"Where are you from?" or "where is your kampung?" is always the standard question asked by someone whom you have just met in a conversation.
The Wikipedia defines the term "kampung" as "a Malay hamlet or village in a Malay-speaking country" In other words, a kampung is defined today as a village in Brunei, Indonesia or Malaysia.
The Wikipedia continues to say that in Malaysia, a kampung is determined as a locality with 10,000 or fewer people. Since historical times, every Malay village came under the leadership of a penghulu (village chief), who has the power to hear civil matters in his village. A Malay village typically contains a "masjid" (mosque) or "surau" (Muslim chapel), stilt houses and paddy fields. Malay villagers practice the culture of helping one another as a community, which is better known as "joint bearing of burdens" (gotong royong), as well as being family-oriented (especially the concept of respecting one's family, particularly the parents and elders), courtesy and believing in God ("Tuhan") as paramount to
everything else. It is common to see a "kubor" (Muslim cemetery) near the mosque, as all Muslims in the Malay village want to be prayed for, and to receive Allah's blessings in the afterlife.
Having said that, a kampung is therefore our origin, where we were born probably and also where we grew up and spent most of our early schooling years there. A kampung is also where our parents settle down for good.
Whenever we have the opportunity, a kampung is where we return to spend the time with our parents, relatives and friends, who grew up and played together with us in the kampung. There is no other preferable way to spend the time during the holidays than to "balik kampung" (return to our parents' house in the village) whether we were at college, university or working somewhere else at that time. A kampung can also be said to be the focul point for "silaturrahim" (maintaining close relationship amongst friends and relatives), where all the brothers, sisters and close relatives get together as often as possible, especially during festivals like the Aidil Fitri, Aidil Adha or marriage ceremonies of those very close to the family. For as long as one of the parents is still alive, the "spirit" of the "balik kampung" still remains, that is, the joy of looking forward to return to the kampung.
Now, back to the question of where my kampung is. You see, I was born in Singapore at the customs quarters at Kampung Bahru Road. Later on my parents rented a house in Kg. Bukit Kasita. I studied at the Radin Mas Primary School from Standard 1 to Standard 5. So it can be said that my kampung at that time was Kampung Bukit Kasita in Singapore.
In 1963, my late father was transferred to Johor Bahru. At first, we were staying in the Government's quarters at Jalan Larkin. Later on, my late father bought a house at Jalan Kasawari, Larkin Lama, Johor Bahru. I continued my studies at Sekolah Rendah Temenggung Abdul Rahman. At the end of 1964, my class teacher, Mrs. Maniam recommended me to sit for an examination for selection to study at MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar). I was one of the successful candidates to be selected, the other one being my classmate, Abdullah bin Abdul Hamid.
So whenever I was asked where my kampung was during my 5-year study period in MCKK, I would answer that it was Johor Bahru. Fellow Johoreans at MCKK thus thought that I was a pure Johorean.
In 1970, I was given a scholarship to study for a diploma in Brighton Technical College in the United Kingdom. Two years later, I went to London to study for my enginering degree at King's College (University of London). While I was there, whenever I was asked by any Malaysian about my kampung, I would say that it was in Johor Bahru.
While I was studyng in London, my late father was transferred to Lumut in Perak. Subsequently my late father bought a piece of land at Kampung Kurnia in Tronoh, Perak and built a house there. "It's going to be my retirement place." said my late father. So after that, Lumut and subsequently Tronoh in Perak became my kampung. In the meantime, my mother continued to stay in the house in Johor Bahru. So technically speaking, I had two kampungs at that time, one in Perak and the other one in Johor. It wasn't very long thereafter that the house in Johor Bahru was sold and therefore Kg. Kurnia at Tronoh in Perak became my latest kampung.
My late father was born in Lubok Merbau in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. My late mother was born in Batu Berendam in Melaka. My late mum was a "baba nyonya" which explained the Chinese look in me. So by right I should have a kampung in Melaka too. But it was not to be that way for the story as was told by my late mum was that she was "disowned" by her parents when she married my late dad. She never returned to Melaka to meet her parents again after that except to visit her two elder brothers, Pak Long and Pak Ngah, who had also embraced Islam at the same time as her.
I still have some relatives residing in Melaka who are descendents from my late Pak Ngah. Until today, whenever I meet a nyonya-baba or baba-nyonya from Melaka, I wonder whether he or she is related to my late mother.
When we grew up, we got married and have children. We eventually establish our own kampung by buying a house of our own. We spend lesser and lesser time to "balik kampung" after both our parents had passed away.
Almost all of my brothers and sisters have committed themselves to have their own kampungs by buying a house at the place chosen by them. Therefore, during the holidays, their own childen visit them, just like they visited their own parents when their parents were still alive.
As for me, I do not have a house to settle down yet. All my life I had been travelling and working at different places and I was never at a place for more than 4 years. However, my wife and I are building a house in Dungun and most likely we will settle down in Dungun for good and call it our kampung.
So in the meantime, what shall I say if someone is to ask me where my kampung is? :-)