There are things or events in everyone’s childhood that leave indelible memories. I am sure you guys reading this have your own sweet/bitter memories from your childhood – things that you will remember till the day you die.
Here are some of mine.
Ice ball or air batu kepal
It is almost impossible to find now. It is simple crushed ice, packed into a ball the size of our fist with rose syrup and brown sugar syrup poured over it. Served on a piece of newspaper. 100% delicious, 200% unhealthy (half the ink from the newspaper will stick to the iceball)
In the 1970s and 1980s, any decent hawker worth his trolley would sell this. When I was in school, it cost me 5 sen. There was nothing more pleasurable than sucking on an iceball while walking back from school on a hot afternoon. You suck it until dry and your lips turn red from the colouring in the syrup.
Once you have sucked it dry, you could throw the remaining ice at someone you don’t like. But most of the time, you just ate that ice.
Galah panjang was a game that was played during recess. I loved galah panjang. Two teams of between 6 – 8 people play. The objective was to cross several lines without being tagged (not in Facebook) by your opponents.
GP was quite addictive. Zero cost and tonnes of fun. We often played it not realising that recess time was over – only to be dragged by our ears by the discipline master. We played against the girls too but we always won.
Does anyone want to play galah panjang with me now ?
All the stage buses had colourful tickets. The color of the ticket was based on the denomination. You could have red for 5 sen ticket, blue for 10 sen ticket, green for 20 sen, etc, etc. The bus conductor would have a wad full of tickets in one hand and the ticket puncher on the other hand while using his third hand to hold on to the railings. The bus conductor was someone you admired when you were a kid. Then there was the ticket inspector who would board the bus at random and punch more holes into your ticket.
Many of my friends collected used bus tickets as a hobby. I didn’t. I didn’t think that they would be sought after in the future.
Why is it so difficult to find jambu batu nowadays? With the new breed of big seedless guava and the waxy apple (jambu air) – the old-fashioned jambu batu has become hard to find.
When I was growing up, you could find it everywhere. It was hard and not exactly the tastiest fruit but it was plentiful and almost free. One could use the unripe jambu as ammunition for the catapult (lastik). There was a major hazard though – the jambu trees were laways full of red ants (kerengga). For every fruit you pluck, 2 kerenggas will bite you.
Rotans were ubiquitous during my childhood. Every household had a few. Every school (government, private, Tamil, Chinese, agama, pondok) held a sizeable stock of rotans. And rotans were meant to be used. Parents, teachers, ustazs, policemen, tuition teachers, uncles, aunties, granpas and grandmas were rather liberal with the rotan.
I have been on the receiving end many times (but guess I turned out okay without any serious psychological ailments). On the buttocks, legs, hands, palms – you name it, the rotan found it mark.
There were also many theories about the rotan. Kids always speculated whether the thin ones or the thick ones caused more pain. The rotanning style was also subject to much debate. Stories were abound about students who padded the bottoms with extra layers of shorts or newspaper or even books to minimize the impact of the rotan.
Did the rotan make me better? I don’t know. But I think I will keep a few rotans at my office, just in case it becomes handy.
We almost never ate out. Most families in my neighbourhood (in Lumut, Perak) did not eat out. No one could afford to eat out.
Because eating out was so rare, those occasions when my father took us out to eat are vivid in my mind. There was one occasion when I think I was in Standard 4 or 5. I remember my mother sort of pestered my dad to take the family out to eat and my dad, grumpily, took everyone out (errr… we all walked to the restaurant together). The only decent place to eat those days was the government rest house.
Despite the decades that have passed, I can still remember what we had. Battered prawns. Fried chicken wings. Some vegetable. White rice. I remember drinking orange juice. I also remember the bill. It came up to a little more than RM 10 – a big amount for my dad then. He was grumpy for the rest of the week. [the orange juice that I drank was the tastiest drink I have ever had, then].
The other occasion when we ate out was on the way back from some wedding. We stopped at a Chinese coffee shop and had noodles. My dad wanted us to go back and eat at home but we kids managed to convince him to stop at the shop. I think it was Hokkien mee and plain water.
These are the two occasions that I can remember of my family eating out then. These events were so rare that I remember them clearly. The Hokkien mee was awesome.
I collected stamps throughout my primary school and then lost it soon after. Back then, there was no email and my family did not have a telephone. Snail mail was the main mode of communication. Everytime the family received a letter, I would keep the stamps. It became a problem later when my brother started collecting stamps too – then we would quarrel who get to keep which stamp.
There were stamp clubs in school. Now I can’t remember what we did at these clubs. Probably exchanged stamps and talked shit.
Stamp collecting was cool back then. I had several albums full of stamps although mostly Malaysians stamps. Getting foreign stamps was a luxury. Nevertheless I had a few in my collection including those from Hungary that had Magyar Posta printed on them. I can’t remember how I got those Hungarian stamps.
There were triangular and circular Malaysians stamps back in the 1970s’. I had a few of those.
I don’t really know what happened to my stamps. If you took them, please give them back to me.
There are many more things from my childhood that are still vivid in my mind. I will write about them another day.
Monyet King at the age of 4