A TASTE OF HONEY

Honey bee

It was during one night while having our dinner that we noticed three or four bees flying near every neon lights there were in the house. Even a small lighted bulb would be visited by at least one bee. Seeing a bee flying in the house during the day was quite common as our house would always be visited by all kinds of insects, lizards, spiders, centepedes, butterflies and even small snakes would sometime found its way into the living area. At one time even a pagolin lost its way only to find itslef stuck inside my bedroom. Iguanas too were often seen sneaking to find some fat chicken in the barn at the back of the house. Bees and bugs likewise were always seen flying by the fruit trees and even among the roses that we planted by the side of the house. However, we seldom saw bees flying inside the house during the night and this time it made many of us wondered. We did not take much interest in these bees as maybe we thought this could be just one of those extraordinary night. Few nights later it happened again and this time grandpa was curious to find out how on earth could these bees appeared during the night and where was their hive?

After his dawn prayer, it was routine for grandpa to open all the windows upstairs and while doing so, he stepped onto something quite sticky. He looked at the substance and touched it with one of his finger and smelled it. He thought it smelled like honey and so he decided to taste it. Indeed it was honey. Then he looked up at the ceiling vertical to the point where the substance was and he noticed it was brownish in colour and few bees flying around it. “Is this the place where the bees made their hive?” he thought to himself. The next thing he did was to call grandma and both of them finally agreed that the beehive was inside the ceiling and it must be full of honey. These bees must have done the job quite sometime without anyone in the house noticing it.

In the afternoon grandpa called his Terengganu cousin Pak Ali and asked him what would be the best thing to do? Pak Ali suggested that they destroy the hive and take the honey. The bees could always find another suitable place to build their new hive. “But how could this be done?”, asked grandpa to Pak Ali. “These bees could be dangerous if we attacked their hive”, continued grandpa. “You’ve got no choice, either let the bees be part of your family or remove them”, answered Pak Ali. After much deliberation, they both agreed to destroy the hive and take the honey. As for me, it was of utmost important that I must inform my three ‘sisters’ immediately. So I ran as fast as I could heading towards Mak Pon’s house and when they saw me coming like a hurricane, they all gazed at me with their eyes wide opened. They knew that there must be something very important otherwise I would not be running like as though I’ve seen a ghost.

“Ada sarang labah labah lah, Encik Jantan nak buang”, (There’s a beehive and grandpa is going to destroy it), I said immediately as I stepped into the house. “Apa kau cakap ni?” (What are you talking about?), asked Kak Shidah while Kak Arah and Kak Fuzi looked at me bewildered. “Ada labah labah buat sarang kat dalam bumbung lah, Encik Jantan nak buang sarang tu” (There is a beehive inside the ceiling and grandpa is going to destroy it), I answered back. The three of them could not believe what they just heard but nevertheless they knew this was going to be very exciting.

Pak Ali later came to the house with a friend who was supposed to be an expert on ‘bees and honey’. He was introduced to grandpa and the three of them began discussing how to get rid of these bees. Grandma did some cooking that would be served at the end of their discussion. According to this man, to get rid of these bees it had to be done during the night. Those involved in the operation had to be fully clothed and even their faces must be covered leaving only the eyes for visibility purposes. They had to use a long stick and at the upper end to be lighted with fire. All windows must be opened for the bees to leave the house. While these people did the operation, those not involved must stay inside their respective rooms to avoid being stung by the bees.

Few days later during one evening, Pak Ali came with three others and they were well equipped. One of them looked like Batman. The two doors upstairs and all windows were earlier had been closed by grandpa. Grandma and Mak Yang our maid-servant had prepared few containers to fill the honey. My three ‘sisters’ and me were running here and there and were a real nuisance.

We had our dinner first and it was Pak Ali who did most of the talking. In spite of having stayed in Muar for quite a long time, his Terengganu’s accent was most noticeable. He stayed with grandpa’s youngest brother Tok Ajis in Jalan Khalidi together with her daughter about my age named Zaleha. Pak Ali and his wife were divorced. Zaleha whom we called ‘Leha’ was almost everyday at our house and she was like a tomboy. She could climb every fruit trees there were but the most amazing was she could even climb a coconut tree. When she ran playing ‘Police and Thieves’ with us, I could never catch her. The way she ran was like what we Malays termed as ‘macam lipas kudong’. I wonder where is she today?

“Mu doh siak barang barang?” (Have you got all equipment ready?) asked Pak Ali to his three accomplices.  They all nodded and kept on eating. “Aah kalu gitu makang dulu” (In that case, have your dinner). In the midst of having their dinner, Pak Ali explained to grandpa the necessary procedures but the most important was the application of certain herbs immediately to those stung by the bees. They also used the inner part of the skin of ‘petai’ to be rubbed at the spot where it would be stung. According to Pak Ali, using these natural resources could heal them almost immediately.

At around 9.00pm after dinner, the operation began. The five of them including grandpa were fully clothed with only their eyes exposed. When they went upstairs, all lights in the house were switched off while all of us ran to our respective room and stayed inside.

From the outside we could see the fire being lighted and soon we could hear the humming of the bees. We could hear their voices and the most notable was Pak Ali’s voice giving the instruction. All of us knew not how the operation was conducted and it took almost three hours to complete. When the operation ended I was already fast asleep.

The next morning as I remember, many dead bees were sprawling on the floor. We could still see some bees flying but they didn’t seem vindictive. As a precautionary measure, most of us covered our faces with some clothing materials. They managed to collect quite a lot of the bees’ honey.

Honey as we all know besides its recognized nutritive value, has been scientifically proven as a healing medicine of certain allergies and other ailments. The Holy Quran gives special reference, may I quote:

“And your Lord inspired the bee: build homes in mountains and trees and in (the hives) they build for you.

Then eat from all the fruits, following the design of your Lord, precisely. From their bellies comes a drink of different colours, wherein there is healing for the people. This should be (sufficient) proof for people who reflect.” (Surah Al-Nahl (16) verses 68 & 69)

Some of the honey were distributed to our family members and relatives.

I can’t remember when did this happen but I am quite certain it was sometime in the mid-fifties when I was still a small boy. Those days many of nature’s wonders were unspoiled and I can still remember some strange looking animals passing by. I remember seeing hundreds of vampires (bigger version of bats) flying over the coconut trees and we could see them flying almost every evening. We called this animals in Malay as ‘keluang’. I remember seeing some tortoises by the monsoon drain behind our house and they were really big. Strange looking birds were frequently sighted on some branches of our fruit trees. Once we had hundreds of pigeons and every morning grandma would gave them rice to eat. The years when I grew were full of nature’s wonders but as years passed by and Muar town began to experience some developments, these animals simply disappeared.

Why did the bees made their hives inside our house is something to be pondered. They could always built their hives on some tree tops away from humans or from other predators. Maybe it is nature’s way how the honey should be distributed to humans for our benefits.

That was my first taste of honey.

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4 Responses to A TASTE OF HONEY

  1. Halida De Ste Croix says:

    Assalammulaikum En Kamaruddin . Your story today was very entertaining in Malay something like ‘geli hati’ when I read it. It’s was so funny how you did mentions a few times before , anything happens its like your duty to let your sisters knows. And the Batman outfits, Zaleha, I laughed so much … You are funny… I am in Spain at the moment , a bit busy but I always made sure I checked your blog n hoping for a new story. Your dancing story and today story is the best.

  2. Harith says:

    My experience in our house when I was young was more of the ‘kelulut’…a less lethal species that will churn out some small quantity of honey in the most unimaginable place…under the ‘tikar getah’ at the verandah. Squeeze in between the wooden planks and the ‘tikar getah’, it produces some small quantity of honey quite similar in taste with honey of the bees. What I need to do is just to flip up the mat and slide my finger along it just to have a taste. The sting of the kelulut although not lethal still leaves some minor pain for a short period of time and as usual same like bees it dies naturally soon after that.

    It was only quite recently I notice people selling ‘madu kelulut’ by the bottles along some roadside at my place here. I doubt it’s originality as the ‘kelulut’ is much smaller in size and I don’t think it can churn out such quantities unless it is nurtured on a commercial scale somewhere.

  3. Abd Halim Mohd Noah says:

    Pak Ali was some sort of a handy-man, whom many would engage to do some chores and run some errands. He would go around bare-footed most of the time and seldom wore a shirt, except during special occasions such as the Hari Raya. His standard attire would be a pair of knee- length shorts and a small towel slung over his shoulder.

    Pak Ali’s daughter Leha passed away a few years ago in JB. Her husband was a marine police and she was living at the Stulang quarters.

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