Monday, 22 January 2018

My Halcyon Days of Youth at Grandmother's Mandai Farm.

Rambutan and Chiku Fruit Tree.
I am a sentimental slob who loves to reminisce the memories of my halcyon days and frequently too now that I am in my twilight years.

During school holidays in the 60's, I roamed free like a butterfly in my maternal grandmother’s large farm in Mandai Village that is now part of Singapore Zoo.

I had cats, dogs, chickens and goats for companionship and the occasional rabbit for a pet. I especially took loving care of the white rabbit. However, one day the rabbit disappeared mysteriously and reappeared on the dinner table. My uncle had double-boiled it with herbs to pretentiously nourish my grandmother’s failing health.

Luckily, there were lots of other recreations for a young slob like me and I soon forgot about Bugs Bunny.

I love the acres of fruit tree garden that my grandmother took years to laboriously cultivate and nurture till her grandchildren were spoiled with choices and enjoyment.

We had several rambutan and mango trees and they fruited regularly. One of the few times I was canned, was when I climbed up the tree risking life, limb and my new clothes and stuffed myself silly with the barely ripe fruits. 

To make matter worse, my bottom was bitten red and swollen by the resident colony of red ants which saw my intrusion with great indignation.

The mulberry by the garden gate was a lot friendlier. Its low branches hung heavy with deep red and purple fruits and you didn't have to work very hard to pick up freshly fallen berries. The only setback was when I wiped my juice-stained hands on my clothes. 

I enjoyed playing with the leaves too, rolling them up into "cigar" and "smoking" them just like my uncle with his cheroots.

There were a few guava trees close to a "longkang" (small stream) that runs through the boundaries of my grandmother farm. Like any mischevious kids, I love to clamber up a particularly short and strong guava tree that has branches stretching over the stream and dive into the stream especially after a heavy thunderstorm when the stream is deepened with overflowing stormwater. That was how I acquired my secret diving skill and my elders never knew. 
Climbing a guava tree.
The guava trees also fruited regularly when small guava turn pink when ripe and become pungent and delicious.

I remember making a catapult out of "Y" shape branch of the guava tree and used it to shoot birds on the farm. My grandfather made walking sticks or "tongkat" out of the strong and hard-wood too. 

We had sugar cane in the backyard and the little bracket included both the green variety and the thicker purple canes. The cutting of the canes was an occasion to celebrate and the whole family would gather as a couple of fat, juicy stems were chopped down and stripped of their barks and leaves. 

We'd each get a generous stick and the chewing kept us quiet for a bit, eyes slowly glazing as we hit the sugar high. By the time we finished, our jaws would be tired and we would all need a bath to clean up the sticky drips. 

There was a huge chiku tree tucked to one of the two wells near the fence separating us and our neighbour. This chiku tree gave us delicious fruits in certain season and was sometimes the cause of dispute between my uncle and the neighbour. 

My asinine uncle objected to our neighbour savouring the chiku fruits that fell into their compound. My grandmother was more generous and would send them a basket of chiku fruits when we have more than we can devour. 

The delicious chiku fruits are round and brown with milk-coloured inside and shiny black seeds. My mother used to pluck the half-ripe fruits in her attempts to pre-empt and avoid quarrels with the neighbour. She would wrap them in the newspaper and placed in the bin of rice to ripen. 

The only fruit tree my grandmother refused to plant is the king of fruit...Durian Tree. Naively, I questioned her and she replied: "Son, the falling spiked durian could kill you"

Those halcyon days in my grandmother’s farm, they became the foundation of a life-long love and memory bank that kept me happy through those more sober times to come.
Guava and Mulberry Fruits Tree.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hope the dead at Mandai will jump out from his grave and save the taxi industry. ��