Uncle Kapitan, the old man of Jelebu

No electricity or running water, but ‘Uncle Kapitan’ waits to celebrate Chinese new year anyway

Lim Tiap Beng, fondly known as Uncle Kapitan in his village in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, has lived alone since his mother passed away 34 years ago. While he still has a sister and other family members, he will spend Chinese New Year alone in his rickety old house as Covid-19 movement restrictions remain in place across most of the country.

For many years, Lim Tiap Beng has lived in a rickety wooden house in Kampung Kapitan, Jelebu. There is no electricity and no running water but it is the only home he knows.

Fondly known among the villagers as “Cina Kapitan” or “Uncle Kapitan”, Lim, 83, lived there with his mother until she passed away in 1988.

But despite the solitude and the rudeness of his home, Lim is happy and is looking forward to celebrating Chinese New Year this week.

At 84, Lim Teck Beng has lived alone for several decades now in an old wooden house at Jalan Dato’ Moyang Salleh.
He has been single his entire life, preferring not to get married as he says life is easier this way.

“I have lived here for more than 30 years on my own, since my mother passed away,” he told MalaysiaNow, adding that his house is built on land owned by an ex-soldier who allows him to stay there free of charge. In exchange, Lim takes care of the trees in the landowner’s durian orchard.

He is the third of five siblings although only one, his older sister, is still alive.

“She lives in Taman KSM,” he said. “My brother married an Orang Asli but now he is gone and so is my mother.

“Sometimes my nephew will come to bring me some food. But I don’t care,” he added.

He said his neighbours never tire of giving him food and help whenever he needs it. “My neighbours have never been angry with me.”

For himself, Lim is a tidy man who goes to great lengths to keep his humble home clean.

His home is built on land belonging to a Malay landowner who has given him permission to stay there for free for as long as he lives.
He gets his supply of water from an old well outside his house, which has no running tap water or even electricity.
Each morning Uncle Kapitan gets ready to go to work, doing odd jobs for villagers in the area.

“Every day, I sweep around the house and make sure there is no garbage lying around that could give off a bad smell.”

Although he is poor, Lim is fortunate as he has never had any health problems. His meals are simple: plain rice with salt egg or salt fish.

To support himself, he plants and tends to banana trees and does odd jobs around the village.

“I have a good friend,” he said. “You could call us partners. If there are jobs around the village that need doing, we do them together.

“We always get paid to clean the graves in the cemetery. We do this together.”

Despite his age, he is strong and in good health, and has never had any chronic issues.
He travels to work by motorcycle, earning a living by taking care of gardens and cleaning the Jelebu Chinese cemetery.
He and four others are responsible for taking care of the burial grounds which stretch for 10 acres.

At 70, his friend, Ng Chook Fah, is a little younger than he is. They have known each other for more than 30 years now, and Ng worries about Lim living by himself.

“Once, he went for a check-up and the doctor gave him some heart medication to take over three days. But he forgot and ate it all within a few hours.

Uncle Kapitan uses a hoe to keep the grass and weeds from overruning the graves.
At home, it’s time for a short rest.
He also does his best to keep his house clean, sweeping and tidying the place each day.
With Chinese New Year around the corner, he makes sure that the lanterns hanging from wooden beams in his porch are clean as well.
His kitchen, while humble, is neat and orderly.

“He fainted, and we gave him what help we could until he came to himself again,” Ng told MalaysiaNow.

With Chinese New Year around the corner, Lim is excited even though he will be celebrating on his own, as he has for years.

He hopes that one day, he will be able to have electricity in his house. Right now, he is afraid to move about after dark or whenever it rains.

“I don’t mind whatever help I receive,” he said. “But for Chinese New Year, I hope I can get some assistance to help me live a little more comfortably.

“That is all I ask for.”

Normally, Uncle Kapitan eats the food sent to him by his relatives. Today, though, he boils some water to make himself a bowl of instant noodles.
He eats in the living room, enjoying the peace.
The lanterns, a small pile of Mandarin oranges known as ‘kam’, and a jar of cookies make up his Chinese New Year preparations.
‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home’: Uncle Kapitan’s house is also a favourite spot for many of his friends to sit and chat.

By : Djohan Shahrin – MALAYSIANOW

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