Asking My 79 Year Old Uncle about his Childhood

My uncle used to swim in the Kallang River and rushed back home by 5.30pm when his father (the grandfather I never met, as he died a decade before I was born) would be home. My uncle (second eldest son and the third eldest kid) resembles him quite a bit.

They were very obedient and revered their father who was pretty strict, but all his children emphasise that he never beat them. I recall my mum (my uncle’s sister) saying their father whom they called Ayyah had a cane he threatened them with, but he just hit the floor and that was enough to scare them. At that time children and parents were not as close as they are now. There was not much conversation time let alone time for deep conversations. It was a bit formal and distant in that sense.

My uncle said together with the boys in the neighbourhood they did naughty things like climb over their neighbours’ fences to pick the chiku fruit from trees and scrambled away once the neighbours spotted them and yelled.

They didn’t really have homework, the way kids do now. But they also didn’t have a telephone, tv, fridge and definitely not an ipad. In a way they seemed to have a very much healthier lifestyle with all that time free of distractions, and real play time in nature in the 1950’s. No wonder they all had perfect eyesights. On the other hand they had lots of scrapes and bruises which were often left medically unattended, leading to scars etc. Deep cuts didn’t receive stitches.

My uncle said everyone was naturally practising eco friendly habits then. There were no plastic bags and my grandmother brought her own basket to the market. They didn’t have a washing machine so my grandma washed clothes by hand. My mum did mention they had some help in the form of a washer woman from the kampong.

My uncle admired his mother very much. She did not have any formal education, but instead started cooking for the family at the tender age of 6 or 7. I can attest that she was an excellent cook and I dream wistfully about her dishes. It’s so hard to get Singapore Ceylonese food anywhere. It’s usually only found at home. My uncle went on to share that in spite of the lack of formal education, my grandma (Ammachi) was very sharp and excellent in mental arithmetics and could speak Tamil and Malay as well as comprend English. He felt that if given the necessary education she would have done brilliantly.

My mum (my uncle’s younger sister) told me to mention the number 11 bus to her siblings to see their response. To see if they remember the reference. Both my uncle and youngest aunty did, immediately. It means they walked home. Used their legs which kinda resembles the number 11. This was an inside joke amongst the seven siblings. Kinda corny but good to see that they remembered after all these years.

I’ll be modifying my posts like these that are of a biographical nature, as I get more information, so stay tuned.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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