When I was little, my house was near a three-point junction (simpang tiga) with the Melanau kampung/village to the right and the Malay kampung to the left. Thus, my childhood friends were all the Melanau and Malay kids from these kampungs and we all spoke the Sarawak version of the Malay Language.
We played football on any piece of land sticking two sticks in the ground for the makeshift goal. We went into the jungle, built huts out of the branches and leaves and spent the day there, enjoying ousrsevles and cooking our own food. Never mind that it was not very hygienic, well-cooked nor delicious; it was fun!
We made catapults from forked branches of trees and lots and lots of rubber band and pieces of leather cut from old, discarded shoes. We made pop-guns using bamboo and sticks and used the pea-like seeds of a certain plant as the pellets. And we would strip down to our homemade boxers and jump into the river for a whale of the time. Needless to say, everytime there was a flood in the town, we were the happiest of all!
I can go on and on about the things we did, our exploits as kids…but the point that I would highlight is the fact that we were friends, regardless of colour or creed. Sometimes, they would eat at my place and with due respect to their religion, we would not serve pork – canned sardines, cangkuk manis fried with egg and “sayur rebus” and when eating with friends, the simplest fare woiuld seem like a banquet for a king and rest assured, we would lick our plates clean!
At the time, we were all Sarawakians under the rule of the “ang moh” or “orang putih” (We did not call them “Mat Salleh over here!) but somehow, today it seems that much has changed… Children do not have the time to be children anymore and after attaining independence for some 50 years now, we should be living together as “one people, one nation” but are we? Well, at least, my friends and I did!
I would like, therefore, to close with the lines from the song by Barbara Streisand:
“Can it be that it was all so different then? Or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me…would we?…..Could we?“