Monday, December 30, 2013

Confusing the kids

All my grandchildren were at KLIA in the morning of 15 December 2013 to see their greatgrandpa off balik kampung.  Amir, Amira and Asyraf are Nazim's while Adam is Shaida's.  They had a run of the place, literally running all over Level 5 while waiting for Wan to be checked-in.  We were amazed at the level of energy that they have.  While the hubby attended to Wan's wheelchair need, all remaining adults were on the lookout for the grandkids.  My youngest sister, Wan Norzila (La for short), was accompanying Wan for the KL-Kota Bahru stretch.  As she'll be working the next day, the plan was to have one of the brothers waiting at the Kota Bahru Sultan Ismail Airport to take Wan home.  La will be switching flight back to Subang Sultan Abdul Aziz Airport.  It would cost us much less to just let Wan travel solo with MAS's assistance, but we would rather have a family member accompanying so as not to distress Wan any further.

With Wan and La checked-in and going off to the waiting hall we ushered the grandkids to the Anjung Tinjau (Waving Gallery).  Being early morning, the place was less crowded compared to the check-in hall and there were ample empty seats for us adults to rest our tired feet.  There was ample space for the grandkids to race around stopping only to watch the speeding inter-terminal trains or the planes taxing for take-offs or parking.  Soon they grew tired of watching the same and were back to racing each other end to end of the hall.  We let them be for over an hour before giving the younger ones their bottles while Amir and Amira had their juices, then calling it quits to head for home.  Amir and Amira were profusely thanking their parents for such a wonderful trip!  It's not that difficult to have happy kids.

Nazim and family are staying in Subang Jaya close to his work place.  It was the Monday late morning after the airport trip that he got a call from Amir and Amira to settle an argument they were having back home.  Seemed that they were building airplanes from their Lego blocks.  Amir's plane was doing the aerial flights while Amira's was merely taxiing all the way, never taking-off.  Amir was telling the sister that planes need to take-off and fly away.  Not to Amira as the planes she saw at the airport were on the ground parked or just taxiing.  She did not see any flying.  Now who is right?

Incidentally Nazim had his phone on the speaker mode thus attracting the attention of the entire office floor.  After helping settle the kids argument he got back to work.  He, however, did notice that the floor was abnormally silent as if everybody was in deep thought.  Then someone quipped, "Think the sister is right, it was what she saw".  "Planes are meant to fly," someone else responded.  Soon the whole floor was arguing!  It was a much needed break for the floor from their mundane database job.  It was really getting out of hand to have the boss popped his head out the office door to inquire what the commotion was all about.  With things explained, he offered a suggestion that Nazim take the children to the oil palm plantation off the airport to watch the planes taking off and landing.  Indeed such happenings were not seen from the Waving Gallery as the plane take-offs and landings were obstructed from view by the airport structures.  MAB do take note as children do believe what they see.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Caring for Wan

Wan has eight children from three different marriages.  Kak Nah, the eldest is from the first child bearing wife.  However, that marriage was not to last.  True to the Kelantanese spirit they (Wan and his ex-wife) remain friends and we children used to stay over at her (ex-wife's) place during the school holidays.  My eldest sister was brought up by her mother.  Next came my brother and me before my mother passed away.  My remaining five siblings are from my stepmom who brought us all up.  She passed away in 2000.  Thanks to my stepmom we remain close-knit to this day.  A younger sister passed away this year, leaving seven of us to care for Wan.

Wan at tea time.

We believe Wan is in his 90s but no one knows for sure.  In spite his age Wan is in excellent health.  Until a few years back he was zipping around his rubber holdings dotting from Air Chanal, Jeli to Kg. Landar, Pasir Mas in his 4D Toyota Hilux.  He is a very independent person until his sight failed him even with lens change operations.  Lately dementia has also set in.  Sadly he has to give up his independence and rely on us children who willingly take turns in caring for him.  For this I have to salute my brothers and sister-in-laws for they took upon themselves to care for him as except for my late sister all of Wan's daughters are staying out of state.  Kak Nah settled in Kuala Selangor, my youngest sister is teaching in Klang and me though retired chose to settle in Kajang.

For all these years I had only a 10 day turn to care for Wan (28 November - 8 December 2013).  Not that we were not willing but as always, aging parents would rather stay in their own place or close by rather than some place else.  What more when we are out towners.  The opportunity to persuade him over was when my sister got talking to him about a well known eye doctor in Klang.  Seemed that a few of her friend's folks had their sight restored after visiting this doctor.

Another obstacle is to persuade him to take the flight.  Not that he is terrified of height but his rationale is that should there be a crash there would be nothing to cling to as everything will be crashing down!  Good thing that Tabung Haji only offers air passage for the compulsory once in a life time pilgrimage.  He would have taken the sea voyage should one be offered!  It was after much persuasions that he relented to fly into KLIA.

He was with my sister in Klang for a while before it was my turn to care for him.  Kak Nah came to give hand for the period of Wan's stay with me.  Being close to 70 herself, this is her only way to care for Wan.  There is no way for her alone to care for Wan.  This has been a great help for me for I am also taking care of Adam, my two year old stay-in grandson.  We soon set ourselves in a routine with me doing the cooking and bathing Wan.  Kak Nah took care of Wan at meal time for he can barely see what is served before him.  The hubby took care of chatting him up and keeping his wake-up hours occupied.  Nazim once took him to the barber for a shave.  With boisterous Adam in the house, Kak Nah mostly took care of Wan's day need while I took the night shift.  With her hypertension and diabetic conditions to care for, I made sure Kak Nah got to bed early in the night.  My night shifts normally start at about 9.30 pm.

The four-generation shot.

The challenge came in the night.  As he spent most of daylight sleeping away, Wan tends to be awake at night and he wanted to chat away.  He'll remember snaps of his past life and will relive it.  One time it'll be the parang going missing and he'll be searching the room for it.  Later we'll need to take the buffalo into the shade.  Then it's his motobike out there as he lost the key to unlock the gate to bring it into the house compound.  Soon there are robbers creating havoc in the house!  Took us a while to live his 'reality' and came up with appropriate responses.  Yes, the parang is safely in the store, the buffalo has been taken to the shade of that big tree, his bike is safely in as we've located the key, and the robbers were all dead in the gun-fight!  Try repeating that for ten nights plus other incidences and you'll get the hyper-tense situation we were in.

Alas all good things has to end.  After another short stay at my youngest sister's he insisted on going home.  Things were much easier this time around as the fear of flying has finally eased.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Appreciating Education - Zoya Phan's Memoir

My youngest presented me Zoya Phan's Little Daughter for my recent grand 60th birthday.  She was at the MINES Big Bad Wolf book sales recently when she came across the title.  Scanning through it she thought it is my kind of reading, and she was very right.  I thoroughly enjoyed the memoir as I can very much relate to Zoya's experience with my early life and education, minus the war and the refugee camp living of course.  Incidentally I have been saving the my early education story to be part of my Early Years series.  This I never did find time to write just yet.  A lame excuse indeed for being a retiree time is all that one has aplenty!

Though I did Southeast Asia History for my 1969 MCE (SPM equivalent), what Zoya endured was very much a relatively recent happenings (in history terms, that is).  General Ne Win was a personality to reckon with in my history readings then.  Reading Zoya, the general is not somebody you want to be associated with.

I have to plead ignorance of the plight of the Karen people.  Before Zoya I thought Karen is just a minority ethnic community, very much like the Meo/Hmong tribe of Thailand.  Indeed I am very wrong.  I feel for them, to be denied their very own rights in their very own country is just beyond comprehension.  To gradually lose their culture and with that ethnic knowledge cultivated over generations is a lost to all mankind.  I pray that Zoya's struggle will not be in vain.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Deaths came our way

Come this age, places we frequent are wedding kenduris and ziarah those who were invited back by Allah.  They used to say that death of those close to you come in threes.  I had four this past few months.  

We bade our goodbyes to a brother-in-law on June 27, 2013.  He was the husband to my elder sister who had been a father figure to me while I was doing my sixth form in a boarding school away from home and the four years I was in college.  He was close to celebrating his 73rd birthday.  He succumbed to gout initiated complications.

On Eid Fitr, I had a call from my younger sister.  Apart from the usual eid greetings I was informed of a cousin's passing on August 5.  He was my uncle's only son.  His passing was indeed a shocker to us as we never knew of him being sick.  He was 36.  Seemed that his initial complain was of gastric ailment but later zeroed to auto-immunity complications.

At a friend's son wedding reception on August 18, I was informed of another friend's wife being admitted to HUKM for lung complications.  He was hushing it down and not receptive to visitors to allow the wife to rest.  On August 22, SMS were flying announcing her passing.

In the morning of August 21, my husband's cell was shrieking with an SMS.  It announced the passing of our neighbour from our old neighbourhood.  We never knew that he was admitted days earlier to the Kajang Hospital due to stroke.

Innalillahi wainnaiallirojiun.  May their souls be amongst the blessed, In shaa Allah.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The GE13 Outcome

As anticipated the sick chicken was slaughtered and the carcass became crocodile feed.  Nobody wants to gulai the sick chicken.  My brother reported his election post indeed had grilled chicken to celebrate.  It was 23,724 for Kak Lah as against 17,488 for the aye sakit.  

Tok Heng of Pasir Mas was trounced 33,431 to his 25,384 by Nik Abduh.  Che Johe was hailed a hero for not putting in his nomination papers and to allow an independent to be in a straight fight.  Datuk Kamilia was booted out off the party for going in as an independent.  One becomes a hero and the other a traitor.  It's kind of tough for me to process this kind of rationale.

And so Datuk Kamilia has only 447 voting for her.  This figure glared compared to what was garnered by Tok Heng.  Wonder what contributed to the difference.  Datuk Kamilia's defeat is not a loss.  She is saved in the bigger context.  Being a person she is, she can still pursue her manifests on different platforms, InsyaAllah.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Food from the earth

One late evening two days ago my husband mentioned about some nice mushroom growth in our lawn by the kitchen.  Occupied with some errands I made no heed of it.  It was typical of him to be excited over nothing at times.  Come morning the next day, I was out of the house early to hang the laundry when the mushrooms caught my eyes.  What came immediately to mind was, "Those must be cendawan busut (Termitomyces sp.)," one of the most delicious mushrooms to be found.  However, remembering my late grandpa's fate (he died of mushroom poisoning) I was cautious about the whole thing.

Remembering that a few months back we had cendawan busut from a neighbour, I invited her over for confirmation.  She was as excited as I was on seeing the mushroom.  We pulled out a few just to be sure and those long 'roots' was another indicator of the species.  We pulled out a few more for her enough for a serving.

I remember a friend, Dr. Sepiah Muid, as an authority on this species.  I had several takes and MMSed her for confirmation too.  I was happy when her response came back in the affirmative.  We had cendawan busut with squash soup for dinner.

The nature combination that come with cendawan busut growth has eluded our mycologists to this day.  They can never get to artificially germinate cendawan busut what more to commercially grow it.  Even Dr. Sepiah, after over a decade of work on this mushroom, has to call it quits.  It is common knowledge that the cendawan busut spores will only germinate from termite's nest (now one nest is real close to home!  Call the pest busters, then I'll miss on my mushroom).  There must be some form of growth synergy between the mushroom and the termites. Further, the situation for germination will be right only with thunderstorms.  I remember us having those thunderstorms for the past few evenings.  

 The gift that came unexpectedly, Alhamdullillah.
It was stir-fried cendawan busut with loofa for today's lunch.

Incidentally our pisang tanduk was harvested on the same day. Most of the spikes seen here had gone to the neighbours.  True to my father's saying, "Tidak rugi berbudi dengan tanah - There is no loss by being virtuous to the soil".

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nomination analysis - MP for Rantau Panjang

Was talking to my brother this morning on GE13 MP candidate nomination for Rantau Panjang.  Kak Lah (Siti Zailah Yusof) as expected was renominated for PAS.  Kak Lah is much loved by the rakyat to be replaced just by anybody.  She is the people's person.  Come what may, she'll be there by you.  Those assisting her have always wondered where her energy comes from.

"Who is contesting her?", I questioned my brother.
"Aye sakit!", he shot me the answer.
(A sick chicken!)
"What?", I exclaimed in surprise.
"Ore dio (UMNO).  2008 dulu masok calon woke pati bebah, guna lambe aye", he explained.
(Their candidate (UMNO).  Was the 2008 independent candidate using the picture of a chicken as his contesting logo). 

Kelantan is well known for UMNO infightings and polarity.  It has always been puok kite, puok demo (our team, their team).  I think the sick chicken will be slaughtered too this time around.  But nobody's eating a sick chicken.  He'll just go to waste.

"What's going on in Pasir Mas?"
"Che Johe dah jjadi jutawe doh!"
(Che Johan is already a millionaire!)
(How much?).
"Katanye duo juto!"
(They said 2 m!)
"Sapo bui?"
(Who gave?)
"Puok demo".
(Their team)
Case closed.

     Heil to Datuk Kamilia!  A lady of principle.  I can testify to that.  She has been that way since I got to know her way back in the 70s.  We were in the same school in Seremban back then.  I'll surely vote for her should I be a KK resident.  Hope she would give a thought to Kak Lah's invitation.  She had never fit the UMNO image and it had kept me wondering all this while.  The KK parliamentary seat will be much watched come May 5.  My doa is all hers.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Election Fever, I caught the bug too

This press statement is for keeps (Source: Harakahdaily, APRIL 19, 2013)

("Roket sudah sampai ke bulan. Anda masih nak guna timbang dacing?")

KOTA BHARU: "Kesediaan DAP menggunakan logo PAS ini saya sifatkan sebagai detik bersejarah dalam perjuangan PAS semenjak lebih separuh abad ia ditubuhkan," kata Mursyidul Am PAS, Tuan Guru Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

Beliau mengulas keputusan DAP menggunakan logo PAS setelah Pendaftar Pertubuhan memutuskan untuk tidak mengiktiraf barisan kepimpinan DAP yang ada sekarang.

"Saya ingin melahirkan simpati kepada DAP di atas tragedi yang menimpa mereka di saat-saat akhir penamaan calon besok hari.

"Sudah tentu tidak dapat dibayangkan kesedihan yang melanda ekoran terpaksa mengenepikan lambang rasmi yang telah digunakan zaman berzaman," kata Tuan Guru Nik Aziz yang juga Menteri Besar Kelantan dalam kenyataannya hari ini.

Berikut adalah kenyataan penuh Tuan Guru Nik Aziz.

Penggunaan Logo PAS Oleh Calon DAP: Akhirnya Roket Mendarat Di Bulan

Saya membaca kenyataan yang dikeluarkan oleh Pengerusi DAP Karpal Singh pada petang ini bahawa calon-calon DAP akan menggunakan logo PAS di Semenanjung Malaysia dan logo PKR di Sabah dan Sarawak di dalam pilihanraya umum 5 Mei ini.

Ini berikutan sehingga jam 3 petang hari ini, DAP belum mendapat mendapat sebarang respon penarikan balik surat penggantungan jawatankuasa eksekutif pusat (CEC) parti itu daripada Pendaftar Pertubuhan (ROS) dan juga tiada tanda-tanda surat itu akan tiba.

Saya ingin melahirkan simpati kepada DAP di atas tragedi yang menimpa mereka di saat-saat akhir penamaan calon besok hari. Sudah tentu tidak dapat dibayangkan kesedihan yang melanda ekoran terpaksa mengenepikan lambang rasmi yang telah digunakan zaman berzaman.

Isu logo sekalipun mungkin nampak kecil bagi sesetengah pihak, tetapi ia melambangkan maruah dan harga sebuah perjuangan.

Dari sudut yang lain, kesediaan DAP menggunakan logo PAS ini saya sifatkan sebagai detik bersejarah dalam perjuangan PAS semenjak lebih separuh abad ia ditubuhkan.

Dalam melayari bahtera politik tanah air, PAS dan DAP sering dilagakan oleh UMNO/Barisan Nasional. Di hadapan bangsa Melayu, pemimpin UMNO menakut-nakutkan mereka dengan bahaya DAP dan begitu juga sebaliknya di hadapan bangsa Cina, mereka digembar-gemburkan dengan imej PAS sebagai taliban, radikal dan sebagainya.

Natijahnya, Melayu Islam dan bukan Melayu terus hidup dalam keadaan syak wasangka antara satu sama lain.

Hari ini, benteng tersebut telah runtuh sepenuhnya. DAP tanpa takut-takut lagi telah merobohkan persepsi ini apabila bertindak berani memilih logo PAS untuk bertanding di kawasan-kawasan yang telah diperuntukkan kepada mereka khususnya kawasan yang mempunyai majoriti pengundi Cina.

Saya kira, inilah saat di mana perjuangan PAS sudah tidak menjadi kegerunan lagi kepada bangsa Cina. Sekalipun ia masih belum diterima sepenuhnya, namun sedikit demi sedikit ia telah hilang.

Saya mengimbau kembali saat ketika Perjanjian Hudaibiyyah dimeterai antara Rasulullah SAW dan orang-orang Musyrikin Mekkah.

Kabilah-kabilah Arab di sekitar Madinah yang masih belum memeluk Islam mengambil keputusan untuk bernaung di bawah naungan kerajaan Islam Madinah.

Di saat itulah, sahabat-sahabat Rasulullah SAW diuji dengan rasa terhina akibat melihat secara zahir bagaimana perjanjian tersebut berat sebelah.

Namun kesabaran mereka segera diganjari oleh Allah SWT apabila perjanjian tersebut membuka peluang Rasulullah SAW menakluki kota Makkah apabila perjanian tersebut dilanggar di mana Bani Khuzaah yang masih belum memeluk Islam dan berlindung di bawah naungan Islam diserang oleh kaum Musyrikin.

Alhamdulillah, ketika UMNO masih menjaja keris tumpulnya merata-rata, perjuangan PAS sudah mula diterima di kalangan non muslim. Ketika UMNO main kayu tiga dengan perjuangan bangsa Melayu, PAS terus ke hadapan membawa misi dakwah dengan slogan PAS for All.

Non Muslim di sana sini tidak lagi segan silu membawa bendera PAS dan sebaliknya tidak pernah kita saksikan mereka membawa bendera keris tidak bersarung milik UMNO.

Saya yakin, benih Islamphobia yang disemai UMNO semakin mati tunasnya. Keputusan DAP ini insya-Allah satu rahmat besar buat PAS. Ia sebenarnya rezeki buat perjuangan Islam.

Mungkin Barisan Nasional merasakan langkah ini bakal membantutkan gerak langkah Pakatan Rakyat, namun sesungguhnya ia mengandungi rahmat yang sangat besar.

Jika Perjanjian Hudaibiyyah membuka jalan kepada pembukaan kota Makkah, maka tidak mustahil langkah kerajaan Barisan Nasional ini sedang membuka kepada pembukaan Putrajaya dan pembinaan Malaysia Baru.

Tidak mustahil tarikh 6 Mei 2013 nanti, perayaan besar-besaran kemenangan rakyat akan berlangsung di seluruh negara menyaksikan keruntuhan Barisan Nasional.

Yakinlah keputusan ini membuka pintu sejarah yang akan dikenang zaman berzaman. Inilah saatnya di mana akhirnya roket berjaya mendarat di bulan!

Salam hormat,

Al-Mursyidul Am,
Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS)

Bertarikh : 8 Jamadil Akhir 1434H bersamaan 19 April 2013M

Milestone comments on the subject:

# .......the public has welcomed the decision by DAP, heralding it a turning point in Malaysia's new politics transcending race and religion.

# "The rocket has reached the moon, so let's look for the moon!"....................

# backfire in your face, huh? Checkmate, dude!

# Well, suddenly PAS and PKR who are predominantly Malay have so many Chinese members and supporters.

# A truely Malaysian party will be born. No more under racial lines.  When they win, they will have to stay together.  
So it’s a blessing in disguise.

# Don’t lose heart, stay humble and fight on for the true Malaysia you have always longed for.  God is with you all in the fight for justice and the good.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The 'Dreamed Kitchen Garden' - made a reality

Remember our dream of acquiring the piece of property neighbouring our home lot?  It finally became a reality about a year back.  I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing and had stopped dreaming of acquiring it after going through one stumbling block after another, but not my other half.  For the record, he is a real determined person, especially after setting his goal and sight.  It was more for peace of mind than anything else about acquiring the property.  Our present lot is an intermediate lot while this is an end lot.  Our present neighbour in the other adjacent lot is a crowd as it is a multi-unit apartment and pretty crowded (and noisy, to add).  Retirees want some piece of calm and quietness.  Should there be a repeat of development in the lot we are eyeing, then there goes our peace (and sanity to add).

We had finally tracked the real owner (thanks to Facebook!), a private medical practitioner, with clinics in Subang Jaya and Shah Alam.  A pretty loaded person where promise of any amount of money (by our standard) is of no concern to him.  There was no way that we can even talk to him (on the phone), it was just the clinic receptionist taking our calls.  There must be something about medical doctors that they keep their personal number sacred.  But we do somehow got confirmation that the property is his but he is not selling.  We've been getting the same answer all through and any effort for a direct communication with him was averted.  NOT FOR SALE - FINITUM!!!

I gave up easily, not to be our rezeki, I opined.  Not my other half, it made him more determined.  Little was it known to me that that wish was included in his doa in front of the Kaabah when we were in Makkah for our last umrah trip.  He was pulling the biggest cable of all to open the path of contact and mind of the owner doctor.

As normally the case, umrah trip can be exhausting and for the jemaah to come back with coughs and flu.  We were no exception.  Being the one with the lower resistance, I was infected with the cough-flu bugs while in Makkah itself and lost my voice entirely.  I accepted it as part of kifarrah for my past doings and hope for total forgiveness from The Al-Mighty, InsyaAllah.  The other half only succumbed to the bugs when we were back in motherland.

Under coughing fits he announced going for medical assistance and the need to visit a doctor.  I was all for it until he mentioned going to Subang Jaya/Shah Alam to see 'the' doctor.  It never occurred to me that he was going to meet the owner doctor.  "He has to be persuaded, by all means," he said.  I stared hard in response for that was a long way to be driving for a 'simple' ailment when we have clinics at stone's throw away from home.  

He nevertheless made the trip after getting directions from our son Nazim,  (Nazim incidentally handles corporate medical insurance for his office and is knowledgeable of the Subang Jaya and Shah Alam clinics).  Coming home the hubby narrated the doctor reading out aloud our address and was too late in realizing my husband's other intention of seeing him.  He still contended that the piece was not for sale as his ownership was only half a share.  His 'partner-in-purchase' turned out to be another medical doctor!  This was making things doubly difficult for us.  To me the trip was in vain but not to my hubby.  He somehow got the doctor to divulge his private number and managed to persuade the doctor to call the said partner.  That, to my husband, was a step forward and not far off from our goal that had been eluding us all this while.

Even with the doctor's private number, calls and messages were not returned or even acknowledged.  Another trip it was.  Tired with the incessant calls/messages and the repeat visit, the doctor finally relented but not without a catch.  He quoted a non-negotiable price and a 'take-it or leave-it' condition.  It was steep and way above our expectation, but still much below the market price.  We went for it to finally call ours about two weeks after, Alhamdulillah.

Now the garden and lawn is flourishing and is a playground for the grandchildren when they are back for the weekend.

The prized newly acquired lot is cared for with much love.
Amir & Amira helping Che' (Nazim) grilling satay
 in the grounds last Raya.
...then it was fireworks time.
Adam taking a swing.
We have plants only in the periphery to allow more play space.
The jackfruit tree was planted before we even 
acquire the space has come to bearing.
The prized beko plant.
When there is nangka, there has to be cempedak.
We have the space fenced up for the kids' safety. 
The pineapple patch.  Hard to convince the other half that 
the pineapple suckers need to be a lot closer.
The cashewnut plants planted for their shoots.
The starfruit plant has initiated some flowering.

The spindly mata kucing plant has overshot the wakaf.
So much foliage from the passion fruit plant but still no flowers.
Contrary to its name, the katak puru plant is indeed a handsome plant.  
Invitation is open for anybody interested to use it as their 
party symbol for the upcoming GE.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...6

Sustenance 3

Tok's house was located right by the river bank but not real close as to be flooded over.  Our house was further inland.  Tok's pengkalan was on the deeper part of the river meander, what we termed as lubok.  It was real deep by any standard that there was a specially constructed jetty for the ladies to collect water, wash clothes and for the family to take their bath.  The more adventurous adults do dive into the lubok for their dip but children were strictly prohibited from doing so.  I used to join Tok's children on the jetty though it was no secret that there were frequent crocodile sightings in the vicinity.  We would use buckets made from nibong (Oncosperma sp.) sheaths as a dipper for our bath.  Tok Ya'kok used to weave these buckets for our use. 

The lubok was home to a lot of fish.  I cannot remember them all but I do remember lampan and tenggalan most.  Fried, cooked asam pedas style or grilled, they were real finger-licking good.  The could have been patin too but as Wan was (still is) no fan of fish without scales this fish seldom fared in our dish.  What I remember most about the fish from the river was the annual harvest that the community organized.  We had it tuba!  It was sort of illegal but looking back (not that I am trying to justify the community's conduct), it was done in the most sustainable way possible.  The preparation used was entirely organic, using crushed tuba plant (Derris sp.).  Through experience the community knew when best to tuba the fish while causing the 'least' damage to the fish population.  The tuba was initiated at Tok's pengkalan where the river was deepest thus the tuba was quick to be diluted.  There was strict self regulation and the tuba was done only once a year to allow the fish population to recover.

During the tuba 'party', male adults of the community would be in the deeper water to catch those big groggy fish.  Most were armed with fishing nets and scoops.  We kids and mothers would be in the shallow waters downstream to catch the smaller fish.  Armed with whatever gear at hand we were having fun scooping what ever fish that came by us.  We kids get to keep what we catch and it was plentiful for everybody.  One particular gear that came to mind was the three pronged spears that we made out of fig branches.  Fig trees were known to branch out in threes, thus sharpened they turned out to be useful indeed.

One thing I like most about this fish harvest was the sharing spirit in the community.  While the smaller fish were earners-keepers, the bigger and prized fishes were equally shared among those involved.  The way the elders went about it was most noble.  The fish caught were all laid out on a pandan mat (plastics were non-existence then!) and the most honoured among the group was asked to apportion the harvest equally and fairly among the family present.  A family was only allowed a share.  The fish were sorted out by type and size and were then divided out starting with the largest going down the pile.  The flow will be reversed in the next divide.  In this way every family will get on the average a fair share.  Then the head of each family was invited to make his pick.  Most gallant of all was that the man who made the division was the last to collect his share!  How more noble can one get.  Never was the case that everybody who got the share kept all to themselves.  At each own initiative the harvest went to others in the community who were unable to make it to the tuba party.

The smaller fish that the children and womenfolk caught goes to pekasam making.  I remember Wan constructing a shaded structure of sort to keep away the scorching sun for Ma to clean the fish by the river while we children continue frolicking in the waters.  No purchase was made for the structure materials.  The forest provided for all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...5

Sustenance 2

The forest and rivers (Sungai Golok river and its many tributaries) were supplying us food in abundance.  During the dry season of the year, a particular stretch of the river provided us ample etok (Corbiculacea) supply.  This is a bi-valve mollusk best eaten smoked after marinating with salt mixed with garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric and lemon grass.  I remember us going to the river and 'harvesting' the etok just using our bare hands.  There were just so many of them that we were just scooping them into gunny bags.  Ma would wash and marinate them ready for the smoke the next day.  She will have them evenly spread out in a big rattan/bamboo badang (normally used to winnow rice grains) over glowing ember.  She prepared the fire by a big timber stump where one edge on the badang would rest.  The opposing edge was propped by a platform that father (he is known as Wan to us kids) constructed earlier.  The days that we were smoking etok, Wan would just be working the farm closest to the house.  He never fail to join us to feast on the etok when it was ready.  Wan would pry open the bivalve using a small knife or the shell of an already opened etok.  I would sit beside him to get my share.  Later I would use my front teeth to get to the flesh.  Star etok eaters would just popped a few etok in the mouth and spit out the empty shells!  We did at times have the neighbours over or us going to the neighbours to share the smoked etok.

Incidentally on the opposite side of the timber stump where Ma smoked the etok was a kelulut (Trigona sp, a type of stingless bee) hive.  The stump was really massive and I doubt that the bees were at all disturbed.  They do not sting but can ran havoc to the hair when they get them all tangled up with their wax!  The do supply honey but the hive that we had was way too small to offer us any.  Close to my retirement, there was a paper presented by an entomologist claiming the merits of this stingless bee as a pollinator and their honey as having special medicinal qualities.  Those in the audience were agape with the terminology, 'stingless bee'.  Memories of the past was overwhelming and I just asked aloud, "Are you talking about kelulut?".  "Yes, I am," was the answer.  Duh, 'stingless bee'. Just call it by the name that it is being known as and stop confusing us!  These kelulut do have another function though.  As they do not sting their hives served as good PR gimmick for visiting school children and dignitaries.  Using drinking straws, kelulut honey may be drawn straight from the hives and visitors invited to do so can get really excited.

Water flow was much slower in the tributaries and near to stagnant in the many ox-bow lakes.  By the shallows in these environments were siput sedut (Cerithidea obtusafor the picking.  They were easily collected clinging to submerged fallen tree branches.  Cooked masak lemak cili api style with tapioca shoots thrown in, we had both protein and vegetable to go with the rice.

The river did offer us fish aplenty.  This deserves a write-up by itself.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...4

Sustenance 1

It was not that we were fully dependent on food supplies from town while at the settlement.  We were well endowed by the Malaysian (Malayan then) tropical rainforest.  Furthermore, Ma had this wonderful greenfinger about her.  As King Midas would turned all things to gold, anything she put to the soil would bear to the fullest.  As father prepared his rubber plantings in stages, we had areas that can be planted with cash crops.  Apart from the home need veges, Ma planted several kinds of beans, root crops, watermelon, pumpkin, corn and several others.  Father, together with other menfolks planted hill rice.  The planting and harvesting of the hill rice was done gotong-royong style on a community basis and thus we children were not spared the labour (best translated as fun time).  I can never describe the joy of hill rice harvesting under the moonlight! It was not just the sight of toil but the laughter and the togetherness that went with it that is beyond description that one has to experience to feel it all.  The bonfire and the smoke were way more enjoyable than the synthetic fireworks of today.  

Pucuk paku and paku kemiding (both are fern) were aplenty, free and for the picking.  We had maman (Cleome gynandratoo that we found growing wild and later cultivated.  Ma's fermented (jeruk) maman was just scrumptious especially taken with steaming hot rice and fried fish.  Of course there were long beans, kacang catok, kacang bebulu (later I recognise this to be soybean!), cili padi, lada solok, red chili and brinjal that Ma planted.  Petai (Parkia speciosa), jering (Archidendron pauciflorum) and kerdas (A. bubaliumwere aplenty too growing wild in the forest.  Not to mention keladi kemoyang (Homalomena sagittifoliagrowing under productive rubber trees.  The expense needed was the energy to harvest.

Ma planted several cultivars of tuberous root crops too.  I don't really know how she managed to come up with such a massive collection of cultivars.  I remember two of my favourite, ubi torok and ubi badak (Dioscorea alata).  Boiled, we normally had them for breakfast.  Ubi gadung can be found growing wild.  But this root crop needed a bit of preparation for safe consumption.  I remember Tok Semail used to have them in gunny sacks hung from trees by the river in the fast flowing water.  After over a week of soaking, the tubers were steamed to be eaten with grated coconut.  No word can describe the taste but one just have to eat it for the taste experience.  We had tapioca too.  However, it was not to be intercropped with the rubber plants.  Tapioca was known to be a notorious nutrient 'sucker' that may soon deplete the soil of fertility.

I remember Ma's watermelon patch well.  It was located at the confluence of a stream that met the Sungai Golok river.  We called the place Tanjung (reminded me of the place years later when told that Georgetown, Penang was first known as Tanjung before the British takeover).  I remember chasing after and killing the api-api insect that would eat through the melon's leaves if uncontrolled.  We were told to save the ladybugs for they were the friendly insect.  How's that for an ecology lesson on the run (literarily).  Incidentally all these crops that Ma planted were organically grown.  No pesticides were used and all fertilizers were organically based.  That was way before SOM (Standard Organic Malaysia) was introduced! 

I'll have words on our protein source next. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...3

Life may not be a bed of roses, toiling the earth in deep jungle.  As for me, I am not the one to complain.  I have Ma all to myself and as for friends, there were children of other settlers that we met occasionally especially when adults had to meet over work or social matters.

I remember a real nice neighbour whom we addressed as Tok though they were only of my father's age then.  Two of the children were slightly older than me and the youngest younger (than me).  The father was Tok Semail, the wife Tok Sepiah and the grandpa Tok Yak'kok.   According to my elder brother, Tok Sepiah is still around.  The eldest boy was Abe Lah to me while the sisters were Yoh and Yah.  Time that I look them up the next time I balik kampung.  Seemed that Abe Lah (now known as Pok Lah in the neighbourhood) is a successful farm entrepreneur.

Though a neighbour, the family's house was more than a calling distance away.  Ma would be busy with housework or helping father in the farm.  It was not always that she be available to accompany me to meet my friends at the neighbour's.  So visiting my friends would mean having to make the journey all by myself.  When frightened you tend to 'see' things and living in this jungle settlement was no exception.  It was not that I imagined things, but when a millipede can be a foot long and an inch across that can be very frightening to a small child.  In need of companionship your ingenuity got the better of you.  I closed my eyes and ran all the way (to the neighbour's)!!!  The path must be well trodden that I did not knock into trees or get entangled in the bushes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...2

I was not exactly of schooling age when I was moved to stay with my stepmom.  She was a wonderful lady who had aspired to be a school teacher after completing her year six education.  In a world where girls were seldom schooled, what more completing the primary education, a year six school certificate was a good enough pre-requisite for her to continue to be trained as a school teacher.  But fate was not on her side as she was forced into marriage soon after completing her year six education.  She had a son from her first husband that ended in a divorce.  Circumstance had it that the son was cared for by her grandmother when she married my father.  My father was then a planter venturing into deep pre-logged jungle to farm rubber trees.  That was not a place for a new born.  However, I was of age to join my father and Ma.  My life long lesson as a biologist, ecologist and agriculturist begins here.

I remember then that the settlement was quite a distance from Rantau Panjang town and was only accessible with a 4-wheel drive, the hardy Land Rover, during the dry season.  A few were used as 'taxies' ferrying passengers into the new landholdings.  Normally these were laden with passengers and their provisions for their extended stay in the settlement.  It used to take us about 4 - 5 hrs to reach our destination using this mode of transport.

During the wet monsoon season, we used the passenger boats.  These boats plied the settlements along the Sungai Golok river.  I remember the frothy swollen river and the ride upstream, against the current.  We boarded the boat at about noon at the Rantau Panjang jetty and with the frequent stops along the way for passengers to disembark at their respective destinations, we would only reached ours at about 9 pm.  Then there was another 30 minutes - 1 hr walk to our house.  Imagine a small sleepy child walking in the dark with the parents at that hour in deep jungle!  I can't hope for a ride on my father's shoulder or Ma to carry me.  They we both laden with our needs for the few weeks stay until our next trip to town.

Things have indeed change.  I don't know about the boats, whether they are still in use or not.  But one thing for sure, with the road that we now have, a car ride to the holding now takes us less than 25 minutes!  The decision to acquire the land to farm was indeed a brilliant foresight on my father.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My early years, the way I remember it...1

Guess I was raised by my maternal grandma after my mother's passing.  She must have taken good care of me as after I was moved away from her for my schooling, I can't wait to get back to her for the school holidays.  I remember the wooden house and it's muddy surrounding with tall bamboo clumps growing close by.  The well is upfront hedged with wooden fencing preventing us children from falling through.  Banana plants were aplenty and the undergrowth thick with kadok (Piper sarmentosum) and kesom (Polygonum minus).  One can just imagine how damp the place was.

Somehow I remember the day I was plucked away from my grandma.  It was the day when my elder brother came running with high-heeled sandals in hand.  That was funny and I remember asking him whose were those (sandals).  "Ma's," he said without blinking.  "Who is Ma?" I asked in return. "Ma is Ma," his response.  Seemed that my father had remarried and had taken my school going brother to stay with him and our new stepmother.  Soon I saw this shy but beautiful young lady approaching.  My new stepmother, and we called her Ma.  My brother, in his excitement, had ran ahead of her.  She had to walk barefooted as the approach to my grandma's house was way too muddy for those dainty sandals.  Now it was my turn to leave my grandma to join my father and his new spouse.  I do not remember the rides that we took but I remember arriving at a house set in a rambutan orchard.  That was the start of my Rantau Panjang stay.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Of inheritance and family tree

I have always wondered why I got to inherit some property across the border (talk about Rantau Panjang, Kelantan and Sungai Golok, Thailand).  It was some acres of rubber plantation which was under the care of a grandaunt (Tok Su Sitah).  I remember during my primary school days when I would walk across the Rantau Panjanag-Sungai Golok railway bridge (only a hand wave at the immigration officer attending to the border crossing booth would get the approval nod) to collect earnings from the plantation.  Not much, but a 100 Baths (RM10 equivalent) per trip went a long way in those years.  All the while, I thought that the Tok Su was my maternal (Mok Aji Esah) grandma's sister.

It was only recently and after some inheritance complication that I got a clearer picture of who I really am.  Seemed that I had a super rich great great grandfather, Haji Semael (Ismail), residing in Sungai Golok.  One of the sons, Lome (Abdul Rahman, my grandfather) married Esah.  Between them they had my mother, Kalsom (Som).  Som, being the favourite granddaughter, was endowed the said rubber plantation.  The venturesome Lome died young of mushroom poisoning.  I cannot recall anything of my mother.  She passed away when I was only a baby.  I remember spending my school holidays at my grandma's place at Kampung Kubang Bemban, Pasir Mas, located adjacent to Pondok Haji Ghoni.  Turns out that my grandma is a sister-in-law to Tok Su Sitah.

Now caring after my grandson, Adam, the heart is nudging me to seek my roots, wondering who had cared for me when I was a baby.  With the elders mostly gone, this could be a tough venture.