Traffic light turns red . All cars stop. Traffic situation in Kuala Lumpur today a little unusual. Busy. It’s the start of the school day for the year 2013. A new year.
There was a car next to my car. On my right. I put a glimpse. The one that caught my attention was the small child sitting in the rear seat of the car. Concentrated on his Ipad. Looking very confident. "Just want to start schooling – Standard One " said my inner feelings.
That sparked my imaginations when I was just about to go to school in Primary 1 in 1951. Malaya (now Malaysia) at that time was still under British colonial administration. White people, says Opah (grandmother).
It was dawn. About 5,.00 in the morning, I guess. We were too poor to buy a clock or a watch, Hence there were no clock in my house. We relied on the ‘cock-crows’ ( kokok ayam ) to wake us up in the morning. But the irony is I was never late to school. Always punctual. Sometimes received praise from my teacher. Thanks to my Opah who was always ‘ on the dot’.
It was really fun to be able to go to school. Not that I really keen to study. But it is because of other attractions.. Firstly since my School (Malay Boys School Padang Rengas) is close to Padang Rengas town, it was an opportunity for me to be in town almost every day except on Friday and Saturday ( school holiday ).
I had rarely go to Padang Rengas, though it is just two kilometers away from my village. The reason being that I had to walk two kilometers to go to Padang Rengas. There was no easy transport. And no proper road. Just a foot path. So when I was able to go to school at Padang Rengas every day, it provided me with a ‘ golden opportunity ‘ to buy ‘ Ice-Kepal ‘ ( Ice Ball ) at Majid Stall , under the Angsana tree. Besides that I could also buy ‘ kundas ‘ (kind of cake that is only available at mamak stalls in Padang Rengas!).
Opah accompanied me to the wells. To have a bath. It was stii very dark . And the well was about twenty yards away from the house. There was no electricity then. Opah used the oil gas lamp to light the path from the house to the well.
Then the water from the well was really very cold. We had to bear with it. 'Brush your teeth" said Opah and handed to me the pounded charcoal to brush my teeth. At that time there was no brush and toothpaste. Coal was used as a tooth paste and to use a finger as ‘tooth brush’.
My shirt and pants was ready, properly ‘ ironed’ by my mother using the ‘ iron’ presumably used by the west during the 17th century. It is just my assumption.
By then 'Breakfast' was ready. Mother who prepare for me. A boiled, partly ripe banana ‘Pisang Emas’. You have to eat it with coconut mixed with sugar. Black coffeee. That was my breakfast and the type of breakfast consumed by most of my friends. Compared with the 'breakfast' which was enjoyed by my children and my grandchild, it was like ‘ jauh panggang dari api’ ( a Malay proverb ).
My father gave gave me 20 cents. As pocket money. A 20-cent coin. My mother tied the coin to a corner of a handkerchief to avoid getting lost . There was no wallet then . With 20 cents I was able to buy nasi lemak or meehun that cost 10 cents. 5 cents to buy a cake. And the balance of 5 cents was to buy ‘ ais kepal ‘ ( ice ball) on the way home later. What about drinking water? The answer is from the well of Pak Mansur near the school. Therein lies the source of 'mineral water' for Free.
In an atmosphere of silence and a misty morning my father sent me to school in his ‘Basikal Tua’ ( old bicycle ). That was my first day at school.
2 January 2013