Saturday, 20 October 2012

Cycles of Life

From my collection of old textbooks :

First published 1951.  Fourth Impression 1956.
The above book published by Longmans catered for pupils in English Schools and non-Malay Schools.  This was the period before  Malay  became the National language.
I never got this far in my Malay language lessons during Primary School - for reasons not known to us.  All in all I had only 2 years of  learning my mother-tongue.  However  in our wanderings from bookshop to bookshop in Singapore, Batu Pahat, Muar, Kajang, Kuala Kangsar and especially Penang I became quite obsessed with collecting school textbooks in Malay and English.  They are fascinating because they featured not only the education system pre-war and post -war, but the social and economic conditions of those times.

These books have travelled with us from Singapore/Penang to Leicester where they took up a good deal of our living space for 17 years before we brought them 'home' to Kuala Lumpur.  Whenever I get weary, coping with the twenty-first century,  I retreat to these books for a good dose of nostalgia for the good days of long ago.

This chapter from Latehan Bahasa Melayu got me going on a magic journey on bicycles.

I have learned several new words from the above text.  Gerek is another word for roda (wheel), sayap refers to the mudguards, bam means the wooden handles of the bechak dua roda (rickshaw).  However 'brakes' and 'handle' remain as such, although the dictionary uses rem for brakes and a handle is also a pemegang or hendal  But this was after all,  the 1950s.

Page 50 is interesting because of the two bicycle brands mentioned - Raleigh and Hercules.  Of course the Raleigh is top of the range and in 1952 a loving father had to part with about $160 to keep his offspring quiet and active on a Raleigh.  As for the Hercules I was told by the spouse that the boneshaker bicycle he had been using was a Hercules!   Here it is with my own nameless bicycle and Fido (the cat) who made it a habit to use our bikes as a launching pad to get up and down the wall.

And here's my frozen bike sans Fido.

That little bike took me on umpteen little journeys to the market at the City Centre.  We took several sorties cycling in the posh parts of Leicester.  When we passed through the working class area, someone threw a stone at me simply because of my colour.  And there was the time when I was pushing my bicycle up a steep slope, and a mixed black and white little girl, aged about eleven yelled at me, "Chinkee, go home!"

As for that lovable little bicycle, Iain  lent it to this  little West Indian  girl when someone stole her bicycle while she was delivering the papers in our street.  Her father, much, much later, returned it to us but with the front wheel in a right sorry state. So there you are - "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

I have always fancied a Raleigh.  The Rudge bicycle that my two brothers and I shared was our pride and joy.
Kampung Abu Kassim, Pasir Panjang, Singapore  - 1956
I was always very happy when my mother asked me to get her kelapa parut from the one shop at the 4th milestone, or  small items of grocery that she had forgotten to buy, or post letters and cards at the 7th milestone Post Office.  I would immediately grab the Rudge away from either of my two brothers who were having too much fun with it - and soon I'd be cycling and flying away like a bird on the wing, so to speak.  (Also it gave me a chance to wave a hello to my heart-throbs, Ng Kian Ann and Ang Hock Kee as I cycled past their house.)

As for the Raleigh - sometime in 1993, when we left Penang after 2 years at USM,  my mother gave us a prezzie of $1,000 because she thought it would be useful for us back in Leicester.  Well, we bought two brand new Raleigh bicycles from Halfords.  Everytime we took to the road and cycled on the tracks alongside the Canal, stopping to pick blackberries along the wayside and resting for a picnic we think of mak and thanking her for this joy.

I brought  both bicycles back to KL with all our books and phonograph players and vinyls.  I had to dismantle them for packing and they remain still in parts because I can't get any shop to put them - like Humpty Dumpty -  together again.  This is all I could retrieve - the sayap.


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