Well Mus, I hope you remembered how you abandoned me and Mak's 3-tiered aluminium steamer in Bangkok . This is the revenge of the wicked witch of Leicester.
In 1967, during the long school holiday, the Teachers' Union in Singapore organised a bus tour from Singapore to Thailand, as far as Chiengmai in the north. Looking back, we were quite adventurous, doing an overland trip via the Malay Peninsula, crossing the Isthmus of Kra and the 'wild' border between Malaysia and Thailand. In those days the buses had no air conditioning or soft comfy seats. They were called buses and not coaches.
In that group were my Yusof Ishak colleagues - Syed Ali, Riduan and Bakar. I think I was given permission to join the tour only because my kid brother was also in the group, to be a sort of 'minder'. But as I was to discover later, he wasn't of much use because he wasn't gallant enough to take over my mum's 3-tiered aluminium steamer.
It was a helluva body-wrecking journey, a 'shake, rattle and roll' experience. Most of the travelling was done at night, to save on hotels. They do the same today on some of those European excursions ; like a sort of fly (in this case, driven) by night operation. The 'comfort' stop was a torture with a long line of ladies queuing up and 'breaking their necks' to visit the dingy toilet in a coffee shop in some small town in Malaysia. We did not settle down in any hotel until we got to Haadyai ! Can you remember Mus, how our Thai driver and co-driver did a changeover WITHOUT stopping the bus ? It was a truly acrobatic feat. The takeover driver would manipulate his body in such a way so that his right foot would 'take over' the accelerator from the driver. Then the driver slowly inched himself out of the seat and the new driver skilfully manoevred his bum on to the seat. Voila! It took hardly 3 minutes. And we did not feel the slightest shudder or bump. But for one of them, his hair turned grey by the time we arrived in Bangkok - Guide's honour! I wonder if it was due to the strain of driving a bunch of rambunctious teachers. I don't think there was anyone over 35 and Mus at 21 was the youngest.
As for dear ole mum (heck! she was just 44 then), of course she wanted a souvenir from OUR holiday. At that time, it was the thing to possess items of aluminium kitchen ware from Thailand- like tiffin carriers, the bigger the better AND large 3-tier steamers. Mak's choice was the latter. It's not that she couldn't buy it in any shop in Singapore. She just wanted one hand-carried and 'fresh' from Thailand. Women!!!! Boy, was I mad! Maybe I could tell her it's out of stock. Or that the Malaysian and Singapore Customs disallow the import of such products without the proper papers. But I didn't have the heart. It was the very first item I bought when I started shopping in Bangkok. While my fellow travellers were shopping for classy items like precious stones, Thai silk and Thai silver ware, Cikgu Maznoor bought a THREE- TIER ALUMINIUM STEAMER wrapped in grubby, dusty plastic cover. SHUCKS!!!
As I was walking towards the bus with this monstrosity in my hand I caught sight of Mus. Aaah- came a wicked thought. I've done my part in buying it, now Mus can look after it. He must have seen me "going for him" and he did a graceful nonchalant withdrawal. "Ooooh, just you wait", I muttered under my breath. At last, sweet revenge today.
But I must be fair. He was a dashing 21 year old kid, who looked like Frankie Avalon and Fabian rolled into one, a bass player in his two-bit band and proud owner of a Lambretta scooter. But then, what about me? There I was , a 23 year old catchy little number in her bell-bottom home-made trousers. I used to sew my own clothes using superb paper patterns from Simplicity and Buttericks which could be bought only in some special shops like Robinsons. Any lass of 23 would be a sweet young thing (SYT) and I did fancy myself to be a fusion of Sandra Dee and Connie Francis. Plus, I did enjoy the attention of the young men on that trip, I must confess.
Anyway I chucked the blighted steamer at the back of the bus and there it stayed until we got home to Singapore. I am sure other cars who were driving behind our bus must be laughing at the sight of this souvenir in a bus filled with young travellers. I remembered those days when Malaysians would come by the busloads to shop in Singapore especially at the then C.K. Tangs and when you drove behind these rombongan (excursion) buses along Bukit Timah Road or Woodlands they looked like mobile kedai runcit (sundry shops). How things have changed.
That steamer had a most useful and long life. We all , including the second generation benefited from the endless joy of eating all the steamed cakes that mak used to make. I last saw that steamer, the bane of my youth, in my sister's house in Batu Pahat, before she moved to KL. Have you still got it, Nah? Mak used to make lepat ubi kayu, lepat pisang, kuih kasui, kuih putri salad, kuih pow, apam and my absolute favourite kuih naga sari. My dear mak made it all worthwhile. Nowadays very few mums would make these traditional kuih at home. They can after all, be easily bought at any stall. As to the present generation a three-tiered aluminium steamer is no more a must-have item. BUT here in England - steamers, the stainless steel type are a must for health conscious people. Also our humble batu lesong, they are on the market for £45. I saw it in an advertisement in the Times Sunday Supplement although they have been tarted up a little with glossy rims. So, cling on on your mums' three-tiered aluminium steamers, batu lesong and batu giling. I still have the last two items, cry your heart out!!
Back to you Mus. Your indifferent attitude to mak's steamer started this posting. Be warned, there's more expose to come. Cheers.