By : Nur Hafizah
01 July 2014
With progress and modernisation, we yearn for a return to the past. So kampung days appear more appealing than our urban homes today – even for those who have never lived in a kampung!
I’ve been fortunate to experience both – having grown up in Simei Estate, and also spending a part of my growing up years living with my aunt in a kampung. The kampung life was certainly more carefree… there were fruit trees to climb and vast areas to explore. But there was also no piped water nor proper sanitation, which definitely makes me appreciate my HDB flat more!
Simei Estate, on the other hand, is just how I would imagine a modern kampung to be. With its pretty bougainvillea shrubs and colourful block facades, there was something enchanting about my home town…
Was it the playground where I spent some of my happiest childhood days?
Living next to Simei Park, the happy squeals of children playing was an everyday affair; except when it rained. Then, the only sounds I would hear were the raindrops crashing against my window panes.
But after the downpour, the playground would come alive again. I LOVED the playground after the rain! The little puddles of water under the swings were perfect for splashing and sloshing with shoeless feet and the best part was doing that in-between each sweep of the swing!
Of course, I would come home with mud-splattered clothes… much to my mum’s horror.
My dad and I. That’s the fitness corner behind us, with real tree logs for you to lift and show off your muscles!
The park was also where I’d meet the “kampung kids” – children from all the different blocks in Simei coming together to play daily. In the 90s, our imagination was all we needed to have fun… we didn’t need any fancy gadgets or toys. Funny how we didn’t have any “ice-breaker” games either; everyone new was not a stranger, and was welcome to join in our games of catching, “Pepsi Cola 1-2-3”, freeze tag, “Eagle and Mother Hen”…
Was it the friendly, familiar faces of my neighbours?
I don’t even remember how I got to know my neighbours. It seems as if I’ve known them since the day we moved in (that was way back on my 4th birthday). Their ready smiles and greetings made me feel like they were a part of an extended family – the aunty on the third floor who sold Tupperware products to almost everyone in the block, my sixth floor neighbour, a beautiful dancer, the cousins on the 10th floor who were my childhood playmates at the playground… and Aunty, my closest and dearest neighbour, who lived just next door.
It was these people who made my “kampung” feel safe to live in. I had absolutely no worries walking home alone from school every day, or venturing out to the pasar malam at night to buy my favourite pastel-coloured candy floss.
Was it the Gotong-Royong (or, Community Spiritedness)?
It may not have been obviously discernible, but possibly one of the best things about living in the Simei of my childhood was its spirit of gotong-royong. For the adults, it meant working together to keep the common areas clean, or giving our neighbours things they would need (my mum grew a Pandan plant and Aunty would sometimes request one or two leaves to make her delicious nyonya kueh which she would share with all the neighbours on the same floor).
For us kids, our display of gotong-royong was in helping each other when any of us got injured during playtime (which seemed to happen quite a bit – we never learnt from our mistakes!). That included making the SOS call to a nearby adult when one had a bad fall, or getting a can of cold drink from the vending machine at the void deck, and placing it on a swollen bruise (commonly known to us playground kids as ‘baluku’) to ease the pain.
That kampung spirit of my childhood is a shade different today. People stay behind their closed doors, and neighbours know one another less as a result. Kids no longer frequent the playgrounds as much; they prefer to play with the games on their mobile devices and tablets… and everyone seems to be especially busy with their own lives.
But I guess all is not lost – many virtual kampungs are available on social media. For example – my Build-to-Order (BTO) development isn’t ready yet, but I just found out that a Facebook Group has been set up by and for future residents, so they could chit chat and get to know one another even before moving in.
What do you remember most about the place you grew up in? Would you consider the HDB estate you grew up in a kampung, too? Share your memories with us at email@example.com.
An article to commemorate our