Going back (balik kampung) JB (Johor Bahru) by train (KTM) with Nana, Delly, Mia and Nina brought back old memories. I could hear the lingering song by M.Nasir and his Kembara group churning out 'working class' song - "Ekspress Rakyat". In fact, KTM for me, has this lingering 'working class' smell, due to my experience using it's 3rd. and 2nd. class coaches. Ya, there used to be a 3rd. class section on KTM, filled mostly by 'kampung' folks with so many interesting characters.
There was no fancy air-conditioning too. I used to breathe the blowing air through the open windows and small fans. Since most of the windows were opened, chatting or having a decent conversation were almost impossible, due to the loud banging and thundering metal sound of the train running across the track.
The human dramas in the 3rd. class were no less intriguing than what we saw in the movie Titanic. I could see couples with a baby set-up their own d.i.y cradle; some carried stacks of foods like they were going away forever; few groups of young people singing aloud with their guitars trying to match the sound of the train; few others risking their life by hanging out in between the coaches or near the small steps with open doors to enjoy the flashing view and slapping wind. Some smoke like they were the only ones using the train.
During each stop, young boys would jump into the train to sell some drinks or snacks, only having to rush back down (sometimes jumping out like a stuntman) when the train started to move again. If the train was already moving too fast, they would get out at the next station (donno how they traveled back, perhaps they took a bus).
I used to accompany my father to pick up my brother early in the morning (around 2 am like that) at Tapah station. Train stations all over Malaysia then used to have this distinct 'colonial' look that made them unique and special. Even during the early morning hours, they were already few interesting characters playing their own distinct roles, sometimes with a thick coffee aroma lingering in the air. Now all these are a distant memory. Even most of the stations had unfortunately been demolished or renovated to appear 'modern' and 'contemporary'.
Many things have changed. KTM is now a private company. There is no more 3rd. class. The coaches are all air-conditioned, and there is no more thundering sound coming from the window. No more intriguing 3rd. class 'masyarakat marhain' drama. They have been sanitized, conditioned and standardized.
What I could do is only to reminisce my old memories to the present generation, as represented by Delly, Mia and Nina. I don't know whether they should be thankful or sad.
Most important, they were happy to travel back to JB to see their Tok Mak and relatives in JB.