I may not be so lucky as my kampung contemporaries who would always enjoy whenever the fruit season arrived, but I have a fairly small share of that enjoyment as we did have some rambutan trees at the back of our house, some mango trees and one ciku tree. Unfortunately we did not have a single durian tree of our own.
However, right beside the house I grew in Jalan Omri was a plot of land with full grown lalang. The owner was staying in Johor Bahru and we hardly saw him and thus we simply regarded this land as ‘no man’s land’. On it there were three mango trees and two very tall durian trees. Surely it was inhabited by wild amphibians like the iguanas, geckos, small size snakes and few kinds of frogs and these creatures were our frequent visitors. Once there was a strange looking creature that lost its way and landed in my room. Nobody dared to approach it and instead just watched with curiosity what on earth this strange animal with scaly body and a long snout was? Later we found out that it was a pangolin and none knew where it came from? There was one morning when I woke up from bed, a small iguana was snifing to find its way out. When it noticed me, it disappeared so fast out of fright oblivious of the fact that I was even more frightened. I had to stay put on my bed for almost one hour before the creature managed to escape through a small hole in the room. Immediately I looked for something to cover the whole to avoid any future encounter. It is not so my much of being scared of that little animal, it is more of a ‘geli’ (I can’t find the correct English word for this), even a small lizard that once fell on my body made me freeze for a few minutes.
Normally the mango season would come first and towards its end the durian season followed suit as well as the mangosteen. On this ‘no man’s land’ there were three mango trees and two tall durian trees and those living nearby would always strategize how to get a better share of its natural harvests. If a durian fruit fall, it would be quite difficult to enter the land from the main road because of the bushes and the full grown lalang. To get a better access to the land, I made a small path at the side next to my room leading to the center of the land and this gave me a better advantage from the rest. Whenever we heard the sound of the fallen fruit, I would be at the land within seconds. At the same time, I would always have my big torch light ready to search for the fruits at night.
Now the durian season had begun and the two durian trees on this ‘no man’s land’ too began to bear fruits and the battle to share its harvest as much as we all could likewise began. Everyone of us was ready and always looked at the fruits on the two trees. My most keen competitor was my neighbour Othman who stayed behind my house but I still had a better advantage over him. Another of my competitor was my neighbour who lived right across my house whose name is Mene Lamdin (Zakaria Lamdin) but it would always take him quite a while to reach inside the land because of the thick bushes by the road side and so again I had a better advantage over him as well.
It was during one evening that the first fruit fell while we were all sitting at our tembok and our neighbour Mene was also together with us. While all of them ran towards the land, I made my quick access through the small path I made earlier and while they were struggling to gain access into the land, I was already inside looking for that fallen fruit. However, being the first to enter the site did not necessary give me the advantage as it was difficult to detect the fruit as its green colour matched very much that of the lalang and the tall full grown grass. So we all relied very much on our sense of smell and everyone of us began sniffing like dogs looking for something. Those suffering from flu might as well forget the idea and just rely on their eyes. My highest collection at one time was eighteen fruits but on the average it was approximately four to five fruits a day.
Every morning after my dawn prayer, I would always be the first to enter the site with my big torch light and within minutes my neighbour Othman would join me in the search. By 7am I would be out with few fruits already within grasped.
One night while I was reading, I heard a fall and immediately took my torch light and headed straight to the site. Minutes later while absorbed in my search, I heard someone laughing. I stopped for a moment trying to detect from which angle the sound came from but it was silent. I was not too scared of ghosts because I was so used to living in this environment but I was curious to know who could that be laughing at night. Then I heard it again only to notice it was my neighbour together with another friend. One of them threw a big stone into the air and when it fell it sounded like a durian fall. I joined in the laugh and might as well return home but before I reached its border, a real fruit fell and when I got hold of it, it was my turn to laugh at them. It was a big fruit and so I invited them to share with me and we all enjoyed our delights while squatting.
In one other incident, while flashing my torch light at the ground, I noticed a cobra looking straight at me, but it was not too big. I thanked my lucky star for as we all know it the bite of a cobra could be fatal.
Four miles away from home was the house of my great grandmother Tok Jilah in Parit Bakat Darat. Everytime the fruit season arrived, I would stay with her for few days. At the back of her house there were quite a number of durian trees, rambutan trees, mangosteen, langsat and duku, rambai, kundang and few other not so popular. Normally the durian season and the mangosteen would come together and these two fruits compliment each other very well. The durian fruit is very heaty while the mangosteen is cooling. Besides strolling along at the small ‘jungle’ behind her house, I would look for other interesting plants which interest me very much. This season grandma wanted to cook lempuk durian and she had assigned me to collect as many durians as I could. To make lempuk durian need not necessarily be the good ones, even those not palatable can be used, we call these type of durians as ‘loko’. When I managed to collect enough to make lempuk durian, my uncle Pak Mat Rippin would drive his car to collect the fruits and it would take few days before the durian smell disappeared from his car.
I was really crazy on durians during my younger days. Sometime I would eat the fruit for breakfast and when lunch time we would eat nasi durian; white rice with coconut milk mixed with brown sugar (gula melaka) and fresh durian. Then we had bubur kacang with durian for tea and again nasi durian for dinner and of course another bowl of bubur kacang. By midnight, we would be sweating of heat as a result of our excessive durian consumption. For the whole durian season, our house would have the durian aroma.
Sometime I would trade a fruit of durian with the ice cream man. He would gladly give me three scoops of ice cream for a fruit and would squat at a nearby drain to enjoy his trade. Then he came for one more but this time I told him the price would be five scoops.
It was quite a number of years we managed to enjoy our share of that two durian trees until finally the landowner sold it to someone who later had the land cleared to make way for his new house. But the many unforgettable moments that happened on this ‘no man’s land’ will always be stored in my memory bank in perpetuity.
We cannot get the best of everything. My kampung friends sometime tell me how they envy my urban upbringing but they surely have no idea that I envy them more. Everytime when I stayed with Tok Jilah in Parit Bakar, I always enjoyed every moment of my stay. Kampung life is so wonderful, fresh, cooling and the people are more friendly and your mind will not be too corrupted unless you listen to those political ceramahs. Otherwise, if given a choice I would surely prefer staying in a kampung. Nature provides us with many wonderful secrets waiting to be unveiled, we must be innovative and creative and it depends very much on us.