Did you all know that Tok Mi, born 82 years ago on 13th May 1927, only learnt to ride a bicycle AFTER she was married to Atok? Even AFTER she had Uncle Long too. Off course she was married at the tender age of 17 years - Sweet Seventeen, yessiree. Atok was all of 22 years. Their respective families chose a very memorable date for the wedding, well maybe not auspicious for the Chinese, but a very nice date sequence nevertheless: 4th April 1944 i.e 4.4.44! In the last century such a sequence only happened once in 11 years, and you had better catch such dates if you had any occasion worth remembering to celebrate.
Tok Mi had always wanted to ride a bicycle by herself but in the kampong in those days, virgin maidens were not to be seen nor heard, let alone ride a bicycle. Even if one does have to ride on one, it will have to be on the cross-bar sitting sideways; no respectable maiden should ever as much as sit cross-legged on the floor or astride on a buffalo, what more on the bicycle saddle.
Because of the Japanese Occupation, Tok Mi could not finish formal schooling. But somehow she ended up teaching little kampong children at the school by the T-junction. Atok was then a mechanic maintaining telephone poles. That was how he spotted Tok Mi from atop a telephone pole over-looking the school at the T-junction; and promptly decided that she was the girl he wanted to marry. Awww, isn't that cute?
As it turned out, Atok's aunt, Bik Minah was married to Wak Dollah, Tok Mi's cousin. Oh, oh there's a generational jump. But who cared. In those days, families were very large that you'd quite easily find uncles and nephews of the same age, which happened when mother and daughter were pregnant at the same time. In the present time, this can be hugely embarrassing for women, but for men they tend to be proud of that proof of their virility. Just imagine - mothers are supposed to look after their daughters in confinement, but in this situation - how?
Anyway, the arrangements were made and so they were married. The wedding entourage was transported by kereta lembu and for the bertandang ceremony, when it was already halal, both husband and wife arrived together at the groom's kampong on a beca. Awww how sweet.
Fast-forward 3 years, the Japanese had been defeated and Atok, who was progressing in his career was transferred to KL. Tok Mi stayed with Atok's mum, Nek Wah while Atok looked for suitable accomodation in KL for Tok Mi and baby.
Uncle Long was about a year plus almost two, in age then and was a favourite with the family, being the eldest grandson. Pak Man, Atok's younger brother loved to take him for rides on his new bicycle.
One day, Tok Mi's longing to ride a bicycle took the better of her. She no longer was a maiden, to be sure, so there was no more of that taboo. Pak Man was napping in the house with Uncle Long, his one and only nephew at the time. Nek Wah was overseeing the Quran recitation class at the front verandah.
The shiny new bicycle was so inviting, Tok Mi took it to an area of the compound where there was a slight gradient and a tree trunk which she used to help her get on the bicycle. She had seen many times before how Pak Man started the cycling motion. She was already seated on the saddle, one leg on the tree trunk and the other on the upper pedal.
And then she pedalled...... It was exhilirating....... the feeling of being in control. She grinned and managed another rotation...... WHEEEEEEEEEE........ and ............ KERAAAAAAASH!!!! into a coconut tree. IT was in the way!
Off course there was pandemonium as everyone, including the children of the Quran class ran down to see what happened. Tok Mi smiled sheepishly on the ground, while Nek Wah could only shake her ahead at her daughter-in-law's antics. Pak Man was relieved that his shiny new bicycle was not wrecked, but good-natured as he was, and still is to this day, promised to teach his gutsy sister-in-law the proper way of riding soon.
Pak Man and Mak Nab on their 50th wedding annivesary
Tok Mi did indeed manage to ride the bicycle, and about 13 years later learnt how to drive a motor-car. By that time, there were already 6 children, 5 to fetch and carry to and from 3 different schools. I have stories about this phase of Tok Mi's life too, but later OK?
I know that some of you have inherited Tok Mi's penchant for cycling. I just need to remind you to cycle safely at all times, wear proper head-gears and adequate protection for your hands and elbows. Boys / men especially always wear black shorts only please - like this:
and especially not red - like this, OK?