Monday, April 25, 2011

Games of old provide healthy interaction for players

ON a holiday at the beach in Terengganu recently, I showed a group of vacationing city kids a game children played four decades ago. I don't know who invented the game, or if it was called by the same name. We called it "cham keh thau" (or beheading the cockerel) in Hokkien, or more commonly called konda kondi. I don't know if the term was in Tamil or Malay, but I am certain it is not rooted in English.
The game uses two rounded sticks usually sawn-off brooms -- the bat measuring about 0.6m long and a short stick about 7.6cm to 10cm long.

The aim is to use the bat to hit the short stick and send it flying across the field to the opponent. There are three rounds to a turn. First, the short stick is placed straddling a three-inch long hole in the ground. The hitter uses the bat to flick the short stick across the field.

If the catcher fails to catch the short stick, the hitter goes to the second round. He throws the short stick into the air, hits it to send it flying towards the catcher. If the short stick is caught before it lands on the ground, the hitter loses his turn.

If not, the catcher still gets a chance to knock the hitter out of his turn by throwing the short stick as close as possible to the hole.

If the short stick lands within 0.6m of the hole, usually measured by the distance of the bat, the hitter loses his turn. Otherwise, he goes to the final round which gives the game its rather unglamorous Hokkien name.

This stage requires speed and dexterity of the limbs. The short stick is first placed with one end protruding from the hole at an angle. The hitter strikes the protruding end and causes the short stick to somersault into the air, before quickly hitting it to send it across the field.

If the catcher fails to catch the short stick, the position where it fell is noted. Using the length of the hitting stick, the distance from that point to the hole is measured. The number of counts represents the score. The game is played one against another or in teams of four to five persons over a pre-decided time or whoever reached the pre-determined score first.

I have not seen konda kondi being played these days. I wonder if anyone also remembers games like chopping (using a tennis ball to strike out opponents one by one until there is only one left on the field), rounders (a game similar to baseball), or even dividers (a game boys played by flicking a pair of dividers or a folding knife onto the ground in several rounds).

I think I can see why such games have fallen out of favour with today's city children. Within the confines of the space-challenged highrises where gardens are small and the grounds concreted, you can't play these games in their true form without breaking the windows of someone's condo or the windscreen of their cars.

A city-bred parent tells me that he wouldn't let his boys play such dangerous games although he would not mind them spending hours on the Wii or Playstation. As long as his children are safe, he would not mind the cost of frequent software or equipment upgrade.

I told him that he and his children are paying the price of losing out on the healthy interaction with other children that games of old provide.

Through games like konda-kondi or chopping, when played in groups, they learn about solidarity and teamwork, and of honour and integrity.

Yes, there is a chance of getting hurt in the rough tumble but that's how they learn to keep themselves safe in the real world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

No fake eggs, only good and bad ones

The news you have been fed by the radio, newspapers or the TV about fake eggs is inaccurate -- fake, if you will.
The so-called "fake" eggs seized from the Pulau Tikus wet market in Penang a few weeks ago were real.

Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin said so.

Apparently, the department ran tests and found nothing fake about the eggs. So, don't worry. Go ahead and have your hard-boiled eggs or roti telur today.

When my colleague told me about fake eggs from China being sold here, I was amused. According to him, it costs only three sen to produce a fake egg.

If indeed eggs can be faked -- and so cheaply at that -- greedy local traders would be crowing all the way to the bank. Poultry farmers would be crying foul.

But now we know that "fake" eggs are but only deformed ones that are deemed unfit for sale because they are not aesthetically pleasing.

Ironically, such confusion and controversy can only happen in the modern age. Those who love their eggs these days have probably never reared chickens. If they had, they would not have been so easily ruffled.

When my family lived in the kampung back in the 1970s, we reared chicken, ducks, turkeys and geese.

Our neighbours also had their free-ranging poultry.

As children, we knew how to distinguish one type of egg from another, and not mistake a duck's egg for a hen's. We also saw our share of strange eggs, especially those from chickens.

Did you know that shell of the hen's egg is soft when it is laid, but hardens within seconds?

But some of the eggs remained soft indefinitely. We have also seen "deformed" ones, which shells are rough to the touch. Some are not oval but round like a turtle's egg. There were also those with shells so thin they cracked as easily as a lizard's egg.

Some eggs came with two yolks, which according to an old wives' tale, would result in the birth of Siamese twins if they were eaten by a pregnant woman.

To deal with deformities of the egg shell, we burned cockle shells, ground them into powder, and added it into the chicken feed.

Within weeks, hens fed this mix would lay uniformly sized eggs with normal, shiny shells.

Our elders believed that hens laid abnormal eggs because of too little calcium in their diet, hence the cockle shell supplement.

I do not know if that is true. But I do know that when we wanted the yolks to be bright yellow, we only needed to feed the hens a ground padi husk and corn mix.

The problem kampung folk faced those days was not fake eggs, but hidden eggs. The free-ranging hens were experts in hiding their eggs - in the lemon grass (serai) bushes or under piles of firewood.

Our clue was the hen's incessant clucking after it has laid an egg.

Where the hen clucks, the egg is not far away. The Malay proverb Bertelur sebiji, riuh sekampung was hatched from this. It is applied to people who like to brag about their accomplishments, especially small, insignificant deeds.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Widen dragnet for abandoned vehicles

CITY HALL's move to remove abandoned vehicles from the compound of low-cost public housing areas last week must have come as a surprise to the owners. How many would have expected it to happen.
Those whose abandoned vehicles had been wheeled to City Hall's car pound can now pay the fine, tow fees and other charges to reclaim their vehicles or have them sold off as scrap.

One low-cost unit dweller who read the news in Streets last week told me he was happy with the move. Heaping praises on City Hall's enforcement team, he said the local authority should conduct the operations on alternate months and set up a hotline where people can report abandoned vehicles to the local authority.

"DBKL should have done it earlier," the chap said. "The owners of these abandoned vehicles are just selfish.

"They leave the old cars and trucks in low-cost public housing areas because the high pedestrian traffic in the densely populated area reduces the chances of the vehicle parts like the tyres or lamps being stripped by vandals.

"Some of the vehicle owners don't even stay in the flats," he added.

"They only use the parking lots as storage area until they figure out what to do with the vehicles."

I agree with him. Although I don't live in a low-cost flat, my medium-cost condominium has also been used to dump old vehicles. The building manager is facing problems with abandoned vehicles whose owners' whereabouts are not known.

There are now several vans of dubious origins taking up precious parking space. Last year, a truck was left in our compound for about six months until someone complained that it could be used by unscrupulous people to store contraband. It prompted the building manager to put a notice on it saying the the vehicle would be removed if the owner did not claim it. Soon after, the van was driven away.

I am wondering if City Hall would extend the service to all housing areas to get rid of such abandoned vehicles -- especially those that rob rate payers of parking space. Some of those who own old vehicles are conveniently exploiting the inaction of local authorities and using public space as their storage area for free.

One chap I know who operates a business area in Taman Danau Kota, off Genting Kelang, complained about old vehicles being left along the roads there, some illegally along yellow lines and many on legitimate parking lots.

According to him, the vehicles had been seen since a midnight bazaar started operating a few years ago. I also remember seeing the vehicles, most of which were vans and small trucks.

"The vehicles are owned by bazaar traders," he said. "These old vans and trucks are mobile stores, usually filled with merchandise. They are left at public parking lots or by the road side near the bazaar during the day.

"At night, their owners drive them to their respective trading spots at the bazaar. The vehicles are left in public parking lots where parking fee collection has yet to be implemented or parked along yellow lines.

"As a result, they take up valuable parking lots and deprive those who are running errands here of parking space. They are then forced to double park and cause congestion."