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?

Windmills Of My Time

Haha, paper pinwheels!  I remember learning to make these toys at home from a very young age.  By the time I went to primary school,  I was the “master craftsman” in this art.

It was great fun for us kids, racing in the kampong or on the school field, faces gleaming with pure innocuous joy as we saw the wheels spinning on a stick in our hands.

Sometimes, as we travelled in our kereta sekolahs, and school buses, those seated at the windows would try to hold one out and set the wheels spinning very fast.  Of course that attracted an earful of disapproving reprimands from the bus uncles and aunties — well, it could be dangerous.

Nowadays, I seldom see kids making or playing with these windmills of our time. 

Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

It is not in the middle of the road*, but some where along Penang Road, opposite what was once the Cathay Cinema (now Mydin Wholesale Emporium). 

Decades ago, Penang Bazaar was the favorite haunt of ladies looking for shopping therapy.  Apparently there were great buys at this place which the Penang folks called “Mola” (Jualan Murah).  (That was true only if one knew how to and dared to drive a hard bargain.)

Well, my late mum was a consummate swordswoman in the art of price-slashing; with just one precise stroke, she could cut down any price-gouger to half size, in double-quick time.  One chop, and then walked away, leaving the poor seller pleading for a merciful coup de grace that would at least leave him with a sale…albeit not on his terms.

Oh yes, yet another trophy for the day – for Mum.

 *note : pun on the 1971 hit song, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, by the band Middle Of The Road