Here’s a common conversation that usually takes place upon meeting someone new:
Stranger: Hey, how’s it going? By the way, I’m (pick a name, guys).
Me: It's pretty good. I’m Sandeep, It’s nice meeting you.
Stranger: So, where’re you from?
Me: Well, I live in Bukit Jalil right now, but I lived in Cheras for over 20 years.
Stranger: God damn. So how was the traffic yea?
This is the response I get EVERY SINGLE TIME after revealing that I used to live in Cheras – a shoutout to all Cheras folks who can relate to this! However, if you, like me, were born and bred in Cheras, you'll know that there really is so much more than traffic jam that this township has to offer. With that said, here's a trip down memory lane of the neighbourhood that i grew up in from the mid-90s onwards...
Tell the world I'm coming home. (Image: Panoramio)
Malls: Leisure Mall over Mid Valley anyone?
Leisure Mall. This was THE spot back in the day. Ask anyone within the Cheras community and they will swear by this. At that time, if you hung out at Leisure Mall, you were pretty much considered as the cool, Channing Tatum-esque kid in class. And not the awkward, Jonah Hill. On Friday afternoons especially, the mall would be filled with teenagers in uniforms, immediately after school hours, with massive groups heading straight for the arcade, Fireworks. After all, what is a mall without an arcade right? Add bumper cars to the equation and Leisure Mall quickly gained its iconic status among us, 90’s kids.
What would Cheras be without this... (Image: OpenSnap)
However, with time, this mall has lost some of its spark. Leisure Mall is now visited for iced latte and Peri-Peri goodness, instead of air hockey and bumper cars. Hence, It’s no longer as packed as how it used to be. Also, the rise of an assemblage of other malls in Cheras such as, Cheras Sentral, One Shamelin, Cheras Selatan and Taman Connaught’s Ikon does not help the cause.
Food: Taman Connaught pasar malam is a weekly staple
10 years ago, if anyone would have said that Cheras would soon accommodate an array of trendy cafés, most of us would have told him/her to fly kites. Now though, boy oh boy have we been proven wrong! Taman Segar’s Inside Scoop, which is a minute walk from Leisure Mall, and Connaught Avenue's Summer at 17℃ and Zest Patisserie are a testament of the rapidly growing café culture. Nevertheless, the classic food scene in Cheras continues to thrive despite the invasion of these contemporary eateries. The legendary Taman Connaught pasar malam
is the living embodiment of timeless beauty encapsulated in a humble environment.
This pasar malam promises to satisfy cravings for every palate and wallet. (Image: The Smart Local)
Furthermore, Taman Midah’s Restoran Dhurbar represents an evergreen mamak
in the heart of Cheras. Dhurbar seems like it has been around for as long as I can remember, and for old time’s sake, I hope it continues to remain.
School: Every student hung out at 7-Eleven
A lot of my school days were spent in Taman Shamelin Perkasa. And in this area, students used to hang out at 7-Eleven before their co-curricular activities (also known as "koko" to us less fancy, more robust SK and SMK kids – no international school kids were harmed in this process). And why 7-Eleven you ask? Well, because it's the trendy thing to do. Plus, the school canteen was just too 'blah' and 'mainstream'.
This was the aforementioned 7-E in Taman Shamelin, which used to be filled with students. But then along came One Shamelin. (Image: Wikimapia)
Unfortunately, that trend came to an end when the One Shamelin mall arrived and changed everything. Kids were no longer heading out to 7-Eleven, and instead, to the mall! 7-Eleven suddenly found itself as the new 'blah' and 'mainstream' spot.
Sports: When rubber courts replaced grass-and-sand
During my childhood, most of my leisure activities were carried within the housing compound (with Indian parents, good luck leaving the house) or in the neighbourhood field (with more stones and sand than grass). However, soon enough, prayers were answered and the indoor Challenger Sports Centre opened up and Sports Affairs too, soon followed.
This quickly became a second home for most of us, especially during weekends. (Image: www.sportscentral.com.my)
Badminton and futsal became a whole lot easier, especially not having to deal with house gates as the net and the unpredictability of the evening wind.
So there you have it, my take on growing up in Cheras over the past 22 years. Although I no longer reside there, I continue to pay a visit to Cheras at least twice a week. And I think I speak for all of the former Cheras kids, that if we could bring back one 'landmark' to Cheras, it would certainly be the bumper cars in Leisure Mall! If you feel me, share this!