I was reading Uncle Lee and this storyteller extraordinaire had me laughing out loud at his naughty teenage pranks and escapades. He sure helped bring back many memories of wonderful playtimes I had with my childhood friends a long, long time ago. There were no telephone, no television and no computer at home; no malls to hang out at and movies at cinemas cost money. And I don’t remember seeing toys at home, save for the one plastic doll or two and some cheap masak-masak sets bought from the little Indian store next to the bus stop.
Mornings in the kampung were usually quiet times as most of the kids were at school. Come afternoons and the cheerful voices singing -“La La Li La Tampong….” /" One, Two Som.." / “Chooi Loh Chooi Peng-Peng….” /“
Rainy days would see us playing indoor games such as 'seven stones' and congkak and draught....all homemade sets using items such small river stones, coconut shells, assam jawa seeds, checked cardboard and old bottle caps. Even when playing such supposedly 'quiet' games would not stop us from yelling at each other, "Hey! You cheating wan...I saw you cheating.....", followed with a fierce and loud rebuttal of "WHERE GOTTTTT??? You are the cheater lar....You stoooopidddd....Dowan to play liao lar..." and with one flick of the hand, boards and seeds and everything else would be sent flying to the ground. Split as arch enemies for the day....tomorrow comes, and we would be best of buddies again.
We made our own toys. Nail a wooden broom-stick to a milk tin cover and we would have a roller of sorts that we pushed round racing each other down the dirt track. Hammer some F & N bottle caps, puncture 2 holes and thread a rope through, spin and pull and spin and pull and you have sort of a windmill. Go collect some rubber seeds, drill some holes into the seed and thread the same. And oh ya. rub the seed on the floor and touch some bare skin…I tell ya…it sting and burn. I remember my naughty cousin….he rubbed the seed and then crawled quietly next to the mahjong table and touched the calf of an old nyonya aunt causing her to ‘naik lata ' "…$#@** jatuh...jatuhhh...@#&^%...jatuhhh...." Aiyoh-yoh....such colourful expletives!
My cousin brother is a very creative guy. He was into ‘weaponry’ at that time and his ingenuity fascinated me. He could easily fashion a wooden gun/rifle out of a piece of wooden plank salvaged from wooden crates. Tie some rubber bands and then for ammunition, just cut up empty cigarette boxes and roll it tight. And sometimes, he would cut up some pieces of planks, hammer them together and make a crude wooden sword. Weave some coconut fronds and you get a belt/holster and a matching headgear to complete the look.
Anyone here remember the bamboo-pop? It’s a length of bamboo, diameter of about a 50sen coin and 10 inches long; put into the small hollow of the bamboo an unripe cherry fruit and it fits just nicely, take aim and then push hard with a thinner stick of bamboo or wooden chopstick and the projectile will hit the target. My naughty cousin aimed at me once and until today, I think he will never forget the spanking he got for making me cry. It was very, very painful.
Also the Y-shaped lastik (catapult) fashioned from a small Y-shaped branch of a jambu or tembusu tree with a length of used bicycle inner tubes tied to it. This weapon can be lethal. I have seen my brother and cousin used it on some monitor lizards and stray animals that wandered into our backyard and had seen them brought down some fruit bats from the trees too. I pestered my cousin to make one for me but momma found out and threw mine away. **bawlsss...** He then taught me to use a simpler version – just a thick rubber band between the thumb and fore-finger and to use cut-up vines as ammunition. I was quite clumsy and I accidentally hit a friend on her cheek and that sent her howling in pain and oh my, the red welt that appeared. I sure regretted it and that caused Momma to leave a few rotan strokes on my legs too.
And my children? Toys by the basketfuls when they were small and now, on-line games. Cartoons on the TV when they were small and now, movies at cineplexes.
IT'S A DIFFERENT ERA.