We all have experiences worth remembering, events that will not find it easy to be erased from our memory. Like everything else, memories that we left behind are not all the good ones, surely there will be some unpleasant events, some funny to the bone, some absurd and even obnoxious and few others so touching that it will always shed tears whenever those moments began to roll back and all these memories will either bring back the smile on our faces or haunt us in perpetuity until we reach the frontiers of our life times. We must be responsibled as well as accountabled in everything that we do. I have my fair share in all these memorable events and in this article I wish to share one event that truly enthralled me that in my later years excelled me to study theology/spiritualism in detail. This is my story, unabridged and not a line being expurgated. It takes me courage to reveal this story but nevertheless the story is well written in the pages from my past.
Situated at the junction of Jalan Khalidi and Jalan Abdul Rahman of my home town was a Chinese kopitiam serving the best roti kaya bakar and its 434 Muar coffee. Most of the customers were the beca men, small Chinese contractors and two or three Indians working for the Muar Town Council. Sometime they would play among themselves the famous game called ‘Dam Aji’, played on a piece of card board with a simple design of black and white squares. They would bet with the loser having to pay the winner his roti kaya bakar while the onlookers would chipped in betting on a bigger stake than the players themselves. At one corner would be two or three Malay sub-contractors always writing something on a piece of paper predicting the next four digit numbers forcast on the coming weekend draw and they always missed one or two numbers. One of these sub-contractors was a middle-aged man called Long Hamzah.
Halim, Yem and me would sometime spent our time in this kopitiam because of the roti kaya bakar. The three of us would sit and enjoy our indulgence while observing these elderly people enjoying their moments. One evening, while the three of us were having our roti kaya bakar, Long Hamzah approached us and asked whether he could join our table. Of course we had no problem having him sitting with us but at the same time puzzled what was he up to? He had been observing us for quite sometime and had now decided to talk to us.
He began introducing himself, doing some repairing jobs for big time contractors and sometime getting small contracts from the Town Council on small drainage jobs. When he asked us some questions, we told him we were schoolboys and our age barriers of fourteen to fifteen years old. He nodded and then said something important, “You guys are very young and have many more things to learn in this world. Would you like if I teach you three the art of silat? (Malay art of self-defence). You don’t have to pay me anything, I am getting older and would like to part my skill to young people like you three.” Then he looked at the three of us smiling and waiting for our answers.
“Can you give us some time to think about it?” Halim replied immediately.
“Of course, whenever you are ready, you can always find me here”, replied Long Hamzah as he stood up to join his friends on the other side of the kopitiam.
On our way home cycling three abreast we talked about this mysterious offer and whether we should take it. We were skeptical about the man himself, he could be a dope slinger for that matter and we had to be very cautious. We may be ‘naughty’ in our own ways but we had never broken any law nor getting into trouble with third parties. We asked ourselves many questions and we didn’t seem to get any good answers. Then Halim suggested that we should investigate ourselves who the hell this guy was?
We gave Halim the responsibilty to investigate. Since the day James Bond came to Muar town (via the Rex Cinema), Halim always became suspicious of any strange looking character and so both Yem and me decided to assign Halim Bond to do some investigation and he liked it very much. However, he must do it within two days as we did not wish to miss our roti kaya bakar for too long. The next day when I met him, I enquired about his progress and he told me he could not reveal just yet as it was still ‘top secret’ and so we talked about other things.
When the two days ended, while Yem and me were sitting on the tembok of my house, we saw Halim cycling towards us and we knew he must have done his job. As he reached the tembok, he smiled and said, “OK guys, this man is indeed a Silat teacher and I think its ok”.
“Why must we learn the silat? We don’t have enemies and we don’t go around disturbing other people”. I asked Halim.
“Its good for us, at least to learn the art of self-defence”, interuppted Yem.
Halim looked straight into my eyes and said, “Look Din, its free anyway and this guy seemed sincere, trust me. I did my investigation very thoroughly.” When he noticed my silence, he asked again and this time he did it just the way James Bond did, so convincing.
Finally I agreed and so the three of us cycled to the kopitiam hoping to meet Long Hamzah. We were beginning to enter a new chapter in our life and I was not too happy but must abide to the majority votes. When we reached the shop, Long Hamzah was not at sight but his other friends were at the same table they usually sat. We approached them and heard one of them saying, “I told you, snake means number 6, alamak”. We guessed they must have missed again the four digits forcast.
“Encik Long Hamzah ada?” asked Halim to one of them.
“Dia sakit gigi, hari ni tak datang”, answered one of them. The three of us thanked him and we sat at the next table for the roti kaya bakar. Just as we were about to order our roti, there came Long Hamzah and when he saw the three of us, he came and greeted us. “Have you boys decided?” asked Long Hamzah with curiosity.
“Yes”, replied Halim. “I thought you have a tooth ace?” asked Halim and Long Hamzah nodded smilingly and then said:
“Good, can we start this coming Thursday night?” asked Long Hamzah.
“Yes”, replied Halim again.
Thursday night had always been a propitious night to the Malays of my time. They believed that on this night, ghosts loved to roam around to every neighbourhood. Those religious ones would spent their night reading the Quran because they believed that the angels would give them extra credits and somehow we belived too. We were so convinced that we normally slept early on every Thrusday night. We called this night as ‘malam Jumaat’ as the Muslim day begins after the sun sets.
According to Halim, we neeed to look for a place to learn our silat and it must be secluded. Besides the house where Halim lived was a vacant two storey bungalow. The compound was full of tall grasses and lalang and the house itself was almost dilapidated with many of its roof tiles missing. The three of us used to slaughter a chicken inside this house one afternoon after catching it straying and later Yem’s mother fried it for us. We thought this would be the ideal location to learn our silat.
Two days before the lesson began, Long Hamzah told us to get ready with seven different flowers, three lemon fruits and a basin of water. We complied his request and we were ready.
On the first night Long Hamzah arrived at Halim’s house around 9pm, and the three of us told him about the vacant house next door. We brought along the requirements and we noticed he brought along something too. When we entered the vacant house, it was total darkness and Halim lighted a candle he had brought along, in fact he brought along a dozen candles and we lighted six candles placed at every corner of the hall where we would be performing our silat lesson.
Long Hamzah began the lesson with chanting some Quranic verses, he was sitting cross-legged and the three of us sat in front of him. Then he placed the basin of water in front of him, took the lemons and had them cut and he squeezed letting the juice inside the basin. He then took all the floweres and likewise put all of it inside the basin. He sprinkled the three of us with the water that had been mixed with lime and the flowers. He began to chant certain mantra and the first lesson began and it was known as ‘Silat Sendeng’.
He showed us the first movement and we followed. While doing it, quietly I said to Yem, “macam pendekar bujang lapok aje!” Yem wanted to laugh but we both decided to be more serious because Long Hamzah maybe heard what I said and was staring at me. We learned many lessons, the art of attacking, the art of defending and how to use our silat technique when faced alone with more than one enemy. This went on for about three months. What really intrigued me was the event of the final night and the reason why I decided to share this story.
Earlier he had told us that we were now ready to face the challenges whenever confronted with any hostile reception by any third parties. However, we need to arm ourselves with something more rigid both physically and spiritually. The final night he came with an assistant but what surprised us was they brought along a ‘batu giling’, a very heavy stone used to roll chilli to make sambal. “Tonight is the final night, and I am going to make the three of you invincible”, proclaimed Long Hamzah.
He took out nine eggs, three for each of us. Then he told the three of us to stand up and to take off our shirts one by one beginning with Halim. He cracked three eggs and took only the yoke and spread it all over Halim’s body. Then he did the same to Yem and finally to me. While spreading these egg yoke all over our bodies, he chanted certain mantra alien to our ears. Having done so, the three of us were told to squat and what next to come was one horrendous experience that I ever had in my life. Long Hamzah and his assistant carried the heavy ‘batu giling’ and threw it with great force onto Halim’s bare back and that heavy stone bounced like a piece of rubber. I was aghasted at seeing such a sight and Halim was just squatting like nothing ever touched him. Then came Yem’s turn and finally my turn. Obviously I was scared but braved myself since nothing bad happened to both Halim and Yem. Honest to goodness, I did not feel a thing when that heavy stone fell over my bare back.
“My sons, tonight you have completed your lesson and nothing on earth can harm you”, proclaimed Long Hamzah with great pride. Then we all sat down cross-legged and talked until midnight. After our conversation, he and his assistant bade us goodbye and the three of us went home. It was a very tiring night and we thought it was best to go home and sleep and promised to meet for breakfast tomorrow morning.
It took quite a while before I could doze off, thinking about the recent event of being ‘invincible’. How could that big stone fell with such a great force over my bare back and I could not feel a thing?
“Come, let’s go to Wak Santano and have our breakfast there. My father just gave me ten dollars, I will belanja”, Halim said to both Yem and me. It was a fine Friday morning and the sun was just above the eastern horizon illuminating its bright sets of radiating lines to brighten one half of the earth. The wind was kind allowing some breezy flow to sway some branches with grace. We cycled passing the Muar High School and straight on reaching the junction of Jalan Omri and Jalan Petri. Turning right with the majestiic government building on our left, we headed straight towards Tangga Batu and turned right where the restaurant of Wak Santano was. Scores of waiting customes were already queuing for their take away and we managed to fill one empty table at the end of the restaurant besides the counter where the smiling owner would always be seated. The legendary Master Jabbar was already seated inspecting some documents with two guys standing behind him looking at the documents as well. Yem went to order our ‘Lodeh’ and some satay and I shouted at an old Chinese waiter for our ‘air barley’. Our paymaster was this morning a King, he need not do anything, his only responsibilty was to take care of the bill.
The three of us began to enjoy our breakfast, the ‘Lodeh’ was hot and lovely and the satay with its crunchy look producing some tempting juicy parts was so inviting. As we were so engrossed with our indulgence, Halim began the conversation, “I still can’t get it over that such a big stone could just fell onto our back without hurting us”.
“Are we going to be like this forever?” I asked my two friends. Both of them apparently had been keeping themselves the same question and since I brought it out first, we decided to do some ‘nasty’ things to ourselves to find out whether the ‘strength’ supposed to embed us was perpetual. We agreed to test ourselves and this had to be done in the most subtle way.
That evening the three of us went to the empty bungalow and brought along a thick wood its length the size of an ordinary cangkul. As we entered, all of us took our shirts off and beginning with Halim, Yem hit his back and as the wood touched his back with the force of his strength, Halim shouted of great pain. Both Yem and me immediately went to inspect how bad was his back really was. The bruise was beginning to be noticeable and Halim was still groaning. Then Halim looked at Yem and said, “Now, its your turn”. Yem was a gentleman and as he faced the wall, Halim in spite of still groaning with pain, hit his back with his might and there fell Yem to the ground shouting.
“Now its my turn”, I said and asked who would do the hitting? Yem was still groaning and Halim looked at me and said, “I think its not necessary, we are not that strong afterall”. I insisted because I wanted to feel it myself and upon my repeated requests, Halim did it and when the wood touched my back, its pain was truly unbearable.
The three of us sat on the floor licking our wounds. Few minutes later, I suddenly laughed out loud thinking what kind of rubbish have we done to ourselves. Both of them joined me and we laughed for few minutes uncontrollably enjoying the stupidity of our actions.
But one intriguing fact that kept on perplexing us in many years to come was that moment when we were hit with that ‘batu giling’ with such a force and we felt absolutely nothing. So we were not invincible after all but at least we were quite prepared to face any hostile reception.
We were fifteen years old, still too young to understand many things but we were always curious to learn any new things. The three of us have gone through many moments when time was kind to lend us some exciting experiences that need to be learnt.