Monthly Archives: September 2017

Pouring Cold Water Onto Ourselves

Long before the fad of Ice Bucket Challenge came and went in the mid-2010s, kampong kids like me were already well into pouring cold water on ourselves to kick off an enthusiastic day.

True enough it was not ice-cold, but water drawn from a well in the pre-dawn hours was refreshing enough to get body and mind ready for school.   A cool start, perhaps.

We did not have tap water and electrical water heaters were unheard of.  No one caught a chill and no one fell sick.  Even my late granny did not use any hot water for her baths until she was close to 70. 

Looking back, modern-day folks these days are really too pampered by comparison. They, of course, are missing out on a lot of fun from getting closer to nature.  

Love Is In The Ends

In those days when our daily bread was in the form of a big loaf – called Roti Benggali – some folks used to slice off the ends, and in fact all the crusts, and ate only the soft insides.

Many people still do this.  However, they are missing out the best parts of the bread.  In fact, when a new loaf arrives at my home (in pre-sliced form these days), I pick out the end pieces for a delectable breakfast.    So while I enjoy my Love Without End, other members of my family can have their Loaf Without Ends!

Perhaps it has to do with my childhood training.  I was taught not to waste food, nor even a grain of rice, not even a crumb of bread (let alone ‘huge’ chunks of crusty pieces).

Then You Saw Them, Now You Don’t

Television went full colour in Peninsular Malaysia on December 28, 1978.  But probably for a full year before this greatly anticipated day, TV manufacturers were dressing up in full battle gear, ready to slug it out in the full-chroma goggle box arena.

Besides the well known giants like Philips, Sony, Matsushita, etc, suddenly like toadstools after a downpour, all kinds of names popped out in the ads, each making claims about its unique prowess to titillate your visual senses.

Honestly, for the first year, each time I was lured into sitting before an “idiot box” (as some called it) I was captivated much more by the fascinating colours than by the contents.

Over time, fierce battles in the market place, driven by technology advances and consumer preferences led to the exit and even demise of many of the brands of those days.

They Ate My House

Quite literally, am not joking!  Folks like me who used to live in wooden houses in the kampong had to be on constant guard against termites – those tiny milkish white creatures for whom cellulose was one continuous daily Happy Meal.  And their appetites were voracious, to say the least.

Often, they also constructed tell-tale “covered walkways” on walls and other surfaces, which probably led from nesting holes to feeding grounds. 

But the real damage was always underneath the surface of the timber. Everything would look fine until a force was applied, and then it would crumble, revealing a severely-damaged interior. Sections of the house would collapse too.

Am glad that since 1973, I have been blessed to be living in concrete buildings, which are relatively unappetizing to those creepy white six-legged fellas.

Once Upon A Tiger…

This was Malaysia’s first-and-only homegrown tiger, assembled at the Capital Motors plant in Johor state.  Enter the Bedford Harimau BTV (basic transport vehicle) that was introduced in the early ‘70s.

I best remember the sales slogan in Chinese, “無所不適無所不能” meaning “Nothing Is Unsuitable, Nothing Is Un-doable” – in short, everything can lah!

Ex-factory, the vehicle came stark naked, with bare chassis and a driver’s cab without doors. The buyer then could configure his pet cat to his liking and build up the superstructure to suit his particular or peculiar needs.

Unfortunately, due to the rapidly changing economy landscape in Malaysia (not anticipated by GM), the sales did not roar like tigers but eventually tailed off into muffled mews of a dying cat.

The Matchless Cream

Confessions first: am no Mopiko salesman nor itching to be one.

But true to its Chinese name – 無比膏 – it was and still is an Incomparable Cream, matchless in its ability to soothe pain, stop itch and ease off a host of other discomforts. 

I first came across this ‘wonder’ stuff some time in ‘60s – back then its advertisements were blasted numerous times over the radio everyday, “Stop Pain, Stop Itch, Use Mopiko”.  Since then it has been granted permanent residency in my household.

I understand that the “Indications” list on the packaging differs slightly from country to country.  The one here from Singapore says it is also good for pimples!

Anyway, this medication is so effective that oftentimes, one look at a tube  is enough to trigger an itchy spot on the body. 

The Woes & Wu’s Of The 555

These little booklets evoke a lot of nostalgia for the older folks amongst us.  Have you ever wondered how the notation “555” came into existence?

These gained notoriety as “buku hutang” – a sort of credit booklet which villagers used to chalk up their debts as they bought household items and food on credit from the kedai runcit (sundry shops).  The idea was to pay up lump sum at the end of each month when they debtors got their gaji (wages). 

Unfortunately, this practice often became an insidious debt-trap, as it encouraged a “buy-now-worry-about-paying-later” mindset.  Thus, for quite a number of folks, it became a Book of Woes.

Legend has it that the Chinese “victims” often looked inside these booklets and would cry aloud “wu wu wu” and, well that sounded like “555” in Mandarin.   The rest is history.

Kopi Cup Kaw-Kaw

In the good old times before coffeeshops became coffeehouses, we could get real good kopi, kaw-kaw or otherwise, without having to demolish our bank accounts. 

Best of all, while paying only 10 sen or so, our daily perk-up came in dignified porcelain cups, each graced elegantly with a matching saucer.  And those cups were also very kaw (meaning thick).  I was told that the thick cups was to minimize heat loss from the drink. 

These days, at the so-called upmarket coffee outlets, one has to pay a fistful of dollars to get some coffee-looking/smelling liquid with some out-of-this-world unpronounceable names that is served in crass paper cups, or worse, in uncouth health-destroying polyfoam ones.  Sadly, there is no lack of eager victims.  What to do? 

Tutors Turned Stingers

That was “How It All Began”, when in 1967, RMAF received its first combat aircraft – putting real ‘tentera’ into TUDM.

The 20 machines were Canadair CL-41G Tutors – basic jet trainers that could double up as light ground attack fighter-bombers. TUDM called them ‘Tebuan’ (meaning ‘Wasp’).  These remained in service until 1985.  They probably stung the CPM out of existence.

I remember seeing some of them flying over my old kampong house in Butterworth – sometimes low enough to make out the two airmen seated side-by-side in the cockpit. 

However, it was only in 2013 when I finally got to see a specimen really up close.  That was during a visit to the Muzium TUDM in Sungai Besi.  Oh, by the way, there is another exhibit at the Muzium Tentera Darat at Port Dickson.