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Remember The Kampung Days Through A Child’s Memories

Eid is a time when members of the family, how ever extended, comes for a visit and without fail, they tend to talk about the good old days of staying in a kampung. Everyone assumes that I was too young to remember life back then but I do, though it’s through the eyes of a four year old, it might be a different kind of memory.

My grandparents moved from the little wood and mortar house to our current apartment in the mid-80s, when the government was gobbling up land for development. My parents had taken my sisters and I for a drive to see what had happened to the site of her former home. It seemed that the area had been developed into a series of private condominiums and also some industrial area.

I might have been four and might not have spent a lot of time at my maternal grandparents home as I was staying across the Causeway at the time, I still had many fond memories of the laid back, simple life back then.

I remember the big, shady trees by the road side as my mom and I alighted from the bus. The bus stop was nothing but a metal pole with a metal sign with the numbers of the buses that stop there. A little, mom & pop shop with sweets, snacks and other wonderful things that a child loves, was situated very close to the bus stop.

My mom would take my hand and we walked along the sandy lane, hedged by tall lalang grass. I was small for my age so the grass looked so very tall. I remember hearing the cicadas chirping as we made our way to the house.

My grandparents’ home was relatively brightly painted in glossy blue, green and yellow. The verandah was where my late grandfather would sit, smoking his pipe or talking to guests. As a child, the house compound seemed so big; the kitchen to one side of the house and the other side made up if fruit trees and a large (to me) poultry coop.

The house was shaded by a large tree that grew on a slope behind the house, so the darkest part of the house was the room facing the slope, where the fridge and the large grandfather’s clock was. That room had always given me the creeps and I found out much later that it creeped out almost everyone too.

I had very fond memories of spending time with my grandparents at their house. In the morning, I’d follow my grandma to the poultry coop to help her feed her chickens and ducks. All I had to do was grab a handful of corn and chuck it at them. It fascinated me as the animals would waddle over, making a lot of noise and pecking at the ground for the bits of corn.

Grandpa would be feeding his pet songbirds while I watched. The afternoons had me playing in the sand in front of the house or helping my grandma gathering the fallen dried leaves for burning. (It was the 80s, everyone burnt stuff openly)

Great-grandma was staying with them and on days that she was well, she would sit outside and preparing the central vein of the coconut leaf to be made into a broom. I’d sit outside with her on the concrete wrap-around the side of the house.

Being the youngest grandchild at that time, I wasn’t allowed to roam off the compound unless I was accompanied by an older cousin (which rarely happens) or by an adult (which is even rarer). So I spent a lot of time getting into mischief with sand, disturbing my grandma while she cooks or just doing what most children at that age do; nap.

I’m a little sad that my sisters never got to experience a similar childhood since they were born a couple of years after we moved but at least we have pictures to show them and so many stories to tell.

Eid 2011: A Week On

It’s been a week since we celebrated Eid. Usually, there would still be some lingering celebratory feelings but not this year. In fact, my family barely celebrated. Everything was done with a heavy feeling of obligation. We weren’t in the mood to celebrate at all that we procrastinated the Eid preparation until the last weekend of Ramadhan, where we squeezed a couple of weeks worth of preparation into the last 4 days of Ramadhan. It was a feat and a week on, I’m still recovering from that exhaustion.

My mother had not planned to make the traditional rice cakes, ketupat, the traditional way, by weaving coconut leaves and filling them with rice before boiling. She had just planned to cook the instant ones that are available at the supermarkets, to make our lives easier. However, when presented with a bundle of cheap(ish) young coconut leaves, my mom couldn’t resist and so my sisters and I were tasked to make them.

ketupat weaving

What would normal take my grandmother (when she was well), a couple of hours to do, took the three of us half a day to accomplish as we had to wipe clean each leaf individually. It was the very first time that we had to prepare the ketupat by ourselves, it wasn’t any wonder why it took us so long

We ended up with a whole basket of cooked ketupats with sizes ranging from as small as a baby’s fist to one that was one and a half times bigger than my fist.


We were so rushed for time that we didn’t even make that many treats and cookies these year. We made just enough to serve our guests, when in previous years, I would make enough to give all my aunts at least a bottle.

pineapple tarts

The night of Eid saw my cousins coming over for pre-celebration meal and it just so happens that we had a couple boxes of sparklers and I thought, screw it, lets re-live our childhood (even though the youngest of us was 16).

playing with sparklers

We had to play at the void deck of the building as the sparklers were very smoky and we didn’t want our neighbours to complain. I know that my sisters, my cousins and I had a lot of fun.

On Eid day, and the subsequent days after, we recieved a number of guests and this year, having developed Grinch-y, cynical feelings about celebrating Eid, it was an effort to slap on a smile and pretend that I’m all happy at having people whom I only meet once a year, descend to my house and ask me pointed questions about my life that aren’t any of their business. So my sisters and I spent most of the time hiding out in our rooms, away from the crowds and only appear to greet the guests when the arrive and when they leave.

Maybe it was just me being grumpy but there seemed to be a record number of people pushing the buttons this year.

There was that lady with no filters what so ever, asking questions that aren’t any of her business, without even attempting to make it sound less busybody.

There was that relative, who suggested to my aunt that maybe we have a black magic item that’s preventing my grandmother from moving on (read: that she should be dead and that the body lying in the bed is inhibited by something nasty) (Also read: my kneejerk reaction to that was not pretty).

The best of all, the 3-year old boy who went into my room, poked me in the boob and licked my arm before running off to pull my mom’s hair and then hit my domestic helper, all while the parents just shut up and watch.

I might just be a tiny bit pissed off with all of these but on the bright side, I only see them once a year.

Do you have any horror stories from your Eid celebrations or any festivities? Feel free to share in the comment section.