Friday, February 27, 2009

GARNERING FOR THE KAMPONG ESPRIT DE CORPS


A view of the padi-field and landscape that constitutes Mukim Titi Gajah. The red roof buildings you see at the top right hand corner is the Alor Star Airport and the white patch atop the hill in the background is one of the water reservoir that supplies water to the city 15 kilometers south. With that as a foreground you will be assured that there will be farmers who tilt the land and professionals and technicians who see to flight arrival and departure. Not to mention in other fields.

HOW many of us take pain to know about our home and specifically the very zone or village where we are in? For all purposes we have lived in the area for over decades yet we failed to recognize its origin and much more identify the personalities within. No doubt you may recognize Pak Ma'e ( Ismail), Pak Mud ( Mahmud), Pak Ya ( Yahya or Zakaria), Tok Imam, Tok Penghulu, Mak Cik Mah ( Amah), Mak Yam ( Mariam), Uncle Lee, Madam Ramasamy whom you meet most days. You meet many more at functions such as 'khenduri', Friday Prayer sessions or at the market place. You exchange niceties, sweet words and greetings, even the graceful 'salam' and intimate embrace. It seems to stop at that only.





The picture showing part of the new Federal Government complex at Bandar DiRaja Anak Bukit. Going down the fly-over you come into the greenery seen in the background i.e Mukim Titi Gajah. On both sides of the new road once stood the huge government rice mill and storage built adjacent to the Padang Besar - Prai Railway line.




The community comes together during the annual AidilAdha in conjunction with 'korban'. Here in the compound of Tun Dr Mahathir they helped to distribute portions of meat. The spirit of gotong royong is still steadfast here


Right now I live at Titi Gajah, a riverine zone along the 'Sungai Kedah' river and astride the Kepala Batas - Alor Star main road. Two thirds of a century ago, most residents here would utilize the river as their main source of activities: communication, irrigation and personal usage. Now of course all the comforts of life are there. To top it all, the terminal of Sultan Abdul Halim Airport is in all account a walking distance away: by measurement of the good old days. Now of course, the nearest place between two points would require a motorized movement. Walking would be the last straw. The ten kilometer distance to the city of Alor Star takes us no more than 10 minutes along the two lane road.




Sometimes we received visitors at Titi Gajah. Recently a group came over from Singapore on an organized Expedition - Singapore - Malaysia - Thailand. For what we see so naturally day in and day out surprisingly our visitors found the scenery exciting and interesting.


More comforts and facilities come each passing day. The new 'Putrajaya' of the north has also open its doors to the community. Federal government offices have come very close to home being at Bandar DiRaja Anak Bukit. Soon enough even a railway station will be built here. Then only people would realize that it has come to replace the one that went out of commission before Merdeka 1957.


Friends from across the Causeway found themselves at the back of the house with the greens to lure them to a resort setting. Bamboo trees fringing the riverside seems to add a tint of luxury to what is only a kampong enclave.


'Gajah' as a word gets repeated and defined in many instances. You would of course recognized Alor Gajah', 'Batu Gajah' and 'Gajah Mada'. The former two being names of towns in Malaysia and the last being an Indonesian soldier and statesman of the Mataram Period (1290-1364) whose name bears a university in Indonesia.



Once in a while incidents do happen. We had floods in 1988, 2005 and quite recently this excursion bus came to a halt right into one of the homes along the main road. No injury to anyone but half of the wall of this house was pushed aside.



An old 'ketam' ( planner) which you may not easily find even how hard you try. No carpenter would use such a contraption now. Finding one, would mean you have come across a house-builder who once built wooden Malay homes with such skills that make them a living tradition. I expect there are those men in our kampong who spent their youthful years building such building which are still standing.


Considering the place where we live is called 'Titi Gajah' thus the close affinity with the name associated with that largest of the land animal. Aristotle once said that elephants are beast which passeth all others in wit and mind' Mind you a most popular 'sarong' in the market is traded as 'Gajah Duduk" too. Two exciting resorts in Bali catering for the higher market are known as "Chendi Tanah Gajah" and " Villa Gajah Putih". Rest assured others working and living in zones replicating the elephant are just as happy and assured by their progress and standing. Still there are much more to know about the place we live in. Skimpy anecdotes are short changed.

Quite recently, I began to get closer to the people around my home hoping to discover who they are before they settled here. With the tides of time washing away past episodes, many of the men were reluctant to bare their stories, many excusing as none to reveal, though I know each and everyone of them has a story to tell.

Pak Ya and friends visited the Shaw's Studio in Singapore and guess whom they met?
P Ramlee in younger time but already a star attraction

Pak Hj Yahya is a case in point. Presently I see him exercising and walking daily in the morning, present at prayer times in the mosque and finding him friendly to the point of sharing stories new and old whenever we meet. On occasions I took photographs of the senior group in the community, I never failed to give them a copy. Possibly such photo gifts, helped to open up conversations. 'Pak Ya' being his calling in the kampong invited me to see his photo album and of photographs collected in his younger days. Only then did I discover that Pak Ya had had a colorful life as well. He has worked in Singapore, served in the British Arm Forces and even posted to Hongkong. After leaving the army he became a forester acquiring skills and knowledge about forest products and related skills. Here is a man who can still give us an account of the British Arm Forces where many Malay youths had their first career experiences in the early fifty's,with Singapore and Hong Kong the two British Colonies their bases.

I believe many of his close door neighbors have no idea of his past and for a man coming close to his octogenarian years what's there to brag about! Seriously and sadly even his children failed to fathom the rich and colorful live their dad had experienced. Who failed in discerminating the story?

Photographs stuck to one another in an old album, hidden in the old closet have turned mouldy and brownish. Their small size and no bigger than the postcard added to the discomfort of viewing. Casually and reluctantly they were put aside by the owner himself claiming no significance.

Now with copying, editing, resizing and touch-ups they can be made enticing and newsworthy. For that matter Pak Ya lives again. The photographs that I acquired from him and appearing here brought back memories. We are brought back to times when our young men braved obstacles and languages, yet dared to serve and venture afield. He enlisted in the British Army and was posted to Singapore. Pak Ya and his colleagues had even a taste of soldiering and duty in Hong Kong with the British Royal Air Force , cruised on ocean liner of the time which many of us would give anything to have a taste of. Flights are too common while sea cruise is a luxury now. Yet to reveal his adventure and camaraderie as a forester in Jabatan Perhutanan Negara. While many of us continues to only admire the frolic and crooning of 'seniman negara' Tan Sri P.Ramlee from films and videos, Pak Ya had on all account visited the once popular Shaw's studio at Jalan Ampas in Singapore and met the singer himself.


Such is the anecdotes of one person hidden from view and sadly even from those closer to him. I would like to make a case for sons and daughters to clip back the pages of time, talk to your parents or grand-parents and discover their trails and tribulations. After all, theirs is your story too and yours will be that of your future generations. Life story writing should be our forte and especially for us enjoying blogging. Start now . Don't wait.

There are surely more of such personalities amidst us and sadly their stories left untold, leaving a vacuum of things and happenings that have taken place. Earlier writers and authors who documented account of happenings, cultures and scenes of the country and South East Asia as a whole remained esteemed for their contributions. Now if the 'Mat Salleh' explorers, civil servants and visitors can go down to the fields engrossed with stories to tell, then and now, why do we become otherwise? Bookworms we are, but writers and researchers not.

My adventures with the elders in the mukim continues; each person I choose to know will help to make this 'Gajah' entity a known factor. Far greater "Ayah Pembangunan Negara Malaysia" is a homo sepian who also hails from here too. Like others he came and settled here with his family. Many others like Pak Ya will come forth if we endeavour to seek and search. Never mind that they are not senior ranking officers or leaders but foremost they have unheard stories to be resolved.

What stops this mukim or any other being extraordinary if only we can sit down to know its identity and its people? How exciting and accommodating this program and enterprise they called 'homestay' can be if we have stories to highlight our kampong, mukim and township. It will help to bind the people together while giving pride so much needed when we talk of nationalism at its micro stage.



Do we want our future generation to sleep on without fathoming the significant contributions of their forefathers and the community where they were born or where they exist currently.? The mothers and grandmothers here would surely like to share their oral history. A small step forward is all that is needed. I know for sure my own grand children will get to know something of the past.

34 comments:

Desert Rose said...

Uncle,

Maybe u know Aunty Yasmin Tun's niece...They all tu baik la ngan my aunty in Taman Uda & Mak Bibi & Mak Teh used to come to my grandma's dusun in Naka during durian's season.

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Kotastar, you are absolutely right re our missing out on where we reside.
Its always that famous saying, "no time". We are too busy to look, enjoy the scenes around us.

You know, its funny to think about it now, the numerous times I used to travel to Alor Star, at nights walk around looking for a place to eat, etc...staying at the Merlin.

And now after so many years knowing someone like you from there.
For all I know we might have crossed paths at a store, coffee shop, or you horned me for turning without signalling, ha ha...

Oh ya, and landing at the airport enroute to Penang or to East Coast.

I used to take that secondary road, from Alor Star, a short cut to Grik. Then on to Jeli and Kota Baru. It was mostly rubber estates and jungle, and
Gosh, the narrow misses I had with those 8 wheeler military trucks then, ha ha.

Empat tahun I travelled that jungle road to Grik (80's)...and arriving at the police, milatary checkpoint with a few minutes to spare petang, sebelum curfew start, and the , "incik, curfew da start, jangan berenti mana2".
Then it was 120 MPH in my Alfa Romeo all the way to Jeli...to hear the sounds my car made echoing off the mountains...simply Nirnana, ha ha.

Ahhhh, memories...You have a nice day, Lee.

ps, I still have three check shirts I bought at a big store in Alor Star in 1982, but cannot get in anymore, keeping it for souvenir, ha ha.

KotaStar said...

Desert Rose

You must give us the address in Naka and hopefully we will meet you there come this durian season. makan dengan pulut how best ...Ya kenal mereka semua apa tidak rumah berjiran sahaja Terima kasih for dropping by. Salam sejahtera

Dear Lee,
Ya betul la. We could have bummed into each other way back then. Come to think of I do remember seeing a red Alfa Romeo in town then. Kita pun dulu gila dengan Alfa tapi in 73 - 76 was driving a Datsun SSS. Fast car too .Earlier had an antique Hillman Minx 1725cc even with a floor gear.Not common with Hillman. Sayangla should have kept the car. You must come back again and we will take the drive to Jeli again via the 'old' road but much improved. In fact there is an excellent road from Butterworth to Grik now. No more curfew. No military trucks but you may graze elephants at night however. Glad the story cleared some of the dark clouds and brought nostalgia. More so with the stories coming from Uncle Lee of Toronto. Keep them coming just as Hollywood continues with its stories. Thanks friend. All the best.

Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...

Pak Non

I used to stay and work in Alor Setar for seven years. Titi Gajah was just "a-small-village-just before-the-airport" with "Che Det's personal house" for me back then. Thanks for writing on it - it gives me a refreshing new perspective on that part of Alor Setar.

Desert Rose said...

Uncle Non (??),

U r always welcome. My Tok will b delighted ti have u & ur family there since she is so keen in welcoming guest to her house.

Since I kecik2, I never recall even one day pun yg rumah dia tak ada guest. Even if I couldnt be there, u r still welcome.

My uncle yg stay with her is now developing a homestay cum motivation camp on the land. Sb my other living next door, dah passed away and tak ada org nak care for d house land and kebun. So mg best kalau berkelah.

My dad dusun kat Semeling pun best. Musim durian ni when I balik kg, I'll let u know ok...

Uncle Lee said...

Hi KotaStar, ha ha, I used to like the Datsun SSS.
It appeared after the Mini Cooper S then king of the roads, till the SSS arrived on the scene.

But Saya da tengok the Alfa Romeo, lagi pun lipstick red...apa lagi, ha ha. And of course the raspy sounds it made. Music to my ears.
Nasib baik Bank Manager those days got sense of humour, ha ha.

Re that old short cut jalan...I used to stop for coffee at that kampong town where Tungku held talks with Chin Peng...Baling.

Made friends with some old pak chiks there dengar their cheritas of how Chin Peng keluar dari hutan.

And you know, I really enjoyed stopping at these kampong towns for coffee, enjoy the easy going lifestyle of the people as well, ahemm, watching the Malay ladies lengang lengok, lengang kangkong, ha ha, sashay by, ha ha.

But for all that saya ehlak makan petai, ha ha.
Even stayed at Gua Musang, Grik, Lenggong too.
Not to mention the Kamikaze nyamuks....kampong nyamuks don't take prisoners, ha ha.

Those were fun days, your time, my time...would have been better we had crossed paths...hey! Maybe you that fellow who overtook me in my Alfa Romeo that straight road out of Alor Star? Ha ha.

Keep well, and have a nice day KotaStar, Lee.

KotaStar said...

Dear Azizi,
It is the same with yr dad's kampong "Far from the Madding Crowd" refer to a novel written by an English writer Thomas Hardy which was one of the books that we had to study at Kirkby before. The novel has been a film in 1967 starred Julie Christie, Terence Stamp , Peter Finch etc - a 19th century novel.It mentioned it for the title which depicted the kampong set exclusively in Ipoh.It has stories to tell just as you have highlighted before and maybe more. Thomas Hardy is a novelist whom I particularly loved his writing. Have a try at getting one of his novel. You will be pleased at the language and style though fashion lama of course. Glad to see yr riding adventures. Salam Pak Non

Queen Of The House said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Queen Of The House said...

The Datsun SSS and others of almost similar design have been referred to as "kereta Cina sayur" .... why? I have no idea!!

I suppose Titi Gajah & Anak Bukit are fast growing, sebab nowadays nak lintas jalan pun susah. Too many cars on the road already.

KotaStar said...

Desert Rose,
Thanks again for the open invitation.Yes I do know the road to Naka and some of the excellent spots along the river which I hope are still intact.It is good for yr uncle to start the camp and being I believe it should be there is only success in the way. I see ?? after my name. Just to clarify pak tu betul b'cause I am senior to yr dad as 'En Menteri' you mentioned earlier, a Pegawai Pelajaran Daerah at Baling is contemporary to the HM at the same school and he being my former student at Jenan back 1965-67.After several yrs in the Education sector ( school and dept)I ended at UUM as Registrar, Retired now 15+ yrs.Dah lama tu. Both of us still in service though on our own.One daughter writes http://castlebukit.blogspot.com Welcome to the family blog. Hoping we will come across soon enough. Terima kasih

KotaStar said...

Queen,
Kereta sayur? That's new. Walau apa pun you did get to Singapore and Desaru in Johore way back I think two decades ago in the car. Dah lupa?

Desert Rose said...

Uncle,

???? tu sb nak confirm ur name, whether I got it right ha ha ha.

And Pak Cik Menteri was ur student??? What a coincident lah. He is now staying in the same housing estate as my parents. Well that area is full of cigu-cikgi pencen la.

BTW my grandma's is at Kg Kubang Juluk, the entrance to the kampung is by the jalan kecik next to d Masjid. Tak bleh miss punya sb Naka tu itu je yg ada, dari I kecik smp besaq mcm tu jugak.

Mana taknye all the budak2 kampung tu belajar pandai2, ramai yg sampai over d sea, and terus menetap kat pekan. So Naka is left just as it was. Dr Affifudin tu was anak murid kesayangan my Tok Wan, but sadly dia pun tak kekal lama.

KotaStar said...

Desert Rose,
No not the Menteri but the HM En Zul who is still at SMBaling, the same building where 'menteri' was is my ex student.Imagine if the school had invited Tunku Sultan and Menteri came to present Pengarah Pelajaran Kedah? That's why last yr in August they invited me for their Hari Anugerah. Boleh tenguk blog tempoh hari. Ada cerita. Thanks again.Soon I will know everybody in the kampong. Already u have mentioned Affifuddin related to my Mrs pula. Ha,Ha. Pak Non

Desert Rose said...

Ha ha, sungguh lawak.

We are related acquainted to people we mutually know, but not to each other la.

Dr Affifudin tu dah kira mcm anak angkat to my Tok Wan, dia dulu Guru Agama di Naka, (Arwah). Kalau happen to meet him habag la cucu Tok Guru Hj Idris of Naka kirim salam.

Monster Mom said...

I lived in Anak Bukit from 1986-1990. To be exact, the house situated within the compound of LPN HQ in Anak Bukit..
I remember the flood in 1988 where we had so much fun playing around the area... strolling down the roads when the flood subsided.
Now the house is gone. I hardly recognize the place anymore. Sad to say it is no more my Anak Bukit.

KotaStar said...

Monster Mom,

I remember the 1988 flood and have many photos of that calamity and so of the LPN gudang before they were pulled down and sold off with a huge profit for sure.Imagine the steel or iron pieces since pre war days there. I just cannot imagine why they need to demolish the auditorium and the 'ancient' manager's house. Both could have been preserved and become part of the new complex. Again not worth to cry over spilt milk. I agree with you, the new complex has disturbed the Anak Bukit atmosphere.

Desert Rose.
Will remember Tok Guru Hj Idris .

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