Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Childhood memories

While I was reading `A Thousand Splendid Suns' (see post of 30 June 2008), I remembered that I once had a friend who hailed from Afghanistan. I say `had' because this friend was from my growing-up years back in the early 1970's.

I was staying at a public housing area in Bukit Timah, Singapore that was called Princess Elizabeth Estate. Nice name, wouldn't you say? A background story about this estate and how it got its name can be read from a posting in the blog Good Morning Yesterday.

Anyway, our family lived in a rented unit within a block of single-storey dwellings containing 10 one-bedroom houses. In front of our block was a small field where my friends and I played football and sometimes `rounders', depending on the particular `season'. To those of you who are wondering, rounders is a bat-and-ball game not dissimilar to baseball. Most of the time we played football of course, but rounders was also popular because the neighbourhood girls could join in the fun too.

One afternoon while playing football, I noticed a scruffy-looking boy standing at the edge of the field watching us play. He looked different - he's not a Malay, an Indian, a Chinese or even Eurasian (yes, I had multi-racial friends). His skin was a different tone of brown and his hair had the colour of rust.

One of us asked if he would like to join the game and he said yes. After the game, I asked if he was from Pakistan. `Bukan (No),' he replied, in peculiar-sounding Malay. `Dari (From) Afghanistan.'

And so that day we became friends with an Afghan boy whose name is Faisal Khan. He told us that he just moved to the area and was staying with his uncle who ran a `sarbat' stall at one of the factory lots nearby. Faisal was two or three years younger than me but he had a sturdy build and was big for his age. Initially it was difficult to understand what he said but after some time mixing with us, his Malay improved. His uncle enrolled him to the same primary school that I went to. Sometimes after school, we would walk home together and he would stop by my house to share lunch with us. I remember my mother saying, `Poor child, so young to be living away from your mother...'

Faisal was understandably not too bright at school but he was friendly and helpful. He wasn't terribly good at football but if he played in my team, I would assign him to play defence. I told him that if he could not properly tackle the opposing strikers, just bulldoze them. Use your size to intimidate, I said. Even at that young age, I was already a master tactician, *grin*.

My friendship with Faisal did not last long. His uncle's `sarbat' stall and the makeshift hut that they were staying in had to make way for development. I heard that his uncle shifted his business to a hawker centre at a new housing estate but I didn't know where.

And so after more than 30 years, I'm being reminded of a childhood friend from a land so far away. To my friend Faisal Khan, may Allah bless and watch over you, wherever you are.

Footnote : I was going through some old B&W photographs last Sunday to look for a suitable pic of Princess Elizabeth Estate. The above photo is of my younger brother taken circa 1970. In the background is a typical single-storey block of houses.


Patricia said...

This is a lovely post, Fadhil. Brings back memories for me too.

Oldstock said...

Thanks Pat.

U.Lee said...

Hello Oldstock, gosh! I love this callsign, ha ha.
Ahhh, your mentioned of 'rounders', or 'bat and ball'...yes, I played that, love it...we used coconuts for bases...and had neighbourhood girls joining us too.
I remember sometimes running away with the coconut base, ha ha. Or hiding it when our turn to catch.

And football...if you remember our Malaysian top footballers, Abdul Ghani, Arthur Koh...I was their neighbour staying in Ampang, KL.
And Arthur and I used to go night fishing at the mining pools nearby.
I used to tease him, he bowlegged, how he stops the bola from going thru his thighs, ha ha.

Those days, even today Singapore already a multi-racial city inview of its financial corporations, big port etc. I love Singapore.

Re your mention of "bulldoze"...I am 6'1", and young days at 16 already about 5'10" always played fullback, or wing...I was never good as a striker, but inview of my height and build, I was the bulldozer, ha ha...ta'dapat bola, sangkut kaki dia, ha ha.
How nice you bring back these memories.
I posted several past months too re kampong life, school days.
Now da twilight tme, only memories, ha ha.
You stay easy and keep well, Lee.

fie the elf said...

i remember rounders from my primary school days, lol.

and your story is kinda sad :(

Oldstock said...

-> Hi Lee,
So you're familiar with the bulldoze tactic as well, eh... hahaha..
I'm still reading through your blog, not yet reached the post about kampong life yet.

Loved your post about driving those fast cars. You really managed to get to drive the Dodge Viper huh? Bikin aku jeles je, heheheh...

-> Hi Elf, you played rounders with girls only or you had boys playing too? More fun if both boys and girls play together right? ... wink2.

Yeah, maybe my story a bit sad but friends come and go, but memories remain...

You keep your chin up now, okay. Take care.

U.Lee said...

Hi Oldstock, incase you wondering who this old man is, ha ha, there's a pic of me in previous posting, "How movies influenced my life", d/d June 15.
As I wish to remain incognito the pic taken using my Apple Imac 24's thermal imaging....
The pic with the guitar.

Hope you enjoying my many memories...
Best regards and have a great weekend, Lee.