Being brought up with Lat's first editions, I enjoyed the illustrations of simple race games like upih pinang (fallen palm fronds), and the excitement of sucking iceballs covered with syrup (it's not the same as 7-Eleven's Slurpee - no, no, no!). Dad used to rush us to the nearest bookstore, either in Jaya Supermarket or Asiajaya, and the six of us would be fighting over the single copy of Lat's comic, which often ended with tapes binding the pages together. My late brother and I were even lucky enough to get a signed copy from the man himself (complete with caricature) in the early 80's.
Of course there were no rivers that ran through the small town we lived in, but we had a stinky big drain which we made do with. Mind you, this was approximately 25 years ago. Our kampung had less than half the number of houses it has now. To make things more exciting, we were forbidden to go there. And of course, with the help of Big Bro, naughty ones like us went all the way to the end! We went down there by sliding through the sides of Pakcik Mansur's house, gingerly walking without our slippers, and trying to explore what were in those murky waters. Of course, we found little fish and tadpoles - but we didn't have anything to put them in (other than the empty rusty tin we found). So we splashed and sploshed ourselves dirty, only to find out later that my slippers had been washed away by the water! The result was surely a scolding from Dad!
In a town which used to be a rubber plantation, we didn't play with rubber seeds like other kampung children. In the evenings, I'd often race on my bike with my siblings and a friend I knew since kindy, Khal, whose house was on the slopes, unlike ours. Going uphill was inevitably torturous but once we reached the top, we'd let our feet off the pedals and Wheeeeeeee... we'd have the wind blowing against our faces and our hair going wild; it was superb!
Then, we also had our share of quran reading lessons, also known as the mengaji sessions. Unfortunately, I lived on the other side of the kampung, divided by a set of traffic lights. The surau, Balai Islam, was situated on the other side of the kampung, hence those living on my side went to the late Makcik Saerah's house for our quran classes. That was when I discovered that the children who were of my batch in that area were ALL boys - Fariz, Harry, Farhan, Hamidi and Khal. My pals then were my step sis, the Ha- sisters (everyone's name began with Ha-), Lindot (who is now a doctor), and a few others who I've almost forgotten.
We were not always keen going to our mengaji classes because on the way, we'd have to pass two houses with dogs. In one house, the owner often left two wild and excited puppies to greet hello to us. Oh, the gates were close alright, but the only problem was, the gaps in the gate were big enough for them to go through! So there we were, with the skirts of our baju kurung held up high above our knees and bags clung close, running for our lives! In house No. 2, it was a white dog we called Anjing Gila. He sometimes waited for us infront of the gate, pretending to be asleep. Quietly, we crept pass the house, whispering verses of the quran for protection. Sometimes, when Anjing Gila was locked behind the gates, we'd tease it with jeering tongues and little girly tunes.
Then, there were days we went visiting during Hari Raya (Eid). Kay, our leader, led us to houses of her friends on the other side of our kampung. Of course, we were more interested in the duit raya (money) offered to us, and not the eating of biscuits or fancy delicacies which lay on the tables. No thank you, Aunty - no ketupat and rendang for us. Fizzy drinks, on the other hand, were always welcomed.
We may not have had the dah-dah-dum man who sold apang balik stirred with a bundle of sticks used to beat hairy billy goats, like Awang Goneng had in his village back in Teganu. But we had the rojak man (vegetable combination with peanut sauce) and the cendol man (shaved ice with green starch noodles in coconut milk with palm sugar) who stationed themselves strategically between the 'ol school and post office. They attracted customers from all walks of life, mind you! Yes, the Indian Muslim men, mamaks, served halal stuff, but their cleanliness was seriously doubted! Did we resist them all? He He He... no, we didn't. We couldn't. The drops of sweat must have become their secret seasoning! Oh gross...
During my teen years, I was sent to a boarding school. That was when I began to lose touch with some of my friends. Some moved away, while some of us just grew apart. Yet, when I sent my kids to the 'ol kampung school, I sometimes catch a glimpse of an older Chong, a slightly balding Mat, or a sophisticated looking Siti, sending a child to the school.
I may not come from the rural, in a house on stilts surrounded by rubber plantations, rivers, durian trees, and wells. However, I came from a place which is still considered my kampung. Yes, I am proud to say that I am a kampung girl too; for I come all the way from Kampung Tunku! Anyone from KT out there?
*NJ suggested to make this a TAG (the GUIT-Kampung memory TAG), hence I'm opening it to anyone who'd like to write about their growing up days. I'm tagging KAK TEH (THE lady herself, who's gonna come up with Growing Up in Kedah stories), RUBY (the woman who has met AG and Kak Teh) and DAD of 4+1 (who managed to get a copy after 2 weeks hunting).