I remember when I was four; I looked out a window of our flat in Selangor, Malaysia, and saw a new Toyota parked on the street. It belonged to the Tans next door. Why, I asked my mother, didn’t we own a car?
Mother smiled and said, “We have you, your sister and this house. I think it is enough.”
I kept quiet and stared at the Tans as they climbed into their shiny Toyota. I was too young to understand the financial struggles Mother and Father faced. All I could see was that we didn’t have a car.
Instead, Father had an old bicycle. He would cycle to and from work, and in the evenings take me and my siblings for drives around the neighbourhood. Despite the rusty backseat that often left red marks on my thighs, I adored that bicycle. I would hold on to Father’s waist tightly and scream my lungs out. It always felt like a roller coaster ride.
Then one morning, when I was eight, I noticed that the bicycle was not in its usual spot in the basement. It had been stolen. As Mother cried, Father consoled her, saying that he could get to work with a co-worker. He never did get a new bicycle – I guess we couldn’t afford one at the time.
As time passed, our family grew. Now there were four children, and no doubt even more bills to pay. I continued watching as cars came and went on our street. Our neighbours would kindly offer to give us a lift, but Mother insisted that we commute on our own. “Don’t trouble people,” she often reminded us.
So we did a lot of walking. Fortunately, school was nearby. On weekends, to get to our local chapel, we walked almost a kilometre to the nearest bus stop. Dressed in our best clothes, my siblings and I would chatter loudly as Mother and Father led the noisy little procession. Sometimes, when the walking became tiring and the honking of passing drivers who recognised us became embarrassing (especially during my adolescent years), I asked Father about getting a car. He would reply, “God sees that you are walking for Him. He will reward you.”
Years passed and we commuted everywhere by bus, train and cab. When the government built a commuter train station just a street away from our house, our thrill was beyond relief. It felt like we owned our very own Toyota. Although train travel got easier, buses remained our favourite option. I enjoyed peering through the large windows, feeling the wind blow on my face and watching all those pedestrians, shopping malls and houses rush past outside.
Every Christmas, we visited my father’s hometown in Selangor. The best part was always the three-hour journey to get there. We had to take three different buses to get to the old rubber estate where my grandparents lived. By the final leg, as the familiar scent of the rubber plantations filled our nostrils, my siblings and I would be ecstatic. When we reached the estate, I would peer through the window looking out for my uncle and cousins, who would be waiting for us at the old bus stop. A perfect vacation of fun and contentment awaited us.
Time flew and my sister Jane decided to study Tourism Management at a local college. Although we never discussed it, I wondered if our lack of a car had fed her passion for travelling and sightseeing. My life took a new turn when a university in Sabah accepted me to study plant biotechnology. The prospect of a two-hour plane ride gave me mixed feelings. I had never been on a plane, and had never been away from my family.
My little brother Neil Boy helped me overcome my doubts. “Come on akka,” he exclaimed, using the Tamil word for older sister. “At least you’re going on a plane ride. In future we can come on a plane for your graduation. Wouldn’t that be great?” He was right. That first flight was a wonderful and exciting experience, despite the constant buzzing in my ears.
When I returned home during a semester break, I realised that many things had changed. With the upgrading of public transport systems and roads, commuting had become a whole lot easier. Those who owned cars now preferred to use public transport because it was safe, and saved time and money.
Even Mr Tan next door was taking the train to work. One evening, as I was standing at the window looking at all the parked cars, Mother came up beside me. “Your sister is planning to get a car,” she said. “A Toyota.” Suddenly, owning that elusive car didn’t seem to matter so much. Despite our material deprivation for all those years, the journey of love had bonded us tightly together.
Remembering our conversation 20 years earlier, I turned to her and said, “Mother, I still have you, Father, Jane, Janet, Neil Boy, and this house. I think it is enough.”
When Jancy Joseph Samynadan, now 26, graduated from university in May 2008, her entire family made the trip to be there. Today she works at an international school in Kuala Lumpur and still travels by public transport. She is getting her driver’s licence, but isn’t sure when she’ll buy a car.
3 of 4 Comments
|Anil Dixit on 28 April 2012 ,23:16 |
I like it because of moral values and simplicity with which a theist joint family lives happily.
|Vipin on 01 December 2010 ,12:36 |
I enjoyed reading the personal and touching story by jancy. i totally agree that even i enjoyed and still enjoy taking a public transport than a private one. it is an opportunity to learn about people and their behaviour and also a small way in helping the nation and environment.
|ani on 09 March 2010 ,11:52 |
it's very touching
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