Strange but true. I never had imaginary friends when I was growing up. The closest to imagination would be talking to my own image in the mirror. Yes, I did. Now, I don’t need the mirror. I just to talk to myself, sometimes 🙂
So if it was a non-imaginary friend that I haven’t seen since childhood, then it would be my Malay neighbour’s youngest child and his name is Hasby. We had one thing in common, we were both the youngest in the family and he was number 14 while I was the 3rd child. Hasby was about 5 years younger than I and it was great to have someone younger to play with because all my siblings including Hasby’s were older than me by quite a number of years. So it felt special to be a big sister to Hasby to bring him around on my bicycle everywhere in our kampung (village).
I am Chinese and my neighbours were mostly Malay and my family were the few Chinese families living in a Malay kampung. There was never a time when I felt race had any significance amongst us and I spoke the Malay language naturally since I grew up with them. My neighbour treated me as one of their own and since there were 14 children, I blended in easily and they were like my extended family of older brothers and sisters. The only thing I felt was in the way was when it came to food. I could not share any food from my family with them but I was able to eat the food that Hasby’s family offered me. So the only thing I could do was to bring Hasby out for treats like ice cream, desserts and picnics by the beach where we packed snacks and drinks along. It was a good 2 to 3 years of bonding but we had to part ways due to urbanisation which caused the whole village to relocate to more modern housing estates. We were all separated to various parts of Singapore. However, there are some remnants of activities from the past like going to the beach and digging for clams, that we can still do today.
The last news I had about Hasby was that he became an avid motorbike racer and would ride his motorbike across to Malaysia and Thailand with his group of bikers. This was told to me by his older sister who was like my nanny because she looked after me when I was toddler till I was 7 years old. I bumped into her perhaps a decade ago and she updated me about the whole family… yes, all the 14 children and their children and her mother, who was then still alive.
If Hasby and I were to continue to live where we were, we would perhaps still be happy going about our kampung life with greater simplicity than what the world is like today. There would be no high rise buildings or mega structures of highways, cars, buses, trains and shopping malls. We will still have chickens, cats and dogs roaming about freely and coconut, mango and papaya trees surrounding the village. Our lives would be just wonderful.
It would not be possible for us to have that kind of community living with the modern housing system we had to move to and with rapid modernisation and urbanisation, we would have parted ways and led very different lives even if we were neighbours. This is the reality of what life is today. Not an imagination.
Imaginary Friend – DP – Many of us had imaginary friends as young children. If your imaginary friend grew up alongside you, what would his/her/its life be like today? (Didn’t have one? write about a non-imaginary friend you haven’t seen since childhood.)