Rehman Rashid’s Small Town actually preceded his last book Peninsula: A Story of Malaysia, published in March 2016. He began writing it in late 2015 as a personal tribute to the place he called home, “but it got out of hand” and grew into a larger work. After that, Rehman returned to the earlier manuscript, which had been incorporated into Peninsula as the sections ‘Small Town’ and ‘Lost Tribes’, and expanded it into Small Town, which he described as a little offering for the people of Kuala Kubu Baru, his adoptive hometown.
About 25,000 people live in Kuala Kubu Baru area code 44000. The old colonial buildings on their knoll overlooking the town remain occupied by the administrators of Hulu Selangor as they have been for more than a century, in various guises. It’s just a normal, ordinary little Malaysian town, functionally identical to every other. Sundry shops, workshops, medicine shops, furniture and cellphones, eateries, tailors, opticians, clinics, bakers, barbers, banks, utilities, a travel agent, a bicycle repair guy. Any of them could relocate anywhere similar and slot right into the economy there too. Much about this place is not about those living and working here today but those who went before. These aren’t just old and historic territories, populated for a very long time; they are borderlands: the marginal reaches of distant ﬁefdoms, kingdoms and empires. For centuries have rebels, adventurers, outcasts and fugitives sought sanctuary and alliances here, where rivers descend to seas and jungle trails traverse mountains. Their descendants remain and remember, for lives are uncommonly long here, and many generations deep. They say it’s the good air and clean running waters.
About the author: Rehman Rashid was born in Taiping, Perak in 1955 and educated at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar and the University College of Swansea, Wales, retiring to the hills of Hulu Selangor in 2010 after a globe-trotting 30-year career in print, broadcast and online media. He has won Journalist of the Year awards in Malaysia (1985) and Bermuda (1991), and written four books: Pangkor: Treasure of the Straits (1990), A Malaysian Journey (1993), Small Town (2016), and Peninsula: A Story of Malaysia (2016).