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"A Walk Down Memory Lane — Badminton Craze"

Post on: November 13, 2020

I grew up in Redhill estate in Singapore where gotong royong (cooperation within the community) was the order of the day. Doors opened in the morning were left ajar till bedtime.  There was a sense of belonging amongst the neighbours – we could just walk into one another’s home, unannounced. A constant buzz of interaction set the tone of the kampung (village) spirit.

Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s was an era where there were no technological gadgets to fiddle with. Our playtime was confined to outdoors where the kids of my estate excelled in football, badminton and swimming.

My childhood buddy, Kim and I would flaunt our badminton skills below the block where we lived. The flat dwellers would watch us from the common corridor of the block. And we won over many fans with our scintillating display. Not forgetting the egocentric barber whose shop was directly facing us, would watch us dazzle while he smoked his beedi. Our game was a great source of entertainment and the barber always dished out “invaluable advice” to us.

“I was a state champion in the ‘60s,” he would crow. “Smacking is a piece of cake if you know the correct technique”.

“Badminton brought me great fame and honour; I was given the opportunity to coach a British high-school in the UK,” he would brag. “But my sense of responsibility towards my father made me carry on the family barber-trade here.”

Kim and I were sceptical about his daily boasts and his words were becoming more fanciful by the day. Our nods and acquiesces had emboldened him to spin elaborate yarns during each conversation.

One day, he came out of his shop to coach us while we were playing. He realised the newfound fame Kim and I had earned and he wanted a part of it.

“He always gives the wrong strategy. His views are rib-tickling,” Kim whispered.

“Just pretend you appreciate his pointers,” I interjected. “Lest he haphazardly cuts your hair when you next visit him – remember, his speciality is the Kojak (bald) hairdo.”

Kim laughed his socks off. He could not stand the antics of the barber who always wanted the last word and had mastered the art of stealing the limelight from others. Kim’s laughter was infectious; I could not resist and joined him.

“Laughing is a serious foul during a match,” the barber reprimanded. He was keeping an eagle-eye on us.

“The match would be called off with such unprofessional conduct,” the barber cautioned, “the winner would then be decided by a penalty shootout.”

Kim and I looked at each other with disbelief. The self-professed badminton guru has confused badminton with soccer! Our laughter intensified.


The above anecdote is a glimpse of the “Redhill Days” which chronicles the shenanigans of Sanjay and the “Wild Boys”. “Redhill Days” has the elements of nostalgia, quirks of the kampong kids and regular splits of laughter. The character of the story epitomises the sprightly and quintessential personalities which are familiar to those who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s (Though fictional, it is inspired by my growing up in Redhill estate).

By: Shaji Thomas Varughese

#JollyGoodTimes #AWalkDownMemoryLaneBadmintonCraze #ShajiThomasVarughese
Photo: from “Redhill Days”


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