My Brief Civic Engagement

1984 was the landmark year for me.  With a new family and a career brimming with great expectations, I was about to embark on my next great acquisition – a brand new car.

The 4-door saloon version of the 2nd Gen Honda Civic had just been launched, and it had all the qualities that set my heart aflutter, and an affordable sticker price of RM20,500.  That Honda salesman probably closed the easiest deal of his life, as I practically sold the car to me on his behalf !

A week later, I was offered a new job in Singapore, and after much heart-rending discussions within the extended families, wifey and I decided to uproot from Penang to settle on the Little Red Dot.  The RM1,500 deposit had to be forfeited.

Inexplicably though, I never owned another Honda nor Civic after this brief engagement.

Her Heart Was Willing, But His Body Was Weak

50 years ago, on 3 December 1967, Denise Ann Darvall of South Africa died in a car crash, and her father donated her heart to 54-yr old Louis Washkansky in the world’s first-ever human heart transplant. That brought international fame to Dr Christiaan Barnard, the heart surgeon.

Denise’s kidneys were also donated — to a 10-yr old boy, Jonathan Van Wyk.

That epoch medical achievement made headlines in the local newspapers and became a much-discussed topic.  In our primary school,  our principal even held a quiz contest based on this event.

Denise Darvall’s heart went on to beat for another 18 days in the chest of Louis Washkansky. And then the latter died after succumbing to pneumonia as a result of an immune system medically weakened to suppress the body’s rejection of the new heart.   What an irony!

Inking Deals That Were A Daily Grind

When I was still very young, all my older cousins were enrolled in Chinese-medium schools. 

One of the mandatory requirements for them was to learn writing with brushes.  The brushes came in 2 or more sizes, depending on whether the writing was to be Big or Small.  

The most interesting part was that the students had to make their own ink in-situ, before the start of each writing exercise session!   This was done by putting some water onto an “ink stone” and then taking a rectangular piece of black stuff called “ink stick” and grinding it in a circular fashion against the wetted surface of the inkstone. 

The brushes were then dipped into the rich, freshly produced ink, and put to work in the hands of the budding calligraphists. Of course, different folks had different strokes, but everyone was inking deals.

Moving People, Enhancing Lives

Photo shows the 5 major buses in Penang in their respective liveries that I best remember (from the 1970s). Each of them covered specific regions of the island, with some overlapping areas.

Operating from the terminal “base stations” alongside the infamous smelly Prangin Canal were the venerable trio :-

  1. Lim Seng Seng : Ayer Itam, Dato Keramat
  2. Hin Company : Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Tokong
  3. Penang Yellow Bus : Bayan Lepas, Balik Pulau

Sri Negara was a latecomer, plying routes like Western Road, Bagan Jermal, etc. Lastly, the somewhat rickety City Council buses which ran a number of routes within and, to the outskirts of the city.   

These Transporters were not the most comfortable, but they did a pretty decent job of Moving People and Enhancing Lives*, at truly affordable prices.

note :  * pun on Singapore’s SMRT slogan

Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself

In the beginning, when life was breathed into Rukun Tetangga there were no fancy “misi” nor “visi” statements – it was just a plain “Neighbourhood Watch” to help combat nocturnal criminal propensities.

In 1978, I lived in a rented house in Section 17 of PJ with several MU classmates.  One day we were notified by the authorities to report for duty, and that set us off on our night patrols.

Our equipment was simple : some big sticks and a couple of torchlights, and sometimes a can of Baygon spray to ward off mozzies. No swanky  boleros with reflective strips or red arm-bands.

Initially, it was fun, especially getting to know the jiran-jiran. Later on, it became boring, and we often sneaked away to snore in some dark corners — and love ourselves as our neighbours slept peacefully.

note : 

some words used here are in the Malay Language, viz., “misi”, “visi” and “jiran-jiran”..which mean “mission”, “vision” and “neighbours”  

Stick ‘Em Up

Folkore has it that this sticky kuih was offered to the Kitchen Gods before they were sent off to heaven for CNY, ensuring that their mouths were “glued” shut, preventing bad reports from being heard “up there”.

Traditionally, small bamboo baskets lined with heat-treated banana leaves were used to hold the gooey slurry, before being put into a steamer to cook the contents.

There were a lot of “pantangs” or taboos to be avoided during the making, otherwise the results would be “disastrous”

This “Kuih Bakul” as it is also known, can be eaten in several ways.  Cut into smaller slices and sandwiched between pieces of yam and/or sweet potato and deep-fried was one yummy way.  Another was to coat softened slices with finely grated coconut.

I preferred those that had hardened over several months — just ate the slices without further ado.

My Fair Lady

She was a stunner, a head-turner wherever she went. A sleek ageless beauty with style, grace and curves in the right places, she still sends my heart going boom-bang-a-bang just by looking at her photos.

The Datsun 240Z made its appearance in Malaysia circa 1970, just at the time of my mid-teens, when flashy automobiles began to capture my attention.

Also known as “FAIRLADY” this sportscar was unlike other Japanese cars of that time. It had a low-slung body with very aderodynamic contours that made it look very fast even at standstill.

It was a dream trophy, but for a poor country boy, it remained a trophy dream, even to this day.

Over the years, the lady evolved into 260Z,…etc, and even 300ZX. Has any one of my readers out there ever owned one?