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My Ipoh Childhood.

This is coming a bit late but what to do? It's Raya. I've been tagged by Eliza to join in on the 50 Posts to Independence gig initiated by Nizam Bashir.

So what makes Malaysia special to me? I think I can honestly say my childhood. More specifically, my childhood during the years my family lived in Ipoh.

I was not born in Ipoh, and my family did not move there until I was 10. My father was a civil servant, a highly optimistic man who joined the government because he wanted to make a change "from within". He also fancied Chinese chicks... something that's been passed on to me and my brother.

But while we both fail in scoring ourselves a Chinese chick each, my dad successfully seduced and married one. He is indeed our idol. (The secret, I've been led to believe, is getting them when they're young, and I suppose it also helps when the girl you're after happens to be the sister of your art teacher when you were in Malay College.)

But I digress.

Between 1981 and 1990, my family moved from KL to England to Taiping, then to KL again, and finally to Ipoh. Ipoh's quite famous for its good schools, ones like ACS, Cator Avenue and St. Michael's, but dad would instead choose to send me to a school much closer by - Sekolah Kebangsaan Sg. Rokam.

Situated in the Malay housing estate of Kampung Sg. Rokam (Lat fans will recognise this as the kampong he grew up in, as documented in his classic, Town Boy), the school is as Malay as a school can be. Malay pupils, Malay teachers, Malay ideology. If I remember correctly, there was even a limit of non-Malay teachers that could be posted to that school.

Having only just returned from England at the time, I could only speak English, and my dad thought it would be good for me to be sent to a "Malay" school so I could easily learn my "mother tongue". So, imagine if you will, a half-Malay, half-Chinese kid (more Chinese in terms of looks), who could only speak English in a school full of Malay kids.

Hilarity ensues! Check out the fun:

The other kids calling me "Cina makan babi".
Ostracised, because I'm "different" and I speak the language of the infidels.
Ridiculed, because I didn't know how to pray or do my ablutions properly.
As well as other amusing and hilarious episodes!

Well, we were all kids once, yeah? We all deserve some fun when we're young. So, anyway, that's what makes Malaysia memorable to me. My Ipoh childhood. Loads of fun, yeah.

Next to be tagged: The Eternal Wanderer! *clap clap clap*


  1. Dear Ted,

    I was curious whether you were going to meet the deadline when I noticed you "balik kampung". :) So thank you for making every effort to meet the deadline.

    As for your school yard experience I think in one way or another most can relate to your experience sans the need to have gone to England to acquire an accent. Going by my school yard experience, having any accent itself is casus belli. Of course, the "victims" did not advance their cases much by possessing some minor physical peculiarities. ;)

    Still, children are children and often they tend to act unthinkingly. Even so, your post has unearthed some long forgotten school yard memories of bizzare taunts/threats/ultimatums like:

    "Fatty Bom Bom!"
    "Yau shu" (till today, I don't know what that means but one of my teachers used it on us quite regularly ... the whole class scored 5As so I think it must be some mantra about studies)
    "Esikay bola kay ..." (again don't ask me what it means but it basically signifies the end of friendship)

    to more rose tinted memories of the school yard like playing Hantu Galah , Debek (basically get a tennis ball and aim for the nearest victim), rounders, chaptay (two pieces of rubber with a nail thru it capped with a feathery thingy which you play with your foot) and my favourite - Police & Thieves (police needing to catch all thieves and any thieves can jailbreak those apprehended).

    The good ol' days ... :)

  2. Yeah, I think we've all experienced isolation of some kind when we were in school, as well as the absurd name-calling...

    Some of the good things that resulted in me being isolated was that I learned to be independent as well as finding solace in books. Look for the good within the bad I always say.

  3. being dark from exessive swimming and outdoor activities, i was not spared from the name-calling also.

    to relate to the post, although at times i just wish i'm in another country (especially when it comes to bad traffic, poor government bodies public service and mat rempit) but i'm proud to be malaysian when it comes to food.

    where else can you find the 'whole globe' in one food court? this is where you can find korean, japanese, italian, local, western, chinese, indian yada yada food under one roof man.

    and don't let me start with the pirated movies, games & softwares!!

    god bless malaysia, amin.

  4. Oh, I was getting worried, too. Don't we know of bullies and ridicule? YOu turned out all right though eh? ;-)


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