BEWARE! We only have one set of TEETH!

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Of course you know this already. I am not trying to be sarcastic or insulting but merely making a proclamation of enamel enlightenment. Over the years, my visits to the dentist has turned into a steep-upward climb in costs and saving my teeth but I think saving Gaia (the earth) has a far better chance than my teeth.

Why did I choose to write about this? Well, I told the dentist at my last visit when I boldly propped myself up on the reclined chair, raised my hand, pointed upwards and said, “I must tell all parents and parents-to-be about how important it is to inculcate good dental hygiene in their children.” Actually, this also applies to everyone who have teeth (real ones).

I have bragged in several posts about my kampung (village) life but there was one area that I cannot and that was because adults then had little knowledge of dental care and it had caused many kids, including myself to suffer the consequences of this. I was called “Bo geh” (no teeth)

bo geh

when I was 4 or 5 years old and it was not uncommon for kids in the kampung to have rotting teeth and pulling them out with their fingers every now and then. Our second set of teeth had to come out prematurely and they looked over-sized on most of the kids. My mouth had no space for the permanent set, so the canines grew above the incisors and premolars (the photo below will help you visualise).

Teeth

Then I was given other nick names like “Dracula” or “Vampire”. Well, the growing up years will continue to fill other blog topics but for now, the main focus is on the recent dental saga.

It was the first time that I chose to visit another dentist to seek a second opinion. Over the past 6 years I have been visiting a particular dentist near my neighborhood and it belonged to a dental group (more established and has several clinics). After sometime like several root canals, crowning and a bridge later, I was taken aback when my concerns raised in a routine visit was brushed off. Somehow, I felt that there were cavities or problems that need to be looked into but the dentist only clean the teeth and asked me to come back in 6 months.

Obviously, I was back before the 6-month period as I was having pain. The dentist analysed and took an x-ray and then recommended another root canal and crowning job for the molar or a referral to the specialist as it was near the nerves. It took two dentists and two visits where they `knocked the rockers off’ my poor tooth to figure whether it was cracked or not. I felt that it may have cracked just by their knocking! In the end, the inlay on the tooth was taken out and a temporary filling was made and I was given 3 months to come back for another assessment. I left 250 bucks poorer and none the better :(.

“That was it!”, I said to myself and looked for another dentist’s opinion.

I visited another neighborhood dental clinic near my home which did not have the corporate stylish-look-and-feel of the previous one. It was homely and cosy inside and when I entered the dentist office, a young female dentist attended to me. I related my experience, she patiently listened and never once concurred with my critical slant on the other clinic (without revealing their identity). She started by checking every single tooth asking her assistant to record down what she said as she move from one tooth to another. My heart sank as I heard her uttering coded language for practically every tooth as the assistant frantically wrote down her rather long assessment. It sounded like I was a badly wounded soldier in an ER!

Of course she needed an x-ray to have a better assessment of the whole teeth so it was done with my agreement that it would be a large one rather than focus on the problem tooth only. Then she went through the `war zone’ with me. She stated about 4 more cavities that needed attention and gave me an idea of the urgency of each where the more important ones could be worked on first. This made me feel that the previous clinic was not interested in `small’ jobs and did not highlight any of these problems during the routine check. They wanted the more `lucrative’ ones and I am all the more angry about this but did not say it to this dentist.

The problem molar was the real intense discussion after the overview was done. I had 3 options; root canal with crown, extraction, or implant. Each had its pros and cons and they were not at all rosy. Hope by now you know why I am compelled to write about this as it is really not worth experiencing all these in your adulthood as it affects your general well being as well as burn a rather big hole not only in your teeth but also in your pockets!

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So take care everyone!

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Candy Crush vs Angry Ball

I think there are two groups of people today. Those who play games on computers or mobile devices and those who don’t. My guess is that the group that plays these games are much larger than those who don’t. Those who do not play these games would find it harder to play other games as the numbers had shrunk and the interests in such games are fading.

I missed those times when I could play games with my fellow kampung (village) friends. There was nothing digital going on at that time and there were many situations that required improvisation and imagination to play. It involved leadership, teamwork and it built camaraderie. We grew up appreciating and respecting each other and I am grateful to still be in touch with some of these friends today. The whole kampung was our playground. The kind of games we played was simple yet fun and adventurous, at times even dangerous.

One of the games was `Police and Thief’ where half the group (thieves) will have a headstart to run and hide while the other half (police) will have to find and catch them. They need to catch and bring them to a detention place (designated before the game starts).  To win the game, the police need to catch all the thieves. The thieves who were yet to be caught could attempt to rescue those detained by running pass the guard and tapping any of the detainees to set them free. One round of game can last over an hour and can be very tiring. It seemed simple but it was an elaborate game covering an area about the size of a football field. The area had clusters of wooden houses, trees, back alleys, lumber yard, shops and huts. Each group had to come together and strategise before playing the game and leaders were appointed to make decisions and negotiate terms with the opponents along the way. This elaborate game needed quite a number of players to make it work so when the numbers were low, other games were played.

One such game was called `Hantam Bola’ (meaning `Hit with Ball’ in Malay). This was a painful game and most girls would make excuses not to play (except for hyperactive me). Why was it painful?  The ball was made of a leathery-rubber material, hollow and about the size of a tennis ball. The photo below is a close example but the ones we used had red oriental patterns on it:

Old rubber ball

This ball, when thrown at high speed and hits you, it would really hurt and sting. How was the game played? Players had to stand inside a rectangle drawn on the ground, about the size of half a basketball court. There will be a small hole dug out at one side of the court in the middle and each player will take turns to attempt to put the ball in the hole by rolling it on the ground towards the hole. The diagram below will give you a better idea of the layout (the stars represent the players):

Hantam Bola field

Once anyone managed to get the ball in, he or she would run to the ball, grab it and throw it from the position of the hole towards the other players who would be running frantically to dodge the ball. Whoever gets hit by the ball or run out of the rectangle will be out of the game. If the thrower missed hitting anyone, he or she will be out of the game. The game was a process of elimination where the last kid standing will become the champion. Can you imagine what happens when the ball gets in the hole?  It will become an angry ball indeed and you will hear the piercing, terrified screams of the players as well. Those who got hit by the ball was not only out of the game but received a souvenir in the form of the ball’s imprint wherever it landed. It will remain for a day or two.. ouch! Some were hit at the back, arm or leg and some less fortunate ones, on the face!

I believe my real school was from these games and not from formal education as I cannot recall any of those lessons today. Most of all, we were all as fit as a fiddle running around like headless chickens as we were screaming our heads off in most of the games. It was terrifying yet wonderful!

I shall leave you with what happened to fit as fiddle these days through my favourite character as usual 🙂

Snoopy's Brother

Boo you to Sleep!

One distinct difference of my childhood from current times were the absence of mobile devices and cable TV to distract us in our homes. We, the kampung (village) children, after dinner would be found sitting on the patio amongst the older folks who would chat about their day’s experience or happenings. These folks had a captive audience in us and when we seemed restless, they would begin to rattle us with their tales. I would not say they were our favourite storytellers but they did send shivers down our spines.

One of the tale was “Orang Minyak” (means oily man in Malay). This slippery man would prowl in the middle of the night peeping through the open windows of houses to find any women asleep in the room so he can molest her. He was supposedly naked but during that era, having only a pair of shorts on would have the same impact. This Orang Minyak (OM) would be covered with black oil from head to toe so he could not be easily spotted at night.

There were no tall buildings in the kampung and houses were made of wood with zinc roof. Kerosene lamps were used as electricity supply was still progressing and we had a single light bulb for each room in the house. Windows were usually left open as electric fan or air-conditioning was uncommon. So when a woman’s scream was heard in the middle of the night, they would say the OM had struck again. The woman who screamed would recount that someone had touched her while she was asleep and when asked to describe the perpetrator, she would say, “It was a dark shadow that jumped out of the window” or “I could only see his teeth” or “… the white of his eyes”. The next day, the victims would find their clothing, bed sheets and curtains stained with black oil. This tale made many female folks afraid to sleep near the window or to walk alone at night for fear of being pounced upon by the elusive and slippery OM. Ironically, this tale made it to movies and TV series and was popular. I would like to add a photo of the OM but it was too dark to spot him 🙂

Another tale that was scarier was the kampung version of a vampire. She or it or whatever, was known as “Pontianak”. This character or thing is complicated as there were several versions from different countries. However, I will share the kampung storytellers’ version. Pontianak can be described as a female ghost wearing a long, white, flowing gown and has long, unkempt hair that covers most of her face. She also had long fingernails and ugly teeth with fangs. Well, there were plenty of examples on google images so here’s one that fits closely to what was described to us and yes, it made it to the movies and TV too:

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We were told that the Pontianak resides in banana trees which caused us children to steer clear away from any banana trees at night. The way she would appear to humans would be as a very beautiful woman but that would be when she had a nail embedded in her head. This nail is those metal ones you used to hammer pieces of wood together. When that nail is pulled out from her head, she would transform into Pontianak and need to feed on human blood. How would she do that? Same as vampires!

There are stories you cherish in your childhood but these were not the ones. They left an indelible memory of cringe worthy tales that adults `lavished’ on us when they think the children were bored. The adults were good storytellers or tale spinners of the kampung and they enjoyed spooking the life out of women and children. However, my favourite storytellers are Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Jeffrey Archer and John Irving to name a few but they were not as spooky as Snoopy.

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When I reflect on the sinister side of those tales, I could come up with a few explanation. For example, the nights can get pretty warm so sleeping near the windows were best. The OM tale was one way of getting the women away from the choice spot. Fruit trees were often pilfered and banana trees were important food source in the kampung. Keeping children away from it by saying it was the residence of Pontianak would go a long way for the owners.  What do you think?

Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

Go Fly Kite

This is a kind of ‘Singlish’ (Singapore’s brand of english) phrase used for telling people off. It is saying ‘don’t waste my time’ and ‘go do something frivolous’ in the process. Sometimes it is said in jest amongst friends when someone had cracked a lousy joke or was sarcastic but it can also be used to tick someone off when the person had offended you or demanded something outrageous.

Well, it was totally different in my kampung (village) days when someone was to say, “Go fly kite.” We would all jump with glee at the opportunity to do so, especially on a bright and windy day! When I was too young to fly a kite, I would look at the older kids flying one and how they prepared their kites. It was not only the thrill of flying it, it was more of the competition. Yes, you heard me right, a competition!

Fancilful kites

Fanciful Fun Kites

The photo above showed many colorful and fanciful kites that people usually fly near the beach or at a high open ground. Well these are not the kites I was referring to. The kites that we flew or rather compete with other kite flyers was not much to look at as shown in the following photo:

Local kites

Kites we flew during our kampung days.

The kite was not larger than a foot square and made of thin translucent paper held and glued up with two pieces of thin bamboo twigs. It costs around 30 to 50 cents and were sold at provision shops in the kampung. However, the demand was for those that had a particular `brand’ which sells out faster than the others and it was because the workmanship was better. Before I go into the kite flying part, let me elaborate on the whole structure of this kite flying community (mainly children between 8 and 16 years old). There will be those who fly the kites, those who made the strings, those who retrieve the kites and those who watch the whole thing. Some may be involved in more than one of these activities.

The group that prepared the strings earned by selling these special strings to the kite flyers. The strings would be laced with powdered glass… yes, glass mixed with some kind of glue mixture. The string would be wound around some tree trunks to spread it out and the craftsman or kid would use a rag dipped in the glue-glass mixture and run it through the strings, it would cover about two thirds the length of the string starting from the point attached to the kite. You may figure out why it was done this way later. The strings would be left to dry and then rolled back to its holder. These strings cost more than the kites obviously.

The group that retrieve the kites would usually be in a group or in pairs and the leader would carry an improvised long pole that sometimes looked like deer antlers at the top. They would go in the direction of a loose kite which usually landed on a rooftop, a tree or telephone wires. Some of the kites would drift far beyond what these groups could follow so they would stop and look for another within reach. These retriever groups would `fight’ when they reached a kite at the same time and more often than not, the kite would be torn to shreds by the retrieving poles and you would hear them swearing at each other but soon split up to look for another kite.

Now, the kite flyers would be the ones battling it out in the skies and I managed to learn the craft of choosing the right kites, made the glass embedded strings (with the help of my kampung gang) and fly the kites. We even had mentors in the form of adults who were experienced in kite flying in the past and I would listen to their tales and methods. Armed with good kites and strings, with the winds in my favour and choosing the right spot with unobstructed view from my side of the kampung… LET THE GAME BEGIN!

Once my kite was launched in the air, I will let it go up as high as the others already in the air. Keeping such a small kite steady with strong winds was not easy. Here’s the real challenge. When you reach the same level or range with the rest of the other kites in the air, THE BATTLE BEGINS! Soon you will see a kite making a sudden swerve towards another and the intention was to cross the line (string) of that kite so it would get cut off (now you know why the glass embedded string was used). When that happens, you will see the victim kite suddenly fall out from the group. Sometimes, the aggressor may get cut off too if the defender had `sharper’ and stronger strings. The battle was in the skies so the lower part of the strings need not be covered with that mixture so hope this explained the two thirds coverage.

When I first started off in this raging aerial battle, I kept a lower altitude so it was difficult for the aggressor to reach me and some people think that it was cowardly. Well, I was new and cowardly. The aggressive kites had a particular color and style so we sort of know that it belonged to a particular group in the kampung. Newbies tend to lose their kites a lot and it can get costly especially when the strings were also cut off. After some practice and a loss of a few kites, I devised a strategy. I decided to fly the kite to one side of the group a little further off to let them give chase and I would swiftly bring the kite back before they could reach me. When they could not reach me, they had to turn back to their original position and there I would choose to strike! I would quickly go back in and turn towards them and WADDAYANOE! That was a happy day for my side of the kampung as we managed to `chop off’ 3 aggressive kites and could fly a little longer than usual that day.

From then on, my confidence was heightened and I became the pride of my gang. So the next round I flew a kite, there were spectators as word got out about our `killing’. I began to experiment more with some methods of quick twists and twirls with my kite and WALA! This time not only did we cut off the kites, we managed to bring back a kite by twirling around the string when it was drifting away. Soon I was bringing back the `spoils of war’ one by one and the haul was 3 for that day! My spectators cheered when we cut off kites and cheered even more when we brought back kites.

I must say those were the GLORY DAYS!

So if someone was to say to me, “Go Fly Kite!” I will say, “Thank you for the memories!”

Superwoman No. 1 – Patchy was Mama’s love

[This is part of a series of adventures with Superwoman No.1 featured earlier – click here for the post.) 

In 1979, our family had to leave our kampung (village) due to resettlement to allow our small country to progress through urbanisation and town planning. We moved to a high-rise public housing estate in the eastern coastal part of Singapore and only the birds came along as we no longer had a dog by the time we moved. However, it was not long that we had dogs with us again. Yes not a dog but dogs, as you can see my dad bringing three of them out for their daily walk in the following photo:

Dad bringing Patchy, Rusty and Jamie out for their daily walk at the foot of our block.

Dad bringing (from left) Patchy, Rusty and Jamie out for their daily walk at the foot of our block.

Mama was not someone who showed her emotion readily other than when she gets angry and scolds you. She was ours and our dogs great cook and she lovingly and faithfully prepared all our food. Patchy was the first puppy introduced to our family at our new home by me. My classmate bred poodle terriers and I had no idea about breeds or what that meant as I was only familiar with my kampung dog `Tramp’, a mongrel. My classmate somehow convinced me to buy Patchy for a handsome fee of 150 bucks! That was a whopping sum for a school going girl and I still cannot recall how I managed to beg, steal or borrow that amount (poor dad or mom or both). You can see Patchy with my sister in the following photo:

My sister with Patchy our first beloved dog in our HUDC flat.

My sister with Patchy, our first dog in our flat.

My sis and I shared one room and Patchy was our alarm clock every morning and he would run into our bedroom when our dad told him to, so that we could get up for work or school. Patchy would lick our face and if we refuse to budge, he would rub his body on our face as well. It would be impossible not to get up with such `violent’ affection shown. Sometimes we would cover ourselves with the blanket or our pillow but he would trample all over us until we got up. Although we yelled at him, we were never angry because he was just too adorable. Soon, two more dogs were added to his company and they got along well but when Patchy grew older, he became grumpy and would snap at us unpredictably.

When Patchy was `snapping’ (perhaps he thought he was a turtle) at us quite frequently, I realised he never snapped at Mama. One night I observed Patchy walking to Mama who was seated at her usual chair watching TV. He stood up to her knee and reached out his paw to her face and Mama gave him a good rub with both her hands up and down his body. He looked so happy to receive that rub but none of us could even pat him without getting a growl from him. He was about ten years old when an unfortunate incident happened at the groomers. His jaw was broken and the vet who treated him said that it was not possible to fix it due to his age. He has to be tube fed for the rest of his life if we want to keep him. The vet recommended that we put him down as he was in pain and was getting senile. I was devastated to see him in that condition but I brought him home hoping he could eat but he could not even drink and was in great pain. I could not bear to see him like this and brought him back to the vet the next day. I had no choice but to let him go. It was the most difficult and painful decision then and there was much to deliberate on what had happened, why and what could have been done but that is another story altogether.

What was most difficult was actually not the grief for the loss of Patchy but to realise how it had impacted Mama. It was about a month later, Mama was watching TV at her usual chair and she burst in tears and questioned why I must let Patchy go since he was such a good boy and had no medical problems. I was shocked by her reaction and I thought she knew what had happened. I gently explained to her what had happened and why we had to let him go. It was too sudden. It was difficult and painful for Mama as she loved him dearly. Here’s a photo of Mama with Jaime who lived a long 18 years and she was actually Patchy’s sister from the same litter… yes they do not look alike but that is again, another story:

Mama with Jaime

Mama with Jaime

[Check out a previous post about Mama with Dragon, our pet parrot – Click here.]

Superwoman No. 1 – Encounters with Dragon

African Grey

Photo Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_grey_parrot

[This is part of a series of adventures with Superwoman No.1 featured earlier – click here for the post.) 

In our kampung (village) life, it was not uncommon to have birds, cats, dogs, chickens and other similar creatures amongst us.  Some roam freely and some in cages. My dad was a bird lover and has kept many birds as pets in beautifully decorated cages of varying shapes and sizes depending on the species. One of the birds he decided to introduce to the family was an African Grey parrot who was named `Dragon’ for reasons unknown to me especially for the fact that he does not look any way like those dragons we see in drawings or pictures. Perhaps the only part that looks similar would be its claws.

Dragon was quite a character and he was kept in a large metal cage due to his strong beak that would tear apart wooden or plastic materials. He was often hung up high at the back of our house, between the kitchen and bathroom and toilet areas. It was quite a strategic location as he had the vantage point of the whole back section of the house and could see everyone in this area and anyone who comes in from the back entrance of the house. Come to think of it, he was able to see anyone clearly and in full monty in the bathroom or toilet as his cage was perch just above it. Yes, our bathroom and toilet were built in such a way that there were no roof so it was like a cubicle and our kampung house had a high ceiling.

Dragon would come down to the bottom of the cage to look at us going in to the bathroom or toilet and he would wolf whistle and talk to us with words like “Hello”, “Good boy” and whistle some kind of tune as if to poke fun at us. Sometimes he would mimic the sound of `peeing’ and the person in the toilet would at times burst out laughing at Dragon’s cheekiness and he would even chuckle and laugh back at us. These encounters with Dragon were not all there was as he was multi-talented and able to mimic other species of birds we had at home as well as call our pet dog `Tramp’ who always looked puzzled and wondered who was calling his name when Dragon called out his name loudly.

Mama had a distinct voice and being peranakan, she was not short of some famous swear words used by peranakans such as “cheelakah” and “yiow siew” which both closely mean “damn you”. As Mama remained mostly at the back of the house where the kitchen and back entrance were, she often had to yell out the grandchildrens’ names to get us to the kitchen to have our meals. We would be in our rooms or the living area which were at the front part of the house. So we would hear her scream out our names and we will head to the kitchen. I was often out at our neighbors so Mama would shout for me from the back door and I would be able to hear or otherwise my neighbours would join in her yelling to get me to go home.

So here Dragon had a lot of training hearing Mama yelling our names and so he had tricked us a couple of times when we went to Mama and asked her what she wanted and she said she did not call for us. After awhile, we realised it was Dragon who had mimicked her voice to call us. We were more tolerant of Dragon and found him amusing. He was also able to mimic the whistle of how my dad would call for Tramp to come back after he let him out from the backyard for his “toilet run”. There were several times when I saw Tramp standing at the open backyard door afraid to leave as it happened that he would hear dad’s whistle every time he sets off. Once again, it was Dragon and poor Tramp was clueless.

We had our house telephone positioned not too far from the kitchen, sort of in between our living room and the back of the house. Mama used the phone daily to get the results of her `chap ji kee’ (2 digit lottery) and 4D (4-digit lottery) and to arrange her mahjong sessions. So when the phone rang at routine times, Mama would briskly walk over to answer it. Of all the persons in the house, Dragon chose the wrong one to pull his pranks. He decided to mimic the sound of the phone ringing when Mama was busy writing out her betting slip so she got up and went to pick up the phone. Dragon was also smart enough to stop mimicking the ringing as soon as Mama picked up the phone and this was pure timing as where he was positioned, he could not see the phone.

When Mama picked up the phone, she said “Hello… hello… HELLO!” and realised that it was a dial tone and thought the person must have hung up when she picked it up. So she put down the phone and said, “Cheelakah!” and walked back to her betting slip preparation. You may wonder how I am able to write this in such detail… well, it was one of the rare occasions when I happened to witness what was going on from the backyard and I somehow knew what Dragon was up to. I thought it was just a one time prank and ignored what had just happened but Dragon did it again! He made the phone ringing sound and Mama grunted and got up and walked to the phone again. He did the same thing by stopping just when Mama picked up the phone and she said “HELLO” loudly and then slammed the phone down and said, “Yiow Siew!”. She then turned around and saw me laughing loudly from the back entrance and I could not help but told her what Dragon had done.

Mama was so mad she went to get her broom and then lift it up as if she wanted to sweep the roof but no… she headed straight towards Dragon who began to look nervous seeing her coming towards him. When she reached the cage, she hit it with the broom at least three times and each time she shouted “Cheelakah lu!” and Dragon fluttered his wings in fear as the cage swung with each blow of the broom. Then Mama stared at him and walked away to keep the broom and went about her work. I think that day could be one of the quietest day of Dragon after facing the wrath of Mama.

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Can you hear the scream… it’s quite close to Mama’s 🙂

Now who’s the real dragon after all ?

Superwoman No.1

Yes, it is not part 1. This is dedicated to the Number ONE superwoman in my life. She is none other than my grandmother. She was affectionately called Mama by all her children and grandchildren (including all her sons-in-law and daughter-in law). Mama lived with her eldest daughter (my mom) and my dad who never really had the chance to grow up with his biological mother so he regarded Mama like his own mother. Mama doted on my parents and us, her grandchildren even more 🙂

You see Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature `sarong kebaya’ (a batik long skirt and a delicate blouse set) as shown in the photo below:

Mama in the 1970s wearing her signature sarong kebaya

Neighbours, friends and relatives would address Mama respectfully as`Bibik’ when they greeted her. This was the title given to peranakan (straits-born chinese) women of a certain stature, including matriarchs. She was not only a wonderful and loving mother and grandmother, she was a great cook and you can read more about it in a previous post called Chicken Curry. I would like to focus on giving a background about Mama so you would understand better why she is so deeply loved and cherished.

At 16 years old, Mama was match-made to a grandfather I never knew and the little that I know of him was that he died at the age of 36 and did not really provide for the family.

Wed Mama 1e

Mama’s only wedding photo believed to be taken in 1931.

I grew up very much under Mama’s watchful eye (and hands) especially during my kampung days where I often run around and had to be yelled at to come home for meals (not very different from my dog ‘Tramp’ except that he did not get to go out as much or as long as I did). She would cook for the whole family almost everyday except when we had dinners out over the weekends. She would do almost all the household chores as my parents were working and the grandchildren would be at school or playing elsewhere.

She had the habit of having a lit cigarette hanging on her lips like an incense stick most of the time. I never recalled her puffing her cigarette and I learnt that she had this habit from the time she was married. I was often tasked to run errands for her in the kampung to buy groceries from nearby provision shops and the items would mostly be her cooking needs and cigarettes. Another errand that I ran regularly in the evenings would be to the bookies for her lottery habit known as `chap ji kee’ which means twelve numbers. It was essentially a 2-digit game of chance where you would choose 2 numbers from 1 to 12. The results would be announced via telephone from the bookies every day. This was the most popular form of lottery then and it was illegal and there were 4-digit ones that had both legal and illegal versions. Ok, by now you would know that Mama had a gambling habit and `mahjong’ was her favourite game which she would regularly go for when she had done all her cooking and chores for the day.

Mama would come home at night and would sleep late and wake up early. She said she did not need to sleep much so I had the privilege of being around Mama alone late at night quite often. Those were the times when I was able to ask her about things and matters of the past as I was curious about them. Even my parents did not relate matters of the past to me so Mama provided much of the historical information of both herself and my parents.

On one of these times, Mama reflected about the years soon after her marriage when she was pregnant and had very little provisions from her husband who hardly held down any jobs. She had to bear 8 children where only 3 survived; her first and last two children (girl, boy and girl), all in that harsh era of the1930s.  Five children in between either died at birth or at a very young age. In most of her pregnancies, she wondered whether the baby would survive as food was scarce and she was illiterate and had no money to buy milk or baby food. This is just too overwhelming for me to relate further so I shall  focus more on better times Mama had, especially when she had grandchildren like me 🙂

Things became better for Mama when her children were able to get stable jobs, a proper home to stay and proper food to eat. Life did become a bed of roses but not without all the thorns that came with it like world war, racial riots and political instabilities of those times… in Singapore. Yes, it did happen in Singapore like it did all over the world then. When times changed, Mama was able to dance and laugh and those were the times when I came into her world too as you can see her dancing and enjoying herself in the following photo:

Mama dancing

Mama dancing with Uncle Swee in 1987 at dad’s 60th birthday party.

 All the years I was with Mama, never did I hear her complain or moan about her past or the sufferings she went through. She only focused on doing her chores and cooking for us faithfully. She hardly fell ill or complained of any ailments. She would simply look after herself and was independent until her bones became too frail. I will share more about Mama especially the interesting observations and experiences I had with her. For now, it is undisputed that she is the No. 1 Superwoman.