Moslimah Binte Haji Abdul Karim


Moslimah was born into her great-grandmother's Javanese-syle shophouse on Bussorah Street. It is a boutique today. She says home is a place of harmony with the family and it is where she teaches her children how to have good values and ties with their åneighbours.

The kueh that binds

There were three families living together or about 28 people staying in the house. It was packed like sardines! We had to wake up really early if we wanted to take a shower in the morning. Thankfully we were very close to our neighbours. There wasn't a need to close the doors. When we needed to use the toilet urgently, we could just dash into any house at any time of the day. Sometimes the neighbours' children would also come over to eat if they are hungry and alone at home. The neighbours had more than 20 kids, some of whom shared the same name, so we called them "number 1, number 2" to tell them apart. There were about 45 to 60 houses, and each house was selling different things. We sold lontong, mee siam and Malay kueh kueh. Our kueh kueh was very well known and especially popular during Ramadan and many happy memories were formed making kueh kueh together as a family.

Community feature

Our community even had a specific lingo, called Kampong Kaji, so people can tell where we are from. The relationship between everyone in the community is very close. Even the youngest of children can find friends in the area, regardless of race.

My father used to make songkoks (traditional Malay hats) at the front part of the house. He sold them for a living and I would help him sew too. The house was made from wooden planks, and the floor was bare cement. The walls of the hall were decorated with hand weavings and old photos. The window flaps are top and bottom, instead of the usual left and right. It was called ting tang and it's a unique feature of the area.

All about the Ambin

We had this long, big wooden table with short legs called the ambin in Javanese. It was used for relaxing and dining in the day and turned into a bed for everyone at night. No mattress was needed, just the ambin. Even my cousins who had their own rooms would come to my mother's room and sleep together on the ambin. Only when someone was sick would there be a miserable handmade mattress for him or her.

During the 1990s, the government had an agreement to take over the place and commercialise it. Our family moved out in 1988 and was very sad to leave. But I would come back very often, even today. I volunteer at the Sultan Mosque, as my memories were made there. Even though our old neighbours are now all living in different parts of Singapore, we all come together to pray every Friday.