Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Point Where It Began

Kampung Sura Tengah (circa 90) was nothing but an image of a huge coastal land supporting an eye-stretched coat of tall grass, bushes, coconut trees, acacias, and clusters of wild ‘kemunting’ berry shrubs grew at random spots here and there. The kemuntings had been a part of the sweetness of our childhood memories. We would fold the front flap of our t-shirt to make a temporary pouch and collected the kemuntings in there. Then, we would bit them one by one to suck its sweet and tiny delicate jelly-coated seeds until our teeth stained purple.

There was a huge cluster of kemunting shrubs grew nearby a big cashew tree where a baby cobra was spotted passing through on the lead-coloured soil and finally disappeared underneath fallen twigs that structured the rusty-coloured linoleum made from bed of senescent leaves.

And we had spotted quails a few times swaggering around the tall grass metropolis which insisted Father to scatter ground traps so that we could dine ourselves with the sweet flesh of deep fried ‘burung puyuh’ but Father never did. And we had woodpeckers – which were impossible to catch. Squirrels too! Musang pandan, a civet cat its pee produces hard pandan scents within fifteen metre radius, a reason our kampong's children were afraid of going outside at night because folklore had it that was the smell of the apparition of ghost before it will turn unpleasant like smell of a rat carcass – the latter was an exaggeration invented by the adults as a reminder for their children – the genius way. We also had monitor lizards. Cobras and non-cobras. A pair of white-beaked hornbills sometimes, and a wild pig its tail was curly like curly fries. There you have it – a mini safari.

The land had turned itself into a rapidly growing neighbourhood when house developers started dividing the big piece into fractions now that each of it had a new name which was spelled ‘lot’ on paper. To our tongue, ‘lowt’ wasn’t a hard word to pronounce.

Coconut trees were uprooted – luring uninvited village children who burned their eyes not to blink over the green clusters of coconuts that each of them encased a jugful volume of heaven-made juice which wept their burning throat to ‘aaah...’. All the tall grasses were shaved down to the ground. Dried acacia trunks were used to ignite bundled parts of coconut tree trunks, together with sprigs of kemunting shrubs, dried coconut husks, and everything else that mattered. Mini safari closed down.

Bungalows sprawled within a short period of time, now that the empty land had been filled with huge and stout concrete mansions owned by the rich and famous. Ours didn’t have the authority to carry those titles because it was just an ordinary wooden house built on concrete stilts above the ground, sharing the prickling heat of afternoon sunlight with a swarm of termites as our worst enemy somewhere in the subterranean kingdom down there.

Father held a customary practice called ‘kenduri naik rumoh’ as we moved into our new house and stayed there for a month thereabout. It was believed to be the most decent party on earth. The was a set of rules: invite the whole neighbourhood, ask a pious man to lead the spiritual part of the ceremony, then feed the whole guests with delicious food such as curry rice and air bandung with selasih seeds that looked like frog's spawns in the pond of pink.

Grandpa was the man in charge to lead the spiritual part of the ceremony. He recited lengthy verses taken from the Koran and chanted various kinds of zikir that kept everybody in the living room rocking back and forth while muttering ‘amin’ every time Grandpa halted for a few seconds for a breath uptake. At the same time, cooking utensils clanked every now and then in the kitchen – the sounds of Mother and cousins were preparing dishes, added beats to the baritone of haunted orchestra hummed by men in Baju Melayu and kain pelikat. Grandpa was clad in Arabian white robe. At the end of the ceremony, when everybody had their belly swollen real good, I made myself sprained in the cheek when forcing myself to smile like a deep-fried siakap fish while handshaking with the greasy hands of those curry eaters.

That was the way how I knew our neighbours – Pok Cik Rohing the man who loved red (he had painted his entrance gate, his Toyota Corolla, and veranda; all in red in the brightest hue), Pok Cik Rosek the quiet executive bank officer, Pok Cik Romli a young divorcee who fond of playing his boombox with Hari Raya songs in highest volume even though it was still five months away towards the day of celebration.

And we had Pok Cik Zulkifli whose daughter had a fair complexion like a typical orang putih soI dreamt of marrying her and live together happily ever after, Haji Hasang the newly-wed pious man living next door, and a cat named Chicky; Pok Cik Rohing’s pet cat that visited our kitchen with its innocent look in the eyes, meowing the chorus of ‘gimme that, now’ when Mother was cutting half a smiling fried mackerel.

A few weeks later, I squatted and crawled beneath the house with a pencil in hand. On a wood plank supporting the living room’s floor I jotted down the date we moved into the house. It was still there when I crawled back to the same spot few months ago. I smiled.

This is my kampong, let me tell you about.


  1. Reading this makes me teringin ayaq kelapa pulak..:-)

    I wish I was from a kampung..Take care, sir

  2. right now, i'm stucked here,again, lucky me..

  3. air bandung selasih would be my fav drink for ramadhan. heavenly.

    i have been to sura hujung and sura tengah, i think... visited some relatives. somewhere near UiTM campus.

  4. Ida Hariati Hashim,
    Ha! Ha! Please make sure that you're not having joint ache. Indeed, nearly everybody wishes they are from kampong. But hey, growing up in a city isn't hurt after all.

    Take care to you too, ma'am!

    Hafiz Hamid,
    Lucky you for idling here.

    A cuppa, sir?

    Dottie with Dots,
    You're having puasa ganti, miss. Thaat's the main reason you're craving for that pink bandung with tadpoles. LOL.

    Yeah, you were somewhere near me.

  5. I normally practice puasa during Rejab and Syaaban. My ganti puasa I normally finished em by Syawal. Its a hard habit to break ever since I started having episodes of puasa ganti.

  6. Dottie with Dots,
    It's a good habit, miss. It keeps you in a good shape. :D

  7. finally a new pots from you. *lega*

    now why does the post gives off this exciting sedap aura..? like there's all this very warm emotions floating everywhere..and there's this smell of kampung-ish home that i really miss...

    i miss my late grandma's nasik ulam.

    you got my eyes teary.

    but it felt really good.

    p/s: commented on the post you linked to from your latest post on your falsafah blog.

  8. Now look, can you pitch some ideas to our local TV producer and make our own version of Dallas or Knots Landing :) .. the Amok scene is a must!

  9. Max J. Potter,
    It's such a really optimistic aura, isn't it?

    My late grandma was a good cook. She passed her talent to Mother. Tasting Mother's cook is the same thing to tasting Grandma's.

    I'm sorry for making you cry. Say my name when you sleep. It should make you feel better.


  10. Tranquility,
    Well, Yasmin Ahmad is here no more to take the job. I don't want my stories taken by some low-class producers.

    The amok scene? Hmmm... I'll think about that later. LOL.

  11. mums are always excellent sent-from-heaven cooks, seriously. i can make my own nasik ulam now, tasting almost like one my grandma used to make. it's not lost.

    oh i have to say your name before i sleep? i don't practise superstitions you know? hehe.

    and i dont fully comprehend your latest comment on my blog. mind explaining?

  12. Max J. Potter,
    It's good enough already if you've understood the statement. Hehe.

  13. Your entry has really brought back fond memories of the yesteryear - my yesteryear in Dungun (cirta 1972/73 - 1975). I really like the sleepy and ghostly atmosphere in Kg. Sura (Sura Gate is my favorite tingkap-shopping area).

    Hey...I didn't realize that Pok Cik Rohing is also a die-hard fan or The Red Devil! Bahang ghambang sunggooh...

  14. DrSam,
    It had changed a lot right now, doc. I still remember how Dungun folks playfully called Dungun as Bandar Koboi back then. Sure it was. An eastern version of Texas minus real cowboys in cowboy hats and rolling dried weeds on the ground. Right now we have horses along the shore.

    Things has changed nowadays. Kg. Sura housed outsiders more than locals.

    However, there's one thing I adore about my hometown. It's a good place to gaze up to the stars. Stars are lovely. :)

  15. gonna write a book anytime soon? got talent there bro.. ;p

  16. ur style of writing make me feel like it!
    ahaha u sure are not young rite pok deng?
    ur style is the same like Shahnon Ahmad la..

    p/s sorry for the broken eng.

  17. Jard The Great,
    Sure I will, if I have someone to do the proof reading job. Hehe. Thanks for visiting, Jard.

    Izzat Ahmad,
    Shannon Ahmad, who's Shannon Ahmad? Haha! Whoever s/he is, it's an honour for me having bequeathed such similarity.

  18. Have a blessed Ramadhan pokdeng. Quite a number of followers u got here dude. keep cranking ideas out of those noodles upstairs.

    Just to let you know, I'm somewhere safe, alive and kicking!.


  19. Gumbleed,
    Ah, I remember about those squishy noodles thing! Glad to know you're still alive. And kicking!

    Seems like you're answering my call. Good. Now stop hiding.