYP) for its homestay stint, the author of the book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, wrote it with the aim of bringing the people of ASEAN and Japan together in the spirit of SSEAYP.

Recently, on 16 November, some 330 PYs from ASEAN and Japan arrived in Singapore for a 4-night stay in Singapore, spending two nights in the homes of Singapore families to gain local lifestyle experiences and building a friendship.

A 2-part article has been written on this year’s SSEAPY PYs’ visit to Singapore. The first part, titled “A memoir written in honour of SSEAYP homestay host families”, was published in this blog (the author’s blog) on 30 November 2019. Today, the blog carries the second part, “We are a family forever” a phrase mentioned by one of the four PYs who stayed with the author for the homestay.

During the 3-day homestay stint, the PYs mingled with the members of the homestay families learning about their way of life and taking the hosts as their foster parents and forging a strong relationship between them.

Open Ship

It was an exciting moment for the PYs to meet their foster families on board Nippon Maru.  They were happy to take them to the decks for photos before the ship separates them to take the PYs to the next destination.

Sending off our homestay PYs: On board Nippon Maru with homestay host families. The other photo below shows the author and his wife and their homestay PYs, from left, Anh from Vietnam; Mizah from Brunei Darussalam; Fairy from Vietnam and Tonee from Laos with Mr Yacob Hussain, President of SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS).

Tour of the Nippon Maru: Meeting some Singapore’s past PYs at the deck of the ship, and taking a photo with Shubaa who the author interviewed for “The ship that spreads friendship” (See pages 53 and 54). The last photo shows Mr Halim Kader who is one of the three Advisers of SIS, and his two granddaughters.

Goodbye hugs with our homestay PYs.

Homestay hosts at the wharf platform waiting for the farewell ceremony.

Farewell ceremony

Mr Darryl David, Member of Parliament of the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency, was the Guest-of-Honour at the Farewell Ceremony of SSEAYP 2019.

During the ceremony, the PYs appeared contingent by contingent on the connecting bridge in representing their country to bid goodbye to Singapore.  

Farewell Ceremony at the wharf: Mr Darryl David (second from left), Member of Parliament of the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency, is the Guest-of-Honour at the Farewell Ceremony of SSEAYP 2019. He and the other three ceremony officials are awaiting the appearance of the 10 ASEAN contingents and the Japanese contingent who will take turn to appear at the ship-wharf connecting bridge.

Each of the 11 PY contingents taking turns to appear at the connecting bridge to make their short but spirited farewell performance.

Farewell gesture

From the ship, the PYs threw rolls of farewell ribbon to their foster parents on the wharf to hold on to till the ribbons snap one by one as the ship moved away from the harbour’s edge heading for the next port of call.

Displaying their “goodbye emotion” with ribbons: The ribbons, being held at one hand by the PYs on board Nippon Maru and the other end held by their homestay families, snap one by one as the ship moves away slowly from the wharf with both sides waving at each other till the ship goes out of sight…

Yes, Mr Joey Koh, points to the ship that is on its way to the next port of call spreading its mission of friendship.

As homestay families leave the harbour

Keeping friendship after leaving the wharf: Host families at the connecting walkway to exit the Singapore Cruise Centre.

Some host families, spotting the author, decided to get the author’s autograph for “The ship that spreads friendship”

Spreading the SSEAYP story

“The ship that spreads friendship” has been given to every PY of the SSEAYP 2019, and this gesture would see the book further spreading the friendship in all the 10 ASEAN countries and Japan.

“The ship that spreads friendship” also spreads its friendship in Singapore: Photos, clockwise from left, show Mdm Fatimah Ibrahim, past SSEAYP homestay host, Mdm Nor Ain Saleha, SSEAYP PY 1981, Mdm SK Yap and Mr Sherwin Loo, and Mr CT Ong and Mdm SK Yap with the author.

Mdm Nor Ain Saleha, in her WhatsApp message to me, said: “I’ve finished reading your book, and enjoyed reading it. Congrats to you and Khairon for decades of contribution to the SSEAYP fraternity. Glad your book acknowledged arwah Ihsan.  I missed Allahyarham who was my colleague at the Singapore Sports Council. May his soul rest among the pious. Alfateha.” (Mr Mohamed Ihsan, who urged the author to be a homestay host in 1989 and who was mentioned in the book, passed away in 1999.)

Singaporean second-year university student in Melbourne, Miss Sabrina Jeffery Low, reading the book to get inspiration to join SSEAYP after her graduation.

“The ship that spreads friendship” goes to the Philippines: The middle photo shows Mr Yacob Hussain, President of SSEAYP International Singapore, presenting the book to Mr Bong Manlulu II, Chairman of SSEAYP International Philippines.

During reunion gathering in the Philippines: Members happy to receive “The ship that spreads friendship” from Mr Yacob Hussain who is in the Philippines attending the reunion of the 1992 SSEAYP batch PYs.

In the Philippines: Mr Yacob Hussain presenting the book to Ms Yulia Indahri, the author’s foster daughter, SSEAYP homestay PY of 1992. The attached photo, taken in 1992, shows the author and their foster children, Yulia from Indonesia and Nor Hairos Cik Mat from Malaysia, on board Nippon Maru on the day of Open Ship.

Till we meet again…

Next year Singapore is not a port of call and therefore there will be no homestay for SSEAYP PYs. This situation made a homestay host a bit sad. Mdm Hadijah, who took two PYs this year, said: “Hope to see all our homestay family members again.  And we await for our next PYs in 2021.”

Mdm Hadijah Osman and her husband, Mr Zakaria Mohd Shariff with their foster children, left, Sainati from Malaysia and Evee from Vietnam, PYs of SSEAYP 2019: “And we await for our next PYs in 2021.”

The relationship between the PYs and their homestay families is summed up by the author’s foster son from Vietnam in his postcard, thus: “We are a family forever.”

Postcard from my foster son, Nguyen Viet Anh (Anh), 2019 SSEAYP PY from Vietnam: “No word can express how grateful I have been for being your foster son. I wish health and happiness stayed with you forever. We are a family forever.”

Today (7 December 2019), Nippon Maru has ferried the PYs from Malaysia to Japan, the final port of call for this year’s SSEAYP.  After the homestay in Japan, the PYs, on 13 December, will fly to their respective countries in ASEAN, after gaining 52 days of SSEAYP experience.

Shaik Kadir
8 December 2019

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Part 1 A memoir written in honour of  SSEAYP homestay host families

Part 1

A memoir written in honour of  SSEAYP homestay host families

Recently the book, “The ship that spreads friendship”, was published by the SSEAYP International Singapore, and given away free to all Singapore homestay host families of the participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP).  All PYs from ASEAN and Japan too received a free copy each on board the ship, Nippon Maru, on the day they left Singapore.

The famous Nippon Maru: The ship that spreads friendship.

The Japanese-mooted programme, SSEAYP, began its friendship mission in 1974 by ferrying its participating youths (PYs) from ASEAN and Japan for self-development activities as well as homestays for about 52 days during each annual SSEAYP trip.

This year, a total of some 330 PYs of SSEAYP were in Singapore for five days from 16 November.

Welcome Ceremony

At the Resort World Sentosa on Saturday 16 November 2019, during the 46th SSEAYP 2019 Welcome Ceremony for this year’s PYs. all the contingents of the 10 member ASEAN countries and Japan were warmly welcomed by the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Transport.

After addressing the huge attendance, “The ship that spreads friendship” was launched by Mr Baey who unveiled a big poster of the book. A copy of the book was then presented to him by the author who is a SSEAYP homestay host for 30 years now, since 1989.

The following are some photos of the memorable occasion.

Awaiting the moment for the book to be unveiled.

The book is unveiled by the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Baey Yam Keng.

“The ship that spreads friendship” is launched and a copy is presented to Mr Baey.

The title of the book places emphasis on friendship. 

Some photos of the homestay families who wanted their copies to be autographed by the author.

Some of the homestay host families and the PYs from ASEAN and Japan having a nice time at the 46th SSEAYP Welcome Ceremony at the Resort World Sentosa.

Author’s homestay PYs

Since 1989, the author and his wife, Khairon, have been taking two PYs each year.  However, for the first time this year, due to general requests from the organisers, they took an additional two.  The four are, one PY from Brunei Darussalam, one from Laos and two from Vietnam.

After the launching of “The ship that spreads friendship” and the Welcome Ceremony in Sentosa, the four excited PYs headed to the home of the author for the 3-day homestay stint.

They are (from left) Bui Thuy Tien (Fairy) from Vietnam; Nur Hamizah Ziadi (Mizah) from Brunei Darussalam; Songvilay Phetsamone (Tonee) from Laos, and Nguyen Viet Anh (Anh) from Vietnam. The boys were wearing “I love Singapore” tee-shirts given to them by the author’s wife, Khairon, in yellow attire. In the other photo, Fairy is wearing a blue Indian attire lent to her by Khairon.

Deepavali Celebration

The Deepavali Celebration, organised by the SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS), was held at the Jurong Town Hall on Sunday 17 November for invited guests, not for the international PYs as they were enjoying their homestay stint on this day. However, the author, his wife and his four homestay PYs were invited. The Guest-of-Honour of the function was Singapore’s President, Madam Halimah Yacob.

The following are some memorable photos taken at the celebration.

Happy moments with friends at the Deepavali Ceremony.

Many Chinese and Malays attend the function wearing Indian attire in the spirit of “Truly Singapore” togetherness.

At the ceremony, Japanese officials as well some other officials each received a signed copy of “The ship that spreads friendship”.

Happy to receive a copy of “The ship that spreads friendship”.

When the Guest-of-Honour, the President of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob, arrived, she was introduced to the author and given a copy of the book.

My PYs had a nice and enjoyable Singapore homestay experience. Other PYs would have experienced the same pleasure too with their respective host families.

One of my PYs, Nur Hamizah Mohd Ziadi (Mizah) from Brunei Darussalam, said she would come back to Singapore next year.

Mizah said: “I love my homestay family and because of that I was waiting eagerly to receive the book, and when I received it on the ship, I began reading it whenever I had the time.”

Mizah: “I was waiting eagerly to receive the book, and when I received it on the ship, I began reading it whenever I had the time.”

She continued: “The book truly captures the essence of SSYEAP as it shows the different experiences of the people involved – the ex-PYs, host families, the alumni association officials and many more. It made me even gladder and proud to be part of SSYEAP.

I’m sure the book would also be enjoyed by those who are not familiar with SSEAYP as it gives a wonderful insight for those interested to take the leap and be part of the ever-growing SSYEAP family.

I like this informative book and shall cherish and treasure it. However, I shall lend it to my friends for them to know more about SSEAYP and its activities in bonding friendships.”

Shaik Kadir
30 November 2019

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Part 2 A peek at the SSEAYP homestay book

Part 2

A peek at the SSEAYP homestay book


You would have read “Part 1:  Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!” published in my blog on 8 September (2019).  Here’s part 2.

The SSEAYP homestay book is in the final proof-reading stage.  However, here are some glimpses of the book.

Some images of the book contents

The title on the front cover and a sample chapter, “Relationship with foster parents.

A sample of the front and back pages of a chapter divider.

Local flavour

During homestay: “It’s a nice experience to wear Malay dress,” they would usually say.

Photos of some PYs over the years

Who wrote or said these?

(1)  Thrill for a young teen

“I was 12 at that time. As I have always wanted an older sister, I was thrilled. We ate my mother’s home-cooked food together with my foster sisters. Then, we spent the next two days exploring Singapore with my parents…”

(2)  A friendship poem

“It’s not a common ocean liner but an extraordinary ship
It is not a ship that gives extra leisure but extra friendship
Nippon Maru is the ship with a package that builds leadership
Whilst sailing across cultures and beliefs enhancing relationship
Working together with SSEAYP and SIGA for better partnership
And stopping in Singapore to provide PYs with adventureship
As well as staying with Singaporeans to foster close kinship
With this I hope this book would attract a wide readership.”

(3)  He met the author 8 years ago

“I first met Shaik Kadir at the Singapore Memory Project’s “When Nations Remember II” conference on 29 November, 2011.  He shared his personal stories from his book “A kite in the evening sky” about growing up in Geylang Serai while I spoke about my memories of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961 to a full-house attendance at the Singapore Civilisations Museum, Empress Place….(The book) would also help to promote goodwill, peace and harmony across Southeast Asia and indeed the world.”

The ship that spreads friendship is scheduled to be out in mid-November when the SSEAYP PYs arrive in Singapore.  PYs and others associated with SSEAYP will get a copy.

Shaik Kadir
7 October 2019

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Part 1 Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs get a homestay book memento!

Part 1

Wah!  This year’s SSEAYP PYs will get a homestay book memento!

Yes. This year’s participating youths (PYs) of the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) will each receive a SSEAYP homestay book to read and keep for remembrance.

The book, which carries international friendship as its theme, will be given to a total of about 330 PYs from ASEAN and Japan during the homestay matching ceremony at the Resorts World Sentosa on 16 November 2019.

Homestay host families and SSEAYP officials will also get a copy.

I am delighted and happy to have written this special book which is published by SSEAYP International Singapore (SIS).

The responsibility of writing this book fell on me for two main reasons:

(1) I have been a SSEAYP homestay host for over 25 years and therefore have lots of experiences with SSEAYP and its PYs.
(2) I am an experienced writer in English.

Now a social blogger of “Read-and-Reap”, I’ve written 14 books and over 350 articles and short stories in various local and overseas magazines, including in Singapore’s The Straits Times and Berita Harian. Varied samples of my writings are:

Books on Geylang Serai stories: “The girl with the mole”, published by EPB Publisher, 1992; and “A kite in the evening sky”, published by Marshall Cavendish (Asia), 2018.

Short stories in magazines: Photos show the first page of the short stories “The painting” in Malaysia’s CHECKMATE of February 1976, and “The orchid messenger” in Singapore’s HER WORLD of March 1977.

General articles in magazines: Photos show the first page of two general articles “The changing world of the Geisha” in Singapore’s FEMALE magazine of May 1978, and “Forming the internal landscape” in THE ASIA MAGAZINE of August 1979.

General articles “For THE STRAITS TIMES (in the “Review” column): “Clearing up confusion over Muslim names”, 26 May, 2007; and “Countdown to Deepa-Raya”, 31 October 2009.

General articles in “Pandangan” of BERITA HARIAN as “Invited writer” and “Guest writer”: “Tekad Ramadan dan jihad henti merokok”, 15 August 2009; and “Masjid sebagai ikon bersih dan sempurna”, 7 December 2009. (Translated, the two headings are: “Striving to stop smoking with Ramadan determination” and “Mosque as a clean and excellent icon”.) 

Books on Islam:  Poster of book launch and autograph-signing of “Islam Explained” (First edition, 2006) and “Inside Islam – 101 Questions & Answers” organised by the books’ publisher Marshall Cavendish (Asia).

Book on Islam – “Islam Explained” (Second edition, 2017) published by Marshall Cavendish (Asia) on sale at bookshops. Photos from left show Ms Farah Amirah Redzuan and Ms Nadia Saiful Rizal, both from Brunei Darussalam, at Kinokuniya Orchard bookshop; Mr Lee Samsudin; Ms Suriani Suhaimi at Popular Bookstore Johor; and Ms Yuri Abe from Japan at the Relay Bookshop at Changi Airport.

Well, the idea of producing a book about SSEAYP homestay came up a year ago but it was not until late April that I was told to proceed writing it.

I immediately sprang into action with great zeal. Why so fast? Well, because the book has to be completed in a short time of four months only – the entire narration needs to be submitted to the printing company on 30 August as the company would take two months to get the book printed and delivered by end of October.

I always took between two to three years to write a book as it is not easy to write a “solid” book of over 100 pages as lots of researches and confirmations need to be done. The SSEAYP homestay book is no different. What’s more, it carries lots of interview information that needs to be written and confirmed by the interviewees. (The book carries views, comments, fond memories and experiences of others involved with SSEAYP – all were heavily edited by me for brevity and homogeneity.)  I thank them all for their contributions, especially their photos.


To write the book, I faced lots of challenges and encountered sleepless nights. At one point my 4-year old ASUS laptop gave trouble or rather it gave me trouble as it might be angry at me for not giving it enough rest.  The folder containing the half-completed narration of the SSEAYP homestay story suddenly disappeared and I almost fainted.  Nervously I searched for it everywhere.  But it has simply vanished from the computer! I collapsed.

My son came to my rescue.  He too frantically searched for the folder, and after a long struggle extracted a copy from somewhere deep in the stomach of the laptop!

He advised me to get a new laptop, and I immediately did. I bought another ASUS laptop. Still, I didn’t give it enough rest like the previous one but this one is young and strong, so no fear.

Eventually, I managed to complete writing the homestay story a couple of days before the end of August, and handed the manuscript to the printing company on 31 August.

A great relief descended upon me. Now, I’m awaiting to do two proof-readings before the book goes into its final stage of production.

SIS President Yacob Hussain did his part by calling for quotations for the printing job and negotiating with the printing companies for the delivery date. Together we applied for the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from the National Library Board and discussed with the selected printing company on matters concerning the book.

The book will be ready for delivery at the end of October, about two weeks before the arrival of the PYs. Do doa (make supplication) for the successful production of the book.

Anything else you want to know?

Yes, what’s the title of the book?

The ship that spreads friendship.

Wow! That’s a nice title!

How many people gave comments and were interviewed for their experiences?


Eighteen?  Wow!  So many!  Who are they?

Be patient lah!  Don’t be too excited lah!  Wait for Part Two of the article, okay?

Till Part Two appears in this blog in about two weeks, just keep wondering how the design of the front cover of the book would be – the one shown above is only a sample done by me, not professionally done. So, I’m wondering too. But the designer has been instructed to make the front page look friendly – with the ship merrily sailing from one port of call to another, spreading friendship.

Shaik Kadir
8 September 2019

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