L. A. Vincent
New Pb 481 pp.
When Usup and his father left home one day they hoped to come
across some more of that famous Malayan tin, but what they didn’t expect
to find on their way was what would become the start of the biggest
coal mine in Malaya. For his discovery, Usup’s father gained a
pilgrimage to Mecca, while all of the communities around Batang
Berjuntai gained a railway track which brought with it a whole new way
Fourteen Miles to Berjuntai tells the
story of the changes around the sleepy town of Batang Berjuntai, with
the arrival of coal mines, rubber estates, railway tracks, tin mines and
paddy fields, through the eyes of those who lived and worked alongside
this 14-mile track.
It charts the journeys of
workers as they braved the dangers of the sea to make a life in Malaya
and found themselves in a new world, fighting mosquitoes in the swamps,
tigers from the jungle, monsoons and the scourge of opium, to build
themselves and their families a new home. They came from all over, from
China and India, from Java and Sumatra and from Europe, enticed by
recruiters and colonial officials with the promise of money, but they
ended up finding much more.
As time went by,
these individuals experienced the coming of the railway and
industrialisation, the hardship of the Great Recession and the Japanese
Occupation, and finally the politics of the Emergency. They found their
place in an ever-changing landscape of places and individuals who might
have been foreign to one another but all learned to call this place
Fourteen Miles to Berjuntai gives you a window into Malaya’s past like never before.