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When I was young, I live with my grandparents in a dilapidated house in Kampung Chenong Ulu on the outskirts of Rembau Town. It stood on wooden stilts and had a steeply sloping roof of corrugated sheets.

We seemed to live in perpetual darkness. Daylight from morning to evening was blocked out by the surrounding trees. I enjoyed listening to the sweet chirping of the birds. The night was a different situation altogether. It was dark and frightening with shadow that seem to lengthen and shrink with every gust of wind. My imagination worked overtime as I crawled into bed and pulled the blanket over my head. My fears were compounded during ‘Cheng Beng’ (Chinese All Souls’ celebration) and the Hungry Ghost month.

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From the outside, the house looked dreary and creepy. Friends shied away and there were whispers that our house was haunted. I used to play in friends’ house but never invited them over out of a sense of shame. My grandpa used to encourage me to invite friends over. But, I felt too ashamed to do so. Grandpa pointed out the paintings and antique treasures that they would appreciate. The compound was big enough for tic-tac-toe or “galah panjang”. No, I kept telling myself – my house was not worthy of my friends. It was rotten and ugly.

Life was not so terrible all the time. My siblings and I had good times playing hide-and-seek and climbing the horizontal plank walls. The paintings and antiques had many stories to tell.
I left my village to continue my education in elementary school in the Senawang, where my parents lived. I left with a happy heart, glad to be out of the rotten eyesore. But within a month, I was so homesick for my rotten eyesore that I almost gave up my studies. Images of the houses came to mind. It was so lovely to look at with a character of its own. My father had extended the house until it was double its original size.

How could I look down on my village, no, my home! I had been so busy downgrading it. I never took the time to appreciate the love, warmth and ties it had acquired throughout the years. I had been blind to its beauty out of my prejudice. My greatest regret!

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