... once upon a time ... a long long time ago ...

Small satchets of happenings from pockets of my life, as lapses of memories rewind to the particular place, moment and time ... realities of life
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Lauk Ayam

Although we rear chicken at home, having chicken for food is still something rare and being looked forward to. When instruction is out for us to go catch a chicken for slaughtering, a few of us would round up the chicken so we may catch one. We always choose the biggest. Even though these chicken are raised by us; feed them everyday; still they are not easy to catch. As soon as we catch one, we call on Abah Rahman to 'sembelih' the chicken.

After the proper 'sembelihan', and when the chicken is dead, we put it into boiled water so that we can peel off the feathers easily. Once all the feathers are pulled out, we burn the chicken over a small fire to burn off smaller feathers still on the chicken. Kak Ngah will then cut them into proper pieces and would normally cook the ever delicious 'lemak chili api'.

Since there were many of us; when food is served, Kak Ngah will present each and everyone of us 'one piece' each of the chicken. Since there is just enough to go around, you cannot have another, but you may have the gravy if you wish. The best part of it all is getting a piece of the 'hati ayam'; the most delicious part of the chicken. No matter how small, we will all get a piece of it each. Now - we can have a chicken each to ourselves!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Motorcycle Joy

In the kampong we learn to ride motor cycles as early as 9 years old. The one that I learned with was a Honda 90, plate number ND something something (4 numbers); which I could not remember. Nevertheless, that motor cycle was owned by Abah Rahman - uses to ride it to take him to work as a 'Field Assistant' at the "Rancangan Tanah Pinggir" at Sungai Layang; about 10 km from Senaling (on the Tampin main road). Since motor cars cannot enter the rubber plantation (of muddy tracks); the motorcycles was the other mean of transportation besides the usual bicycle.

As we have to go back and forth to do our bud grafting or weeding at the rubber plantation, I learned to ride those bikes from as young as 9 years old. The motor cycle have only 3 gears. All front flicks and you are on the way. It becomes my main transportation to go to further places when the bicycles is a little bit too far to use. At times, going to 'Godong' would be a fun ride even thought it is just 2 km away.

As we live in the kampong, the motor cycle was without any road tax or insurance at that time. It is only used to go to our small holdings in Bemban or to use to go to Sungai Layang to buy latex. At times, I used to ride it to go deep into the rubber plantation to do my normal regular rubber bud grafting or checking on my rubber seedlings and new sprouts after bud grafting. I never has and have never attempted to take a motor cycle licence (even until now) as now we realised that riding motor cycles carry higher accident risk than other transportation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bas Loncat and Kereta Sapu

Besides the commuter bus (bas loncat) plying the roads taking passengers everywhere, there is the 'kereta sapu'. In London they call them 'mini cabs'. From Senaling, to go to Kuala Pilah town (the biggest place we ever know); there is the Eng Giap Bus Company, plying Senaling - Kuala Pilah route; and it costs 10 sen for a one way ride. We may also catch the bus from Tampin or from Dangi heading to Kuala Pilah. Besides the Eng Giap Bus, the Malay Transport Bus is also available, which ply the Kuala Pilah - Seri Menanti route (through Senaling); as there is another Seri Menanti route, through Tanjong Ipoh.

If you want to travel beyond Kuala Pilah, Southern Bus Company may take you to Seremban or Bahau. The route to Seremban is long, winding and treacherous - through Bukit Putus. Alas, it does not take more than one hour to reach and the fare was 35 sen one way. The famous Seremban - Kuala Lumpur route was then handled by Foh Hup bus company and the 65 sen one way takes a little more than 1 hour. As far as we are concern, we depended so much on the Eng Giap bus and the speciality school bus too. We purchase monthly school bus pass; for the right to ride on the bus (irrespective of it being a school bus or not).

There was once, Udin and me coming home from school, but there were no more buses. So we stopped a 'kereta sapu' that we know of. The cost from Kuala Pilah to Senaling was 20 sen a passenger; and school boys are normally charged 10 sen (the same as the bus). However, when we reached Senaling; Udin did not pay the driver; as he said that he had a 'bus pass'. I paid my 10 sen. Looking at the driver, who understood the 'not understanding', we smiled and walked away. That incident is still really clear in my mind. Today Udin (Awaludin Jadid) is a high ranking police officer, presently working in Sarawak!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ikan Rebus

I started cooking since I was 9 years old (Standard 3). Atuk and Nenek prefer to live on their own, since Kak Ngah has got young children to take care and handle at that time. They move to the house in the compound (about 30 metres away); the house that was rented by Pakcik Jamal; who owns a coffee shop at the Godong. His own house is in Ulu Pilah, which is far from Kampong Senaling. Atuk and Nenek taught me how to cook rice and other simple dishes, enough for us to eat lunch or dinner. This cooking is the conventional way of using firewood, blowing fire with bamboo and using pots and pans made of clay. I learned to measure enough water needed to cook rice, ensure that the fire is contained but still firing when it is nearing cooking. As told in other episodes, firewood need to be stocked up before we can start cooking.

Whenever there is an urgent need to eat and preparing other dishes to go along with the rice may take time to prepare; we would normally turn to 'ikan rebus'. These are boiled 'kembong' fish sold at the Godong (Kedai Asin, the fishmonger). They cost 10 sen each and 2 would be enough to feed 3 of us. Grab one 'ikan rebus' from the shop, run home and pour hot water over it - and it is ready to be served. Sometimes, we have them fried for better taste. You may also create other kinds of dishes by using the same 'ikan rebus'; which will involve onions, coconut milk, chilly and a host of other ingredients.

Nevertheless, 'ikan rebus' used to provide the easy way to have a good, urgent, immediate and hearty meal. I used to love them as it is salty, tasty, soft, cheap, easy to prepare and above all - delicious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cendawan Busut dan Cendawan Kukur

Whenever it rains late in the afternoon, my mind would always wonder to the sweet taste of Cendawan Busut (button mushroom); as the rain starts the sequence of an abundance of button mushroom sprouting on the small hills around the house. After the rain stops, in the evening there will be millions of 'kelkatu' in the house; attracted to the lights. We would place dishes of water under the light, as when the 'kelkatu' died due to the heat of the lamp, it will drop into the water dish. If it drop into the water by itself, it would not be able to fly out anymore. These two sequence will normally lead to lots of button mushroom tomorrow morning!

As dawn breaks, me and some friends will then scour the hilly area around our houses looking for these delicious button mushroom. When found, much as to our amazement, we collect them all. By shoving the button (above ground) we could then pull out the button mushroom from the hills. The stem is normally about 1 foot long. Pack them all and take it home for cooking. Kak Ngah normally made them into clear mushroom soup or sometimes into our favourite 'lemak cili api' dish.

Continuous rain also bring about Cendawan Kukur, especially on dead rubber trees fell (making way for replanting) in the rubber plantation. After working in the plantation, we would collect them Cendawan Kukur, take them home and cook them; again; normally into our favourite dish of 'lemak cili api'. These are but two mushrooms that we collect, eat and as far as I only knew. They are now hard to find and expensive, even from the local market. When we grow a little bit older, we then starts to know and eat 'abalone'!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cuts and Pokok Jepun Leaves

With the ease of 'search' on the Internet, it is now that I want to look back and search for the things that we did before, not knowing what we were doing then, except following the actions of our elders. One of them is the treatment of abrasion and cuts by 'Pokok Jepun' leaves. The Internet mentioned that the scientific name is "Eupatorium odoratum Linn" and locally known as 'Pokok Kapalterbang', 'Pokok Jepun' or 'Pokok Jerman'. This plant grows wild everywhere - near roadsides, bushes, on plantations and everywhere else.

There was once when we were bud grafting small rubber plants that Abah Rahman cuts his fingers with the small sharp pen knife that we used to do the job. Blood was fusing out of his fingers. As the owner of the plantation was there; and his house happen to be near the rubber plantation, he rushed home to get some cotton buds and some gentian violet to take care of the gushing blood from the finger. However it does not stop the gushing.

As I remembered then that the 'daun jepun' may be able to handle the bleeding; I immediately grab some young 'daun jepun' crumpled it on my palm with my thumb and then applied it to the wound. Immediately the bleeding stops; and Abah Rahman was very pleased with my action! I may not forget this kind of incidences, which actually happens many times before; however to us kampong folks it is considered normal to treat cuts, wound, and abrasion that way - especially to stop gushing blood oozing out of small cuts. That's the way it was.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shotgun Butts and Angsana Tree

Atuk Usop retired from the army; as I heard, he was an armourer, so he is very well versed with arms. Every 6 months, all shotguns holders must renew their license and this is usually done at the 'Balai Raya" next to the Sekolah Chung Hwa Senaling. As our house is on the way to the 'Balai Raya' almost everyone who wants to bring their shotgun to renew their license will stop at our house for Atuk Usop to check the guns to make sure that it is still in perfect and worthy condition to have the license renewed. He makes a few bucks here and there and he managed!

He used to have a workshop for repairing guns; all kinds of arms, but I normally see only shotguns (as most 'kampong' folks have only shotguns). He repairs them and oil them and attends to all problems relating to the guns, when they are brought in. He also makes butts himself, in order to replace those broken ones as required by his customers. Pak Cik Mazlan from 'Kampong Dioh' is the person who normally carve out the shotgun butts for Atuk Usop. Whenever any Angsana Tree is being trimmed or cut in the village centre, Atuk Usop would ask me to collect the big ones to bring them home.

According to him, Angsana Tree is the best wood to carve out shotgun butts. I would use my bicycle to bring home, one by one, the large pieces of Angsana Tree from the felling site. When Pak Cik Mazlan comes from Dioh, he will then start carving those butts; including the small wooden handle (under the gun barrel). I tried to learn the trade by failed, as it is a painstakingly delicate kind of work and meticulously detailed and smooth. The butts and the handle then will be applied the finishing varnish. Until now I can still recognise Angsana Tree every time I see one!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beano and Dandy

I am sometimes amazed by my own command of the English language! Maybe being from an English school from Standard 1 and exposures to lots of paper writings during work may have something to do with the command of my English. I have actually owed it all to BEANO and DANDY - for the good command of the English language. Now my English have but deteriorated and my grammar including spellings are not as good no more!

Dzul Hashim (now Dr) is one of the brilliant and clever student on our class. I always stopped by his house after school; which is across the school. He was the one who introduced me to the English comics of Beano and Dandy. After a while, I kind of like the stories in the comic books and I started to buy them; as it only costs 10 cents each then (cheap considering it came all the way from United Kingdom). It is addictive too, when you started reading Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx and other sequels in both the comic books. BEANO and DANDY is something that I stack-up and keep them; which can be re read over and over again the next time. It must be BEANO and DANDY that helped me improved and have a good command of the English language.

My Bahasa Malaysia was also good, being mother tongue and all; and I owe that to liking reading Malay story books. I finished reading all volumes of the "Kisah Seribu Satu Malam" with all the splendours and fantasies of the Arabian Nights!

Penilaian Standard 5

That was the year when the peperiksaan Penilaian Standard 5 was introduced. Apparently, the answers; which is a multiple choice, will be corrected by the computer; somethng big back then. So I went through the first ever Peperiksaan Penilaian Darjah 5 - and this was 1967.

My name had always been first in the list - according to the alphabet, even though there were altogether 3 Abdul Azizs' in my class (including me) - the other 2 are Abdul Aziz Shukor and Abdul Aziz Md Zain. It was also the first time that we came to know about such pencil called 2B; never knew that there are other kinds of pencil prior to this. Armed with 2 2B pencils and an eraser, we went through the first ever 'big' examination. There were altogether 4 papers. I only remember Bahasa Melayu and English. After a few weeks, the results were announced through the school.

What did I got? E C D C. I remembered the E was for Bahasa Melayu; and remembered very well about how Cikgu Rokiah taunted and teased me the whole day about how stupid I am getting an E for Bahasa Melayu. What can I say! I could not remember for what were the C, the D and the other C. Couldn't believe my eyes, by then during that time, nobody cares what I got anyway! But I did realised something, since my answer script was on top of the batch (name being first); it was like all crumpled up, maybe due to carelessness of the machine operators handling the answer scripts feeding them into the computers! I was guessing. The answer scripts were shown to us then; so my results could have been 'all wrong'! Anyway, can we go back to check or review on these answer scripts all the way back to 1967? There was no UPSR then. BUT I scored 'distinctions' for both my 'Bahasa Malaysia' subjects for LCE and MCE examinations (Best Student for Bahasa Malaysia at Cheras Road School) ?!?!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I was always the odd one out. When I was young, I was fairer; apparently since I had a Chinese mother. Had straight hair, as against wavy hair for most other friends and I was pampered by my Atuk Usop since I was small (so I was told). However, I lived with Abah Rahman's and Kak Ngah's Zainab family as long as I can remember. In between those times, I remembered staying with Atuk Usop and Nenek in the house next door (within the compound). Since I was 9 years old, I already started and know how to cook, wash and earn a living to earn my own money for school. Well ... that was then. So, as such I have been ... alone ... in Malay it is called "tunggal"!

Cik Lewe, the lady who live up the road, (have a daughter - Sabariah) always mention the word 'tunggal' over and over again whenever she comes by to the house. She suggested that I should be called 'ungga' meaning 'one' or 'alone' or 'its own', etc ... After suggesting it various times to us, it came to mind of the truths in her ideology. Since then, I started to be called 'ungga' by the younger brothers and sisters in the house. They are but the only people who called me by that name.

Until now, whenever we meet these brothers and sisters of Senaling (now men and ladies) still calls me 'ungga'!

Police and Thieves

This game is played as how it is in the real world. Just that this game does not go through the legal process, but straight to jail - when you are caught. There are two teams, the police team and the thieves team. The thieves first run away and hide; and obviously the police will go looking for them and catch them when they can. Once the thieves are caught, they are thrown straight into jail (a make shift area or about 20 sq ft normally in between trees). There will then be a few police overlooking at the thieves and the rest of the police will go looking for the rest of the thieves.

The thieves in jail can be released, as long as his other thieve friend can 'cap' him or touch him. One touch is all you need to release the thieve from jail. Until all thieves are caught, then only the team change position and vice versa. This game normally last longer and sometimes got too physical. Nevertheless, even the girls would also join in the fun.

We normally play this game in the evening, normally whenever there is a feast at the 'surau'; cos that will be the time when there will be many of us. The more people participate, the merrier it is. In between, when we got tired and hungry, we stopped and have some food (while at the feast) and at times, since the adults in the surau have more things to discuss or do, we will continue our game deep into the night. After a while, tired and hungry again, we go home to our beds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Straw Hats

When other boys started to do other interesting things in the village, we would normally become copycats and follow what others are doing; whether it is worth it or not. One that interest me was the making of straw hats. All you need is a few bundles of straws bought from the shop, skills to weave them and 60 cents to have them sewn together at one of the tailor.

With multi coloured straws bought from any shop at Godong (costs 20 cents a pack of approximate 50 straws), we take three of those straws and weave them; just like making pony tails with the hair. It is an addictive activity. After a few packs of straws, we would have then woven straws as long as 30 to 40 feet (woven from threes). Depending on how you arrange the colour scheme, that would denote on how your hat will look like. Once we have 'enough' straws woven, we will send it to one of the shop at Godong to have it sewn together to make it into a hat. I had like 3 made over a period of 1 month. It costs 60 cents to have it sewn into a hat and once done, we would proudly wear them on our heads.

We wear them to the padi fields, to the school fields and while riding our bicycles to school of to places where we normally play. We would compare with each others' straw hats and if you are not satisfied with the pattern that you got, you can always buy more straws with different colour combinations; have it weaved and sewn. After a while, the craziness just died off and those hats then sits and collect dusts somewhere in the house or in the barn!

Main Getah

As most other boys our age then, playing various game versions with rubber bands is one of the main game that we enjoyed. There are many versions of these rubber band games. I remembered Ena used to win a lot of these rubber bands and in order to keep it safe, he would put it in a closed can and bury the can in the ground around his house. He once showed me - digging it out from the ground and display his prowess of having lots and lots of rubber bands that he had won from games (including those played with us).

The easiest game is to throw them one by one as far as you could. Once the person who could cross the other rubber band (with a hole/space crossing), he will win and take all the rubber bands. This is repeated until your opponent loses all his rubber bands. The harder part is to flick it with your fingers; under the same ruling, once the player's rubber band is able to cross the rubber bands flicked on the ground, he wins them all. It could be a size able win if you play it this way. Another way it to place an equal amount of rubber bands on another rubber band placed between two stick from a distance. Whoever can knock off the rubber bands from those placed in between the stick will take it all.

Sometimes in order for the rubber bands to be knocked off from the placement area, we would take a lot of rubber bands and tie them (in a co joined patterned arrangement) to knock off. This can only be done when you already have a lot more rubber bands and is normally played as a higher skill level - not normally played by novices. No matter how other boys play them rubber bands, we have always enjoyed and only known the way we play them. Rubber bands then costs 10 cents for a palm full!

M6525 - The Morris Minor

Ulong Leman was always driving the white Volkswagen bearing registration number BH120 and as soon as Abah Rahman can afford to buy a car, he bought the Morris Minor (not Minor 1000) with registration M6525. It was a cream colour Morris Minor which normally takes us to far away places, like Seremban and Kuala Lumpur. The whole family would cramp into the car and off we go for trips to visits our relative in Kampong Datuk Keramat or to go to the airport to send Alang Udin to UK.

Most of the times, the gear would give way and Kak Ngah would normally have to hold the gear stick in position so that it would slip from the running gear. There was once when we were on the way to Kuala Lumpur; we heard creaking noise on the driving wheel handle. As soon as we passed Seremban, it was clear that the driving wheel cannot be turned anymore. Luckily as we always have been, a car workshop was just by the road side. We stopped, got it fixed (bolting back the lose nuts) and we were then on our way again.

We have always travelled to far away places in that car. I would enjoy the drive to Sungai Layang to purchase latex (at that time Abah Rahman was buying latex for MARDEC). As the family grew, the car can no longer take all of us and alas it was sold off. I cannot forget the times riding in that M6525 - even until today. And that's why I wrote this piece to remember those moments.

Main Konda Kondi

There are a lot of version of playing this game. Different states or different town boys have their own set of ways to enjoy them with a different set of rules that goes along with it. We have always known our own way of playing 'Konda Kondi'; whether it is that way or not. There will be two teams, the offensive and the defensive team. We would need two sticks, one to flick and fling; the other smaller one. The long one, about 2 to 3 feet and the smaller one is about 4 to 6 inches. A small longitudinal hole is dug in the ground to place the smaller stick to be flicked and flung by the longer stick.

The offensive player will flick and fling the smaller one as far as he could. The other defensive player will try to throw the stick (from where it landed) back to the hole where the longer stick is now placed over the hole. If it hits the stick, the offensive player is 'out'; but if the smaller stick landed across the longer stick, the whole team is 'out'. We earn points by counting the number of times the longer stick to be measured to the smaller stick just thrown back. If after three times, the opponent cannot touch or reach the longer stick placed over the hole, we have a bonus try - by placing the smaller stick into the hole; half jutting out. Hitting one end, making it airborne and hitting it as far as we could; then we count the number of times the longer stick can be placed in succession until the small just being hit stick.

I have seen some other children played it differently from some other parts of town. Nevertheless, we have always hold on to our way of playing; as the right way of playing 'Konda Kondi'. If the stick brings you luck, it would normally be kept for the next game and after a few winning streaks, the stick would become sacred; where it is secretly and properly kept and maintained; and used over and over again until it brings bad luck (losing the game). We learned to play by passing the skill down generations to generations. Do they still play 'Konda Kondi' like us still? I have no idea. My children doesn't!

Home Made Guitar and Harmonica

We have always wondered where does Ajih Baroh learn how to play the harmonica, but he blows it well on songs and we have always been mesmerised. It was the 'pop yeah yeah' time. He plays all the favourite songs very well. At the same time, he said he also plays the guitar! Since we cannot afford to buy a guitar, we decided to make one each - trying to make it as similar as the normal (unplugged) wooden guitar.

With a 10 inch wide plank, we carved out a guitar, trying to copy as close as the 'fender guitar'. When that is done, we nail in 6 nails (3 in each row) at the tip end of the guitar to take the strings. The base string holders will also be held by nails and underneath the strings we place a small strip of aluminium to ensure that it hangs out to produce sounds as similar as the original. The strings are made up of 'tali tangsi' or small wires that we can get hold of. Hey presto, we managed to proudly complete our 'home made' guitar in a few days.

Learning to play the guitar was the hard part. However, as Ajih Baroh is a natural 'artist' he plays the guitar as well as he blows the harmonica. As learning to play gets harder by the day, we end up listening to him playing it all the time. When he is tired to play the guitar, he will blow his harmonica. Again, we have always been mesmerised at how play Ajih Baroh can play the guitar and blow the harmonica. Until today, I have always wondered where had Ajih Baroh learned to play them both. That question is still not answered - when I meet him again, maybe I will asked him. Just spoke to him a few minutes ago! He got his own Insurance Agency in Ipoh.

Main Gasing

Top spinning is normally an 'East Coast Game' played by the adults - normally to be shown to the tourists; however we play them with smaller tops - like 10 cents each set (a top and a string to spin) from the Godong shop. Everyone will normally be equipped with a top, depending on how much money you have; it could be a small (a knuckle grab) or twice the size, which normally costs more. Even the 'nail' attached to the top make some differences. An 'axe shape nail (paku kapak)' will look 'brutal' and be scared of than the normal ones.

A circle is drawn on the ground. There will be two teams of 2 or 3 on each team. The defence team will have to place their tops in the circle and the spinner team will try to spin the top and knock out the tops in the circle. The main idea is to damage the top - either with a hole (made by the nail) or 'sumpik' which will cut and slit the top. Whoever can damage the other the most will be taken as the 'terror' ones. Sometimes it also depends on how long your top may spin; if there is still 'uwi' (still spinning) you may be regarded as a good top spinner.

Good top spinners may also show tricks on handling the spinning! One of it is to spin the top right of the string into your palm. If you could do that, you have mastered and graduated as a good 'terror' top spinner. We never knew the actual rules or the official way of top spinning; nevertheless, we have always played it our way - taught from other older boys brought down from generations to generations. When we get tired or when the game is over or when we are hungry, we go home!

Main Bola Rounders

When we played this game, we never knew that it is the equivalent of the great Baseball game played in the US. Nevertheless, we play it according to our way and our rules. There will be two teams made up of between 2 up to 10 per team (not rigid in the numbers); with a bat made up of any size able stick and a tennis ball to hit. Normally there will be 3 bases, arranged in a triangle set up.

One team to batter up and the other to defence. A bowler will bowl the ball over and the battering team will hit the ball as hard and as far as he or she could. The points are calculated by the number of runs a batter achieved - just like how they played in US Baseball. The bowler or the base wait will be out when the opponent 'cap' him with the ball or the base is compromised. Once all bowlers are out, we changed side; the defence team will then be battering. No matter how it is played in the US, we play according to our rules and our own 'bola rounders' way!

You win when you made more runs (including home runs) and when we feel tired, we stop. It is normally played with the boys, however sometimes girls may be included. Among others, Ena, Eno, Bojei, Ajih Baroh, Ajai, Abod, Ayang, Posah, Tipah, Abang Teh, Abang Dil and a host of other nearby friends we played with. When we feel tired or hungry, we stopped and go home for food. With Nintendo and other computer games available now, whether the 'kampong boys' still play this game; we wonder! Keep wondering - it is good for the mind.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Air Perigi - Well Water

The deep well in our house have always been there. It was dug when Atuk Usop built the house way back in the early 50s. I have always got water from the deep well everyday, either for bathing or washing. Since it is too deep, we have to use the wooden pulley with a pail attached to a rope to extract the water from the deep well. Collecting water from the well into the small water holding at the surface is a task not easily done and sometimes treacherous. Nevertheless, we have always got our water supply (for drinking, cooking or washing) from the deep well.

Pak Cik Amin (our neighbour across the street) plans to dig a well and have seek the help of the kampong folks to help him. First the village spiritual leader will seek to locate the best place to dig the well. He would place an egg on a saucer and place a sharp knife touching the egg. After chanting a few Koranic verses, if the eggs spins fast many times, then there must be lots of water underneath. And so the site was located and decided. The men then starts digging the well, working in rotation up to a few days, when we have then reached the desired fresh well water.

The rounded concrete walls are then lowered into the well by lowering it slowly from a few ropes held from the top by the few men. It may take up to 10 6 feet wide round concrete walls to complete the well. It has to juts out, as since it is a deep well, leaving it open would be dangerous for young children. Above it, the wooden pulley together with the pail and the rope to extract water is then installed. Leaving the water a few days to subside and for the fresh water to accumulate, the well will then be able to serve the family for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing for many years to come; or at least until tap water comes into the picture!

Mat Shah and Kak Ain

There were like 40 of us who went to learn to read and understand the Al Quran at the 'surau' in front of my house. The 'surau' is built in the compound of 'Pak Cik Amin's' house. Our religious teacher was 'Lebai Awal' who alone teaches us how to read the 'Muqaddam' and the Al Quran and at the same time teaches us how to pray.

One evening, coming out of the religious session, Ajih Baroh asked us to come with him into the dark, at the back of the 'surau'. Hiding behind some bushes, among the dark, we saw Mat Shah waiting. Then came Kak Ain. Like a leopard to its prey, Mat Shah jumped on Kak Ain and they started smothering each other with kisses and hugs and holding tight to each other like there do not want to be separated anymore. Surprised as I was, we kept on watching the love birds kissing, pecking, feeling, touching and smothering everything else with each other not realising that we were watching them.

Since they have but a few minutes; as they must be home by then (especially Kak Ain - as Abod and Ayang are waiting for her), the 'wayang' was over. As soon as they left, we came out of the bushes and smile as satisfaction of watching something that we should not know in the first place. Until today, I have never talked about it and we have never even said anything of the 'secret' that we saw. Wonder where is Kak Ain now? I know Mat Shah is still in Senaling.

Alang Udin and Kak Long Maznah

This is the first ever love story that I have ever known. Nothing serious, but exchanging of letters and glancing on the dark kind of love. Alang Udin was in Form V, in Tuanku Muhammad School, ultimate dream was to be a fighter pilot with TUDM.

One fine day, Alang Udin ask me to deliver a letter to Kak Long Maznah in Ulu Naling. Without knowing anything, I delivered the letter and hence start the love story. A few days after, Kak Long Maznah would then reply and the letter was once again passed through me; since Kak Long Maznah and me goes to religious school together. More letters changed hands thereafter and when it came to the knowledge of Kak Ngah Zainab; Alang Udin's elder sister, she was furious, however what can anyone do when hearts are in love, and so the love story continues, with me being the 'delivery boy'.

After a while, the love story kind of faltered. From frequent letters, it drops to one a week and thereafter it got no letters exchange no more. At last, came the 'dear john' letter and it was written in red ink. Alang Udin explain to me that ink colours in letters denotes expression of feelings. Then only I learned that red means 'hate' or 'I don't want you anymore' or 'anger'. So the letters stops and alas the love story ends. Then Kak Long Maznah was not her normal self and were sometimes hysterical (some people even thought she was crazy) - could the ending of the love has anything to do with it? Nobody knows!

Gomok - the School Bus Driver

The Eng Giap Bus that ply the Kuala Pilah - Senaling route also provides a special school bus to take us to and from school daily. The driver has always been 'Gomok'. He will pick us up from the village centre and takes us to school every morning; and takes us back from school in Kuala Pilah to Senaling in the afternoon (for the morning session) and repeats this for the afternoon session school children.

Those that stays further than Senaling, would normally takes the last bus to Tampin (a lot further than Senaling); which is normally timed as soon as the school finished in the late evening. There was once (the afternoon session); one of the child misses the Tampin bound bus and was crying as he would not have any other way of going back. Knowing this, Gomok makes sure that he got all Senaling bound school children passengers on the bus and speed to catch the Tampin bound bus. As he normally drops the children on the way, this time he doesn't! He sped all the way to make sure that he catches the Tampin bound bus; got the bus a few miles after Senaling and make sure the child gets on his Tampin bound bus.

On his way back, then only he started to drop the other school children one by one at their normal stops (but only on the way back to Kuala Pilah). He made sure that the boy got on the Tampin bound bus! What a kind hearted man to do such a thing; and this happens not only once, but several times. When we were in this situation, we would enjoy it as we get to stay on the bus longer than we normally would. But that deed done by the school bus driver, Gomok, something that I will never ever forget; not even until now!

First Day of School

Could not remember the date that I first enrol into Tunku Munawir School in Kuala Pilah in 1963. I was sent to school by Ulong Leman with Atuk Usop tagging along. I was placed in Standard 1C, my teacher was Mr Baskaran - a fierce looking state football player. My class was the end of the block next to the canteen. Of the first day, I carried my school bag, made of rattan with a long handle, for easiness of carrying them around; together with a bottle of tea (in a Green Spot bottle).

It was the day when some of classmate were crying their hearts out not to be left in school alone or the day when some of your classmates pee in the classroom. We were first taught to stand next to our tables and greet 'Good Morning Sir' to be done every time we come to school every morning. The second thing that I learned was how to ask permission to go to the toilet. We were made to memorise "Please Sir, may I go out?". Being scared and ashamed to ask, but feeling my kidney bloating and seeking courage to go to the toilet, I managed to utter those words to Mr Baskaran; and what a relieve.

By the end of the first day, we were all released from class - there was no such thing as security or 'who's picking you up' then. You finish school, you go home - find your own way. I walked out of the class, followed everybody else through the gate and out into the waiting buses, bicycles, motorcycles and cars. There at the end of the road, under the soft rain drizzling, I saw my Atuk Usop waiting for me with an umbrella covering him from the soft rain. We took the bus home.

Duman - The Coconut Tree Climber

Coconut trees in the village are mostly very high and matured. These trees were normally planted whenever a child is born. The coconut tree symbolises the age of child. However, no matter how high these coconut trees are, they still bear good fruits. Most of the fruits would normally riped and drop onto the ground, where we will then pick it up to eat (grate them to make coconut milk for cooking or to make cooking oil).

Every time anyone needs to bring down more coconut fruits; especially when we need the 'not-so-ripe' fruit or the young ones (for drinking), we have always relied on 'Pak Cik Duman' to get them on top of the tree for us. He would come, climb on the tree to the top, choose the fruits that we want him to pluck and drop them down to the ground for us to gather. The young ones must not be dropped, as if it dropped that high, it will break and the juice would pour out; 'Pak Cik Duman' would carefully bring them down with him - an act and skill nobody else have!

Whenever you need lots and more coconut fruits than you have, the person to call to get them coconuts has always been 'Pak Cik Duman'. After his work is done, you can either pay him some money for his effort or he may also be compensated with some coconut fruits that he would take home. I know of no other coconut tree climber as good and as skillful as 'Pak Cik Duman'.

Haji Maaya's Television Set

The late Haji Maaya was our next door neighbour who works at Kuala Pilah Hospital as a dresser. Being a senior staff with the hospital, he also has a staff house by the Hospital in Kuala Pilah town. He is known for his fabulous flower planting skills especially his orchids. Being well-to-do, he bought the 1st television set in the village and at the same time makes sure that the aerial are hoist high up so that the TV signals coming in to the TV would be sharp and clear. Being good neighbours, we always goes to the house and bother them, as and when we want to watch TV.

After school and if I am not doing any work, I would pop over to the house and request for the TV to be switched on and I would sometimes watch it alone; how unashamedly am I. Especially when there is Ultraman, Land of the Giants, Mission Impossible or other favourite series showing on TV. My escape to the world of tube movies and fantasies. Whenever there is a 'Malay Movie' showing on TV, the whole family would congregate to the house and watch the movie together with the family.

When things get around, more and more people would join us to watch the normally awaited 'Malay Movie' on the tube. Hassan (the house caretaker/gardener) would then go around within the crowd and collect 10 cents from each of us; except our family, which have the exclusive free right to watch his TV. It was black and white with only 2 channels available; but that was our 'new' entertainment then. Until we had our own TV, we kept going back to Haji Maaya's house day after day or night after night - what a good man he was - didn't realise that till now! He passed away many years ago.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Movie at the School Padang

As featured by LAT (the famous cartoonist) in newspapers and books, I was one of those that experience the movies at the school padang. In the late afternoon, the Kementerian Penerangan land rover will pass our house announcing through his loud speakers that there will be free movie at the school padang that night. The school in Senaling would be the Sekolah Kebangsaan Senaling in Bemban.

When the next Kementerian Penerangan van reaches the school padang, we boys and girls will gather there earlier to watch them set up the big screen, the projectors and the power source (normally from a generator). Before we go home for a bath and dinner (to go to the movies tonight), we would have already booked our space in front of the high large screen; but sometimes someone have to stand by at the space to make sure that nobody else claim it. When we come back for the movies that night, our premium spaces are assured.

Most of us will squat or sit on our mats or small chairs that we brought along. Most others will stand to watch the movies. Of course, in between movie, as depicted by LAT, there will be an announcements or statements for the village folks to hear and know direct from the Kementerian Penerangan. It is an excellent way of reaching to the village folks - for things that you want them to hear and know. But, we naughty boys, instead of watching the movies, have other exciting plans. With a torch lights in our hands, we would torch at the squatting girls and peek to their undies. Maybe a cheap thrill, but not to us; but that was then.

Spider Hunting

Besides the spiders that reside in our ceilings or places in the house or barns that we seldom walk into, the only other spider that I have known is the one that catch in the bushes, keep them in match boxes and sometimes make them fight each other.

These spiders are normally found in between leaves in the bushes. They can be found in plants which leaves are as big as our palms. When you see two leaves sticking to one another; and there is some web in between the leaves, surely there will always be a spider residing there. We would cut off both leaves, slowly open it up and capture the small spider. We put them spiders in match boxers normally together with small cuts of the leaves where they were captured. This is to make sure that they feel at home, even though they are in kept in match boxers.

We sometimes fight them, same principle as the fighting fish. They would open up their small fangs (just like crabs) and fight their hearts out. The ones that kept running away is the losing ones. The winner, as usual, will stand tall until his spider is beaten by another. Meanwhile, the spiders will live in the match boxers; with the green leaves that we have kept them with. At times they may just die away.

Trapping Birds with Sticky Tree Saps

Instead of using the bird cage to trap birds, besides trapping it with the snapping swing-up plant type, we also use sticky tree saps to trap. The prepared sticky tree sap is normally place around a stick and the stick is placed among the branches in the tree. When the bird land on the branch with the sticky tree sap, its feet will stick to the sticky tree sap and thus trapped the bird.

It needs special preparation and skills to prepare the combination of the sticky tree saps. We need some special made up ingredients (a few kinds of tree saps) to come up with the right sticky tree sap dough so that it is sticky enough to hold the birds, but not too sticky to our fingers (which needs to place the sticky tree sap on the stick). First of all, we need a small container and some lubricating oil (normally taken from motorcycle engine). We then walk into the bushes near the jungle to look for the various sticky tree saps. I can remember that there are about 5 kinds of tree saps to make the conducive sticky tree sap - to trap birds.

The specialist is 'Ajih Baroh'; together with 'Ajai', three of us would go from one tree (those identified) to another to cut the tree bark and extract the sap. I can only remember two of them. One is the traditional rubber tree and the other the 'Pokok Pulai' which has grown tall in "Pak Tam's" house. When we have them all, we mix them thoroughly and the end product is the sticky tree sap! Depending on the birds we caught trapped, either we slaughter, grilled them over small fire and eat them; or we would keep those birds in cages that we have built earlier.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fighting Fish

The other leisure interesting activity in the 'kampong' includes looking, catching and watching 'fighting fish' (Betta splendens) fights in small jars in the shack behind our house. Before we could enjoy the 'fighting ceremony' we must first find and catch the 'fighting fish'. Off we go to the padi fields, during off-planting-season) or at the creeks flowing gently in the vicinity of the padi fields.

To identify of the place where the fighting fish resides, you have to look for little small bubbles in small area in small (about 6 inches X 6 inches) water catchment areas in the padi fields or on the sides of the creeks. When we found the place, we would watch quietly and wait for the fighting fish to appear - sometimes it may take a good 20 minutes. As soon as we see the fighting fish, we would use both our palms to scoop the fish out (together with the water) and if we caught it, we would then place it in a small bottles. You must not mix them all together in one bottle; as they will fight each other (especially if they are both male).

After catching a few for each of us, we will then put each of them in different bottles and lay them in a row - admire them which are normally very colourful with large long tails. In between the bottles, we will have to place a small cardboard piece to make sure that they do not see each other. When it is time to make them fight, we will place them in the same bottle and watch them fight each other, until one is hurt - that it would settle to the bottom motionless.

Whichever fish won, the 'owner' will stand proud until the next time his fighting fish is beaten. Now it is commercialised that they are sold in "Aquarium Shops" and expensive too! Back then, we just search the bubbles, wait, scoop, admire and fight them till they die.

Ajih Baroh and Cikgu Rahman

'Ajih Baroh' lives across my house, as he leaves on the 'baroh' part of the main trunk road. I live on the 'darat' part; and as such I have always been called 'Ajih Darek'. He goes to Sekolah Kebangsaan Senaling in Bemban. Cikgu Rahman was then the fierce senior assistant at the primary school. That particular year, Cikgu Rahman married Cikgu Azizah with all the splendours of a ceremony.

Ajih Baroh apparently have been talking about their marriage - including the made-up stories of night time adventures that married couples go through. Somehow or rather, the news reached Cikgu Rahman's ears. As angry as he was, he came to Ajih Baroh's house with a 'large' cane about 3 feet long. Went straight to look for him, corner him in his house and being as stern as he is, caned and pokes into Ajih Baroh's mouth. I could hear him screaming his brains out, but being an elder and a respected person - and it was 'during those times', Cikgu Rahman give him his all.

When it is all done; together with the lectures and advised while the cane whipped Ajih Baroh's cheek and mouth, Cikgu Rahman left with a satisfaction that he had taught a 'boy' the need to not 'talk bad behind' or face the consequences. I remembered seeing Ajih Baroh crying the whole day, still in pain from the whipping and poking of his mouth. His cheek was all black and blue with glaring marks on both sides of the mouth. 'During those times' there was nothing anybody would do; but the guardians actually sided the Cikgu or the then elders with authority.

Now! It would be a different story - flashing on the front page of all major newspapers. Where are you, Hashim Abdul Latif?

Pokok Ketapang and Senduduk

Atok Usop has this liking to plant "Pokok Ketapang" (Indian Almond Leaves) in the house compound (laman rumah). It provides a lot of shades from the sun. There were always a few Ketapang Tree in the house. However, the leaves do drop and shred more often than others; and as such it leaves more leave rubbish on the ground - and it has to be cleared / cleaned up every time. We have to sweep the grounds where the Ketapang Tree lives; usually more often than not. The broom wear faster than it should as it it used more often to clear the 'ketapang' leaves.

Atok Usop provides us with the solution. Off we went to the bushes near the road sides or near padi fields to look for "Pokok Senduduk" (Melastoma malabathricum. Common name : Straits Rhododendron). We will look for a few shrubs of this almost up to 2 metres, cut it off at the roots base and shred all the leaves. Tie a few of the 'senduduk plant' together -v and hey presto it is now a large broom. Since the branches and twigs are tough, it makes good sweeping of the grass less compound, especially the 'ketapang' leaves!

The 'senduduk' have always been used for medicinal purposes : For piles : Use roots of the shrub; cut the roots into small pieces; boil the cut roots with a pot of water until 1/3 of a pot; drink the concoction; take about 3 times a week; should see some result and continue until cure. For high blood pressure and diabetes : Eat the young shoot as 'ulam'; For other uses : Lady's white discharge; herbal bath and diarrhea. Its distinguish features : Attractive purple flowers and dark purplish edible fruit.

We have always used the 'senduduk' plants to replace expensive brooms - to sweep our house compound. However, if you eat the 'senduduk' fruits, you will have purple tongue and lips for the whole day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Detention Class

There was this one prefect, a from 3 fierce no nonsense short very unfriendly prefect; his name was, Haridas, I think. Most students are worried of being picked by this particular prefect, for he has no mercy and would not listen to any of your explanation to get off from whatever wrong he 'thought' that you have done. At that time the rule was - nobody should ride their bicycle in the school compound. Some friends and me were pushing the bicycle along the school building; and at one point we stopped. All of us got on the seat, just to rest our butts on the bicycles. Out of nowhere, came this Haridas and took all our names down - offence - riding the bicycle in the school compound. Much as we tried to explain to him, he just walked away.

So, the whole group (5 or us) were sent for 'detention class' which was held the next Saturday. The detention class was managed by the prefects, the head was then David. We were asked to do silly things on the field, run here, run there. Came back to the building, clean this, clean that and a host of other silly things that we have to go through, as the sentence to the offence and being sent to detention class. At the end of the session; which was for about 4 hours; our names were called one by one. And all our names (the 5 of us) were not in the list. Nevertheless, the detention class have already been served.

Since our names were not in the list the last week, we had to undergo the detention class again the next week. During that time, nobody would listen to your appeal, neither would they be compassion enough to listen to you. The prefects were king then; and that's why Haridas acted the way he was then! All 5 of us had to go through the detention class again the next week, albeit not that much work forced on us; since some prefects (who happened to have compassion then) knew that we had undergone the same thing last week.

Jerat Burung Wak Wak (Trapping Padi Birds)

There are a lot of birds in the padi field. Most birds would feed on the padi. We were particularly interested in the long legged brown bird which is normally found near waters, like the padi fields. We would used small stones on elastics to shoot at those birds; which is normally a far cry from hitting any. Our best choice to catch these birds is to trap them. These birds would normally walk on the edges of the padi fields and fly off whenever danger approach them. We would then try to identify on the normal walking tracks of these birds, so that we could lay our traps.

The traps are made up of strings to catch the birds; normally attached to the end of the pole; the pole of which are bent down to lay the trap on the ground. When the birds walked over it, it will trigger the 'catch' and by normal nature's way, will stretched back the pole into position or kick back to it's original position and thus will trap the bird's leg within the string attached to the pole.The poles could be small trees from shrubs growing on the sides of the padi fields.

Normally we do not catch any; but when we catch one or two of these 'wak wak' birds, we would slaughter them, take their feathers off; and with some salt cooked them over a small fire. Since they are normally 3 or 4 of us, we share to eat what we catch. Sometimes, while fishing we would lay the traps and check on it once in a while. Never know what the actual name are these birds, but they sure are tasty; grilled with some salt over s small fire!

Football Team Selection

Being big sized, athletic and tall, it was my dream to play football for my school. When we were in Standard 6, our Class Teacher was Mr Chen Chee Ting. The football team was taken care of by Mr Baskaran; during that time, he played for the Negri Sembilan State football team. He was my Class Teacher when I was in Standard 1. Early in the year, the football team will be selected; mostly from the senior boys who are already in Standard 6 as they are taller and bigger. All those interested to play for the school are requested to line up and kick the ball into the goal. Affendy was already selected as the goal keeper. Didn't know why or how!

I lined up with the rest of my friends, hoping madly to get selected into the football team; as it was my dream; but so was everyone else's anyway. When my turn came to kick the ball into the goal, I miskicked the ball; the ball just rolled down the field into Affendy's hand; and thus I was waved away by Mr Baskaran as I do not have the quality to be a footballer. Adamant and eager as I am to join the team, I lined up once again to get another chance to show that I 'can' kick the ball and have the quality to become a footballer.

During my 2nd attempt, hard as I could I kicked the ball; right smack at the right place; whoosh it went towards the goal; alas also into Affendy's hand. But I was waved into the selected boys. There were 20 of us. As Mr Baskaran was a state football player, he knows and practice his football knowledge well. We were trained hard and followed the proper football training method. It pays off; for that year, our school team; Tunku Munawir School managed to go to the Kuala Pilah District Football Tournament final which was held at the Kuala Pilah Padang. We lost 2-0 to Sekolah Kebangsaan Serting Hilir; all because they have 2 huge tall players; 1 centre forward and 1 centre half! But I played in the school team!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cinta Monyet (Puppy Love)

Up to the age of 12, I was already involved with 3 girls. Most of the girls from the village went to Sekolah Kebangsaan Senaling, (situated on the way to Bemban, after the 'Balai Raya') the only school in the village. However, I went to Tunku Munawir School, an English school in Kuala Pilah (4 km away from home). As such I hardly mix with them during school, but only during 'religious classes' in the evenings.

During religious classes at the 'surau', my friends paired me with Mariah Maulud - just for the sake of pairing only. It all started from small teases and grew into 'your girlfriend' - 'my girlfriend' thingy! No love letters exchange, no sweaty palms, no hand holdings; just pure glancing in the dark thing! We never sit and talk either, however the love blooms much much later. When I was in college and she was in her nursing college in Johor, we used to exchange letters and would talk on the telephone sometimes. Thereafter, we went our separate ways. She passed away a few years ago. The other girl that I was paired with was Rosnah Jadid. But to her, our relationship was just pure talk and glancing in the dark.

The other girl that I was associated with was Iyang. I never knew her real name and have actually never met her before. While riding our bicycles to Ulu Senaling, we sometimes waved at the girls across the 'padi' fields. This one particular slim girl used to wave back and smile more towards me; and as such the boys paired me with her and started teasing about our relationship (which we never had). Met her many years later (thought it was her), walking down the road to the village centre with her husband. We smiled at each other and acknowledged our 'past relationship' and then walk on!

What loving relationships we have in the 'kampong'. At the age of 13, I moved to live with my parents in Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pergi Kuala Lipis (Kuala Lipis Trip)

With the money Atuk Usop won from the Lottery, he wanted to visit his relative in Kuala Lipis. The trip from Senaling to Kuala Lipis is expected to take 1 whole day. Atuk Usop hired Pakcik Abok's taxi for 3 days and off we went. The other car is Ulong Leman's white Volkwagen - BH120. The whole family cramped into these 2 cars and we left one very early in the morning. Ina (the eldest of Abah Rahman's) was the 'selalu mabok' one and at every few miles, we have to stop for her to puke by the road side. The plan was to spent the whole of the 2nd day in Kuala Lipis and return home to Senaling on the 3rd day.

We detoured to Fraser's Hill on the way up. We had lunch on the way. The temperature at Fraser's Hill was still cool then. We even drink water from the cool spring water coming out of the hills. It was a long trip; the road from Bentong to Kuala Lipis was still not tarred yet. We had to go along this muddy brown road. Nevertheless, we reach Kuala Lipis late that evening. The house was behind the Kuala Lipis mosque, next to the Pahang River. There were a lot of floating houses; tied to the banks of the river. It was the first time I saw these houses. I do not know if these houses still exists now. We, young boys went swimming by the river's edge and spent the whole of the next day in Kuala Lipis.

We left for home the third day, of which the trip takes us another whole day. Chugging along the muddy Kuala Lipis-Bentong road, we made it home that late evening. Atuk Usop was very happy with the trip; since he had not seen his relative (I do not know how was he related); for a very long time. That was the longest trip I had ever made in a car for many years!

Penyanyi Pujaan Minggu Ini (Weekly Top Songs)

In the 1960s during the height of the 'Pop Yeah Yeah' era, we have always followed the top songs on the radio. We have this small radio at home and the Weekly top songs are aired at noon every Sunday. By 12:00 noon, we will all gather around the radio to hear what will be the top song of the week. It was during the A Rahman Hassan, Jefridin, A Ramli, SM Salim, Siglap Five, Rythm Boys, Afida S, Fatimah M Amin, Rafeah Buang, Ahmad Jais, Ahmad Daud and the rest of the 'Pop Yeah Yeah' singers' era. Most of these singers were from Singapore. Most of them have since migrated to Malaysia and lived here.

While listening to the program, we will predict of who would be top this week. Each one had their own favourite. However, as the program progress along to the top, we would know by then which singer and song would be top that week. Around the small radio, live was enchanting and the excitement was awesome. Sometimes, we have tea or coffee with tapioca with sugar coconut or other 'kueh' to accompany us along the program; which is for one hour.

Now those songs are oldies. Nevertheless, you still hear them on the radio, especially on 'Klassik Nasional'. You may now download the old 'Pop Yeah Yeah' songs on the 'file sharing' program.

Atok Usop Kena Loteri (Granpa Usop Strike Lottery)

In order to raise money to fund the expenses for maintaining community services in the country, the Government Department responsible for the community used to organise monthly nationwide Lottery draws. The lottery tickets were sold at RM1.00 each and the 1st prize was RM300,000.00 then; drawn monthly. My grandfather used to buy those lottery tickets, hoping to strike it and be an instant rich man. At that time, his pension was RM87.78 per month. He normally spent RM10.00 per month for lottery. The results are published in the newspapers the day after the draw.

One afternoon, he requested me to go to the shop to purchase newspapers as the lottery draw was yesterday. He wants to check if he would be lucky this time around. Took the money and off I went. On the way to the shop, I prayed that he would strike this time, since he had tried so many times before. Since I did not know any praying words then, while walking to the shop, I replicate the daily praying ways from 'takbiratulihram' until 'salaam', chanting in my heart all the 'ayats' and the complete praying procedure including the 'rukuk' and the 'sujuds'. By the time I reached the new stand, I have completed the whole praying procedure for 4 'rakaats'.

What did you know, he strike RM10,000.00! He took it calmly and only smiled. I did not know whether my replicating the praying helped him win the lottery or not. I have never told a soul about it; until now! Winnings can be picked up from any Bank in town. We went to UMBC, Kuala Pilah with a small bag to stash the money and a small 'parang' in the bag; in case of any trouble. However, we were only allowed RM1,000.00 to claim first and the rest have to be claimed when the winning Lottery ticket have been claimed from the Lottery organiser.

It was with that winning money; we went to visit his long lost relative to Kuala Lipis (that's another story) and he also bought the small rubber plantation in Bemban for RM3,750.00 from Haji Habib's father. The rubber plantation where I learned to replant, bud graft, tap and earn money from. The rubber plantation was given to my Kak Ngah Zainab and it is still there!

Ulong Bakar (Buta)

There is this blind man, we called him Ulong Bakar Buto (I never knew his real name), who lives with Pak Teh Amin across the house where I lived. He is blind, but independent, cooks himself, bathe (from the deep well) and pray on his own; even going to the shop; which is about 500 metres away - on his own; using his cane for guide. Everybody knows him and I often visit him!

He was trained by the Welfare Department to make rattan products. He was good with it. The rattan materials were supplied by the Welfare Department and all finished goods done by him are also bought back by the Welfare Department for sale. Mostly he makes 'pungkis' and other small rattan products (which is now very very expensive). Every time whenever there is a delivery of his rattan materials, we will all pitch in to help carry the goods into his house and stock it up and arranged for him so that he knows where to get it from. We will also be available to help him carry all the finished goods from his house to the truck that comes to collect them. With that trade, he earned a decent living independently.

Someone arranged for his marriage one day; to a divorcee in Ulu Senaling. It was a simple ceremony, but a joyous one for him; as someone is now at hand to assist him. They never bear any children, but they lived a good and comfortable life. They lived happily ever after until his death; at a young age, a few years later.

Kena Demam Malaria (I got Malaria)

We normally sleep with mosquito net protecting us from the notorious mosquito. Sometimes, as lazy as can be, I do not use the mosquito nets. This must be the time when the malaria infested mosquito bitten me and I got malaria. You feel cold and then hot and you sweat all over. Even with thick blankets, you cannot contain the cold feeling. I got admitted to the Kuala Pilah General Hospital. I was in Standard 6.

I was admitted for 6 days. At that time, I hated medicine, especially the tablets. But being in hospital, I am forced to take them. I remembered asking the nurse to leave the tablets behind with the water to consume it with. After the nurse is gone, I remembered asking the man who was in the next bed to help me consume the tablets. I would lie down on the bed with my mouth opened. He would then placed the tablet in my mouth and then pour water into my mouth to help consume the table. One by one I ate them all. I still carry that phobia of not liking tablets until my teenage years; where we will all learn that it is easy and okay to eat tablet medicine.

Lying in hospital and missing school was a guilt that I could not stand. I have never missed a day of school, but this time I have to miss a week of school. It was scary going back to school; as I would have expected the teacher to scold me for not turning up in school; even thought I had malaria. I didn't know then that being absent from school as I was admitted to hospital; was okay. I got cured and when back to school. I was asked by the teacher (Mr Chen Chee Ting) to tell the class of my experience of being infected with malaria and being admitted to hospital for 6 days.

Tanam Sayur (Vegetable Planting)

After MCE, while waiting for the results, I was buying latex from the smallholders at the 'Rancangan Tanah Pinggir' in Ulu Senaling with Abah Rahman. It is normally done by the afternoon. As soon as lunch is taken, I embark on vegetable planting at the area by the side of the house. Using basic tools and bare hands, I prepared the planting beds for my vegetables. I started with the easiest of them all - tapioca!

Happily seeing it grown and after we started eating the young leaves and harvesting the tapioca, I embark on planting more vegetables. Prepared the planting beds and sowed beans, 'petola', groundnuts, sugar cane, peria and all other vegetables; seeds of which I could buy from the market in Kuala Pilah. As the days passed, there were rows and rows of planting beds planted with vegetables. For the creepy crawlies, I used small branches and twigs for the plant to grow up and climb on.

For manure, we used natural manure made of lamb shit, goat shit and chicken poo. Mixed it all up with water in a big pail, stir them thoroughly and pour them over the seedlings or the plants for their food and chemical supplies. I would visit the neighbour's lamb and sheep barns and chicken houses to collect the shit and the poo. Every morning, the vegetables have to be watered and occasionally manured. They grow and produces much for us to consume. At times when there are extras, we would send and 'sadaqah' them to our neighbours or for occasional people who comes to house.

At one time, one of our relative who was a Lecturer with UPM; came to the house. He commended me for my effort in planting and taking good care of the vegetables; which was economically good for the family. I still hold that interest until now!

Alang Udin and his Saddleking Jeans

Long before Lee, LEVIS and the rest of the designer pants came to Malaysia, I only knew this 'expensive' pants called Saddleking. Alang Udin (Shaharuddin) was in Form 5 (1967) at that time and like all other youngsters now, he craved and wishes to wear this 'Saddleking Jeans'. He took up the job of clearing people's rubber plantation from bushes and other unwanted growings in the plantation. If I can remember, he got paid like RM5.00 for a day's job. Meanwhile, he talks about buying this 'Saddleking Jeans' all the time.

We he have enough money, he ordered by mail, the small patterned LEE scarf. Saw him used it all the time and when not using he would slip it behind his pants, ensuring that it protrudes out so that others may see his LEE scarf. It costs him RM5.00 for it, then. As soon as he did more clearing jobs and as soon as he have enough money, he ordered his 'Saddleking Jeans'. As proud as he can be, when it arrived, he wore his priced possession almost everyday. This tight, hugging 'Saddleking Jeans' was something that awed everyone looking at it.

That was the only designer jeans; tight, hugging Saddleking; that I know of then. Of course, thereafter came LEVIS, AMCO, LEE, VERSACHE, DIOR and everything else.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pungut Kayu Api (Collecting Firewood)

Before cooking gas and electricity were introduced (ever known) to the 'Kampong folks', we cook everything with fire burnt from wood. The best and mostly available firewood are dead rubber tree branches that fell to the ground. Since we cook everyday, firewood must be available at all times. I was all the times requested to go 'collect' these firewood. Every week or so, with a small 'parang' in hand we will take a walk into the rubber plantation to look for firewood.

Our 'favourite' place to look for firewood was in Ulu Senaling, behind Pakcik Maulud's house; as she has 2 beautiful sweet daughters; Kak Long and Mariah; that we may be able to have a glimpse of. Every young boys are after this bombshell, long hair, fair, sweet and cool Mariah Maulud. Nevertheless, while collecting firewood, our eyes would wander to her house, just to have a glimpse of her at her windows; which most times, we were disappointed. She passed away in 2005, so I was told - may Allah swt bless her soul. These firewood are cut into 6 feet length and tied together with small rattans found in the rubber plantation. Collecting enough, we carry it home on our shoulders.

At times, we found 'damar' in the rubber plantation. 'Damar' is soft stones normally used as fire starters. Whenever we find 'damar' lying around, we will pack them into small bags and carry them home together with the firewood. I would normally go and look for firewood with my two neighbour friends (they are brothers); Ajih Baroh (Hashim Latif) and Ajai (Zainuddin Latif). Wonder where they are now!

Gula Enau (Brown Palm Sugar)

Gula Enau (brown palm sugar) is now a rare delicacy which may be difficult to find. You may still find them in shops in small villages or in small huts along the road out of town. It is round about 1 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter, normally packed in sixes in palm leaves (1 kabong). This sugar is normally used to make sweet dessert gravy made of bananas, tapioca, glutinous rice, jack fruit or green beans.

I used to follow Pakcik Maulud to the padi fields looking for matured palm trees so he could extract the palm tree juice (air nira); which is very very sweet. It is collected in long bamboo casings hang under the palm leave branch. These 'air nira' will then be collected in a container, enough for it to be taken back to be cooked into "gula enau". The 'air nira' is cooked in a big wok over continuous wood fire. It must be continuously stirred so that it would not get crumpled or moulded or get stuck to the wok. After a few hours, the 'air nira' will turn brown in bubbles. As it get concentrated further, it is now ready to be placed in 'gula enau' moulds. 2 inch in diameter and 1 inch thick. After it is cooled and dried, it is then placed on top of each other for packing into palm leaves casings of 6 packs each.

'Gula enau' is still available now and it is a delicacy as it is juicier and 'sweeter' to use as sweeteners in dessert gravy than normal table sugar. There are still 'Kampong folks' that would still go to the padi fields or into the jungle to collect 'air nira' and turn them into "gula enau". I used to help collect these 'air nira' and also helped make "gula enau". For helping, we are normally rewarded with some spoonful of 'air nira' and the crumbs of "gula enau" from the wok; which is a joy to sip and eat.

Pacat & Lintah (Leeches)

To my knowledge, there are 2 kinds of leeches in this world. One small brown one and one bigger black one. The smaller one "pacat", brown in colour, about 1 inch in length is found in the bushes or in the jungle - sways from point to point on land. Whilst the bigger "lintah", black in colour, about 2 to 3 inches long are normally found in the padi fields - swims in the water.

Whenever I go through the jungle on the way to the rubber plantations either to clear the area or to bud graft those young rubber trees, I am normally equipped, among other normal things; with a handful of tobacco. It is not for smoking, but to wipe it on your legs to avoid the small leeches (pacat) to climb on you and suck your blood. Nevertheless, these pacat are not dangerous neither they would harm you. If it does climb and suck on your legs, you can just pull it away and throw it back into the bushes. However, you will feel itchy at the place where it clawed and sucked your blood.

The bigger leech (lintah) normally black in colour is found in the padi fields. Whenever we are ploughing or weeding the padi fields, we may be clawed and blood sucked from your legs. It would cling and after it is full it will just drop off. The trick to take it off is to use your saliva on your fingers and apply it to where it is clinging to you. With the saliva between your fingers, applying it to the leech (lintah), it may just let go your feet. These bigger black leech is also not dangerous, however, like the smaller leech (lintah), it will make your leg feel itchy, where it bite.

Now we have 'folks who rear leeches' (the bigger black ones), where it is sold to medical practitioners to be used to suck out the 'dirty blood' from you. Kampong folks are so used to these 2 kinds of leeches (pacat & lintah) that it has become a way of life we are used to whenever we go to the jungle or to the padi fields to do our normal daily chores.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Buat Emping (Making Rice Flakes)

When the padi plants start to bear grain, the entire field will look greenish yellow; as the grains are turning yellow at the start of the ripening process. Acres and acres of them - you can see them as far as your eyes can wander. Before the grains start to ripen, we would sometimes make 'emping' (rice flakes) from the 'almost ripe' padi grains. With a small knife in the palm of our hand, we choose and clip the 'almost ripe' padi grains. Put them all together in a container and take them home for the adventure tonight.

As arranged, there will be a small gathering of the neighbours and close relatives at a house, which is normally part of a large compound. The adventure is to make 'emping'. A 'lesong kayu' (wooden pounder) is necessary to make the 'emping'. The 'almost ripe' padi grain will be heated in a frying pan (without any oil) over a small fire, to ensure that when it is pounded, the husk will be separated from the flakes. From the frying pan the heated padi grain is poured directly into the wooden pounder. Two or three people will pound on the grain (for a minute or two) turning them into rice flakes. This cycle continues until all the 'almost ripe' padi grain is all finished. The pounded lot is then taken out of the pounder into a 'nyiru' (flat container made of rattan - about 2 feet in diameter) and someone will juggle the 'nyiru' into the air, the lighter husk flying-off into the air leaving the heavier 'emping' in the 'nyiru'. This is done to separate the husk from the 'emping'. The 'emping' is then collected and kept in a container.

When all is done, everyone will get together over hot tea while enjoying the 'emping'. The 'emping' is normally served by mixing it with brown sugar and grated coconut, with a pinch of salt. The 'emping' is a little bit rougher and harder to chew; as compared to present modern flakes, like corn flakes. Nevertheless, for people who live in the 'kampong'; frying, pounding and making, and eating, 'emping' together during the evening is an adventure that is never forgotten.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Main Layang-Layang (Kite Flying)

Among all the many games that we play in the 'kampong', kite flying is one of those enjoyable one done together. We need the equipment to fly kites. We buy simple paper kites from the shop in the village. They cost RM0.10 sen each. You also need strings to fly the kite. Either you buy the thread from the shop or you just 'use' the ones that you can find in the sewing machine at home! The thread is rolled onto a milk can. You must first balance your kite, in order for it to fly and stay on course, not diving left or right. We cut old newspapers; cut them into 1 inch width long streaks (2 feet) and attached them to the right and left edge of the kite.

Tying the kite at an angle on the main backbone, we hold the kite up after we have attached the newspaper streaks to each sides. The kite must balance; if not we have to add or deduct the amount of newspaper streaks from either sides. Once it is 'balanced' and attached to the threads (strings), the kite is now ready to be airborne. With friends who have one each; balanced and threaded kite, we go to the 'padi fields' to fly our kites. There are no trees nor bushes to be a hindrance to our kite flying. There are a lot more 'winds' in the open 'padi fields' anyway.

When we get tired running and enjoying ourselves in the 'padi fields' flying our kites, we would normally go to this particular 'island' in the 'padi fields' to rest, drink some water or take a nap. We would spend hours out in the hot sun flying our kites; going back only when it is getting dark.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I Ran Away (the 3rd Time)

After the MCE results were announced, I did applied to further my studies. I applied to ITM, UTM and UPM. I got an interview to do Diploma in Architecture in ITM and I was accepted to be on reserved list for UTM. Never got to enter either of the colleges. The next best alternative; and as I have to help support my other sisters and brother who are still schooling, I had to go to work. I worked in Ministry of Education as a temporary Coding Clerk, in Sri Jaya Bus Company as an Accounts Clerk and lastly achieved my dream of working in the Bank. I spent 1 week working in Banque de L'Indochine et de Suez Indosuez before I took the job in Malayan Banking. My father was a 'Special Branch' still with the Police Force.

Even though I was already working, the years then was the times when drugs menace were first introduced; I was subject to 'spread eagle' whenever I came home from work. At most times, I purposely spent my evenings in the office so as to avoid being 'searched' when I came home. Planning an escape, I requested for a transfer to Sea Park Branch. Got the transfer and left home. My mother, knowing I was leaving home again was visibly very upset on my action. I ran away again! Shared a house with some friends in SS2 (near my office) and lived there a few months before I went to ITM to further my studies - on my own. Even though I had ran away from home, my father was always seen around me (purposely making sure I noticed him), but not meeting me. I would see him walking passed by me as if he just happened to be there!

Shared a room with Najib (passed away), sharing the house together with Ibrahim, Fajariah, Jay and her sister Maliah (passed away) and Hasmah (who married Joe Tore). Lived a bachelor's life without a worry in the world. It was at No. 55 Jalan SS 2/10. This was in 1977. It was while working in Sea Park Branch that I managed to get Malayan Banking's scholarship to further my studies at ITM Shah Alam (I had to go through some problems getting the scholarship). Nevertheless, from the rented house In SS2, I moved to the Hostel in ITM Shah Alam on my own, without my family knowing that I have left work and studying.

I Ran Away (2nd of 3 times)

After the LCE results were announced we were preparing to move to our own house in Taynton View, Cheras. So I have to move school again. Even though we are only moving to the new house in June or July, I was transferred to the new school, Sekolah Jalan Cheras, earlier, so as not to disrupt my schooling. At first, we take the bus to school. I have to changed bus at the Pudu station which is right behind the Pudu Market. After a while, I got enough money and bought a bicycle and started cycling to and from school everyday. It was approximately 12 kilometres one way. A few months later we moved to our own house in Taynton View, Cheras. Our house was No. 52 Jalan Dato Haji Harun, Taynton View. I studied for Form 4 and Form 5 and did my Malaysian Certificate Education (MCE) exam at the school.

Even though after spending 4 years with my parents and my other siblings, I still could not get used to the 'new life'. My craving to go back to my village continues. During school holidays, with RM3.00 in my pocket, I traveled back to Kampong Senaling to spent the holidays. After the MCE exams, I decided to 'run away' again; back to my 'home'. With my little belongings, I left Kuala Lumpur for Kampong Senaling; again! This is also the time my Atuk Usop will be performing his Haj anyway and as such I should be there!

Back to my old ways of doing 'kampong jobs', my life bloomed. This time around I was involved with Abah Rahman to buy liquid latex for MARDEC and besides doing other 'village jobs' I started a small vegetable plot next to the house. I started planting 'ubi kayu' and then 'ketola' and 'kacang buncis'. Little by litte I expanded my plot planting more varieties of vegetables including ground nuts. I would fertilise them with chicken and sheep shit mixed with water. No other fertilisers were used, except those 'natural fertilisers' that I collected from neighbouring folk's houses.

On the day of my Atuk Usop's return from his pilgrimage, I followed the family to Port Klang to receive him. By ship was the only way to go to Makkah then; which takes approximately 30 days one way. Nevertheless, he arrived home safe and sound. As it is nearing schooling days again, I had to go back to my parents house. As if it was perfect timing, the MCE results were announced the next day. I got a Grade II with 33 aggregate. A lot of other classmates got Grade IV (even though you scored in other subjects), as it was the first time the subject 'Bahasa Malaysia' became a compulsory subject in order to pass MCE exam and for calculation of aggregates.

Even though I disliked the idea, I was back staying at home again in Taynton View, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

I Ran Away (1st of 3 times)

Right after Form 1 at TMS Kuala Pilah, in January 1969, I was moved to my parents house in the Police Quarters in Jalam Aman (the quarters still stand until today). Our house address was 3945-8, Barrack Polis Jalan Aman. I was enrolled at nearest school, Ampang Road Boys School, which is approximately 1 km from the house. We walk to school everyday with RM0.10 sen in the pocket. I enrolled in Form 2 and also finished Form 3 at the school. Took my Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) examination there. A teenager going through a new ways, with new environment - an entirely new life to live. Getting used to living with my parents for the first time was tough, real tough. And I could not get used to it!

After the LCE exam I decided to go back to Kampong Senaling to spent my year end holidays there. My mother was not agreeable to the arrangements, however as I was adamant on going back to my roots, she relented. I was 'running away' from the new unused life. Got RM3.00 for bus fares, caught the 'bas loncat' and headed for 'home'!

I went back to my old 'kampong jobs' - bud grafting rubber trees, collecting scrapped rubber, clearing rubber plantation, serving the padi fields, and done other tasks when required. Not much money earned, but I managed by fine. Most of the time, I was helping Abah Rahman preparing other rubber small holders plantation for replanting, bud grafting rubber trees and doing other 'kampong jobs' whenever it comes or when my skills are required; which are mostly manual labour with some special required skills, especially bud grafting. I was having a wonderful life and have forgotten about the Kuala Lumpur glittering life.

One day, came my father and my grandfather visiting. The kind that says - you have to come home now! Being an obedient child, I packed my bags and followed my father home back to Kuala Lumpur. Talked about perfect timing, the LCE results were announced the very next day after I arrived. I got Grade A with 22 aggregates. Not superb, but good enough to walk tall and got promoted to Form 4. Those who failed LCE then do not have the chance to continue into Form 4 unless you repeat From 3 again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Travelled to Kuala Lumpur - Alone

By the time I was in Standard 4 in my primary school, my parents have moved out of the Kampong Cendana house to a 'Police Quarters' at Jalan Aman (Jalan Damai). And I have been going to Kuala Lumpur more often, almost all school holidays. I am getting to know my only brother and my other 4 sisters. I am getting used to living with my parents too; which is an entirely different kind of life that I am living then. After getting the directions, I was supposed to come to Kuala Lumpur the next time - on my own; which is very easy! No problem; and I was only 10!

With RM3.00 in my pocket and a determination to go to the big town, Kuala Lumpur, I left Kampong Senaling on the Eng Giap Bus to Kuala Pilah. From Kuala Pilah, I took the Union Bus to Seremban, through the winding road of Bukit Putus. At Seremban, boarding Foh Hup Bus, the trip from Seremban to Pudu Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur takes approximately 2 hours. This Pudu Bus Station is the muddy with pot holes and watery place where all buses to any station in the south, starts and stops. There is now the Puduraya Bus Terminal sitting on top of the once Pudu Bus Station.

My father's direction was, 'After you get out of the bus, walk towards the roundabout (now Pudu Roundabout). From the roundabout, you will see two roads - one on the left (then Foch Avenue, now Jalan Sultan Mohamed) and one on the right (then Jalan Mountbatten, now Tun Perak). Take the one on the right. Walked down the hill and turn right into the 3rd junction (now Lebuh Ampang). Wait for the big blue bus (Sri Jaya Bus); take the number 8 bus, the fare is RM0.05 sen for a child - it will take you to Kampong Datok Keramat. Stop at the ESSO Station (which I know where it is)'. That was what my father said to me the last time I was in Kuala Lumpur. From there, I then walked over the wobbling temporary bridge over the river and reach my parent's home.

Since that successful 10-year-old only; trip to Kuala Lumpur on my own, I had travelled back and forth between Kuala Pilah and Kuala Lumpur, alone, from then on.

My First Trip To Kuala Lumpur

As we grow into adulthood, at about age 8 I realised that I do not belong to the family where I was living. Whenever we quarrelled, Ina (Abah Rahman eldest daughter) would chased me out of the house, telling me, 'go back to your father's house ... this is not your house'. With that remarks getting more frequent, I realised that I have to look for my 'roots'; moreover, Atuk Usop who adopted me in the first place is getting much much older. The family have a cousin living in Kampong Datok Keramat; and one day during school holidays, with the white Volkswagen BH120, the trip to Kuala Lumpur became a reality!

The family lived in Lorong Kiri 15, Kampong Datok Keramat. We normally spent a few days there and after visiting the sights of Kuala Lumpur, we would come home back to Kampong Senaling. During that first visit, they are going to bring me to my parents home. That would also be the first time I will be going to my parents house to see my own family. As the 'feeling' of the family in Kampong Senaling; did not want me around them anymore; I would soon be moving back to my own family. One afternoon, we drove to Kampong Cendana (near Kampong Baru) where my parents lived.

We parked at the edge of the Ampang cemetery; walked besides 2 houses and through a sugar cane plantation. Approximately 500 metres, the first house that we met was my parents' house. It is 2 houses built under one roof; our neighbour was my youngest uncle, Pak Su Hashim - who at that time drove the Sri Jaya Taxi. The house is made of planks with zinc roof, one of the modern squatters. At that time, we called them 'rumah kilat' due to the fastness of putting it up. Today it is not there; the next day it is already occupied. I didn't stay the night as we have to go back to Kampong Senaling that day.

Since then, whenever they make a trip to Kuala Lumpur, I will be left there over the school holidays, picked up again before the school starts. I am getting used to living in the city. Welcome to Kuala Lumpur!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Godong (The Village Centre)

Kampong Senaling lies approximately 4 kilometres from Kuala Pilah town centre. It lies on the Kuala Pilah - Tampin trunk road. In the centre of the village centre is the junction to Sri Menanti. Sri Menanti may also be accessed through the Seremban - Kuala Pilah trunk road. The village centre comprises of 3 rows of single storey palm-roofed shop houses. There a few restaurants, some provision shops, 2 fish mongers, a bicycle shop, a barber shop and a few middleman rubber buyers. Most of the shopkeepers stays at the back of their respective shops.

Kedai Ah Sin is the popular fish shop that most people would patronise. Kedai Dolah, the mamak shop that sells 'roti canai' is the favourite haunt for the oldies to get together, have their drinks and chat till late afternoon. If you need a hair cut, you will have to go to the only "Kedai Gunting Rambut" 'Achik' and 'Obok'. Ah Pang's restaurant serves good food, especially 'roti bengali' toasted over charcoal with margarine and home made 'kaya'. The restaurant also made their own 'charkoay' which is served all day round. There are also 2 restaurants run by Malays. One is 'Kedai Pak Cek' who serves excellent 'mee rebus' and 'Kedai Jamal' who serves all kinds of 'Malay Kuih' and a host of local malay food. The small village centre is sufficient to support the population in the surrounding areas. If you need to see more choices of things and food, you go to Kuala Pilah town. The bus costs RM0.10 sen one way and the taxi will take you there for RM0.20 sen.

The village town centre is affectionately called 'godong' by us locals. The word 'godong' must have come from the word 'gedung' which means 'big building'. As the people from the area are of 'Minangkabau' origins, it may have some bearings and affect on the word 'godong'. Going to 'godong' is something that we look forward to as we can buy things and hang around. We can cycle to 'godong' or you may talk a few minutes walk from the house.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rambutan Kuning (Yellow Rambutan)

This 'rambutan' tree was planted by my grandfather when he first built the house. According to Kak Ngah he must have planted the tree in the early 50s. It is smack right in front of the house. It is big, sweet, juicy and yellow. According to the folks, this is of the best seedling and some called it 'rambutan gading'. Whatever it is, when it fruits, it fruits! There will be lots and lots of them hanging down from the branches. Sometimes it seems there are more fruits than there are leaves. When it starts to ripen, it will be an adventure to pluck and pick them.

On the chosen day to harvest, even the neighbours will join in. Nobody needed to climb it as the tree is large in size and it had grown too high. We were all equipped with a long bamboo stick with a small sickle attached tightly to the end; to cut off the fruit branches for picking. Large rattan bags are prepared to accommodate the 'rambutan' fruits. While plucking we will be eating them juciy 'rambutan' fruits. There will be tea and 'kuih' served and once it is all done, we will sit down eating the fruits and drinking water, eating the 'kuih' and drinking tea. Those who came will go back with large bags of the fruits to be eaten later or to be taken home for those at home to eat.

The 'rambutan' tree had now grown too big and too tall that it endangered the house, if the branches were to break and fall down onto the house. It was then time to cut it off. Some people were called in to take the 'rambutan' tree down. A few will climb up the tree and cut down the branches one by one, until all are cut down. Lastly came when the big large 'rambutan' tree will be chopped off from the compound. With sadness, we saw it being cut down, carted away and discarded. That was the end of the juicy, large and sweet 'rambutan gading' tree.

Berkhatan (Circumcision)

On completion (berkhatam) of the learning and understanding of the Al'Quran and after the berkhatam feast, it was time to go to the hospital. There were choices to choose; either you 'do it' at home, to be done by the 'Tok Mudim' or you 'do it' at the hospital. I choose to get it done at the hospital; after I have seen how it was done at home!

For those that chosen to 'do it' at home (which is normally done in pairs or more); from the early morning they would be sent to the shallow well to be 'numbed', as the water in the shallow well is cold. They would submerged themselves in the shallow well for at least 5 hours, to ensure that 'it' is numbed and as such will not feel the pain. In the afternoon when the 'Tok Mudim' arrive at the house, the boys will be carried to the house and placed in front of the 'Tok Mudim' to 'get it done'. Often than not, you will hear the boys screaming in pain; as it is done without any anesthetics, except getting it numbed earlier in the shallow well. Learning from this experience that I chose to 'get it done' at the hospital.

As for me, I was sent to the hospital early in the morning. After all the necessities and logistics were done I was sent into the 'operating theatre'. Scared as I can be, the doctor assured me that it is not going to be painful at all; however, if I am still scared, I may chant the verses from the Al'Quran so that I will be protected at all times during the 'operation'. I did just that. But when the needle (for the anesthetics) pierced 'it' I could have screamed and sworn that it went through. I could also feel the 'cutting of the flesh', however due to the anesthetics, I felt no pain. Once it was done, surprisingly I could walk to the car on my own and still not felt a thing!

As soon as we reached home, still have not taken the pain killer; the pain started to set in. I felt the excruciating pain on both the knees and all over the whole body. I was advised to eat something and swallow the pain killer. As soon as the pain killer takes effect, the pain was gone. The only pain I felt was that; which I felt is a whole lot better than going through the process of circumcision at home. Two weeks after the 'operation', I could get up and run! All Muslims have to go through this process, as required by the religion. It is anyway, excellent for health purposes.

Belajar Ngaji (Learning the Quran)

Boys as young as 6 are expected to learn to understand and read the Al'Quran. It is required of all young Muslim boys to go to a religious elder to learn to read the Al'Quran and to learn how to pray. The learning place could be a house, the surau, madrasah or at the mosque. The person who teach is normally a religious, not necessarily pious, but would have the command and understanding of the Al'Quran; normally an Imam or at least his assistant. On most occasion, the 'ustaz' or 'ustazah' will be sufficient.

I started learning the Al'Quran from the age of 7. My first place of learning was at Pak Cik Manat's house, a house approximately 200 metres from the edge of the small village. It was there that I learned the very basic of reading the 'mugaddam' (the 101 of Al'Quran). Every night on the way to go home, we would stop by the bread shop (Kedai Roti Mohd Tasadukkhan), as the time is just right for the bread to be ready; right out of the huge oven. It only cost RM0.10 sen for 2 slices (approximately 4" x 2" x 1" each slice). I was at Pak Cik Manat's house learning the 'mugaddam' for about 6 months; when then the village 'surau' was already ready; which is across the street where I lived.

At the new 'surau' I graduated from the 'mugaddam' and thereafter started learning the Al'Quran. Our ustaz was Lebai Awal, a short man with a short temper. There were about 20 boys and 20 girls learning from him. For being mischievous, I was canned twice, at 2 different times. Others who also misbehave would also get the whip from the cane. Nevertheless, I 'khatam' my Al'Quran reading and at the same time learned how to pray. On completion of the Al'Quran, a feast ws prepared, calling the whole village to celebrate my 'graduation' of the Al'Quran. My father came all the way from KL with a sheep to slaughter (for 'akekah' purposes). It was from the 'surau' that I learned how to read and understand the 'muqaddam' and the Al'Quran. All in all I took approximately 5 years to learn, understand and 'khatam' from Al'Quran; besides learning how to pray!

It is also traditional that for the coming of age into adulthood, as soon as you completed learning the Al'Quran, it is also time to circumcise. I did mine the next week after the feast - in 1968. That's another story.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Banking was Manual (Accounts Department - Books)

Each banks branch handled their own set of accounts. There will be a Department which handles all the accounting need of the branch. This included making out and maintaining a set of accounts of the bank branch. The Manager's 'pet staff' would normally get to do this job. At the end of the day, the staff will collect all vouchers, cheques, transfers and other transactions of the branch to come out with the Trial Balance of the Day. At the end of each month, they must come out with the complete set of the accounts for the branch.

The Trial Balance and the Balance Sheet will show the standing, profitability and the position of the bank branch. The staff are the ones who will check and determine that all transaction are of the correct amount and to the correct laid down accounts. Sometimes they may take days to balance a day's transaction; what more if it is at the end of the month where the number of transaction is higher due to additional entries not normally passed on a normal day, like interest charged, depreciation, revaluation, accruals and prepaids.

The most busy part of the year is when it is half-yearly or yearly closing. All accounts need to be closed and entered correctly in order to come out with the complete, correct and perfect Trial Balance and Balance Sheet of the branch. These accounts will be submitted to Head Office where it will be populated and compiled to determine the standing, profitability and position of the Bank. Besides the normal accounting reports, Accounting Department is responsible to submit all other branch's reports. They may take weeks to prepare these and would most of the time busted the date line for submission. However, these staff stand tall as their job is considered one of the most important job in the branch.

Now, with on-line accounting, straight through processing and auto uploading of entries to the main accounting system, the accounting job at the branch level have been eliminated. You could get any branch's Trial Balance or Balance Sheet at any time for any date from any terminal if you are authorised to do so.

Banking was Manual (Housing and Term Loans)

Long period loans such as 'Term Loans' and 'Housing Loans' are handled separately from the normal 'Overdraft' accounts. As these have a fixed repayment amount and fixed repayment period, their transactions are normally fixed monthly repayment amount and interest charged. Housing Loans interest were once based on 'yearly rests'. Interest are charged once a year, normally on 1st of July of each year, based on the balance outstanding on the 30th of each June. It is expensive; but consumers do not have much choices then!

Loan Statements are only produced once a year, which detailed out the whole year's transaction in 1 or 2 pages only. As such, staff at the Housing Loan and Term Loan Department have to bear with the pile load of work on the 30th June of each year. This is also the time when the Banks closed their yearly accounts. It may take the staff up to a week to prepare all these tasks, to ensure that the figures are balanced and submitted to the Accounts Department and the statements are sent out to the loan customers as soon as possible.

However, besides that yearly affair stuff to do, we have to make do with maintaining and following up of the loan accounts with customers or responding to Head Office on the loan matters the whole year round. Typing was necessary and there were lots of monthly, half-yearly and yearly reports to submit, with date lines to meet. Staff serving these Departments are the 'special breed' as they have to be experienced in banking operations, the necessary typing skills and the skills in handling customer relationship. Most have to also do marketing for the products that the bank sells.