While on the subject of early childhood memories, I recall taking my first train ride when I was 10 years old. This happened sometime in December in 1975 during the third term school holidays.
My sister who worked in Kluang, Johor has asked whether I wish to visit her and I jumped at the chance. The adults were shocked by my response because no one was available to send me to Johor and if I were to go, I would have to travel alone by train. No one expected me to say yes. Everyone under estimated this plucky 10 year old. My sister (probably regretted her offer) started telling me that the journey will be long. I remember my aunt asking me, “Are you sure?” My brother just laughed at my face. My father being the quiet man he was, just grunted at the notion of his youngest son traveling alone by himself.
But I stood by my decision and the adults decided to let me go through with my adventure. It wasn’t a big deal but when you are ten year old and not even 5 feet tall, the very thought of traveling 220 km by yourself would appear to be a big, big adventure. I couldn’t sleep the night before and I was up before everyone else the next morning.
My parents brought me to the old colonial train station in Seremban. I got excited the minute I saw the crowd. My parents got me the tickets, drinks and snacks. My father even loaned me his watch so that I could tell the time. He gave me the full drill on how long the journey will take, what are the stations which I will be passing by and to get help from the uniformed man (the train conductor) if I need any.
Finally the massive iron giant arrived. For a ten year old, the train looked really enormous. My parents helped me to board the train. They were still issuing last minutes instructions when I could hear the whistle of the train. They had no choice to leave the train. The train started pulling out of the station. I had a window seat where I stucked my head out and waved wildly to my parents. They got smaller as the train picked up speed.
I was absolutely ecstatic. I felt like an adult. I have started my first real journey. I could see that there weren’t any other kids my age in the train traveling alone. I began to imagine that I was one of the brothers in the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. It was a journey of a lifetime to remember.
I remember staying glued to the window, staring at the country side and counting the towns which I passed. After 4 wonderful hours, I finally reached Kluang station.
My sister and my brother in law were waiting at the platform as I disembark the train with my head held high in the air. I have just completed my first long distance adventure all by myself.