Thursday, October 30, 2008


Life was much simpler when I was a kid. My family wasn't well off but we got by decently. Most of the toys I had were handed down by my brother. I had this fire truck made from a block of wood. It had a bell on it and a ladder. I used to lie on my tummy for hours playing with it. Actually, I wasn't really playing with it, rather I was fixated on it. I would just look at it and touching every part of it as if I'm trying to understand how each part works. I don't have that many toys so I sometimes improvised. The umbrella was a popular prop in my repertoire. Not that I used it for a re-enactment of Mary Poppins, I assure you. I was really into science-fiction and in those days there was a show called Space 1999. It had all these techno gadgets and space ships that really excited me. Anyway, I never made passed 15 mins of the show before I went on to stage my own Space 1999.

Which reminds me, tv shows and movies are major triggers to my spacing out, that's why I don't last long watching them. I had to constantly shift my focus elsewhere before returning to watch it. But allow me to digress a bit.

There's 2 different spacing-out that I do. The 1st would be like high on weed kinda spacing out. Yeah, no kidding. The 2nd would be totally hyper-focused type of spacing-out. This usually happens when I'm working on or doing something. I would just be too focused on it that I tune out everything around me. Some of my friends were amazed that I could carry on doing calculus with chaos around me as if it were nothing. Sometimes, I deliberately listen to metal music to focus on my studies. It's like a neat trick actually. 

Back to the story, I basically pretended that the umbrella was a satellite dish. I would open up almost every umbrella in the house, which drove my mom nuts, until I reach this paper umbrella we had. Its a green colored umbrella made of paper and wood. It had this smell, akin to sandalwood that I liked. I would keep opening it and closing it and look at the spokes inside the umbrella move. It carried on for a period of time until my mom got fed up, I think, and told me that a snake will come out of the umbrellas if I keep playing with it in the house! 

Growing up in the typical malay ghetto, I was fed with many old wives tales and superstitions. I remembered one in particular which is pegged by a memory of when I was around five years old; I had been playing with a paper umbrella, imagining it was a satellite dish with an awesome capability of shooting out laser beams at the neighbouring block of flat. My mother was a stern disciplinarian, and when she caught sight of what I was doing, she relieved me of my space oddity and told me that opening an umbrella in the house was a bad omen. Upon seeing how I just staring at her blankly, she prompted further, telling me that a snake may appear if one insists on playing with the brolly within the house. I was dumbfounded at the then recently supplied information. 

Usually, a malay kid, during my time, would pretty well leave it alone. Me however, started to analyse scientifically as to how in the hell could a snake appear out of the paper brolly? It became an obsession. I began to think that if it could really materialize snakes out of thin air, then an umbrella is truly an ingenious piece of invention! It's the whole satellite shape & structure of it! It could somehow metaphysically induce teleportation beyond the grasp of technology of that time! Thus began the lab observation for me. Of course when my parents weren't at home when I conducted it. I would open up the paper umbrella and stare at it for hours. My brother used to tease me that I've gone fruit loops, while my sister would just be amused by my idiosyncracy. After a couple of days, I deduced, to my own disappointment, that a paper umbrella does not have the abilities I thought it would. Frustrated, I confronted my parents, paper umbrella in one hand, my rubber hammer in the other. I handed the umbrella to my mother and asked her to open it and that if a snake did come out of thin air, I'd clobber it with my hammer. Show me the magic! It was my mother's turn to be dumbfounded. My dad, he just looked at and me and let out the most hearty laugh.

I was six when an incident happened that made me realized something. There were some sporting event going on and everybody was watching the tube. I remembered not understanding why everybody got all excited about. The tube was going on about athletes breaking records when it hit me. Well, if that was all it took to impress people, that's easy. So I went into my father's collection and broke a few records (vinyl). Well the reaction I got from everyone wasn't what I really expected. There are many incidents similar to this one. I take things literally. Nowadays, even. Sometimes people would talk to me but it takes awhile for me to respond. When this happens, I usually kinda take a breather and take the time to analyse what was relayed to me so as not to appear I was taking it literally. It took a lifetime for me to train myself. To others, I appear seemingly dense.

I had my share of nasty remarks thrown at me regarding this while my friends made fun of it thinking that I was clowning around. I even got labelled as the clown within my circle of friends. A label I just took to satisfy the need to belong. Nowadays, I know better.