I have been walking down memory lane these past few days. I could not help but linger in that lane for awhile. I've stopped to sit on a bench to reminisce my teenage years. I hummed my favourite tunes of yesteryears. Before I walk out of that lane, indulge me one last time.
At most large family gatherings, the television room always becomes the teenagers' favourite hang-out. Very often, these youngsters would tune in to some station that features music videos. There was an occasion at my sister's house when the gathering became a little too boisterous. The adults were into their beers, whiskey and wine, trying to talk above the sounds coming from the television. Of course, the teens, tweens and younger children tried to compete with the adults. They turned up the volume of the TV.
One of the ladies, who obviously had enough of the cacophonous atmosphere, turned around and asked the children to bring down the volume. Her daughter, about 14 years old, quickly replied, "we can't find the remote control." She probably thought with that excuse, they could keep up the volume up. The group remained nonchalant. Her mother did not find a point in reiterating her request. She marched over to the television and manually turned down the volume. When she did that, a little boy sitting among them asked with a surprising tone, "wah! you can do that without a remote?"
Remember when children were used as remote controls? Most of the time, dad would ask the child sitting closest to the TV to turn the channel. Luckily we had only two channels back then. RTM 1 and 2. No choice. Can you imagine if satellite technology evolved but remote controls didn't?
We did not have 24-hour TV. When "Negaraku" came around, that was the end of the day's transmission. Most households would call it a night. That was also an indication for students who were studying that time is up. Also, if you could not finish your homework by then, you know you were doomed for punishment the next day.
However, when friends of our parents came to our house, we were banished to our rooms. We could not sit and listen to "old people's stories". I thought dad wanted us to know about the world out there. That would be a good time to know what was happening. Education, you know.
This did change when we got older. As teenagers, when my parents had company over, we would walk to our rooms and then back to the kitchen and repeat this pattern the whole duration of the friend's visit. It obviously irritated my dad. One day, he said to us, "stop hanging around like monkeys. You either join us in our conversation or go to your rooms."
"Hey!", I thought. "Progress. Now I have a choice." And so, I started participating in adult conversations. As much as I like to hang out in my room, I found it very interesting listening to accounts of the adult world. The experiences they went through. The stories of old.
Back in the 70s and 80s, we did not have handphones like today. When we went out with friends (and it must be friends whom my parents knew) , we had to find a phone booth to call home. We had to give at least one phone report while we were out and about. The excuse of "telefon rosak" (phone spoiled) was not accepted. We had to find one, do or die.
It was also very safe for children to be out on their own. During the school holidays, I remember my mum telling us to "be out of her way" so that she could see to her daily chores. She meant the garden. We took that as an opportunity to go beyond the confines of our "pagar" (gate). She did not worry about us (or so we thought). After all, no one was sent out to look for us. We were on our own. We knew when it was time to go home. We figured it out more or less by the position of the sun. So it was always give and take about 30 minutes around 5:00pm. We always made it home safely - sweaty, tired and sometimes with minor wounds, which we temporarily patched up using leaves from trees.
We say that the children of today will never know and experience the joys of our yesteryears. My parents told me the same thing - we will never know the joys of their time.