A stroll down memory lane and questions on how and when things were radically altered
Of course, we’re talking about more than 30 years ago. History has moulded us into what we are today, if we don’t reflect on the progress we have made, our future will stand to be worthless.
The uphill bike climb with a backpack full of school books used to tire my calves and make me gasp for air but I knew that on the way home, the downward sprint was going to be awesome and delightful.
I was the only one who cycled to the all-girls’ school in PJ, but ever since I was young, I did not care about what others thought of me. I did as I pleased. I did as I wanted. I spoke as I wished.
You see, when you have bike, you are in control of your time. I was not dependent on others to send or pick me up from school, therefore, there was no such thing as “waiting” or wasted time.
That’s how I learnt to be independent and a courageous risk-taker at a very young age. I had to meander on roads shared with hell bent fast cars as well as cross several roads on my way home.
When I started high school, the Raleigh was upgraded to a ‘cooler sportive bike, with curved handles.
Yeah, at times, it was a bike ride, sometimes a public bus ride or a ‘foot ride’. I mostly chose to walk home, it was faster than waiting for the ‘God Forsaken’ Sri Jaya bus which took an eternity.
The athlete in me relished field activities, resulting in more time spent on sports than on my studies. Real school was just part-time for me. Sports was full-time and the hours spent in school or stadiums were extremely long but most certainly joyful, if not, wonderful.
Friends were real, not Facebooked. We had our “I don’t want to friend you moments”, but no such thing as clicking on the Unfriend button. Our games were off-line, not on-line. School was fun and we did not want to miss a day.
Changes and culture shock
Right after the announcement of the SPM results, I moved on to dormitory living in a shoplot in Damansara Utama with 15 other girls. We had to go through preparatory studies before our new life abroad.
My first experience of living away from my comfort zone of home was horrifying. Even horrified is an understatement. My bed was right across from the toilets, needless to finish this sentence.
I was the only fish out of water who slept at 10pm. Noise at times, equivalent to a fish market, went on well after midnight. Mosquitoes partied on my blood every night. On some nights, I would hear someone say, “ Ssssshhhh, Sai’s already asleep” and the decibels would go down several notches.
Meals were doggy-bagged from the street stalls. I really missed home cooked food but France was waiting and I couldn’t give up just yet. So I did not cave in, instead, I chose to adapt – albeit very badly.
Mom picked me up every Thursday evening and sent me back to the dorm on Sunday nights. Those were the dreaded dorm days. So I did cheat along the way, I did not wash my own clothes or eat outside food 24/7. I was lucky, damn lucky, I was able to sleep in my own bed, at home, three nights in a week. Phew!
Then, when I travelled to the other side of the world, I began my new life, living in a new studio, frequented a new school and met new friends, all at a young age of 19. The culture shock was surreal. I remember those times as though I was thrown into the deep waters and forced to swim to shore.
I remember not being able to speak, write or understand the language of the people in that country for the first six months of my new life, but somehow, I pulled through.
After four years, my homeland called me back and I remember coming back to where nothing much had changed, except for my thinking and personality which had taken on a different colour and shape. Plus, I came back with a scroll and a man. My perspective and standards had also taken a new turn.
The world is no longer the same
Today, when I reflect and analyse on how things are so much different, I can’t help think about how and when we went wrong. Why are there no children playing outside and sweating it out? What has happened to games like Cops and Robbers? Hopscotch? Skipping ropes? Doctor, Doctor?
Why are children today not playing like we did? Why do they not enjoy schooldays like we did? And why are we so skeptical of their safety to the point of clipping their wings of liberty?
We are afraid of letting our children out, afraid to let them go on adventure trips, afraid to let them be a normal kid who wants to lead a normal life. We might as well be afraid of our own shadow. But is it really our fault? I doubt it. It’s not our fault.
I fear for my own safety when driving. I fear walking to my car in a car park or walking out of the car park. And I have just developed a fear of taking a plane because circumstances, events and disasters shape our minds and thoughts.
I have just found the answer to all my questions. The world is no longer the same.
I am lucky to have thoroughly enjoyed my schooldays filled with anticipation of every school day. I am lucky that my school curriculum was not constantly ‘flip-flopping’ and that my teachers were truly dedicated.
But most importantly, I am lucky that my friends and I grew up in an era when air was unpolluted, water rationing was unheard of, racial issues were never intensively discussed, baby hatches did not exist and sodomy was never splashed on the front pages of all the newspapers.
What has this world transformed itself to? I don’t know anymore.
Sairana Mohd Saad is a regular contributor to FMT