Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesdays With Bapak

Oh, For A Bicycle - Tuesday, February 26 2008

When I was a little girl, I knew that Bapak worked in a newspaper, wrote books and had many friends over for "makan" where they'd talk till late into the night.

These friends of his we knew as (Pak Cik) Tongkat, Melan, Kamal, Samad, Asraf, Syed, Alias and (Uncle) Leslie, Swee, Samani and Firdaus. There were others, of course.

Some of them, I later realised, were very much younger than Bapak.

They were very familiar figures over the years. Most of them were friends from Bapak's Singapore days.
Just like Bapak, they moved to Malaya around the same time we did.

And over the years the older ones among them -- Bapak's contemporaries - passed away.

In fact, the only one among Bapak's closest friends who is still around is Pak Cik Mazlan (Mazlan Nordin).
When I was older, I realised that these friends of Bapak were literary figures, journalists and academics. Some later became politicians.

When I was little, I didn't know that. I also never knew of Bapak's political past in Singapore.

Had I known I would've wondered why such a man who'd been through so much and more would not allow any of his kids to have a bicycle.
But, oh, I was just a kid.

I know this sounds so irrelevant to the points I have raised but surely someone like Bapak would have no reservations about getting us a bicycle. Just one bicycle for all his kids would've been so okay. We'd all have been so thrilled.

But he was firm in never entertaining any requests from us for a bicycle.
We never understood why then.

I mean, everyone else had bicycles. Isn't it something most kids would like to have.
That was a real deprivation for us -- well, at least for me.

The "best" thing we ever got was a big tricycle. But, after you're about 12 years old, cycling one is so, infantile.

At that time, I never stopped dreaming about having a bicycle. I used to just "drool" over pictures of minibikes and choppers.
I tell you, I'd be transported into another world.
I'm not so sure if my other siblings had similar fantasies.

My (maternal) grandfather whom I called Ompong was privy to this fantasy of mine.

Ompong who lived in Singapore enjoyed entering little itsy bitsy contests run by newspapers. At that time, Berita Harian, for the longest time, ran "Teka Bola" in its sports pages.
In those days, there was only a single issue of Berita Harian/Berita Minggu for Singapore and Malaysia.

I can't remember now whether the prizes offered for winners of "Teka Bola" were cash or minibikes/choppers.
But I do remember entering the contest so that I could get a minibike/chopper.

In "Teka Bola", there'd be a picture of a goalkeeper in action near the goal post. You had to mark an "X" at a spot (in the photo) where the ball was supposed to be.
Then, you had to cut out the picture with your "X" on it, plus the section with your name and other details, put it in an envelope and mail it to the address given.

It was Ompong who asked me to take part in the contest. In fact, he sent in multiple entries, thinking that, surely one entry would strike it big.
I would send in as many as I could in the hope that one would be a winner.

I never did win, Neither did Ompong.
In time, and as my near obsession for minibikes and choppers waned to be suitably replaced by other interests, I stopped sending in entries. Ompong continued until, I think, Berita Harian ceased running the contest.

I also found out why Bapak never allowed us to have a bicycle.
It was simple -- he feared that we would be tempted to go cycling around the neighbourhood and would be knocked down by a car.
He was not around to keep an eye on us so the simplest thing was not to let us have a bicycle.

It was the same as far as motorcycles were concerned.
He forbade us to ride one or ride pillion on one. He made that very clear.

I remember he told me that there was no telling the kind of injuries a motorcyclist would suffer even in the most minor accident.
He said he knew of motorcyclists and pillion-riders who were severely injured - even killed - in what were very minor accidents.
"You are unprotected when you ride a motorcycle," he said.
Those days, it was not compulsory for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets.

I think we understood Bapak's fear.

When Kamal, my youngest brother was about nine or 10, Kak Ton got him a minibike. But it was kept at her house (then in Section 14, Petaling Jaya).
Yes, it was definitely "breaching" Bapak's rule but Kak Ton must have felt that there was really nothing so wrong in getting a little boy a bicycle.
After all, as long as she made sure to keep an eye on Kamal, it'd be ok.
So, Mak (who was an accessory to all this) would send Kamal to Kak Ton's everytime he wanted to go cycling around the neighbourhood.

One day, Bapak was driving to Jaya Supermarket and spotted "budak, betul macam Kamal, naik basikal".
I think all of us, feeling so conspiratorial and guilty, said nothing for fear that we would say the wrong thing and get caught.
I'm not sure if Bapak ever knew of Kamal's tryst with his bicycle. Kak Ton thinks he did.

When Adel was about 4, I got him a bicycle -- the type with two extra (small) rear wheels to keep it balanced.
We got him used to it and took off the extra wheels when he was ready to cycle without them.
We'd take him to the playground regularly.
(My sisters and I never got to learn to cycle at playgrounds or any public place. Our cycling lessons were at the compound of our cousin's place in Kampung Melayu, Singapore -- every holiday.)

When, he was 12, we got him a real bicycle.
I allowed him to cycle to his friend's house nearby. Not that I was so okay with that but I felt that he needed to do that, to be exposed to that part of growing up.
Besides, most of his friends were cycling around the neighbourhood.
He only needed to be careful. So before I allowed him, I taught him about road safety and how to "cycle safe".
I had never cycled on public roads before but I was his mother and was supposed to know these things.
The first time he went on open road, I followed him in a car, just to observe.
I confess, I had the jitters. Probably more nervous than he was.

Even then, I'd only allow him to go cycling no further than around the neighbourhood.

But, motorcycles are something else.

Adel asked me whether he could ever own a motorbike.

I gave him a simple reply : "No."
I told him why.

I think Adel understands.
Because he does not allow me to ride a bicycle on the road.

I was taken by surprise one day when his face turned white.
I had told him that I'd like to ride a bicycle "just to exercise".

"No, mummy. It's dangerous."

Yeah... the very same "fear".


Anonymous said...

Salam Nuraina. The "budak, betul macam Kamal, naik basikal" bit is really something! Kecut perut, I can imagine! Take care...

Ordinary Superhero said...

Teka bola Berita Harian. Ahh, that sent me back to the time when I helped my elder brother to diligently paste the pictures together before he marked 'x' and posted them. But we didn't win anything....

Anonymous said...

Hi Kak Ena,

Our late father, who happens to be one of your dad's close friend never allowed any of us to ride on a motorbike either, for the same reasons.

As a young girl, I too dreamt of having my own bicycle but Papa never got me one, though he bought my two younger brothers each. I don't know about the rest of my elder sisters, never got to exchange notes on that subject.

So, the first summer I was in the US when I was studying there, I got myself a used bicycle and cycled to my heart's content around campus!

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

"I remember he told me that there was no telling the kind of injuries a motorcyclist would suffer even in the most minor accident."

Tan Sri was spot-on. Living proof here.

Tell Adel to get a car instead, even if its only a Kelisa. No matter how careful you are riding a bike, You just can never say the same on other motorists.

Anonymous said...

Sis Ena
Our two older children and I did a lot of cycling together when we were in Riyadh. But Arab drivers are even more notorious, I hear some of you say. True, but we're very fortunate to be provided a decent accommodation in the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ), which is conducive for cycling and walking ... security around the clock and the vibrant views that do not weary the eyes with sameness … boulevards flanked with kurma trees, contemporary buildings designed by world-best architects juxtapose with the arresting reproduction buildings that exude the old world charm of the Najd architecture, landscaped gardens after landscaped gardens, no Mat Rempits … oh I can just go on and on …


Anonymous said...

Kak Ena

Just to update you in case you are not aware, Uncle Samani now lives on his vast kebun in Kg Jalan Kebun, Kota Kemuning, Klang. Met him last Raya, his daughter Mas is an ex-colleague. You may contact Mas on 017-6669172.

harmdone7 (don't kow why I couldn't sign in as Google/Blogger)

mutalib saifuddin said...


i think that those days, people were cautious about their safety. However, i think that your Bapak had made a right choice. taking care of his daughter's safety.

but at least, adel got to ride on a bicycle at 4. i myself started riding at 8, and riding a bicycle without those small wheels when i was only 12. how shame.

in taman tun, i think by having a BIG motorway, it's safe either for cyclist to ride. At that time, was Adel already brought up there?

take care

Anonymous said...


envynya I,
semuanya my chidhood hero,
I knew the names waktu sekolah tapi tak pernah jumpa.
Except Grand Pa Samad Said,kerana dia tak oleh duduk diam asyik merayau aje.
My salam to your apak,my idola.Take good care of 'Khazanah Bangsa'tu.
Some wise man your apak.
Even LKY acknowledge his pronness.


Rockybru said...

Dear Ordinary Superhero,

Yes, never failed to try my luck at Teka Bola when I was growing up. In fact, I don't think I even read the Berita Harian (Singapore) back then! And never won anything, like you.

Could that be the reason why I never voted in my life? Did I develop a phobia for having to mark "X"?

Violet Ann said...

hi kak ena. how r u?

my parents have the same fear when i voiced out my interest to ride big bikes. i love big bikes.

i agree with Kerp, you never know what will happen to you when you ride a motorcycle. drive a car instead.


dhahran: you bet.. memang kecut perut, sebab sudah membantah Bapak. Looking back, if anyhting had happened to Kamal, I think we'd all have to jawab..

ordinary superhero: Now that you've mentioned it...yes...i do remember that we have to cut out the picture the whole week and paste them to get the complete one.
I can't remember....did anyone ever won anything?

you've got a cool blog!

myheartbleeds: I used to fantasize about cycling to school and go to all the little haunts in my neighbourhood on the bicycle....

you know, i have never actually cycled on the open road. No wonder Adel was discouraging.

how are you and your children?
hope everything's fine.
take care.

kerp: I know....take care, kerp.

aMiR: oh...i can just picture the setting and i'm so mesmerised.

harmdone7: .i didn't mention uncle samani's whereabouts. i was thinking about Bapak's contemporaries.
Oh yes...i know where he lives now. I was in touch with one of his sons sometime back.

but thank you for mentioning it.

mutalib: how are you? how're you keeping up with course work?

yes...fathers (and mothers) always have the interest and safety of their children at heart.

yes...i've been living in taman tun dr ismail for 23 years now. adel was born in 1990 and he is a true blue taman tun dr ismail boy.

take care and thanksd for visiting.

SiEnvy: I don't what to say say, except, thank you.
Insyallah, I shall kirim your salam to my dad.

imagine i tell him, "Bapak, ada orang kirim salam".

Bapak: Waalaikum salam. Siapa yang kirim salam?

Me: SiEnvy...

Bapak: ????

Seriously, I will kirim your salam.

do take care and thank you for visiting.

Bailey: Bailey! kalau i'm your parents pun I won't let you have a big bike although I know that big bikers are really very careful riders. But you know, other people on the road aren't.
Lagi pun, you are so petite....

do take care.

(Sibuk ke cover elections?)

Mior Azhar said...

Kak Ena,
Oh My god! Teka Bola... my mom used to marah my brother and I for spending far to much time teka and gaduh about the exact spot of the bola.
And once my arwah bapak also came home from work and told my mak that he saw a boy exactly like me riding a bicycle. But of course my mak didn't realise I was missing from home too. So its tali pinggang session for me lar.


Rocky: I can hardly wait to know what happens when you want to cast you vote at Gunung Rapat or wherever it is that you have been registered as a voter.

I said it before and I'll say it again.....this can only happen to you.

(ok ok.... i am wrong....you and THOUSAND others....)



Memang, nak "teka bola" tu can be time-consuming.
but I was the only one doing it. Now, I am not sure whether I put my own name or a friend's name on the contest form because I think staff members of Straits Times, or their families were disqualified from entering. Maybe not. Tak ingat, dah.

Aaah... Mior pun faced the same "no bicycle" experience as a child.

sakit tu, kena tali pinggang...

take care.
(tak pergi mengundi nanti?)

Violet Ann said...

kak ena,

now dah start busy covering elections. follow ceramah, campaign profil muka baru.

tapi seronok. kat sini saya jd like photojourno.

mutalib saifuddin said...


i'm doing great, thank you. tests, assignments are all bump-to-bump.

the course work is still on the way to its finishing line, and it's due on 17th mar.

glad to be there meeting you the other day.

but in USJ, for bicycles it's quite different; there had been quite a number of bicycle deaths, and almost countless of bicycle accidents!

and i remember, too, on how my sister wanted to see people 'kena' accident, and as she rode to the scene, she, kena accident. Luckily it was minor. ah.

i had a bicycle, too, any my parents let me ride on it, but somehow they refused to repair it anymore as the tyres gone kaput (pancit) many times. by then, i had no more bicycle, and everything has to be done by WALKING.

take care!