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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sibling Rivalry? Oh yes...

When we were children, my younger brother and I got each other into trouble a lot. We are 6 years apart. When I was 10, he was only 4. At that time, my parents were already divorced so I was sent to live with my cousins in their rented attap house in Rifle Range Road, while my brother lived with my 'ah ma' (maternal granny) in her employer's bungalow in Bukit Timah Road.

Every weekends, Ah Ma and brother will visit us. And being too young to use the out-house, my little brother will poo into a plastic 'tum-tong' (spittoon). After that Ah Ma will call out for me to dispose the poos at the out-house. When I refused, Ah Ma would criticize me for being selfish and a lousy big sister. She would then remind me that it was my duty to take care of my little brother since he was so much younger than me. I would then give a big loud sigh of contempt, picked up that poo-filled 'tum-tong' reluctantly, dragged and stomped my feet at same time to do 'my duty'. I was fuming...

When I was 11, my cousins' family was relocated to live in a 3-room HDB flat in Boon Lay. For some reasons, I had to move in with Ah Ma then. Ah Ma came from the generation where girls must do all the household chores and boys are the masters at home. To her boys are good, girls are bad. So living with her made my contempts towards my little brother worse.

I had to wash his school shoes, bring him to art class, take him along whenever I had to run errands. And being spoilt, he'd scream, cry and squat in the shop whenever I refused to buy him candy at the grocer. Oh! The embarrassement I had to endure! I would roll my eyes and walk away knowing he'd run after me shortly.

Ah Ma was given a small bedroom in the back of the bungalow that has a small wardrobe, a wicker bookshelf that contained her employer's sons old comics/books and a king sized bed. With those in the room we had only a little aisle of 2ft by 6ft walking space left. So we hung out on the bed a lot. Read, draw, play and sometimes we would bicker over things and start a kicking contest. Since I was older, my kicks were stronger and my little brother would start screaming for Ah Ma. When she appeared at the bedroom door, he'd cry and complain that I was bullying him. And at the blink of an eye, a cane would appear in her hand and I would receive the lashes for bullying and he received 1 lash for making too much noise. Ouch! it was painful but on seeing him received the caning too, I turned my body and face to a position where Ah Ma couldn't see yet in full view of my brother. I then placed a thumbs up sign closed to my body and mouthed the words "very good". I did all that while Ah Ma was lecturing us not to make such a raket. He was so mad, that he shouted my action to Ah Ma. Ah Ma was so mad that she was interupted that she gave him another lash! I could see him fuming..... in tears.

I was still living with Ah Ma when I was 14. That year, I had my first menstruation and had to start wearing thick bulky sanitary pads. Kotex ran TV commercials with a lady running on the beach and leaping into the air and the word "Freedom" rang through the commercial. Since our bedroom was so small, most of our belonging were stowed under the bed. One day, my little brother who was only 8 then, was rumaging through my stuff under the bed. When I returned home from school, I found him sitting on the floor by the bed, too engrossed in peeling off every single piece of sticker backing from my Kotex sanitary pads! I screamed at the top of my voice and Ah Ma rushed in to see the commotion. To Ah Ma, boys/men are not supposed to walk under women's underwears or touch anything that we women put under there. It is considered very 'sueh' (unlucky). And so, my little brother was taught a lesson by the cane. Poor fella.... he had no idea why he was caned at all besides for ruining my stickers.

Luckily, as we grew older, we became good friends. We often laughed till our belly ache and tears in our eyes recalling our silliness.

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