Sunday, 18 March 2012

Godown sand

A godown is the name given to a warehouse or large store but this name is only in popular use in south and eastern Asia. Don't use this word if you are in the west, otherwise the people there would think you want to head somewhere.

Apparently the word godown comes direct from the Malay translation of `gudang'. I had always thought it was the other way round.

Okay, back to the title... godown sand does not make sense but a sand godown does, i.e. a place where sand is stored. Only that it wouldn't be the correct translation of the Malay place-name which is the subject of today's post. Pasir Gudang is a township to the east of Johor Bahru city and is where my present workplace is. It is a large housing and industrial area first developed by Johor Corporation in the early 1980s. My first stint working in Pasir Gudang was in 1990 where I was part of the engineering department which undertook the construction works. My present employment is not related to my earlier job, which I left in November 1991.

On most mornings before clocking in at the office, I would stop by a nearby restaurant for breakfast. A few days ago, as I was holding a mug of nescafe tarik and looking for a seat, I spotted a familiar face sitting alone at a table. This person also saw me and a few silent moments passed as both of us try to recall who the other person is. He was the one who spoke first.

"Encik Fadhil ke?" he asks.

"Betul," I nodded. "Alias kan? Ingat lagi kamu kat aku ye."

He smiled, we shook hands and he offered me to sit with him at the same table. Alias Shahdan was an excavator operator who worked in the same the department as I did, more than 20 years ago. He worked under a separate section and did not directly report to me, so I was surprised that he still recognizes me. And he was polite enough to still address me as 'Encik' although I have long ceased being his superior. Alias is now retired, of course. We chatted a bit about the old times... when Pasir Gudang was still a barren and dusty place but busily growing like a restless child eager to become an adult.

There were perhaps 50 to 60 machine operators and workshop crew working with our department then but I can recall Alias by name because he was one of the more dedicated and hardworking ones. A soft-spoken man with no disciplinary issues.

Before I left Pasir Gudang in 1991, one the last projects I handled was the construction of an indoor stadium. It was still at the initial design stage at the time but the top bosses wanted to hold a ground-breaking ceremony so that the Menteri Besar would have a reason to come to Pasir Gudang. My colleagues and I discussed on what manner the actual ground-breaking event is going to be. We decided that the MB shall sit on a Caterpillar backhoe, work a few of the levers to move the bucket and symbolically dig a hole in the ground. Of course, you can't expect the MB to actually know how to operate a backhoe so we had to have one of our operators to be his guide. The choice of who this operator should be was obvious... it has to be Alias bin Shahdan. And so, the man was informed of his upcoming important task and he accepted the news with hardly a complaint. Over the next few days, he took the extra effort to have his machine cleaned up and applied the standard yellow colour touch-up paint. When the day came for the actual ceremony, the backhoe looked like it just came out of the showroom.

The Menteri Besar of Johor at that time was Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. When the MB finished reading his officiating speech, Alias accompanied him to the backhoe parked some metres away and invited him to sit in the cab. With the MB seated comfortably, Alias crouched alongside the VIP and coolly showed him how to work the hydraulic levers. The bucket made a small arc, dug a bit of the earth and the ceremony was done. Alias had his pictures in the newspapers the next day.

I departed from Pasir Gudang shortly after that and so did not see the stadium being constructed. Even upon completion I have never actually set foot inside it. Yesterday afternoon after work, I took a drive to the stadium just to view it from the outside.

When it was first completed, the indoor stadium was simply named Stadium Perbadanan, to reflect the fact that is was built by Perbadanan Johor, the state development and investment body. It has since been renamed Stadium Perbandaran Pasir Gudang, after the state civil service took over the administration of the local authority now known as Majlis Perbandaran Pasir Gudang.

Stadium Perbandaran

A signboard that is proof the stadium originally had a different name


Papa-NtiQ said...

we should go out for lunch one day. are you with sime or mmhe? i kat titan.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'd always thought that the word "Gudang" meant "warehouse". Must be all those banners displaying sales at "Gudang kain" or "Gudang Baju" which line the roads in the suburbs here.

Oldstock said...

Papa antik,

Lunch would be nice, but I would prefer on Saturday. No need to worry about checking back at the office after that. Drop me an email of your contact details.

Am neither with sime or mmhe..

Oldstock said...


Gudang does mean warehouse in English. The other term `godown' brings to mind those old-time storage space for goods next to ports or harbours.

Wan Sharif said...

Interesting post... Meeting good friend, worker and having good time together.. How blessed!

Oldstock said...

Ayoh Wang,

It is always nice to be meeting old colleagues after a long lapse. Memories of goods times gives me a positive boost.

Nurie said...

Oh,I thought godown was bahasa pasar penang style,ala ala gostan gitu!hahaha....

PEES Old Boy said...

1st time commenting old friend. Manage to get connected with an old classmate of ours, Siew Fang. I'm sure you'll remember her. It has always been 2 of you at the top if you know what I mean.


Oldstock said...


I hadn't thought of it that way... gohead, gostan and godown, haha.. good of you to bring it up.

Just to digress a bit, the words gohead and gostan purportedly came into the Malay language from English for `go ahead' and `go astern'. The `go ahead' part is easy to understand. The `go astern' which became gostan (to reverse) in Malay takes a bit more explaining. A `stern' is the rear part of a ship, so going astern is to move backwards. But I have a problem with this theory, because the other half of this paired phrase, `go ahead', does not jive. The front of a ship is called the bow not the head.

Anyway, there are a few more words from Malay that made it into daily English usage. Maybe I'll write about that sometime...

Oldstock said...


Nice of you to drop by. Of course I remember Siew Fang. I was thinking of our old group of PEES friends the other day and even tried searching for Siew Fang on Facebook. Say hello to her the next time you guys are in touch. Maybe we should find some free time and drop over to Spore and have tea together...