Friday, 17 February 2012




            One evening when the sun was about to set, my mother asked me to go and buy some onions and salt from the nearby sundry shop. The shop is run by Samy, a jovial middle aged Indian man with a huge pot belly. His wife and two young children, a boy and a girl, help him in running the shop. It was almost completely dark when I reached the shop. Samy had switched on the light in his small but adequately stocked shop. He was alone at the time and I was the only customer. Samy greeted me with a huge smile. I always wanted to ask him how he kept his teeth so sparkling white but I was afraid to ask. Anyway, I told him what I wanted to buy and he went about getting the things for me.
            Next door to Samy’s shop is a coffee shoprun by another Indian man. It was still open at the time. From the coffee shop emerged two men. They came into Samy’s shop and I could smell the overpowering smell of beer coming from these two men. But of them were young but from the way they half-walked half-staggered into the shop, it was obvious they had a bit too much too drink. I kept a safe distance between me and these men. It is never a good idea to be near drunks. One never knows what they will do next.
            True enough, my caution was justified, for the next moment, without any warning, one of the men swept a pile of tinned goods from a table onto the floor. In a second, the neat rows were reduced to utter chaos. The man who did it roared out in laughter. I could see Samy’s anger rising. He raised his voice. As if in reply to his retort, the two men started shouting obscenities at him. Then suddenly, a knife appeared in one of the men’s hand. The man that held the knife was small and wiry and judging from the muscles in his hand I had no doubt he was very strong.
            The knife-man lunged and in a flash he had the point of his knife at Samy’s throat. Samy froze and his face paled.
            I was so overwhelmed by the suddenness of the event that the next thing I know that I could not move my hand, nor the other parts of my body. I was held in a vise-like grip by the other man. I did not even see him coming. I struggled but all I could do was to make the grip tighten more. It became difficult to breathe.
            I heard a lot of shouting and I could see the knife-man slapping Samy. Reluctantly Samy opened the drawer where he kept his cash and the knife-man leaned over and a grab for the cash. That was the mistake he made. For a fleeting moment, he knife was forgotten and in that short moment, Samy seized his chance. Samy’s huge right hand came down hard over the back of the leaning man’s head. The force of the blow carried the man’s head right down hard onto the table. There was a sickening thud when his face met the table. The knife-man’s head rebounded like a rubber ball from the table and I could see blood all over his face. He was badly hurt. The knife dropped from the lifeless hands onto the floor.
            Moving with suprising speed, Samy grabbed a bottle of tomato ketchup from the shelf and broke it over the man’s head. Red tomato ketchup splattered all over the place. I could not distinguish how much of the red stuff on the man’s face was his own blood, or tomato ketchup. Slowly he sank to the floor and lay still.
            I struggled to get loose. It felt so easy. Ten I realized that hands no longer held me. I turned around and saw the dark figure of the man running out of the shop and disappeared into the semidarkness. I was about to go in pursuit but Samy stop me. He said it was useless pursuing someone in the dark. Moreover, the man could be armed and dangerous.
            Ten minutes later, the shop was filled with curious people all wanting to know what happened. The knife-man was herded into the police car. Samy and I had give our statements to the police.
            When I arrived home half an hour later, my mother was waiting impatiently for me. She was about to lecture me about being so slow in getting a few things but she stopped and listened dumbfounded while I related the events to her. When I finished she smiled and said that she was glad I was not injured.

                                               MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD

            When I think back of my childhood, many vivid memories spring to my mind. Some are pleasurable while some are painful. Regardless the quality I attached to these memories, they constitute the early experiences of my life and they help to make the person I am today.
            The most vivid memory I have is about the time I fell from a coconut tree. Though I fell about three feet, I dislocated my elbow. I still can recall the process of falling and the immense pain and discomfort afterwards. I was about five at that time. That accident made me extra careful whenever I climb a tree. A repeat of the experience is definitely not welcome.
            As I grew older I remember sitting side-saddle on the horizontal bar of my older brother’s bicycle while he paddled us toward a small farm nearby. There we would buy some fruits that cost only a few cents each. Then we would feed ourselves on the way back. I have to watch out for the police because my brother told me that if I were to be caught riding side-saddle the police would arrest me and put me in jail. Now I know that he was just frightening me to be on the alert. He was too lazy to watch out for the police himself.
            My elder brother taught me many things. I learned to make flyable kites and spinnable tops. In addition, we would go around in neighbouring countryside catching tiny tropical fishes. We used to catch fighting fish, tiger barb, guppies and various other colorful fishes.  We kept them in all sorts of containers. Then invariably, our enthusiasm would turn to neglect and our whole collection of fish would die. After sometime the enthusiasm would suddenly grip us again and we would start all over again mending our nets and venturing out into the countryside again. Catching fish had its ups and downs. Ups when we managed to catch a small amount of fish, and downs when we became the victim of the water leeches. Ugh! Just thinking of them now makes my skin crawl. The first time I saw two black slimy leeches stuck fast onto my legs all I could do was scream. I was in utter panic until my brother came to rescue me removing the leeches. This was no easy task. He had to put saliva onto the head of the leeches before he could manage to pull them from my leg. The places where the leeches had bitten would bleed for some time. Later on I learned to remove the leeches myself. I also learned to recognized the approach of these yellow-bellied bloodsuckers thus minimizing my contact with them. It is not a pleasurable experience, this attack by leeches. I know a friend who would testify to this. He did not know he was bitten until the leech had become swollen to about four times its original sizes.
            We learned to respect the living creatures in the countryside. No single living being rules nature. We are the hunters and the hunted at the same time. The most important thing is to recognized our position.
            Later on my elder brother went overseas for further studies. I miss him but fortunately I had a group of friends living in the neighbourhood. We would play all sorts of games and do exploring all sorts of places. We were lucky to live at the fringe of town where the natural surroundings were not destroyed yet. Now the streams and farm are gone, the victims of development. No longer can we catch any fish in the black waters of the polluted drain where there was once a stream of cool clear water brimming with life. No longer too we can hear the call of the birds and animals. Instead we hear the impatient blasted of car horns and the roar of bulldozers churning up the once beautiful land. I mourn the destruction of the living bountiful land and subsequent erection of nameless houses all arranged in neat sterile rows. I wonder what sort of childhood memories the children living in these houses will have.
            As the years rolled by, my friends and I grew up. Most of them have left the neighbourhood for lucrative jobs in the biog cities. Some of us remain. One committed suicide. We have lost our childhood. We are like strangers to one another now for we have our separate lives to live. The only thing that bind us together is the fact that we share the same childhood memories, memories we will always treasure.


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