Writer . Editor . Author
To suburban Subang
Having driven down from Penang, we are now staying in Subang at an aunt’s place to catch my flight back to Manchester tomorrow.
I get to spend time with the ever-busy relatives who are usually working hard in cosmopolitan KL. They are the star family model who balance their high-flying careers with their family life.
I also get to spend time with D, one of my favourite cousins. D has just finished his national exams and is waiting to go to boarding school in England. He is glad that Sis and I have arrived to shake him out of his monotonous lifestyle.
“I am the maid in the house!” he complains. “I have to get the washing in, and I can’t go out because I don’t have the car!”
We hang about downstairs at the computers, before going upstairs to get ready for bed. Mum and Dad get the guest room, while Sis and I get his younger brother’s en-suite room in the quiet four-bedroom house in suburban Subang. Before sleeping, we decide to pop by D’s room to have a look at his new drum set.
Beng and lian bedtime stories
D starts telling Sis and I stories about his high school and about being patrol prefect during recess time. He talks the naughty boys and girls in school and the Chinese gangsters who get away with anything because their fathers are so and so.
“What?” I exclaim in disbelief. “I thought you went to the best private school in the country! How can there be gangsters there?”
“Rich ah bengs lah,” he replied calmly.
I always knew D was funny, but I never knew he could be that funny.
Ah beng is a stereotypical term for young Chinese lads involved in gangster activities and who cannot speak fluent English. Swearing, smoking and dyed hair are their typical traits. Its female equivalent is the ah lian, and this group is so well-known that they even have their own Wikipedia entry.
The psyche of an inner-city school boy
D goes on and on about how the naughty boys and girls gave him a hard time because he was prefect, and also because he worked out. There are stories about his younger brother and girl stalkers, the losers, the nerds – all the ingredients for a high school drama.
Sis and I started off by hovering around his drum set. Then we were sitting on the floor, listening to him. After a couple of hours we are all lazing on the bed. Before we know it, it’s 5am and D is still talking, this time about his best mate and their trip to India for a science quiz.
My eyes are closing and I think of a way to excuse myself.
“Are you sure you should be telling me all this stuff about your school?” I ask.
“I’ve left, so I can say anything I want about that place,” he replies. “I wouldn’t if I was still there.”
Fair enough, I thought. Sis and I excuse ourselves and retreat to our chamber. I’m glad we stayed the night and heard all those stories, because D’s accounts are like anthropological studies to me. Sometimes, I still think of D as a child despite being almost 18. I guess one of the things about knowing someone from an early age is that you forget they are their own person now.