Tuesday, February 21, 2006

watching tv

In a small village like Kemasek, television came late, only sometimes in the 70’s. The first television was bought by Tokeh Ah Sa, the village big fishing man, the ‘taiko’ of fishing industry, with his own fleet of fishing boats, ice making facility and lorries. Stories told that the tv was bought when he strikes big on the ‘nombor-ekor’. In his ‘bangsal’ fresh fish were packed with ice in wooden boxes and the waste of the fishing industry, ‘anak ikan’ (small size fishes) as we call it were boiled and later dried under the sun together with the dried salted types. The smell of the ‘bangsal’ was nauseating. When television made its way to this village to Tokeh Ah Sa, the ‘bangsal’ became a cinema of sort. The smell of dried fish became oblivious. In Kampung Baru, where Aki and Che lived, the first television was owned by an enterprising Malay businessman (Pak Cik Jakpo I think) who operated a transport business. He was truly enterprising, that he placed the television at the window, built rows of benches on the ground among the coconut tree and had a ‘mi-goreng’ and ‘keropok’ stall set up.

Until the television, movies came to our village like three times a year, sometimes by ‘van jabatan penerangan’ (information department’s van), or by the traveling Nestle or tobacco company motorcade. Of Jabatan Penerangan, I recall the drama ‘Atap Genting Atap Rembia’ and the propaganda interlude in-between, of the cigarette company, some cheap spaghetti-western cowboy kill red indian flick. Those were the era of Rough-riders and ‘tiga-lima’ cigarettes. Camel and Marlboro were unheard of till a decade later.

There were few then who could afford a set. Those who do found their house as unofficial cinema especially on Thursday evening when Malay movies particularly of P.Ramlee or Mat Sentul were aired. How we laugh at their antics.

For us, there was no television at home. So TV viewing became a reward of sorts. Behave and you get to go to Che’gu Zaid’s house and watch TV – once a week at the most. But we have our favorite like Ultraman. Yes we had that on Saturday at 7pm. To watch that we had to sneak away making excuse of going to the grocery (Pak Li had a TV at his shop then) or delaying our bath at the well till Maghrib and risk the cane or the belt.

Then came ‘SINGER’ with its motto ‘menawan keluarga bahagia’ (capturing the happy family). In later years I joked that SINGER kept the happy family captive with its never-ending installment payment. It was they who until then were selling sewing machines that revolutionize TV ownerships. The sales promotion were good, salesmen make house calls and once you signed the agreement have the TV delivered. Then come the installment collection. Many a time hearts were broken when the sets were carted away for non-payment. Then also was the time when the TV license man came calling, like once or twice a year to find the whole village scrambling to hide their sets away.

Those were the years of TV1 and TV2 and in black and white too.

Color TV came at the time of Hussein Onn as the Prime Minister. It was at Cikgu Zaid’s house that I remember waiting eagerly for the TV to change from black and white to colour as the PM officiate the transition. Well Cikgu Zaid had a colour TV way before others.

Today, there are many-many channels to click at the remote. Soon there’ll be many more. The favorites of the yesteryears are now a part of a classic channel. But something remains the same. Our children love the new Ultraman, and best of it all, we are still laughing at Mat Sentul and P. Ramlee.

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