Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brickfields Through My Eyes

Mention Brickfields, and Indian food and the KL Sentral Terminal come to mind. Brickfields is acknowledged to be, but largely neglected as, one of the pioneer settlements in Kuala Lumpur.

Long before the construction of the KL Sentral Terminal in Brickfields, the very site on which KL Sentral stands used to be a Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) depot. The fifth Kapitan Cina (Chinese Chieftain) of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Kwan Seng, developed Brickfields as a hub for the brick-making industry for the then Malaya in or around the 1880s.

Labourers were brought in from India to work in the brick kilns and railway and thus until today, Brickfields is known for its high population of people of Indian ethnicity.

These railway quarters in Jalan Rozario are still serviceable as homes for the railway staff. They used to look so picturesque before the facelift, which saw all the quarters painted the same colour and fitted with identical window and door grilles. There used to be a football field right across the street from Jalan Rozario, but half of it has since been covered in concrete to serve as badminton courts and parking bays. Jalan Rozario was named after F.L.D. Rozario, who had served as the chief clerk to William Treacher, former English Resident of Selangor.

Reminders of Brickfield's illustrious past, railway quarters in Jalan Chan Ah Tong line up juxtaposed against high-rises that weren't here 15 years ago.

I was in Brickfields for errands on Friday, and waves of memory came flooding back to me as I parked at the YMCA. This is where we used to play football after work, in the fading evening light, until it got so dark that we couldn't see our goalposts anymore.

YMCA Building, Brickfields.

The admittedly quaint and charming Thambipillay Flats in Jalan Berhala.

Brickfields used to have an unpleasant reputation as a vice and crime-infested area. But it is also a place of great historical importance to Malaysians, and had played a big role in the modernisation and development of our country's capital. This is why I was pleased to read in The Star on Sept 29 that the Ministry of Federal Territories would be injecting funds into the beautification of Brickfields, and to develop it to make it safer and less congested.

Brickfields is fascinating for the number of places of worship located in a single enclave.

The Buddhist Maha Vihara was set up by the Sinhalese community in Kuala Lumpur. I can see improvements being made to the area by the Ministry already. The pavements in Jalan Berhala have been tiled, potholes repaired and street lighting and waste bins added.

This is where I come to worship. The Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields was set up by the Sinhalese Theravada community in 1894.

The Lutheran Zion Church was established in 1924. Lutherans trace their roots back to the sixteenth century when Martin Luther, an Augustinian Roman Catholic monk, challenged some of the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Tamil Methodist Church was operating well before 1908. Methodism came to Malaysia more than 120 years ago, and is now the largest Protestant denomination in Malaysia.

The Vivekenanda Ashram facing the KL Sentral development was constructed in 1904. You can still sign up for Kundalini Yoga classes here.

Night has fallen, and it is time to go. No visit to Brickfields is complete without a yummy meal of South Indian food, made complete with traditional sweets.

North Indian sweets fit for a king, at Jesal's, along Jalan Tun Sambanthan. You haven't lived until you have tasted their chocolate burfi.

Thank you for taking a stroll around Brickfields with me.


Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Thanks for the great tour of Brickfields! I love Brickields myself and I wonder if tour guides do cover this special enclave of KL, besides all the other popular sights. You've got yorself a part time job. LOL!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Thanks, Keats! You'd get fat following me to Brickfields, though! I want to eat everything in sight!