Being a mother to my 3-year old daughter, I sometimes find myself comparing the life I had growing up to hers now.
by Louise M, Carrybeans
I am a kampung (village) girl and so is my daughter. We are living in the same house and village that I grew up in. Although it’s the same place I have known all my life, it’s not quite the same anymore.
Growing up in the kampung, life seemed so simple and carefree.
I can still remember the days when I would follow the elders to prepare the paddy field for planting season and help them during harvest time. My grandmother would roll out the traditional handwoven tikar (mat) to dry the paddy under the hot sun and my duty was to chase away the chickens that came quietly for an easy meal.
Walking around the kampung during the late afternoon was a form of exercise. It was a good way to connect with people and to just say “Hello!” It felt like everyone knew each other because we were so often related in some way.
I would stop by the kantin (sundry shop) to buy some five-cent sweets and ten-cent keropok (crackers) with my one-cent coins. Sometimes when I was up to it, I would walk about a kilometre away to my grandaunt’s shop for a bowl of mee hoon soup. It felt safe and it was safe.
During the rainy season, I would wait for my grandmother to go frog-hunting at the paddy field behind our house. She would go out at night right after the rain stopped and there was always a loud orchestra of croaking music that signalled good hunting. She would do the catching while I shone the torch on the frogs as they tried to hop away.
You might be wondering what the frogs are for. Are you? Well, she made soup out of them. It was believed that eating frogs or specifically frog legs would give you strong legs. No, I made that up. Just like eating chicken doesn’t make you lay eggs.
Speaking of which, who doesn’t love durian? Okay, some don’t but I do. So much so that I would go with my family to our kebun (fruit orchard) at night and wait for the thump of durians hitting the ground. Armed only with a torchlight at midnight, we would search the forest floor for the spiky fruit. But ask me to do that now and it’d be a quick “No!”
Nature was my playground. Catching insects and playing in the mud were considered games. Trees were for climbing and leaves were food for our masak-masak (cooking) sessions. The fish swimming in the small river near my house were clearly visible and we would wade in the water trying to chase after them.
End of year school holidays were a much-anticipated time because the cousins would gather at my grandparents’ house and we’d be plotting our secret adventures. Best of all would be our New Year party and the water wars!
Changes are inevitable. Gone are the days of planting and harvesting paddy. It looks like my daughter will never get to experience playing in the paddy fields or taking over my duty of chasing away the chickens. Come to think of it, we don’t even have chickens around the house anymore. She hasn’t seen the traditional handwoven tikar lying around and I’m wondering if she ever will.
She also hasn’t walked around the kampung yet. The farthest she’s been in terms of actually walking around the kampung is going to our relatives’ houses next door and yes, the kantin! Unfortunately, there are no more five-cent sweets and ten-cent keropok sold there, or anywhere else for that matter. One-cent coins? Phased out a long time ago.
Remember the lively croaking orchestra that used to permeate the air during the rainy season? It doesn’t sound so lively anymore. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen a live frog around the house. No frog soup for her, definitely. She’s already jumping around a lot.
The memories I have of our kebun are many and wonderful but I haven’t been there for ages. Sadly, it has turned into a forest and I’m not even sure if the durian trees are still bearing fruit. Obviously, my daughter won’t be searching for the spiky fruit at midnight with a torchlight. Oh, but she hates durian. Or shall I say she isn’t accustomed to the pungent smell and hasn’t acquired the taste yet?
Maybe because of her young age, she doesn’t get to stay outdoors for too long. She likes climbing on things but she won’t be climbing trees anytime soon. She also has her masak-masak sessions but they consist of her cooking with her kitchen playset. The river has turned muddy and she has seen our house get flooded so many times, it’s nothing new to her anymore. Also, our wet New Year tradition is now a dry one. How sad.
She continues to amaze me with her abilities and creative imagination. At times I think it partly comes from all the kid-friendly movies, cartoons, and Youtube channels that she watches whenever she gets her screen time. As each day goes by, she’s slowly changing and becoming her own person.
Despite all the changes and fear of what’s to come, this time is her time: her growing up years. Though the world is no longer as safe as I had known it to be, I can only pray that all will be well. And when it’s her turn to reminisce about her younger days, I hope she can look back with fond memories of all the wonderful times she had growing up.
If you didn’t grow up with social media and finding you can’t stay away from it now, you should consider a social media detox.
Featured Image Credit: Lee Yen Phin