When I was young, my family and myself celebrated Pongal Festival, Tamil Harvest Festival differently. I remember my mum putting a small stove outside the house and cooking Pongal (Sweet Rice) for us. We cooked outside the house using charcoal. My neighbours consisted of Chinese, Malay and Christian families. My friends would gather outside my house and pour the milk for us in the stove to make the sweet rice. I remember we would all face the Sun and pay respect together regardless of race and religion. I still remember my neighbours names. They were Chen Zi, Royzan, Murni, Ivan and Siti Rasidah. They all came to my house for the festival and we drew the kolam in the corridors. It was fun drawing and playing together.
Even for Deepavali, they would come to my house for lunch. We would all eat on Banana leaves. Chen Zi loved appalam a lot (Indian Cracker). My friend, Siti Rasidah, and I would share food and drinks, regardless of the differences we only knew friendship. Now due to hygiene purposes we cannot share food, but those were the times where we ate food from the same banana leaf. My neighbours were also involve in doing the Murukku for Deepavali. During Deepavali, I would give sweets and murukku to all my neighbours. They would give me Ang Bao in return. We had beautiful bonds with our neighbours during those days. If my parents were not home, my brother and I would stay in my neighbours’ house till our parents returned and vice versa.
Today, times have changed. All my neighbours have moved houses. We were the pioneers in my block. Many people change houses often today. Thus, it is difficult to create the same kind of bond with our neighbours as in the 90s. But I always cherish my childhood time with my neighbours.
Editor's note: This story was part of Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School's "Stories We Tell @ AIPS" National Education Programme. We would like to thank Mrs Sim Siew Tin (Principal, AIPS) and her staff for their warm support.