This week I happened to pay a visit to the house which was my childhood home until I was about 14 years old. At one time, it used to be part of the outlying residential suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. Today it is empty, stripped down, abandoned and part of an inner city zone that is due for re-development as a commercial area. The old neighborhood is gone. Almost all the neighbors have moved away.
It was nostalgic and a little melancholic to walk through the house in its current state of disrepair; with large gaping holes in the roof and pools of stagnant rain water. But the thought that struck me most was how small the place looked.
It always seemed much bigger in my memories of my childhood. The house was my fantasy playground. My siblings were much older than I and so I grew up entertaining myself by creating a fantasy world in and around my home to play in.
My room was a bit particular as one end was actually a corridor with doors at either end and this corridor was a few centimeter lower than the rest of the room. In my mind, the corridor was always the river or the sea and the land was the higher ground. If I was playing World War II, then this was the beaches of Dunkirk where the British plastic action toy soldiers were trying to escape the approaching German soldiers or perhaps the beaches of D-Day when plastic Allied troops were trying to establish their beach-heads against German opposition. If I was playing cowboy and Indians, then the Mohawks would land their canoes on the way to attack the U.S. Calvary soldiers in their Lego Forts. Rubber-bands were used to shoot the figurines and determine the outcome of the encounter.
The large garden around the house was also fertile places for my fantasy playground. There was a garden set consisting of a stone table and four stone stools. In my imagination, this was a long lost Mayan city encroached on by the surrounding jungle (well, long grass). The stone table was higher than the stools and was therefore the high temple where blood sacrifices used to be held. The shadowy areas under the stools were home to thousands of vampire bats and some strange evil creature wanders the empty city posing a threat to brave explorers.
A large semicircular cement planter with a mango tree at one end of the garden became the exotic Kingdom of the Deccans – a nation in the clouds, located on a highland plateau with all approaches protected by near vertical cliffs. Thieves plot on how to steal into the kingdom despite the well defended passes to steal the fabled jewels and gems of the Deccan Kingdom.
A long pile of bricks at another end of the garden is actually the fortified Wall city of Langoria. This fantasy nation consist of one mega-structure that serves as a fort and home to all Langorians. At other times, it was the forts of the Maginot Line of World War II.
There was a cast iron bathtub which was filled with water and used by my mother to water the flowers. For me, it was the mysterious Sea of Azar – full of pirates and Conan the Barbarian. It was also where I set my plastic models of luxury liners (like the Mauritania) and battleships on fire and watch them burn with acrid black smoke until they sink below the waves.
After some construction work on the house was done, the workers left a pile of sand about a metre high. I once placed my Space Station Action figures at the base of this pile and than caused a “landslide” and buried the Space Rangers. I then launched a rescue mission to uncover the buried victims. I learned an important life lesson about landslides and avalanches when I discovered that I could never again find half of the buried Space Rangers.
It is hard to believe now that so much imagination managed to fit into such a small space.