web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: The Games People Play
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
The Games People Play

Aiysha and I were lolling around in bed this morning, partly because both of us were trying to put off taking a bath. She was talking about what she would do in kindy today and she said, "I want to play this game, where you cover your eyes, and then try to catch everybody else, and you also sing this song".

She proceeded to sing it :
Nenek Nenek Si Bongkok Tiga..
hmm hmm hmm malam berjaga
cari cucu, eh apa lagi Mummy?

Oh for the love of God, I can't remember it either. I can't even get past the first line and this was the song we used to shout with glee as the appointed "Nenek", blindfolded and giggling, gets spun round and round. Here was an opportunity to teach her tradition (say it : Tradition! like Fiddler on The Roof) but I failed miserably. I can see why my father is concerned.

I learnt mostly kampung games, because even in the 70's, the whole of Kuala Terengganu was still a veritable village. When I was about Aiysha's age, we lived in Batu Burok, not in the big government quarters by the sea, but across the street, in a rambling kampung house which sat on an open field. The house was old, but it was the house I loved best, among all the homes we eventually moved in and out of. Once, a family of swallows made its nest in a hole in the wall of my parent's bedroom and my sisters and I would peek often, checking on the progress of their little babies.

But what Elisa and I must have cherished the most were the friends we made there. We managed to form these bonds even though at one time, my father forbade us from leaving the house, probably because of his worry over Elisa's terribly sensistive skin. Roll in the grass and she'll develop welts which she would invariably scratch. Nonetheless, we defied his orders on a daily basis, but we made sure we got home before he did.

Once, we miscalculated. We were playing on the sandy path in front of our house when we saw his Ford Escort turn in. He saw! We dead! My sister and I took a few more minutes before we decided to run home. When we tried to get in through the kitchen door, we found that it did not budge.

"It's locked", my maid said, helpfully, "Papa tok wi masuk"

Oh, what could we do? We sat underneath the house and contemplated our fate. Elisa was getting hungry. Maybe we could eat some umbut nyiur? Thankfuly, our friends came to the rescue -- one of them had 5 sen and gave it up so that she could buy us roti paun, which my sister gratefully ate. Eventually we were allowed in, but I can't remember if we learnt our lesson. Probably not.

But I digress. What I wanted to write about is the various games I played in Batu Burok and how I wish I can pass them on to my daughter, if only I could remember.

One game has the girls sitting on the floor and we would form a sort of totem pole with our rolled fists, while singing Jong Jong Inai. The girl whose hand is at the bottom will move it to the top and likewise with the next bottom hand. I can't recall all the words, but when you get to a certain part, I think it's "pecoh sutir, pecoh 'seme", all these hands will open and lay flat on top of one another and we'd all move them in unison, clockwise (or counterclockwise, it didn't matter) . For the life of me, I can't remember the point of this game, perhaps it was some sort of cheer.

We played congkak, or "cokok" by digging holes in the dirt and filling them with pebbles or if we can find them, biji saga, the vermillion seeds of the rosarypea. The game of cokok is usually played underneath the house, as all homes had stilts, and while there we might also go on an ibu-ibu hunt. The ibu-ibu is a small animal, which looks like kutu beras, or rice fleas (?) and burrows into the ground, leaving holes everywhere. Once we catch one ibu ibu, we would attach it to a string and lower it into these holes, and there will be a stringful of ibu-ibu once you hoist it up. It was probably a rather nasty thing to do, but we never harmed any of them.

When we're really bored and there were enough people, we would play 'to, (pronounced "toe") which my son now calls "main lari-lari duduk". It's really the local permutation of a game of catch. The one which requires you to sit once caught is called 'to duduk, but there were other kinds too. There was 'to kerah, which makes you freeze, 'to tiang, which involves running from pole to pole, and my mother's favourite, 'to bisu, which mandates that you shouldn't make a sound.

I'm glad my children and their cousins still play Datuk Harimau, although in Terengganu we'd drop the end "u". A similar adventure is "Musang dengan Ayam". There are two main opponents, the eponymous fox and the mother hen, who would have "little chicks" forming a line behind her, all hugging on to each other, arms around the waist. The object is simple : the fox must get the chicks, while the mother hen must prevent him. The fox gets all the chicks eventually, but not before plenty of squealing.

My husband grew up in the city and worse, went to Batu Road School, where Botak Chin also went, but thankfully not at the same time. The games he played were decidedly less nurturing, most involve gambling or hitting people. One which should have been made illegal was this game where you get to throw your coin at a wall, and the one that gets his coin to fall closest to the wall, gets to pocket all the others. I suppose he lost a lot of lunch-money that way.

But for pure mindless fun, Saiffuddin tells me, nothing beats "chopping". "Chopping" is like dodgeball but the missile may not necessarily be, a ball. It could be a selipar jepun, or an empty condensed milk tin. Once, he said, they played with rocks.

Like me in the kampung, my husband said he also played galah panjang and polis sentry. But in KL the games usually get sophisticated. In Terengganu the galah panjang court is usually just lines drawn out on the tanah, but in the city, they use badminton courts. Since there were three in his school, there would be six teams playing simultaneously, and "you could join any one you like". Saiffuddin and his peers would play running games of polis sentry, sometimes lasting up to three weeks, with made-up rules and story lines.

One small diversion before I end : in Batu Road, his peers decided to call him "Sai" for short until his Chinese friend remarked that it reminded him of "pangsai", which is Cantonese for defecate. My husband thought this was really funny and said it was a useful piece of culture that he learnt in school.


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