Trailer: Coming real soon…THROUGH THE EYES OF A 4 YEAR OLD BOY
The house, up the hill… from the school I was to attend in Standard One (year I) when I turn 7… the scary big man in red and white… coming up the road at the side of the house, carrying a big red sack over his shoulder. Maybe, he was going around looking for little children to snatch and carry off in that strange big red sack of his…
The setting: early 1960s… The place: Jalan Chantik, PJ (2).
Months later, a fierce colourful dragon jumping up and down, with its head bouncing from left to right and back and very loud sounds surrounding it… I didn’t know that dragons were real…
The same road saw a very old, small, dark skin man, carry a green table on his white, bandaged head. Daddy called him to come in our gate, which was not locked. This man was so black…he must have got burnt by the sun because we see him come past our house in the sun… His table had many small compartments, with several different nuts. As he walked along the road, he used to shout on top of his voice, “Kachang Putih! Kachang Putih!”. He would pass our house everyday around the same time, when the sun was shining and hot. We never saw him on days that had heavy rain.
I also thought he was dressed funny. First, he had the white bandage around his head. Then, he did not wear pants. He had a white cloth… like a skirt…
Then, there was an aunty, who wore a funny hat. She carried a long, wooden pole on her shoulder. At the ends of the pole, on each side; hung round baskets….
Another lady, a nurse I think, because she was always dressed in white, yet I think she may have just finished school as she carried a rattan / cane basket. But mummy used to buy soap from her. Maybe, after school, she sold soap part-time.
Thinking back….60 years have gone by.
The “scary big man dressed in red and white” was Santa Claus. No one prepared me for “Santa Claus”. Neither did they tell me he was Santa Claus. I would not have thought so since he was walking on the road by the side of the house. No one told me that he was the good guy, on our side. All “those years” of growing up, from the time we (my sister, Jen and I) were 2 years (which was the time we began understanding things – we were all grown up to be able to handle the “adult” stuff like understanding things) to 4 years; it was ingrained in us, “Don’t talk to strangers”. So, all strangers were “the bogeyman”.
Long before we ever watched Ultraman battling monsters on tv; the fierce colourful dragon jumping up and down, with its head bouncing from left to right and back again, and very loud sounds of big drums and cymbals clashing surrounding it… that was in celebration of Chinese New Year or lunar year celebrations. I reacted like any kid my age would have reacted at that time…I freaked out!
This monster size looking snake, with huge eyes, the size of bowling balls (not that I knew what bowling balls looked like at that time), snaking its way up the road at the side of the house. What more… every step it took thumped the ground with the sound of thunder (pounding of drums) and its hissing, the sound of the crack of lightning (clashing of cymbals).. No one told us that was supposed to be a lion. That sure didn’t look like a lion. I know what a lion looked like. Daddy & mummy had taken Jen and I to visit the zoo in KL (3). We saw what lions looked like. They sure weren’t colourful and didn’t look like what we saw on the road. Anyway, what was a lion doing, walking freely around the houses?
I thought that the man balancing the table on his head was from the circus. It was quite a feat as the table looked stable and he looked comfortable (“table” mentioned 3 times in a single breath) with it as he walked long hours each day, everyday. The kacang putih or white peanuts and other varieties he sold, was quite tasty. It must have been healthy food because he also sold salted fried parapu or dhal. That “uncle” is fondly remembered. We were thought to refer to every grownup man as an “uncle” and every grownup lady as an “aunty”. Oh… and his head was not bandaged. He wore a turban!
The aunty who wore that funny upside down filter-shaped hat could most probably have been from the same circus as the uncle above. Her hat was to give her some shade from the sun. She was very good at balancing several round baskets, one on top of each other; at each end of the pole. She carried her cakes in these round baskets.
She sold some of the most delicious cakes in many colours that were diamond, round or rectangular shaped. The red and white layered kuih in rectangle shape, the white rice with a sort of green custard on top, or the green sort of custard with a coconut layered custard on top, the blue and white colour rice with kaya jam. I think she started walking her daily routes early in the morning as her cakes usually sold out by noon.
Sometimes, another uncle will carry something similar to the aunty selling cakes. He, too; sold cakes, differently from the aunty; but he carried them in round aluminum-type pans.
The lady who I thought was a nurse because she was all dressed in white yet at the same time thought she was a schoolgirl because she carried a rattan basket, was actually a part time soap or clothes detergent saleslady. She used to carry packets of this detergent and go from house-to-house, selling them. My mother used to buy detergent quite often from this lady.
I had an enjoyable time writing this essay as it brought back many favourable memories. I have tried to depict this story as best as I can from the memories I have of the time we (my family) stayed in that house up the hill in Jalan Chantik, PJ. I hope you will enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
- Fig 1: Malaysian Kuih: A marriage of flavours and cultures | Malay Mail :https://www.malaymail.com/news/eat/drink/2016/03/27/malaysian-kuih-a-marriage-of-flavours-and-cultures/1087719
- PJ or Petaling Jaya is a city in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.
- KL or the city of Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.