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.
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.