Monday, July 24, 2006

Here, there, everywhere

The thing about driving in Kuantan is not that the arrows painted on the lanes at traffic lights are taken as suggestions only eg. 3 lanes in one direction, right most lane says right turn only, middle lane say right and straight, BUT you'll find that traffic in the right most lane does turn right AND also goes straight. If you're in the middle lane wanting to turn right, I suggest that you stay in the right hand lane next time. Well, it's not all that. It's actually the number of motorbikes zipping around you.



It's just that they buzz past you on the left and on the right and through any gap that may be available between you and the next vehicle or wall or whatever. So it's very important you dont do anything unpredictable, like changing lanes.

Admittedly, I used to ride pillion when I was in high school many many years ago. The one prominent memory that sticks out is when I was riding pillion in Penang (the one and only time). It was much like that chase scene in Star Wars #6 where they were on the planet with those annoyingly cute Ewoks. We were zipping and threading in between cars and trucks, through impossible gaps. Truly white knuckle stuff. I was absolutely terrified. I dont remember his name now but I've never ever held another man so closely or tightly before, or since.

Anyway, what I took away from this trip apart from a reminder of the magnitude of dysfunctionality in my family, was finding out about my paternal great-grandfather. I never bothered to ask before and therefore knew nothing prior to this.

Apparently, he was a rice carrier. ie. carried bags of rice, physically and was quite a strong guy. He was a big gambler and successful at it too. From this he bought a fair few properties in Penang. Unfortunately, he also smoked opium and was a womaniser. He supposedly had his own harem. But eventually, he had to sell off the properties one by one to feed his drug addiction, till it was all gone. He eventually ended up living in grandpa's house. Pa remembers great grandfather making the weekly trip to the shophouse only a block away from home, from which the British Government dispensed opium, to collect his weekly 2 vial ration. This wasnt enough and apparently he was shaking from the chills a lot. Pa remembers him scraping the bottom of whatever he used to smoke the opium from, to try to recycle whatever he could. Even worse, he died horribly from some venerial disease. This was pre-penicillin. He was a blind (from the VD) and frightened man when he finally went. Pa remembers GGF urinating but it is a little icky to describe. Good eh? I feel a little sad just describing it, just how he must have suffered. His name, when translated was "Black Boy" (or so my sister says).

I knew my maternal grandfather was a gambler (not successful) but I never knew there were gamblers on my dad's side, until now. My kid likes to play cards. Bummer. Predisposed? I hope not.

Till later.

13 comments:

Husky Nutmeg said...

Wow. Great post, Chai. Go Grandad. Sounds like a man involved in lots of things at once. So 'apple doesn't fall far from tree' really eh?!

Susanne said...

Wow. The great-grandad story was really interesting.

ChickyBabe said...

Gambling, hey? Didn't I say you remind me of someone I know in RL? Too freaky!

Chai said...

hn : we all become the person we're meant to be.

sus : I wish I could find out more. I should ask my dad more but feel quite awkward, asking him for his memories. Weird, eh?

cb : IRL, eh? I dont gamble in the classical sense, but then we all gamble in a certain way. But I am prone to taking risks which may be unncessary. For the thrill? Maybe.

Steph said...

I don't have anyone nearly as interesting in my family.
That was a great read.

Rowena said...

Your grandad had a harem???

Very cool. Also explains the VD.

Chai said...

steph : I am pretty sure you're descended from very interesting stock. Maybe you're not asking the right questions. The aunt no one talks about etc.. etc...

ro : I'm sure my uncle's description was exaggerated. But then again, turn of the century, I can imagine if you had lots of $$$ and have no qualms about spending it all....

problematic said...

I like the word pillion.

obtuse-a said...

pillion, side-saddle, navigator...i love 'sputnik': russian definition is 'travelling companion'.

the inheritance deja-vu, tracing the path of your past, mapped in your veins

beautiful post

Chai said...

I guess when I think about it, I dont hear the word in general use much. I ride shotgun, I ride pillion. hmm... different things, arent they?

M said...

wonderful story chai :) I know next to nothing about my family - though a great something-or-other was a talented harp player in italy who left his family and children to 'got out for milk' (so to speak) and took up with a whole new family in US. oo lala

Chai said...

m : Wow... a harp player. How delicious. I suspect all families/people have very interesting stories. Just need to dig it up. I would except that I'm too scared :-)

Justine said...

We had a legendary gambler way back in the family, too. Monte Carlo to San Francisco to Melbourne. The most I ever gambled was 50 cents on the Melbourne Cup one year (so strongly were we inculcated with anti-gambling sentiments!)