One of the very popular hobbies of our childhood days was the rearing of Fighting Fish. We could not afford any aquarium, so the next best thing was a big bottle to keep these fishes – one only in each, otherwise they would kill each other from protracted fishy hormone rage.
It was a joy to see the very brilliant colors when they got agitated and became aggressive. The Siamese types were especially beautiful. The bodies and fins gave off bluish and red iridescent glows; the tail fins were spectacular.
I would not risk letting my fishes be wounded or killed in a fight. So most of the time, my friends and I just placed our bottles next to each other, to get the residents provoked. Sometimes, we just placed a mirror next to the bottles, for exercise in beautiful anger…. was great fun.
The Top – or Gasing, in Malay – was one of our favourite childhood toys. It had body of wood that had been turned in a lathe machine, and then later a piece of nail was hammered into the pointed end of the body.
To play, a thin-gauge rope was wound lovingly around the nail and then up onto the sloping part of the body. A smart throw-out of the wound-up toy onto the ground, with whipping action, would send it spinning like a gyroscope.
The free end of rope usually had a bottle cap attached, to provide good anchoring for the fingers.
Yep, the rope did make the wood go round ! BTW, it is said that the best wood was that from guava tree.
With some practice, the spinning top could be coaxed with the rope to jump onto one’s palm – albeit a bit ticklish.
The stage for corruption is often set when the itchy occasion arises where “you scratch my back, I scratch yours”. This might be the cure – I scratch my back, you scratch yours. Well, just kidding.
When I was still much younger, I used to wonder why Grandma always carried with her an 18-inch long bamboo piece with a funny miniature hand at the end. Before long, as my once-supple body stiffened up, and my limbs became as flexible as the legs of a stool, and every joint creaked and moaned as I moved, the back scratcher has come to occupy its very own niche in my survival kit. I think there are 3 in my home now.
Oh, do carry one with you when you travel – Don’t Leave Home Without It ! There are modern ones, with telescopic stems too!
As I was visualizing my kiddo days in my kampong, I remembered that 90% of the neighbours around my house were of Tamil Indian origin. (My parents communicated with them in Bahasa Melayu, and my granny, a mixture of Melayu and Tamil).
And now and then, these neighbours would hold a wedding feast. A temporary shelter – sometimes holding up to a hundred people or so – would be erected, and decorated with intricately pleated coconut leaves, as well as banana leaves and banana tree trunks, and jantong. Very artistic, and lovely to behold.
I wonder if in these modern days, such practices are still in vogue today ?
The Kerongsang Kebaya Peranakan, that is. (I think some call it Kerongsang Rantai)
The ladies who donned the Kebaya Peranakan would need to garnish the front with a three-piece brooch that was intra-linked with a chain (usually of gold or silver). The brooches came in a huge variety of intricate and exquisite designs and were often adorned with precious stones of various colors too.
This fashion accessory-cum-pin fastener was an essential item to complete the Kebaya outfit. But as these were expensive pieces of jewelry, the ladies in less well-off families could only afford a set in their lifetimes – often the relatives would mutually exchange among themselves for different festive occasions (usually weddings).
I think it was part of the School Books’ List for Form One students (can’t remember so clearly now). They came in a metallic box, with a pair of compass, a pair of dividers, a pair of set squares, a protractor and a 6-inch rule.
With those instruments, we were set on our course of learning a particular discipline of mathematics, called Geometry. We drew circles, parallel lines, orthogonal lines and, measured angles, etc. I think the least used was the divider.
Undoubtedly, the brand that was almost universally used was “Oxford”. I think there was another brand called “Cambridge”, but am not so sure.
In our kampongs, rats and mice were everywhere. They usually came out in strength at night to wreak havoc on any uncovered or unprotected food items. Even leather shoes and bags, and soap (yes, they liked soap, and still do) were not spared.
At nightfall, we would set up WMDs at strategic places. Each of these snap-traps was generously provided with a nice bait – usually a slightly roasted piece of dried sotong.
Over the following few hours, there would be a series of “snaps” and squeals, as these rogue rodents received their death sentences after foolishly biting and tugging at the baits – actions which triggered the traps. Sometimes, the steel bar on the traps could not kill the victims, especially the bigger ones. So we had to get up and deliver the coup-de-grace with a spear.