As a story this goes back a long, long and long way back into my history, in fact it travels back to 1969, when l was 6 years of age and living in Malayisa, in the days when my Father was working for the Royal Australian Air Force as an NCO in the Military Police [somewhat ironically].
1969 in Malaysia l do have memories and some of them are quite vivid as indeed is this particular tale. A couple of things before however l proceed, almost a disclaimer if you wish. This is not a tale up for the pro’s and con’s of marijuana, nor is it a promotion of what is right and or wrong, it is a single story about a series of incidents in the Summer of 69 involving three people, myself, our Malay gardener and my Father
I am not a novice to ganja, my philosophy on life has been to trial many things once, and if after that moment l like or dislike something, l go with the flow on that decision. Over the last 50 years of course l have smoked a joint or six or whatever number it may have been. But l have never been addicted to it, nor have l ever abused any substance relating to drugs, it’s not my bag so to speak, but l have enjoyed the experiences it can deliver.
I chose the image above as my lead in display so as no one could say they opened this post up with no idea of the content and become offended, as that is not the intention.
Living in Malaysia in the 60’s especially and as a youngster left a lot of very deep seated memories within my mind. Despite the drabness of the above photograph and course the utilitarian look of the military residences themselves, everyone’s gardens back then were remarkably colourful and vibrant. My mother [her back to us in this image] is leaning against our fence and standing over the slimmer monny drains.
We used to have a bush that grew along the entire fence that produced the most beautiful flower, which in turn attracted huge bumblebees that used to harvest the pollen, however a passer by stopped to smell the scent and a bee flew into her mouth and stung her and she went into anaphylactic shock as she was allergic and so to avoid these things, we had the gardener remove the entire bush.
But we used to have a lot of plants growing in the actual garden, beutiful hibiscus, orchids, ixora, begonias of course, sealing wax palms, elephant ears, pagoda flowers and banana plants, in fact our garden had quite a few of the latter scattered throughout the garden. I had one growing beneath my own bedroom beneath the verandah and l clearly remember our gardener calling them ‘pisangs’, l remember over a few days of seeing the fruit start out as bright green, turn to a rich yellow and then if not picked turning black. My Mother used to love the fruit, but my Father forbade her to eat them, such a waste as the amahs and the gardener alike always had them and sold them off to the servicemen coming over from Vietnam during R&R.
Those are the plants and flowers alike we knew the names of, however what we didn’t know was that our gardener was also growing ‘ganja’. Truth is, he was not specifically our gardener, he was the gardener for various properties up and down the street and was one provided by the air base for the military residences.
Not that you can really see it, but to the right of me is one our banana trees.
Back then in Malaysia, l didn’t really see a lot of my parents, my Father was up very early and out early to beat the heat, and would be back in for lunch by around midday for an hour or so, then the driver would take him back to the base where he would work till around 6pm. My Mother was always involved in organising the other housewives in the various tasks that were expected of them to carry out, and yes the phrase for the time is correct ‘were expected’ of them. I was up very early [5am] to catch the school bus [5.30am] which would take me to the ferry to cross to Georgetown where l schooled which started at just before 7am.
The amahs of the house in many respects were those that looked after us, as in my Sister and myself. I clearly remember both Choy and Sharon making our dinner, washing us in the giant washtub and so on, and l also remember the gardener Taufik. When the parents were not there, a lot of us ‘brats’ got together and mixed with the locals and good times were had by one and all. But equally as some kids ‘play their nannies’ up, l was no different to Choy. Who l can only imagine must have passed by now as she was quite old when she worked with us. I couldn’t get away with it with Sharon who was younger and who could run just as fast as me!!
When our parents weren’t there, it was very much a relaxed atmosphere, very calming, and one of the reasons is that Taufik was always smoking around us, a very pleasant aroma, and he would talk in his sing song way to both Sharon and Choy, and he used to flirt with them both, back then he knew what he was doing and in order to charm one, you had to show reverence to the elder.
Choy may not have been a spring chicken but she wasn’t called coy Choy, she was very aware of the flirting as was l even back then only aged 6! However, it was the pleasant aroma that always sparked my attention to Taufik and l was always helping him in the garden, just to be even closer to that beautiful smell that always relaxed me so.
One day l remember asking him what it was that he smoked that made such a beautiful smell and he offered me his ‘cigarette’ … l remember following his instructions on how to smoke it and l also remember feeling a very dry sensation in my throat but l didn’t cough – in fact truth be known, l liked it. I also really liked the very strange effect it had on me. From that day on, l suppose in some way you could say l was kinda of hooked, and every time l saw Taufik in our garden l would run down the stairs to see him, help him with the garden and take the odd toke or two on his ‘strange grass’ as he called it.
So fascinated with it, l asked one day if l could buy some off him, which he agreed to and it was our little secret and he showed me what to do and how to prepare it for smoking. i was very pleased with myself, l had a small container with it, and it only cost me a $1 Malaysian!
However that night, when l sat downstairs whilst everyone else was upstairs, Choy caught me in the amah quarters ‘rolling up’ and struggling to do so at that and called up to the Master [my Father] who alongside my Mother came hurtling down the stairs with Sharon in tow and my Father took my swag off me, took a deep sniff and l swear he smiled, and he suddenly demanded where l had got this.
Well l was sworn to a secret with Taufik and there was NO way l was going to turn him in – except Choy had other ideas and blurted out that it was the gardener! My Father then sent everyone upstairs and said he was going to talk to his Son. Which he did and he outlined the good, the bad and the ugly of such a terrible thing as ganja. He asked me how much l had paid, and l answered a $1 and l remember him turning to me and staring in shock, before he said.
“Son, you have been duped, l could have got you way better for way less!”
I was more than a little surprised that he then took my ‘gear’ off me and showed how to roll a joint, and then we sat there for a few moments and he allowed me a few tokes and then sent me to bed and to never discuss our talk with my Mother. He was down there for a good hour or so, and l know that when he came back up my Mother asked what he was doing, and why did he have such a big stupid smile on his face???
Sadly the next day Taufik was fired from our house, but l still saw him, because my Mum and Dad didn’t know what the marijuana plants looked like that grew in our garden …. but l did!!