Thursday, April 15, 2010

What would you buy with your first paycheck?

I only have one thing in mind when I was in school.

Dream was all that I could do then. Dream it when you can't have it - definitely not on a RM10 a month allowance that bapak gave me anyway. Dream of what you would do when you have the money.

At the very least, thankfully, it is a question of when and not if.
Caption: The barren but beautiful school - the dewan makan

At a boarding school in the 70s, it was a time when all I could do was dream. Dreaming my life away so that I don't have to wake up at 4.30 am in the morning in search of water the the old building on the other side of the school ground in drought stricken Kota Bharu - Pengkalan Chepa to be precise. Armed with a pail, toothbrush and a cake of soap perhaps, and of course a towel, we would cover one school ground in search of the elusive slightly polar bonded molecules we called water. Every tap would be turned clockwise in the hope of a gushing stream of water.

Instead most taps would be dry; not even trickling of water droplets to spare. You can see the yellow grass in the pic above obviously deprived of water, just like us in those days, or KLites in the late 90s!

I think I have digressed from the topic a bit here. ;-)

Those days, I used to own a small RM30 radio that I bought myself from the money bapak gave me after 'passing' my SRP in 1978. That's all that I could afford then - I was given Rm50 and that can fit into one's trouser pocket. The radio, that is. Even then it was the best radio in that range; there was a cheaper one at RM20. Obviously there were only a couple of radio stations then, so it was not the greatest of choice in as far as song selections are concerned; so I would often stand next to the lighting rod at the back of the dorm to get better signals of radio stations from all over the world - short wave signal typically then. On your lucky day, you could listen to the BBC.

In those days, that would be equivalent to hearing ET conversation from outer space today!

In drought-stricken Kota Bharu, one need not worry about standing next to the lightning rod. There was little chance one could get struck by lighting during the dry season.

Only one classmate/dorm-mate (MatJepun) would have a big radio cassette player - a mini compo if you must, featuring stereo speakers (my mini radio was obviously mono) and Dolby Noise Reduction. You can't get more sophisticated than his and this was more than what a typical households then could afford. The sounds were so crisp for the era. Fortunately for me too, his taste in music was not too dissimilar to mine or what one could term as mainstream, so most of his cassettes and song selections would be music to my ears.

But at times, you would want to listen to your own selection regardless, so I would ask him to play certain songs for me. I do remember asking him during a black out to play 'Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word' by Elton John, noting that the atmosphere would be just right for such soft and sad melody.

He obliged.

I guess in normal circumstance I would glance enviously at him for being able to own such expensive piece of electronic device then, or actually I would be had it been any other person. But MatJepun is not someone for you to be jealous of, for he was not stingy or possessive with the expensive gadget.

I guess those rare moments would not be enough for this teenager then. Secretly, I held an ambition that the instance I earned my first salary, I would buy myself a hi-fi set complete with two big speakers and an equalizer, so that I could listen to my choice of songs to my heart's content.

I guess it was so easy to please this teen from the 70s. No, I don't need a big house or a sports car. A hi-fi set would be sufficient, thank you very much.

But time change I guess, and so do priorities.

Earning more than bapak would on my scholarship in Melbourne in the 80s, I only owned a small (not mini this time) single speaker radio and I lived with it until the very end. The same happened when I returned and started working at a cement plant in Padang Rengas in the mid-80s.
My first paycheck in July 1986 came and go and the hi-fi set never materialized.

Being only the third person earning a living in a family of 14 - the youngest being two years old, and the rests still at school, and with bapak no longer around to see us all through, I guess the cake needs to be carved to many portions, and there was never a portion for a hi-fi set as I had dreamt off a decade earlier. It would be the last thing we would need then and I guess this is one thing many of my siblings of the younger generation were unable to comprehend or pretended not to understand.

But that's another story.

When you have the money, especially when 'barely' is an adjective to describe it, you would be cautious with your spending, despite the urging of your desires.

Nowadays I guess, one could live with having just a radio. With the proliferation of private radio stations, I could practically decide which songs to listen to by just tuning to different radio stations. Heck, chances are your kind of music might be played at certain radio stations that you would not have to even lift a finger to listen to them. If I wanted to listen to English, I would go to LightFM, otherwise the radio is stuck on KlasikNasional.

I no longer have any need for a hi-fi set. A good set of radio in the car would be sufficient. These days I would prefer to listen to live music by Akmal, or occasionally by Arif and if I want to listen to really beautiful music played by professional, with over 10 (sound) channels, I would drive to the Philharmonic (or Istana Budaya). No need for an equalizer, or Dolby NR and the likes.

You would be able to hear the violin, the cello and the piano, and many more in their full glory. Right there in front of your eyes and ears. You would hear music in three dimensional.

And that's more than any modern digital equipment can do.

Especially if the singer looks resplendent in red on stage. ;-)


Yes of course, in the natural course of my life over the last twenty years, I do have many other dreams in life and I guess most are still unfulfilled - car and many of you would probably be cynical at my selection and perhaps a daughter.

But life goes on I guess.

And they would have to be in different entries! ;-)

Oh and to show you how sophisticated the machine that he has, the cassette player would run on dual voltage. Obviously you would need to select 240V for Malaysia, but it could also run on 110V. That was one of our first introduction at such fanciful gadget. However, one of us decided that he wanted to learn more about the nature of electrical voltage and switch it to 110V while running on 240V. Obviously the motor and the power supply got all burnt out, and he had to replace them on his own.

it was an expensive experiment, perhaps best left in the physics lab of Cikgu WaRo.

No comments:

Post a Comment