How did you spend your allowance money when you were in school? To buy snacks? Ice cream? Candy? Not me. I spent some of my pocket money for a bottle of teh botol and a snack at the school cafetaria, and save the rest to buy books at the end of the week. Since my parents provided me with a car and a chauffeur, I didn’t have to spend my money on transportation. Having less freedom than every other kids (our chauffeur always picked us up on time), my siblings and I didn’t have enough time to sneakily bought any kind of snacks that was sold at the front of our school. And since our school was so strict, students weren’t allowed to go outside the school building before school time was over.
Every 80s teenagers surely know The Famous Five. Enid Blyton was the writer we grew up with. Every kid seemed to ask for their own Timmy from their parents. Every once in a month my parents brought me to a bookstore where I could pick the one I liked. But once a month wasn’t enough for me. I finished reading a book for about two or three days, and wanted more. So I had to save my pocket money if I wanted to buy more books before the month was over.
At Saturdays, I always said to our chauffeur to take me to a bookstore near our school, Toko Batutulis, which sold any kind of novel I liked to own. And I completed my collection of Lima Sekawan that way. That was when a copy of Lima Sekawan only cost me Rp 1.500! After Lima Sekawan, came Malory Towers, St Claire, Pasukan Mau Tahu, Trio Detektif, Agatha Christie, and so on until I was old enough and had enough money to buy more books than I can read.
But now, the old and cramped bookstore I loved so much was no more. I long for that tiny and narrow bookstore, with the nice old man behind the counter who smelled like books old and new, who always knew what you like, who save some of the best books for you only, knowing you would be there at the end of the week to give him your pocket money for an unforgettable adventure of four kids and a dog which fascinated you so much.
That’s why I created the character Kakek Lim for my novel The Bookaholic Club. The typical old fellow with tobacco stains on his fingertips, who smiles broadly every time he sees his favorite customers walking through his old bookshop front door, who loves children because they love to read. Oh, those good old days…