... 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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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.