Family gathering at Parit Bakar

Every time when grandma took me along to Parit Bakar, I would be jumping with joy because I loved playing around the rambutan trees, running at the back yard where few mangosteen and durian trees stood  alongside few other fruit trees like the duku, ciku, rambai, kundang and cermai. The house of my great grandmother was like my second home because grandma made sure that she visited her mother at least once a month. Most of the time we would take a teksi (beca for Muarians) and Pak Malek was the only rickshaw man she would engaged. Normally we would stay for a night and Pak Malek would come to fetch us back home the following evening.

The distance between our house and Parit Bakar is approximately eight kilometers and the journey would take us about half an hour. I have always loved the kampong scenery especially during my growing days where cars were hardly visible and even cyclist on the road was scarce. The kampung people were very friendly and somehow they all knew each other. My only problem was during the night because I was extremely scared of ghosts but during the day I could even walked alone at the back yard of the house and running around the surrounding secondary jungle because I knew during the day these ghosts would be fast asleep.

Unlike my cousins who called my great grandmother ‘nek’, I called her Tok because I have always looked upon her as my grandmother.

Last week Pak Jamak came to our house to inform grandma that Tok would be conducting a kenduri and Tok had wanted grandma to be at Parit Bakar a day before the kenduri. Pak Jamak was grandma’s first cousin and he was a frequent visitor to our house. He was Tok’s messenger as well and would cycle to Muar town every time a message had to be sent to grandma and Mak Kintan (grandma’s younger sister). When I was small I was scared of Pak Jamak because he had a very serious face. On the contrary, he was extremely nice and would always help me to fetch some rambutan fruits not within my reach.

It was a Thursday morning when we left for Parit Bakar and as always Pak Malek was very cheerful. While peddling he talked to grandma about many things while I sat besides grandma gazing at the wonderful scene of kampong environment. I just love kampung scenery even until today, a liking embedded since my childhood days.  The morning sun was covered by the blue and greyish clouds, able only to illuminate its sparkling red illustrating a wonderful heavenly background to nature’s great wonders. The morning wind as always was breezy making our ride a pleasant journey. Throughout the journey, sometime I would be very busy squatting at the front of the beca pretending to be like a cowboy on a wagon shooting at the ‘Red Indians’ with my bare hand with the index finger being the pointer of the pistol. I received my early indoctrination of white people as always the good ones while the Red Indians were the villains.

When we reached Tok’s house, Pak Malek rang his bicycle bell and all heads suddenly appeared at every window of the house eagerly to find out whether was it the postman sending an important letter. The front door was opened and there was Tok standing and behind her was Timah Keling her adopted daughter grinning and waving. At the back door Mak Not (pronounce ‘note’) was seen preparing the site for tomorrow’s cooking and she was assisted by Pak Hussein, another of Tok’s adopted child. When the beca was at a standstill, I jumped down and ran straight to Tok and kissed her hand and proceeded to the back yard to look for Pak Hussein. He was a quiet man and would only speak when asked and I would always asked him a lot of questions. Sometime he got so fed up with answering my questions that he just nodded without any word spoken and I would keep on asking him about many things and he would just keep on nodding.

At the back of the house there were four durian trees and during the season, these durians would be distributed to the neighbours because it was plentiful. Sometime Pak Hussein would bring some to his friends at the nearby shop-houses and he would sit together with them enjoying the fruits. Those durians not too good to be eaten would be used to make ‘lempok’. We called these type of durians as ‘loko’. There were also many mangosteen trees as well as rambutan trees and I would normally climb all these trees and shout like tarzan.

Once I was stung by a hornet and within seconds the spot on my forehead where it was bitten began to sore and I ran home crying of pain and so today I was more careful making sure that no hornet was around. Quite often small snakes could be seen moving very slowly around the trees and most were green in colour. Malays called this type of snake as just ‘Ular daun’ and it was harmless but I would always avoid coming nearer to it.

It was not a durian season but the mango season had already begun with some trees showing off their fruits and some had ripen by the colour of their skin. Those ripen fruits would fall by itself but we were always impatience and so it was Pak Hussein who would be doing the plucking. Those not within reach, he would use a long bamboo we called ‘galah’ and sometime he would climb the tree and upon reaching the branch, he would shake it vigorously rendering those already ripen to fall. If Pak Hussein was not around, I would look for some sticks about the length of my arm and threw it at the fruit like the way we threw a boomerang. Most of the time I missed but quite often I enjoyed my own harvest. Normally I ate the fruit by eating it with my teeth to peel the skin first and then the fruit. The Malays called this ‘ongges’. Those days we always used out teeth to peel the skin of the fruits, even the sugar cane. Young kids like me had very strong teeth but of course we never used our teeth to open the durian fruits.

The kenduri was held in remembrance of my late great grandfather Haji Andak bin Jamak whom I never met. Grandma used to tell me a lot about him. He was a good-looking man, quite tall for a Malay and was a disciplinarian. He was of a Bugis descent whose father Jamak came to Parit Bakar for greener pasture. Four of Jamak’s grandchildren became prominent in their own fields. Tan Sri Taib Andak (grandma’s younger brother) became the first Chairman of FLDA (later Felda) and Malayan Banking, Tan Sri Jaafar Hussein (grandma’s cousin) was once the Governor of Bank Negara, Tan Sri Jaafar Abdul (grandma’s cousin) was the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in the nineties and Datin Paduka Fatimah Majid (grandma’s cousin) who was once the Head of Wanita UMNO. All these four were my grand uncles and grand auntie.

Tok was very fond of looking after few of her own grandchildren who at times looked upon her like their own mother. Che Chah (Esah Ahmad) was raised by Tok since she was a baby, Ram (Ramlah Abdul Hamid) although was not raised by Tok, she spent most of her growing days with Tok and even referred Tok as ‘Mak’, Bocheng (Ahmad Hj Ali) likewise spent his growing days with her. Another two of Tok’s grandchildren who spent quite a while with her are Noni Taib and Dollah (Dato Abdullah Yusof) who is currently the Chairman of Jaya Jusco and Aeon. The last of Tok’s grandchild who spent her times growing up with Tok is Ungku Nai. All these grandchildren surely have many fond memories of their grandmother.

On the day the kenduri was held, many relatives began to arrive and some came as far as Johor Bahru. Pak Usop and Mak Chah arrived from Johor Bahru togather with another Mak Chah (widow of Tok Midon). Tok Yeb arrived with Tok Nab and their children. Mak Chu (Puan Sri Zaharah Andak) came with her good husband Wak Ali (Tan Sri Ali Hassan). Likewise cousins of my age too began to arrive and we became a real nuisance running around the compound and at the back of the house. I remember Pak Jamak’s son Bakar, Mak Not’s son also named Bakar, Ungku Tik and Ungku Fadzil. They were all my buddies whenever we were at Tok’s house. Girls my age too were always around whenever there was a family event or gathering.

Many of our family’s earlier events were held at this house. Grandma told me that she was married in this house while grandpa’s house was the house stayed by Tok Yang Chik situated across the road near the Muar High School. Most of Tok’s children were married in this house as well and the last I can remember was the wedding of Che Chah and Ungku Hamid.

At the kitchen, the womenfolk were as usual busy preparing the necessary ingredients. The scene looked chaotic with everyone moving around executing their individual responsibilities. It looked even more chaotic when they talked while doing their works. The sound of various kitchen utensils like the batu giling and lesong contributed to the scene of ‘complete disorder’ with an added sound of toddlers with their cries. While many were rushing to keep to their ‘datelines’, Tok would also be very busy supervising every detail of everyone’s schedule as the clock kept ticking. The kenduri would be held at 3.00pm just in time for lunch particularly for the invited menfolk who would be returning after the Friday congregation at the Mosque situated along Parit Bakar Laut.

Parit Bakar is divided in two parts; Parit Bakar Darat and Parit Bakar Laut with the latter occupying the areas along the coastal stretch of the Straits of Malacca. The mosque is situated along the coastal road of Parit Bakar Laut while Tok’s house is at Parit Bakar Darat. The two areas are connected via a trunk road with few Malay houses could be seen toward the inner parts. Most of the frontage was covered with overgrown lallang and bushes. Cycling between these two points could take twenty minutes.

While the elderly women were busy at the kitchen, the younger ones were chit chatting about some new boys they met at some recent events they went to. They occupied at the upstairs of the house lending their hands to prepare the setting of the coming kenduri and subsequently the feast. It was almost noon and the ‘kain seperah’ must be spread with each end of the spread a ‘kendi’ would be placed. This ‘kendi’ was used to wash your right hand before eating and to wash it again after having satisfied your stomach. The spread was quite long able to cater for sixteen seating per spread. In most cases, the living area upstairs could accommodate three spreads. This responsibilities were given to the younger women of sixteen or seventeen mostly cousins who came with their parents and close relatives living in Parit Bakar.

Pak Hussein and Mat Not had done their job at the backyard of the house very well and it was time for their hard labour be tasted. It was a normal nasi biryani but the biryani kambing and daging (lembu) were equally on par with that of nasi biryani gam. Before the arrival of the invitees, kids like me were given the privileged to enjoy the food first. Most of us would sit on the ambin cross-legged and each of us was given a plate with all the lauk lumped together with the rice. There wasn’t any need to have a proper seating for kids like me and if we need to have another helping, we could just run outside the back of the house and look for Pak Hussein or Mak Not.

When the invitees began to arrive, Pak Jamak would immediately warned all kids to behave and to sit quietly somewhere. Sometime he would asked us particularly boys to join in the ‘tahlil’ and the ‘doa selamat’ so that we could learn to conduct our own ‘tahlil’ when we were grown-ups. The ‘tahlil’ began almost immediately when the Imam of the mosque arrived. Most of them arrived with their bicycles and Tok’s compound was filled with these bicycles.

The Imam would then recite some verses of the Quran and subsequently reading the surah Yassin. Although the ‘tahlil’ was in remembrance of my great grandfather Tok Andak, other relatives who had passed away were remembered as well. Before the end of the ‘tahlil’ session, the names of Tok Midon (Hamidon Andak), Tok Ali (husband of Mak Kintan), Tok Binti (Binti Dalilah Andak) and Tok Chik (Jaafar Andak) were mentioned along with their father Tok Andak.

The feast began about forty five minutes later and so these invitees had their lunch quite late. When the food was served, they had a real feast and it was worth the waiting. Some of the invitees who were close relatives were given a packet of nasi biryani together with the lauk to bring home.

That night the whole of the Andak clan enjoyed their dinner together. As for me and my kid cousins, we continued with our ‘adventures’ at the front compound of the house and we dared not venture away from the house as by now the ghosts had returned from their long slumber during the day.

That was not the only kenduri held at Tok’s house. In the months and years that followed, many kenduris were conducted and I would always look forward to be around. This was the only family event when we could meet all our close relatives and to catch up with each other. As time passed, kids like me began to grow and we were more disciplined in our own ways and those ‘adventures’ we used to create would be continued by the younger ones and this family culture continued for many more years until the day when Tok was finally laid to rest.

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  1. Harith says:

    Assalamualaikum Abang Din,

    Throwing sticks to fell off fruits from trees is an action we called among us Kedahans as ‘tenggalong’. The stick has boomerang action even though it does not have the peculiar shape of a boomerang and a few fruits will fall at the same time if you have acquired the skill.

    We did the same thing – felling of the buah asam jawa or tamarind of the tamarind tree….the tamarind tree is itself a gigantic tree and we have two at the back of our house. The fun of getting fruits make us more often than not forget the dangers luring around…thorns and sharp things and snakes!
    But not all fruits can be fallen by ‘tenggalong’ action as it is only suitable for the ones that have hard or thick skin. It has been a very long time since I last ‘tenggalong’ at a fruit tree!

    • My dear Harith, now you remind me of my officemate who is a Kedahan. His name is Idris Chan, quite a peculiar name for a Malay. One day, while we were talking during one lunch break, he recalled his younger days of climbing mango trees and sometime he would ‘tenggalong’ the fruits. I asked him what on earth was this ‘tenggalong’? Then he described to me how to ‘tenggalong’ the mango fruits not within reach by using a stick. There was another word he used…’ganggah’. He described to me that ‘ganggah’ is to shake a particular branch with lots of fruits vigourously and only those ripen would fall.

      Thank you for the input. It is always fun to recollect memories of our younger days.

  2. Lolong G Mali says:

    Salam Din, I would like to take a little space to share with you and your readers about stories during our younger days.

    My mother used to tell me bed time stories. I was a very young lad of 4 to 6 years old of age then. The years I wish to be back again. The themes of those stories told were all about being good, obedience, friendship, humor, about love and care.

    A beautiful Princess who lived in a majestic house built on the top of Gunung Ledang. A gallant and courageous warrior, Hang Tuah who on behalf of the Sultan of Melaka who was crazily and deeply in love with the Princess, climbed up to the top of the Ledang mountain just to tell the Princess that the Sultan loved her and wanted to merry her. In return, the Princess who impersonated herself as an ugly old lady informed Hang Tuah of ridiculous proviso that the Sultan had to fulfill seven prohibitive conditions.

    No deal, the intention of marriage inquiry was called off. The imprudent Princess must be out of her stricken mind. One of the conditions given was that a silver bowl of the blood of the Sultan’s young son was requested. The son was the only descendant. He was next to rule Malacca Sultanate. A bowl of his blood would had him killed.

    The plots of the story kept on changing night after night, rolling on again and again to dose me down to a sleepy mode. Indeed I was confused by the stories but the excitement and impulse of epic storyline continued, fantasying the characters as the stories developed and being the known legend turned more and more of ferry tales. But to me then, it was as real as my developing history mapped in for my imagination and cognition. It was visibly a reality. I could see her majestically existence from my house during a clear sky. There she proudly stood up as the grand of Gunung Ledang right in front of my eyes, though her stories were told with different perspectives for different purposes and by different storytellers.

    In contrary, the day was revealed about the reality in an episode which I would not forget to this day. It was about the phenomena of death which I could not apprehend during that of my age.

    I lived in Tangkak when I was a young boy. Tangkak is a small town twenty kilometers away from Mor. My father worked for the Central Electric Board, now called TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad). He was a second stationed master in Tangkak.

    Our closer neighbors were  ethnic Indians. In fact, our  relationship was not  mere neighborly but more to of a non-blood affiliation. They became our closed learning family friends. The living proof was that my late father could utter many Tamil words. He loved to watch Tamil movies. He enjoyed eating Indian foods and knew the cookery to its detailed ingredients. He often complained about the food served at the Indian food outlets. “This is not the way to cook Indian dish” a remarked of a touchy complainer to the reprimanded owner cum cooks. Apparently, not a drop of an Indian blood flows thought the tributaries of my father’s arteries and veins.

    I was often left by my parents to stay with Achi who was willing to baby-sitter me. Till now I could not remember Achi’s real  name.  Achi meant mother as far as I was concerned.

    One of my father duties was to attend the intervals of electrical breakdowns. He sometime came home very late at night. During those days, I think,  the flow of electrical supply was not as consistent and as stabled as of todays. Perhaps the power generators were not up to date.

    Besides, my mother was a business lady. At times, she had to travel far away to sell her goods and occasionally she stayed overnight at friends or relatives houses. Looking back, my parents told me, they had fullest accreditation to Achi’s family. The trust they had, they could leave their only boy at Achi’s custody without fear. I was five or six years old and the only child then.

    Achi was blessed by many children. Among of Achi’s children, I was closer and affable to  Muru. It was because we were of the same age. Our favorite game time was playing football at the open field in front of Muru’s house. And most of the time we were unaware that we were playing quite near by to the running stream which was fairly a deep drainage too. Being a little naughty, we would dip ourselves into the water without being seen. When Muru’s older sister or brothers got to know about it, they would call up Achi and informed her of our wrong doings. Achi would come running, she yelled and screamed at us and asked us to get out from the water immediately.

    One day, I followed my parents to Achi’s house. As we got there, I saw many people and assumed they were visitors. I did not know what was the occasion. Muru was nowhere to be found outside. My parents did not get near yet to the house but I was eager to meet Muru. They were held back talking to some of the people present. I could hardly wait to meet Muru. I loosen myself from my parents and walked through the crowd squeezing myself into the house to meet him.

    I saw Muru was laying on the matted floor, there sleeping. I remembered two coins were placed on Muru’s eyes. I called  Muru to wake him up and at the same I was shaking him up for response and I did it repeatedly. He acted stiff and did not bother to move at all. Later, I was pulled away by my mother. I kept on asking my mother persistently what have had appeared to happen to Muru and why he was sleeping. Finally, my mother told me, “Muru dah meninggal, dia lemas, lepas ini kena bakar”. The only word that I captured and objectionably was ‘bakar’. Then I started to cry and lamented over ‘bakar’ as my mother dragged me home. I kept on asking my mother repeatedly, why must Muru had to be burned. I received silence answer and no words of explanation given.

    It was a grief  experienced and moment I  had.  What I could recall, it was an episode about death and the very meaning of it in which I could not understand. It is also a story of friendship between two boys who do not know about race, color or creed. Lamentably with sadness, they fell short of what they had expected of their relationship. But the spirit of friendship I carry over to this day.

    In view for an acknowledgment, we cannot  be an egocentric living being in the multi ethnic society like Malaysia. We must learn to look into the views of others in the natural spirit of tolerance. In this wisdom of words, we must learn of each other cultures. To me, this is one of the prerequisites of 1 Malaysia an expression which I learned in my younger days, I think.
    Selamat berpuasa.

    • That’s a sad story. Had Muru lived, both of you could have become very close friends. We all have our own destiny. Your story reminded me of the death of my cousin Jaafar who died a fatal death while swimming at Tanjung sometime in 1961. He was hardly twelve just like me. As my contemporary in Muar town, perhaps you could have heard this fatal incident. He was on a boat built by my brother Farouk. He had named the boat “Sandra Dee”. Tanjung boys of my time surely remember the day when Jaafar’s body was found floating near the site of the ferry hours after he was seen struggling in the water.

      This incident haunts me till this day. Jaafar was close to me and we were buddies together with my other cousin Ajis Mak Enggor. He lived next to Ajis’ house.

      Not all memories are fond reminiscence we wish to recall. I am contemplating of writing about this incident in my blog as it happened during my growing days in Muar town. But sometime, a very sad event is too haunting to write.

      Thank you for sharing your memories. We all had our days and some nasty experiences. Selamat berpuasa.

      • Lolong G Mali says:

        I did hear about that fatal incident but I did not know the scene in detail. However, the mishap seemed like yesterday in our consciousness even though it was 52 years ago. 

        The fate is also an instant snippet of our remembrance. Somehow, it has enlightened, energized and came with a touch of emotion to our sanity.

        The happening was reported through by word of mouth. I was told it happen somewhere near the mouth of Mor river, a distant off the river mouth adjacent to the residence of Mor District officer. It was also the river frontage where my friends and I had ourselves-though swimming lesson besides acquiring our skills in water of an open water. (I hope the report is right, if not, need your correction.)

        Having a free hand, the opportunity to inhale and puffing out our smoking sticks of the branded name Consulate was our seeking week-ends routine. And having a ball that was what it meant to us. The puffing became more stimulating after every round of our swimming drill.  For your information, we did not go there for swim anymore after we heard that tragic incident. It haunted us.

        I was wondering and still am. When the news got to me the words went around saying, “Kapal buat sendiri le” As mentioned, your brother Farouk was the craftsperson. It had kept me wondering whether the craft constructed was sea worthy, or feasible to stress test before launching? I suspected it was otherwise and blurred of the situation.

        If that was the case, I guess, Farouk must had been watching too many pirates action movies. He probably depicting Captain Hook, Peter Pan and the movies actor Burt Lancaster. They were heroes of the American and British Pirate culture.

        In the late 50s, the movies of that sorts were box office, films  entitled “Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, The Boy and the Pirates, Queen of the Pirates” dominated the cinema screens. I remember all these films were adventure action movies. And to be imagining a part of being the Pirates and Davy Crockett characters were the ‘things’ of the days. 

        It is ironic, pirates are ugly, unrefined appearance and morally bad with mean-spirited, rogue personality and shabby but they are perceived as manly, ‘the Man’. The pirates are greedy, sea robbers and locating their hidden treasure but they are perceived as the sea traders, coast guard and the Navy.

        Farouk may had the ‘things’ before he decided to built the boat. I will ask him when I meet him next time.

    • Omar says:

      Assalammualaikum Mr G Mali,

      I too was touched by your undivided affection & friendship towards as you categorised as “a true friend”. At that young age, both of you were so naive and your,world was full of wonders and fantastic fantasies…….the real world came tumbling down the moment you lost your soul mate….you must be devastated by his passing…I can’t imagine how your days went by without Muru. I sympathize for your lost.It would be awesome if there is no colour in friendship……then, our beloved country will be at peace.

      Assalammualaikum Abang Din,

      Your moment of time during a memorable kenduri is indeed a legacy to be shared. From your write up, I feel that you have not nor wanting to let go a memory that is just a memory….if only, we are able to turn back the clock and relive it over and over again as a child it would be just stupendous. Kenduri in a kampung and running around without any care for the world nor without shoes to limit our movement is just awesome!! The detailed preparation, wide invitation and smotheringly relatives were just a passing moment of your kenduri experience….but I am sure kenduris now is more heavenly as you realize is the gathering of relatives and also “untuk memelihara hubungan silaturahim” for tahlil, reciting of our holy Quran and subsequently reading the surah Yassin to our love ones whom have passed on.

      • Salam Omar,

        Thank you for reminding me of running around the house without our shoes on. Yes, somehow I liked running everywhere even in the blukar without my shoes or slippers. Once I stepped on a broken bottle and when blood began to flow profusely, I was scared to return home. Luckily I had my handkerchief and had it tied to disallow the blood flow. In spite of that incident, I was still stubborn and kept on running without my slippers.

        Well, we were kids anyway.

        Are you a Johorean by any chance?

        Selamat Berpuasa.

  3. Almanar says:

    I remember meeting the late Tan Seri Taib Andak at Datin Kalsom’s house. We know the family quite well because Kalsom and her late brother were in the same company as I was. We met her sister in Paris many many years ago. And I attended the launching of her two books.We atre still in touch. What a small world.

    • Datin Kalsom is my auntie although at times I treated her like my cousin.

      She is the one who is persistent to bind my stories into a book and she is going to be the publisher.

      Thank you once again for visiting my blog. I hope you like reading my stories.

  4. A Rahman Omar says:

    Bang Din, ada dua Mak Kintan in the family ker? Here you wrote ” Tok Ali (husband of Mak Kintan)”. Mak Kintan yang saya tahu adalah isteri Ungku Abdullah.

    • Dear A. Rahman Omar.

      Mat Kintan married twice. Her first husband was Ali, who was assassinated by the communist in the mid-forties at Bukit Kepong. Together they had a son named Ahmad. Ahmad is known to many Muarians as Mat Bocheng.

      Her second marriage was with Ungku Abdullah and with him, all their children carry the title “Ungku”. The boys are Ungku Safian, Ungku Fadzil and Ungku Borhan. The girls are Ungku Arfah, Ungku Marsillah and Ungku Nai.

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