Since the first Fun Fair I attended with our maid-servant Mak Yang in 1957, there were quite a number of other Fun Fairs organized by various organizations. I went to all these fun fairs without fail. The last fun fair that I went was sometime in the year 1966 when I was in Form Four and sixteen years old. Mak Yang was no longer around as she left us because her daughter gave her a beautiful grandson and it was time that she looked after her own family and so she left us for Segamat where her daughter lived. It was a very emotional departure and everyone was seen wiping their tears. Mak Yang was so close to all of us that letting her go was such a painful decision. Every member of our family till these days will surely remember our Mak Yang. Her image is still freshly stored in my mind and with a little ability to draw maybe I should sketch a caricature of my wonderful Mak Yang.
As time moved ahead, so was technology. In 1966 many things have changed even the way we dressed. Television began to be a part of every household but I still did not have it because grandpa could not afford it. However, my uncle Pak Mat Rippin had one and so I would watch television at the house of my three ‘sisters’ just a few steps away. There was only one channel and it began transmission at around 5.00pm and ended at 11.30pm and of course black and white. Some houses would add extra aerial to get the Singapore channel and it was so tall, much taller than the coconut tree. I remember watching ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’, and the famous ‘Peyton Place’ series.
My life too changed, from running around the house with my three ‘sisters’ to playing games of guli and gasing with boys my age, began to learn playing the guitar at the age of eleven, going to parties at the age of thirteen, began to have female friends at the age of fourteen and by the time I was fifteen, I was already old enough to cycle home alone at 2.00am in the morning; now that was an achievement, a sign of adulthood.
I had friends of various races, my Malay friends, Chinese as well as Indians and we respected each other greatly and would always avoid touching any issues deemed sensitive. Muarians of my time never looked at the skin colour of each other, we were just Muarians. Period.
It was only on the third night of the Fun Fair when the three of us decided to go because we were not in a hurry like we used to be during our younger days. I would make sure that my hair resembled that of Paul McCartney’s and Halim always tried his best to walk the way James Bond walked. Yem was bespectacled and so he thought he looked like Peter of ‘Peter and Gordon’. Tonight all of us decided to wear our ‘denggri’ (blue denim jeans) we bought at the Husseini Store. Yem wore a bright red shirt, Halim wore his favourite checkered shirt and as usual I wore a white short sleeve tucked inside.
1966 was a period when the Malay Pop Yeh Yeh era was at its height. Famous groups of those days were ‘A.Ramlie and The Rhythm Boys’, ‘Jeffrydin and The Siglap Five’, ‘A.Romzi and The Hooks’ and solo vocalists such as ‘Eddie Ahmad’, ‘S.Jibeng’ and ‘Kassim Selamat’ of the ‘La O Be’ fame. The craze reached Muar town as well and the Malays emulated well. Local Pop Yeh Yeh bands began to mushroom and the famous were ‘Zainal O’mara and The Dreamers’, ‘Yahaya Kosai and the Les Flingers’ and ‘A.Halim and D’Fictions’. Tonight, Jeffrydin and The Siglap Five of Singapore would be performing at the Fun Fair.
It was a hot season and the night was bright. The three of us cycled to the Padang Muar Club and we took our time. When we arrived, scores of people were seen entering the Padang. It was now priced at fifty cents per entry and twenty cents for children below twelve but those bringing along babies need not buy extra tickets no matter how many their numbers were. The scene was more advanced compared to the one I first went to.
Small children came with their parents and guardians with some eating the pop corn reminding me of those days when I used to go with our Mak Yang and my three ‘sisters’. Now our eyes were more focused on pretty girls passing by and planning how was the best way to approach those we thought was very attractive and say hello. But we never did that because we had no guts and so just admiring them passing by would be sufficient. Sometime when our eyes met, we would smile thinking that these girls would do the same but they never did. That was why the three of us never had a steady, Muarians quipped this by saying “sampai tua lah awak”.
We saw the ‘kuda kepang’ performance and this time I went very near them and watched their mysterious dance without any more fear. The ‘joget’ stage was full as usual with many elderly Malay men some with their upper front teeth missing dancing vigorously only to be tamed later by their wives at home. All amusement lots were full of aspirants desperately aiming for some big prizes to show off and they always failed.
The balloon seller was doing fine with his latest product blown by using a pump and small children gathering to watch some balloons floating in the air. The pop corn seller was experiencing a triple increase in sales and was seen grinning endlessly. Maybe he was thinking of treating his girlfriend for a fine supper later. Some loud-speakers were still being hung to some tree branches playing all the latest Pop Yeh Yeh like “Cincin Emas” by ‘A.Rahman Onn and The Strangers’. Sometime announcement were made using the same loud-speakers and we could hear very clearly ” prraap papapap prraap…???”
Then we saw some of our friends and we greeted each other and because we always bumped into each other, we kept on greeting each other. Salleh Uzir the Muar ‘casanova’ was with his girlfriend and maybe he was the only one our age who had a girlfriend. The rest were walking with their male friends some puffing their lardos (cigarettes) and kept on looking at girls passing by.
Nearer to the club house we saw a big crowd and so the three of us went nearer to find out. It was Jefrydin and The Siglap Five performing and he was singing his latest hits “Temenong” and many joined dancing to the style of ‘A go go’. Then Halim suggested that we have some satay to fill our stomach.
The satay seller smiled at us showing off all his missing teeth but there were still some teeth at his lower gum. Then Halim asked him:
“Wak, Satay satu berapa?” (Wak, how much is one stick of satay?)
Sepuloh sen yang besar, dua yang kecik (Ten cents for the big one and two for the smaller ones).
“Ketupak berapa?” (How much is the rice cake?).
Sepuloh sen satu (Ten cents per piece).
“Timun dengan bawang?” (What about the cucumber and the onions?)
Yang ni tak payah bayar (This is for free).
“Kuah”? (What about the gravy?)
Pun tak payah bayar (It is also for free).
“Kalau gitu, bagi kami timun, bawang dan kuah aje lah” (In that case, give us the cucumber, the onions and the gravy).
The satay man looked at the three of us and smiled even wider. “Sorry ya Wak, gurau aje” (Sorry Wak, we were just kidding), Halim said smilingly.
We enjoyed our satay very much and paid the smiling satay man.
We were already grown up and was no longer enjoying the fun fair and so we decided to leave the place. We cycled passed the Taman Selera and it was full as usual but we decided not to stop as it was quite late. When we reached Halim’s house, Yem and me decided to take a short rest and so the three of us sat at the tembok. Half an hour later, I cycled home and had a good night sleep.
The next morning, my little cousin sister Raha of about four years old was at my bedside smiling unnecessarily. Raha is my cousin adopted by grandma when she was a baby and I have always looked upon her as my little sister. “Abang din, malam ni bawak kita pegi Pan Pair boleh?” (Abang din, can you bring me to the fun fair tonight?). I looked at her and she was grinning hoping for me to say yes.
Raha was about to experience what I had experienced years ago. The thrill of going to the fun fair, to the circus, eating pop corn, playing with the balloons and running around here and there around the house. I guess it would not be fair if I had say no to her. It was now her time and I had mine years ago.