Saturday, 4 January 2014

My early ambitions

When I was staying in Seang Tek Road in George Town, Penang, during the late 1950s, two of my most precious possessions were a tricycle and a huge stack of empty cigarette boxes, practically two or three hundreds of them.

As a small kid in a rather protective family - my parents and grandparents did not allow me to mix much with the neighbours' children - I had to keep myself preoccupied on my own. My tricycle and the cigarette boxes kept me busy inside the house.

I used the cigarette boxes as domino snakes. I would set them up to snake from one end of the house to another and take a thrill from toppling one end of the snake and watch the motion travel through the house till the other end. It took a lot of time to set up the cigarette boxes and this couldn't be done on windy days. There was also the frustration of making mistakes or accidentally toppling them while setting up the snake. So of course, this was a game that could not be played or repeated often.

As for my other mode of self entertainment, I would cycle up and down the house, negotiating the narrow passageways, going round and round the table in the centre of the front hall and ending up in the kitchen. As long as the floor was level, I could go cycling indoors on the tricycle. This gave me countless hours of pleasure.

It was no surprise then that when I was that age, my early ambition in life was to become a bus driver. Bus driver has routes to follow, right? Well, as a tricyclist cycling around the house, there were routes that I could imagine too. Later on in my young life, I thought that being a town planner, planning the roads around the city, would be a pretty interesting profession.

All these early ambitions ended when I started kindergarten at the other end of Seang Tek Road and thus, outgrew the tricycle and it had to be given away to one of my younger cousins.  I never got to know who benefited from my mother's giveaway or whether the new owner had countless hours of joy from it. As for the empty cigarette boxes, she simply threw them all away.

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