Monday, 5 May 2008

A glimpse of my childhood

I don’t consider myself rich now though I can proudly say I can afford quite a wide range of things. But when I was young, I was certainly poor. When I tell people that I came from a poor family, they often disagree after knowing where my home is. But they fail to comprehend that when I was growing up in my neighbourhood, it was not exactly the glamour place yet. Till today, I still don’t consider it a glamorous neighbourhood.

Just across the road from my house, the area used to be filled with squatter houses. Tell that to some young punks nowadays whose definition of coffee means Starbucks of Coffee Bean and they probably don’t even know what are squatter houses. In the middle of this mini village was a small chicken farm. Besides the chicken farm is a well. Ya’ know, the one where you can fetch water.

No, I do not live in some forsaken village. I was born and bred in KL and my neighbourhood is right smack in the heart of town. And no, I am not in my 50s nor 40s. I am still, technically… in my 20s.

We have a relative who used to operate as a hawker near our home and occasionally, she will keep all the chicken backsides from her sale and gave them to my family. My mom will deep-fry the chicken backsides with 5-spice-powder and that will be one of the dish for the day. The other dishes often resembled left-over stuff from some restaurant around town. They landed on our dinner table because my aunt’s friend’s daughter something something worked in that restaurant.

Food… anyone?

My definition of toy at that time was planes made from mahjong paper. Me and my brother made so many of them after sending all our planes in the air, they landed all over the place and the next thing we know, we had our sorry ass smacked nicely by our Mom. I remember a new family moved into the house next to ours and they renovated the place. Then their children were playing this thing with their tv and I would stand at the gate for hours just to watch them play. Later I found out that the thing they were playing was called ‘Nintendo’. They were playing a game called ‘Mario brothers’.

Of course, as I grew older, I did have some real toys. But, that was after I scored a lot of As in my exam and managed to squeeze one from my aunt. What did you play with when you were young?

I remember I had my first holiday, it was a trip to Sungei Wang Plaza. It’s a big thing ok! My parents will dress up as though they are going to grand reception. Of course, the result of the ‘dress up’ is still very much below the standard at that time. I remember I had to bring water bottles for the trip; water is expensive. Other holiday trips include visits to the Lake Gardens.

Where did you go for your maiden holiday?

Oh… one thing that I find rather amazing is that my family of 5, my parents, me brother, my sister and yours truly all lived in 1 room until I was Standard 3. That is a good 9 years. Yes, 9 years with all of us in 1 room. And trust me, the room isn’t big at all. Come to think of it, I wonder if I was awake during the production process of my brother and sister.

The only time I had my own room was when I went to London to complete my degree. Hands up if you have your own room…

There are many more elements of my childhood that I cherish but it would be too long to pen them all here. I know there are people who had worst condition than me. And I thank God I went through that childhood. To you, would you consider me rich or above average?


From there, I went on to become someone whom many still do not believe that I originate from ‘that place’. Also, when I tell some people I don’t speak English at home because my parents are illiterate, they will give me ‘the-look’. How is that possible? That is a story for another time.

38 comments:

KGC said...

No worries Zewt. When you have been through that hard life, it makes you appreciate things better. See it from that perspective, you were never a spoilt child. :)

bongkersz said...

Best gems are produced under high and intense pressure :) To be honest, your childhood reminds my of mine. Your stories mirrored mine, really. Yes I understand the feeling of sharing 1room with the rest of the family (mine 5 of them). I was sharing one room with my family till I went to boarding school for studying. There I shared the room with the rest of the friends. Only get my own room when I started working :)My first trip? Away to somewhere out of the town is consider big for me back then :P Life was hard back then, I still remember following my mother to shrimp factory to peel shrimps. Yes, 1kg of shrimp, RM1.20? Couldn't remember. What I remember, the place damn smelly and my fingers getting itchy from peeling the shrimps.

Cheers bro!

Jemima said...

Your childhood is what makes you strong today, my friend.
I've never known you to bend your head. You've always held it high & look at the world in the face. ;)

Hope all is well. Both you & Jules are still in my prayers.

God Bless!

whoalse said...

Hmm...sounds quite similar to my growing up years too! Back then I guess we were more creative with self-made toys like paper planes, bow & arrow from grandma's "stick-broom", marbles, match-box boats, etc.....

myop101 said...

dear zewt,

i shared a room with my sister and parents until i was 12. that was when we shifted to our own place.

my family also struggled a lot in my early years. no, i don't have nintendo (until today) or a computer (until 1995?). my toys consist of mainly plasticine and a lot of imagination. i read books from the library. i remembered my mom and dad quarrelled over money during my younger years.

i also remembered i once had to cry continuously (when i was 6-7 la) to get my grandma to buy me a RM5 plastic toy from the pasar malam.

i don't recall much about my early childhood trips. hmmm... mimaland at 5-6 years old? i remember fearing drowning and that is when my awareness of my mortality comes into play.

but you know what? life is an adventure. really. imagine playing with spiders and making up games with what you have from your surrounding. it is never the same with kids today. too sheltered and take things for granted.

gina said...

Being rich not necessarily having more money or more material things. I find being rich is when you have much love from friends and family, blessed with good health and when you are able to expect less and accept things you cannot change.

KittyCat said...

OK, you win. I've never had to share a room with my whole family, just my sister.

I never had any toys. Period.

I had a set of science encyclopedia and story books my Dad bought on sale. Fun books only came later...

I never had any NEW clothes when I was a teen - only hand-me-downs from aunties and UNCLE. Thank God t-shirts and jeans are always in vogue.

Yikes, I'm logging on your blog! Anyway, I think your Mum is EXTREMELY PROUD of you! You've come a longgggggg way :)

I know I'd walk around with a big smile and gloat if Lucas turned out this way hehe

wuching said...

Hahaha I used to play with sticks & stones!

Huei said...

heyyyy u looked u when u were a baby!! =P

ok i have to admit i was pretty well off..international school wor..people must all think i'm damn rich..but i think my parents did a great job in forking money out to pay for my education.

too bad my dad left us early..and the rest are out there to get us! haha..sounds like a movie..they have had a much better life than me..studying overseas since young age, getting what they want, cameras and stuffs even before they reach secondary school, while i got my first official computer half way through my college years, and i was studying IT..i believe that in life..there's always a downfall..and i'm waiting for THEIR downfall, and we'll see who's laughing then..

i still don't have my own room at home, never had, which is the reason y i want to stay out..at least..i have a room where i can keep my thigs without it getting searched through.

ahh well..we have our ups and downs..and i believe that those that didn't have such a "good" childhood, grows up to be a better person, and hey! u're the perfect example! =)

frostee said...

It's nice to remember where we came from and cherish those moments of hardship cos it has built your character to what you are today. HEre's wishing you many blessings to come dude!

P/S: And yes... you found me!

j or ji said...

me house no water and electric supply until 1'm ..like 7 or 8 years old.

Pagi gelap jam 6 mandi air perigi..sejukkk!

J.T. said...

I guess I could say I grew up in average living standards. Yes, there were toys but only once a year at Christmas. I shared a room with my sister till the day she got married and moved out.

Our holidays - to grandparents house, probably about once every two years. It cost quite a bit to travel from east coast to west coast. No such thing as overseas holidays like most kids have today. Satay ... that was a rare treat.

Things got better as the years progressed. I am grateful for whatever was given to me when my parents could afford it.

Humble beginnings makes one be more appreciative of what one has today.

Helen said...

Rich or poor is a state of mind. Really, it's after we enter 'society' we start comparing ourselves. I've known people who are born rich and yet they don't feel especially rich because that is how they were from the day they're born. Let's put it this way, if your grandfather drives a Benz, your father drives a Benz and finally you drive one, you don't think owning a Benz is a great deal.:-)

Anyway, it's important you're now 'rich'. Not necessarily in the financial sense, but in your life.

You're such a cute baby. This, my friend, has not changed, hor? lol

zewt said...

KGC - yeah, but i do wish i was spoilt... at least a lil.

bongkersz - RM1.20 for 1 kilo... that's like exploitation man. hahaha... looks like our childhood were pretty interesting. colourful!

Jemima - thanks Jem. Appreciate the prayers. Hoping for the best still.

whoalse - konda-kondi...haha... love that game. and also bottle caps.

myop101 - spiders? is it 'pau fu'? i never got around doing that cos i dunno how to catch one hahaha... indeed, ppl are just too sheltered now. dunno if it is good or bad for them.

gina - blessed with good health... that is so important. couldnt agree more.

zewt said...

KittyCat - logging on to my blog? you can? hey, u got my password? :P hehe... Well, bring up Lucas the way he should be brought up, then i am sure he will grow up to be a good man.

wuching - cool... i played with marbles... one step higher hehe.

huei - wow, international school... must have been real rich! :)... well, i am sure we all have our hardship. what is important is that we know how to appreciate what we have now.

frostee - thanks dude. yes, small world.

j or ji - bestnya... mandi telanjang? hehe...

J.T. - i think humble beginings are what kids nowadays are missing. they are just too sheltered and too into getting material things. they are missing out on their childhood, i think.

helen - yeah, i have met such ppl before, where spending a few thousand in a day is like normal. they are getting richer, we are getting poorer, financial sense. me cute? hmmm... :)

_butt said...

throughout my childhood, toys and clothes (even school uniforms) were hand-me-downs from relatives who lived off well somewhere. but I know my folks gave their best to provide me and sis with the essentials. education for one, is crucial. KFC and video games are just unnecessary 'wants'. =)

good to have a humbling background, so we know what really matters to us in life and cherish them well.

drumsticks said...

5 ppl in 1 room? that's really.. crowded!! Putrajaya, got nice buildings, great architecture.. but according to people from overseas, there's no soul, just pretty buildings built not long ago. Like your childhood, interesting and tough, gave you soul to your character. hahaha.. agree or not?

Aleks said...

u reli remind me of my olden days...
hahaha.. indeed we did come from similar background.
but i guez its those days tat make us grow n appreciate things betta.

stay blessed!

PabloPabla said...

Childhood was memorable indeed :D

More so when it involves catching guppies in the longkang :D

Anonymous said...

I just want to start by saying congratulations for what you have achieved in life (and this is just the beginning!)

We are who we are today because of the upbringing, education and family we are from. We should be proud of what we have and strive for what we don't. Most of all, be grateful and appreciative. Cheers.

Kenny Mah said...

I really like what bongkerz said: "Best gems are produced under high and intense pressure."

That's true for you, bro, and certainly for many other people. I was never rich, my family, I mean, but I had a very comfortable childhood... even though only my dad was working (as a teacher), I never went without. You've just reminded me to be grateful for so many things easily taken granted.

Thanks, bro.

littlepolaris said...

Zewt is back!
The baby so cute~ U must be quite a hensem lad now =D.

Ur most, give me inspiration to write something. I'll post it up later.

suituapui said...

Poor bongkersz! I had students like dat before. Owes absent cos the parents wud bring them (half a dozen or more) to the prawn-packing factory to work and earn money!!! Not good at their studies, of course. Thank God, our friend turns out all right!!!

And why are u talking about the past like old man suituapui??? U so young!!! See ur baby photo not the same as mine!!! Mine one naked!!! So sexy or!!!! LOL!!!!

Jun said...

ah, well, may u continue to stay humble *prays* as for the kidney, i sure hope it's nothing too serious. when r u leaving for aus btw?

missironic said...

hmm..during my childhood i usually play either by myself which is "masak masak" or lego or went over to cousins' house to play make believe and teacher-student game. when grow older we played hide & seek, congkak, "teng-teng", batu seremban, "lubang tikus" & "hantu galah"..and even older went cycling around the taman. nintendo and video games are something tat I have no idea how to play...so my games are old skool actually..lolz..

speaking of hols.. the only outing my family did was a trip to pulau besar. tats all. after tat we never left home to anywhere. i usually tagged my cousins' family to go outing..

the only time i had my own room was when I was 16yrs old when my bro went off to spore till now.

but to see tat u make use of your childhood life to be who u r today. i tink tats really an accomplishment. well, the past alwiz teaches us a thing or two for us to move fwd ya?

btw, since baby till now, your face din change much..lolz..

myop101 said...

dear zewt,

don't know wo... can't remember the cantonese name. but it has a silver or golden stripe at the back. harmless creature found on bamboo plants...hehe... kept it in a match box.... but mine kena whacked kau kau la...don't know how to choose a good one.

haha...

sc said...

thanks for sharing this. i've always believed that children who have seen hardship grow up stronger, more independent and are more driven (like you! :-) ). i'm from a kampung kecil, a below average family background(my parents cant speak english too..hehe)..but heck, i had great fun growing up! my 'toys' were catching garden spiders and watching them fight..haha

Lil' Ms Pinky said...

zewt, reading this post made me feel ever more grateful that both my parents worked so hard to put food on the table. My mom had to work weekends, so a 'holiday' in my term is staying at home, going for rides around my neighbourhood with my dad and learnt about nature. CNY reunion is never a family affair until maybe 5 years ago because my mom had to work till late on CNY eve.

I've had my share of bittersweet moments, but I am very thankful for them, for without those moments, I won't be who I am today.

This weekend when I go back home for Mother's Day, I'm going to give both my parents a big hug for the things they've done for me and my sisters.

rachel said...

almost brought me to tears... the last part kinda hit home. i dont speak english with my parents too. after finishing spm, i start to speak more in english with my friends and now, i cant decide whether i am more comfortable with mandarin or english. its kinda frustrating sometimes when i cant get my messages across to my parents because i cant express certain things in mandarin.

Seaqueen said...

Hey, I have the similar picture pose as well as the chair in my hometown. Hahhahah!!! But anyway, yes, I know what you mean. I might be a bit better in having my own bicycle to ride as I please but holidays are still local and I'm glad for measly but fulfilling childhood memories. At least I appreciate things in life now more than the younger generation nowadays. :)

Lynnwei said...

hey zewt,
we stil bring water bottles for trips when we go out, even to shopping complex. aha..is tat weird? as for holidays, before the resent years, the only places we go for holiday is KL. And that was like once in 3 years.
LIfe in the past is not as good as now....because things has changed, the economy is better (somehow...) and our parents had worked hard to give us what they did not have...

but chilhood memories is great...they make u who u are today!!!

^^

sharlydia said...

haha...well my childhood is not any better than urs, but it was a joyful & happy one, definitely!

Staying within a LARGE family with grandparents, uncles & all, our house was actually a kopitian (front half)! Toys? I dont have much, but I enjoyed the climbing up to rambutan trees with friends in the same neighborhood, frying sands & grass in broken wok, and lots more! Own room? I only got my own room when we moved out from the HUGE family into our own lil house while all my 3 sisters were out in KL for their studies. That was my standard 6 if i'm not wrong, after having to share 2 small rooms for a family of 6...

Now u make me feel like writing down my childhood...

Jacss said...

zewt....i read some resemblances here & there to my childhood too!! and d greatest part is, it made us feel more proud of what we'd achieved thus far...kudos to u !!

and arghhh....look at that chair u were sitting on, so nostalgic & authentic which u won't believe i had sat on one too...hahaha
btw, that baby looked so "jing ling" lor.....

zewt said...

_butt - McD and KFC are luxury.... now, they are cheap food for the kids, no?

drumsticks - i think we all need to have a testing time in order to grow.

Aleks - yeah man... those are olden and golden days.

pablopabla - hahahaha... i have never done that. think the ones i have caught are mostly... tadpoles.

anon @ 6/5 2.22pm - i dont want to say that i am proud of my childhood but we certainly need to have good formative years.

Kenny Mah - yup... the greatest thing is to be contended... that's the greatest gift God has given me really :)

zewt said...

littlepolaris - shall read it later.

suituapui - hahahahaha.... i have sexy baby photos too but i dont want to parade it here la.

Jun - not too sure when i will leave.... hopefully soon.

missironic - looks like the band of bloggers who visit my blog.... really come from the same type of environment huh. we all know each other so well...

myop101 - yup... pau fu... that's the one.

sc - hahaha... another pau fu fan. how about catching grasshoppers? can be very fun too!

zewt said...

Lil' Ms Pinky - yeah... cherish them, they are the best thing God has given to us. I will probably visit my Mom... i so miss my mom, and my wife.

rachel - you feel as though you have lost your root huh? the communication with your parents is something you must not lose.

seaqueen - definitely... i wonder if the younger generation will feel the same.

Lynnwei - our formative years are so crucial... let us ensure that the new generation gets that too hehe...

sharlydia - go write la, it makes u appreciate your childhood more.

Jacss - hahaha... that chair, it's still in my old house... definitely a classic :)....

jam said...

That is pretty much like my childhood life too. Until now, I dun get to play a Nitendo game.

zewt said...

jam - but you play PSP now right? hahaha....