Life As A Poor Kid

I always contemplate my moments in life and go back to relive the events of the past. It is my way of dealing with my past that has some dark moments. I always feel that it’s not fair but at the same time try to be positive and look at it from different perspectives—they have a term for it —-blessing in disguise. Whatever! But for me the pain is real and the sadness is just never-ending. I hope the stories of my past conciliate me with the pre-determination of my life. In the end maybe I could accept the fate and be thankful for what that has been bestowed upon me . I talked about my My Dark Moments #1 (MDM#1) here—my experience in school; it did not end there but continued until I finished my secondary school. This time is about my childhood; way back in the 70s.

I just could not imagine how I survived in those days. Maybe God really works in mysterious ways. I was alone most of the time; playing around my house from dawn to dusk, every single day until I registered myself in the primary school. Mak and Ayah are busy earning money so I was there keeping myself busy with whatever we had around the house. Our family is well-known in the village for being big and poor; even as I walked down the street some people would ask if I wanted to come and live with them. “ maybe this kid has a brighter future with us”,they might say. I did not understand what they meant but I knew only one word to reply—NO!. as a 7/8-year-old I knew my Mak and Ayah and where my house was… and I was always welcomed there. I could rest myself in that house for the night although sometime my sleep was interrupted by the leaking roof that would be blown off during a storm. Find an empty corner in the house, get your bantal and selimut and there would be your bed for the night. It’s pathetic but that’s the life I lived for so many years during my early childhood. But somehow I survived; and my other 11 brothers and sisters survived that as well. Pretty amazing, I supposed.

I remember myself always sitting alone by the window and looking out at the other kids playing games. I never had an urge to join them because for me the games they played were all silly and made them dirty all over. I just did not want to get dirty. The games such as “petong tin”, “polis pencuri”, “bola awa”, “lawe guroh”, “buoh getoh”, and many more were the favorites—-but not me. I also have never been to anywhere only an occasion trip to my grandmother’s. but I always wanted to go to that big mosque near my house. No one in my family was a mosque-goer; my parents would come home only when the night falls and would be busy with the house chores by then. But I did not do any chore but still could not get to that mosque. One day my brother was about to leave when I knew he’s going to the mosque. Maybe he had other agenda as I never see him going there before. Maybe there is a special event going on, I did not know. Can I follow you to the mosque? I asked him, looking at me with that annoying face he did not say anything. And for me that meant a green light. I tagged along before I knew he was joined by his friends—so something must be going on. I did not care what he would do with his friends, all I wanted to was to go to that mosque. And that night I finally did. The mosque was only about a 5-minute walk from my house. Literally –“depan tangga la” but nevertheless it was as if a journey of lifetime. I guess my brother will get all the pahala ever since he brought me there because that was the turning point of my life—the day I knew my Islam. I sat at the back while my brothers was doing stuff with his friends. Once in a while he would come and checked me out. I saw in the front a huge place(a mimbar/pulpit) with stairs going up. I thought that God maybe sitting up there and we all pray for him from down here. It was so strange for me but I liked it there and felt so happy being there. Can I go to the front and join those people praying? I asked my brother. No you can’t! just stay right there ! he gestured me with his hand. Why? I asked. Because your penis is so small that’s why, we grown up have big penis so we can pray at the front, my brother told me. And I believed him. So for the whole week I tried to make my penis grow big so that I can join the big people in the front row. I frequented the mosque after that where I learnt so many things. I did it all on my own and since back then everything was free at the mosque I was okay. I had never been to the Quranic lessons or tadika because they all cost money. Even though the kelas mengaji was next door taught by my own auntie. It was so unfortunate to be poor, I must say.

By the time I got into primary school, my life was pretty much a mess. Everyone seemed to know how to run my life. I would spent time with my relatives here and there for a short period of time like 1-2 months. I just did not understand back then as if there was not enough food at my house. My auntie was the one who persistently wanted me to be with her all the time. She was a widow with no kid. And as I remember her well she was very “bekeng” (strict and bossy)lady. Sometime it was too much to put up with her so we just ignored her all together. I told father that I would like to go home. He understood well. So one fine day I heard them calling names of each other on top of their voices…I knew father was trying to get me back. I remember to sit by the wall listening to everything that they had to say to each other; some of which I never got to understand the meaning of the words or what they were referring to. World had gone upside down because of me; I was so sad and felt it was all my fault. But from that day onwards I was back to my old corner in the house; the place I always called home. It was good to be back. My father was very concerned about my study. I ‘ve got no money or land to leave when I die so study hard to support your family…that would be the thing father repeats all the time like a lyric from a song. But he never had time to come and meet my teachers, well in those days parents were not that concern to drop by the school and say hello to the teachers. Ayah has to sign the paper, I told mom late one night so I can bring it to the school the following day.What paper? They both asked as if it was something they could not afford to commit. The school asked if I want to get into this express class or not; and ask your parent to sign if they agree. They had this express class program where some kids will do year 3 and year 4 in just one year. So I saved one year and got into secondary school one year earlier than everybody else. It was not that hard academically but I got into a lot of trouble socially. I guess one year makes a lot of difference in the growing up days. That’s why I hate my secondary school years a lot,

I grew up without a bicycle of my own or a TV in the house. I never complained or asked for one it’s just not fair that’s all. When our favorite show was coming on the air we would sneak out to the neighbor’s house. This had to be done discretely because otherwise the “small ones”—my younger brothers and sisters— would follow; and that will ruin everything. I remember one night the neighbor gave us cookies instead so we can go home and do not bother them so much. So pathetic! But that’s the life of poor kids —the ones that never understand why we were as we were. So for me a TV is not just a square wooden box with pictures and sound ; it was a symbol of freedom that can not be denied or taken away from me any longer. No one will give me cookies anymore to hush me away from my favorite program. So from the time I could afford to get my own TV; I’ve never been without it ever since. Even though I don’t watch it that often like I used to, the TV will always be there for me.
Travelling was another luxury thing back then when I was a kid. Father never had a car or motorcycle. He had an old bicycle once that he used to go to work. But it was not a problem for a poor kid like myself because I never understood why people go places anyway. “makan angin” they said, a phrase that had no meaning whatsoever to me. I would muntah2 when I travelled by bus until I hated doing that altogether. Never mind father I can stay at home, I remember responding when he offered to take us for our regular visit to grandma’s. And I stayed home minding my own business and playing around my house. I live with that habit for so long until I develop a phobia for travelling. Nowadays travelling will mean hard time for me; anxiety will come in and I would feel very much uneasy all the time. Never mind I can stay home. Indeed, I would rather stay home.
I had never wandered off to the town or anything so father was so pleased with me. When everybody was off into the kampung to play; I would stick around the house waiting for mom and dad to come home. “ a good little boy”—I must credit myself on this one—very proud of it indeed. But one time “BOBBY” was coming to town. That big blockbuster movie was coming to the Rex cinema in Pasir Mas—that old cinema is no longer there anymore. I miss that big painted poster as well; the one that was built at the junction near the bus station— I would pass this junction late at night accompanied my auntie and used to stare at that huge poster under the street light—one day I will see that movie, I whispered to myself. But I never had a chance to go. This time I would go to see Bobby; so made plan with my buddy to get into the cinema. Being a good son, I asked my father for permission. He stared at me and said…what! And miss your maghrib prayers. The show started around Maghrib time and for sure I would miss the prayers. But looking at me maybe he felt the need for me to get some fun so he let me go with some money for the ticket. We could only get one ticket because the cinema was full. Never mind we could share the seat. I remember watching the movie with both of us sitting in a seat; we took turn to move in and out of that small wooden seat. That was the most enjoyable time of my life. Sadly I did miss my Maghrib prayers.

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