Thursday, December 16, 2004

a journey

Labbaik Allah hummalakalabbaik,
Labbaikala syarikalakalabbaik.
Innalhamda wannikmata lakawal mulk.
La syarikalak.

Tomorrow is the second day of Zulqaedah 1425 H. Tomorrow is the day I will set out to make the journey I had awaited for years, to be once again in the House of Allah and the City of Rasulullah. This time I pray that I would be welcomed as His guest, a soul among a few million other guests, a soul from among over a billion that proclaim ‘There is no god but Allah’. I pray that I will be welcomed to fulfill the fifth and the final pillars of Islam. If the last time was for a visit, performing the umrah, a small optional pilgrimage, this time it would be for the obligatory finale.

I could not imagine in the true sense how insignificant one would be among the millions, how small a man in the vastness of Arafah. But I will be there InsyaAllah; in a moment where a peasant and a king is garbed in physically similar garment of two pieces of white cloth, sans any sewing, calling out the same ‘talbiah’ – Labbaik Allah; where everyone an equal in the eye of Allah.
Once I had stood on the roof of Masjidil Haram, looking below at the Kaabah; I saw the circumbulation like that of an endless swirl of water, flowing from the edges, drawn towards the center, circling and after a while flowing out again. The flow in, the circling, and the flow out again happening ever continuously one can’t guess which was the beginning or which was the end. Not a moment has the flow halted but for the time of prayer. But then the halt was like a momentary pause before the flowing and circling begin yet again.

Soon, it will be time for Haj again. A ritual of a thousand and four hundreds of years will be performed again. Some say that it was the same ritual performed by angels since the beginning of time. All as a mark of obedience. Whatever one had seen at the time of umrah, will be too minute compared to the happening of Haj, people say.

I pray that I will be there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

naik b’ulang

On July 20, 1969, the human race accomplished its single greatest technological achievement of all time when a human first set foot on another celestial body.
Six hours after landing at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining), Neil A. Armstrong took the “Small Step” into our greater future when he stepped off the Lunar Module, named “Eagle,” onto the surface of the Moon, from which he could look up and see Earth in the heavens as no one had done before him.
He was shortly joined by “Buzz” Aldrin, and the two astronauts spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and returned 46 pounds of lunar rocks. After their historic walks on the Moon, they successfully docked with the Command Module “Columbia,” in which Michael Collins was patiently orbiting the cold but no longer lifeless Moon.
(Quote from ‘NASA Apollo 11 30th anniversary website

I had lunch with RI few days ago. He is an aspiring ‘yet to accomplish’ politician. I say ‘yet’ because I personally believe he got what it takes to be a good career politician; education, political experience, charm and vision. But sadly enough, most of the good one like him ‘dies young’; missing on opportunities to be the coveted YB’s. In the troubled water called politics, a ‘broye’ just can’t match the ‘nage’. No, I am not saying he is either of one, but best wishes to him anyway.

RI was lamenting about the challenge of motivation. See, he is a ‘penceramah motivasi’. To him, motivating the Malay youth by telling histories of Malayan Union and Independence is outdated. Those are something they did not went through and could not understand. Instead he says, the approach is to talk about something much closer in their history. I could not agree more. If ever I told my kids that I used to have only ‘seposeng’ a day to school they would remark ‘cakak mende gok hok zamang kirong tu, ni zamang laing doh…’ Imagine what a group of troubled youth would retort to. When he talked about the time when man first ‘naik b’ulang’. Salwa, Shida, ‘Braheng’ and Embong were there. They listened politely; but I saw only amusement on their faces. To the children of 70’s, even the history of 1969 were not really believable. But that part of history was true. I was there then as a ‘nearly’ five years old but I remember.

My recollection of the event.

In 1969, there was not a TV in my kampong. Only radios – and we listened to it just like you would to watching Astro of today. Then at nearly five years old I already could read and I read the Utusan Malaysia which my father devotedly buy daily (even to these days). Moon landing was a big thing; almost fully capturing the headlines and the radio airtime. Because of the news, the sensation it created, we were looking to the heaven, searching for the orbiting ‘rokek’ around the moon.. Of course we saw none, how can we believe the landing to be true. At the ‘kedai kopi’, at the ‘wakah’ while playing ‘dang aji’, at ‘b’asa’ while sorting out’ ikang rebuh’ or ‘be’ki pukak’ and even at the surau, moon landing captured our imagination. Among the elders and among kids, we were arguing. ‘N’awok’ (Lies), some would say, ‘bakpe dok napok pong? (why can’t we see it)’ Others may reply, ‘N’awok g’ane, gangbo ade kang, dok kang gangbo pong n’awok! (It can’t be a lie, there are pictures, pictures don’t lie)’ Then someone chipped in, ‘Tok Imang pong kate n’awok (The imam said it was a lie)’. The village imam (or was it another of the visiting Ustaz?) had passed his verdict. I was there at the surau when the Ustaz was ‘n’gajor kitak’. I was not there to learn any ‘kitab’ actually but to join the ‘makang’. The argument however was captivating. Otherwise how can I remember it to these days.

‘Orang kape belake tu wak cita orang naik b’ulang. Nok n’awok s’ape? Dalang kitak kate doh kang, nok naik langik tu ada berapa lapih? Ada tujoh lapih. Tiak-tiak lapih ade mele’kak tunggu. Nabi naik langik pong kena soal. Kalu orang kape kene soa, nok jawak mende!. Dok leh jawak mele’kak lepo slalu nge api. (Only the non-believers make up stories about the moon landing. In the Books, how many levels of heaven were mentioned? Seven! At every level there was an angel guarding. Even the Prophet was stopped and asked on his way to heaven. If the non-believers were asked, what would they answer? If they can’t answer, the angel will immediately assault them with fire.)

Then he added, ‘Ni ayak Quran ade doh ni. Dok dang sapa langik pong ada doh lapisang api’, (It’s stated in the Quran, there is a ring of fire below the heaven) quoting from the Quran.

In another occasion (and at nationwide too) the debate rages when someone asked ‘Kalu gi b’ulang nok semayang hadak m’ana? (Where do we turn our face to pray on the moon).’

On hindsight that was interesting. Even in 1969, before the introduction of war-cry ‘Malaysia Boleh’ there were already interest among Malays to be on the moon; and a strong desire not to miss the obligation of prayer even while in outer-space.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong

Even until now there are skeptics of the moon landing. The Van Allen Belts of radiations fits the bill of our ustaz own definition of the ‘lapisang api’ (ring of fire). Film buff may recall ‘Capricorn One’ (1978) starring James Brolin, OJ Simpson etc about fake Mars (not moon) landing. Recent lunar conspiracy theorist may refer to
Mary Bennet,and David Percy (2001) Dark Moon: Apollo and the Whistle-Blowers; Philippe Lheureux (2003) Moon Landings: Did NASA Lie?. For current web offering on the ‘bluff theory’ please check ‘Ground Zero (

Monday, December 13, 2004

talking architecture (part 2)

I was stumped when Ajik sms’ed me asking about ‘relong’. Few days before, he was talking to me about some pieces of his in-laws land in ‘Aloq Staq’. For those in the dark, ‘relong’ is a measurement unit for land normally used in Kedah for ‘bendang’ or ‘dusun’. The more ‘relong’ one has, the richer he was, the more expensive the ‘mas-kahwin’ should you ask for the hand of his daughter.

Hang nak menikah anak Pak Chad tu, hang ada beghapa? Yati tu keluaq yunibesiti, Pak Chad pulaq bendang depa ratuih relong. Hang buleh ka?’ (So you want to marry Pak Chad’s daughter, how much money do you have? Yati was a university graduate, Pak Chad on the other hand has few hundred relongs of padi field. Can you afford it?)

I knew about ‘relong’ but never find any need to use it. Certainly, I was not made to pay the mas-kahwin in any ‘relong’ of ‘bendang’ when married to Yati.

The solution was to sms around. Help came from Hang Lekiu (my senior draftsmen; yes his name is so) who had worked in Kedah for few years. Q (as he is known) explained that a ‘relong’ equals to 484 ‘jemba’. What? Well, that was seven-tenth (0.7) of an acre or 30,976 square feet. A ‘jemba’ also equals an area 8 feet by 8 feet or 64 square feet. That was getting interesting.

In Terengganu-speak, ‘jemba’ means ‘to reach down’ or ‘lurge at’ or simply as ‘go’ or 'rush'. If used as j’emba’ it means in the negative.

‘Musing kemara ning, air t’lage tu toho sikek, mung kene jembe lah kalu nok kara.’

‘Jage anok tu!, nye jembe tengoh jalang kang langgor l’ori’

‘Mujo ambe dang jembe p’aso, kalu dok, dok makang ikang le kite.’

‘Nok tengok mok yong gane Mek Nah ooo! Dok dang j’embe nye k’ite.Padang basoh kaing nge jage anok je kite niiing…’

In Kedah-speak, the word ‘jemba’ means ‘depa’; measurement of outstretched arm (like in crucification). Since average ‘depa’ was only about 6 feet, ancient Kedahan must be big indeed. The measure must have been based on the ‘gergasi’ of the legend Merong Mahawangsa. But why ‘jemba’ and not ‘depa’? Not to confuse it with ‘depa’ (meaning ‘they’) perhaps?

Anthrophometric-based system of measurement was the original of all system of measurement. In Malay architectural tradition we have the ‘jari’jengkal’, ‘hasta’, and ‘depa’. In the English Imperial System, an inch was based on the width of your thumb, the feet on the length of your sole. A yard interestingly was decreed by English King Henry I (1110-1137) as the length from the tip of his nose to the end of his middle finger. That was some royal measure. In 1324, Edward II decreed that the inch was the length of 3 barley corns placed end-to-end

I had first thought that ‘relong’ was near equivalent to English ‘furlong’. I was wrong. Furlong was a measure of length not area. Now what was ‘furlong’? A furlong is a "furrow long" or length of a mediaeval field used for the lengths of some horse races. It equals 220 yards.

Architects who chanced on ancient land titles or grants often found measurement in chain, rod, pole, rood or furlong. A chain is 66 feet. A link in the chain is 0.66 ft. Old surveyors said so. But while at UTM (in 1981) we were given two different sets of chain; one a 100 link chain measuring 66 feet and the other measuring 100 feet. The 66 feet was the true chain while the 100 feet was known as Ramsden’s or engineering chain. Chain measurement is still widely used today despite the metrication. I guess with most of the country’s land already measured before, the task of converting would be near impossible. So we have the one or two chain road reserve everywhere and most housing lots, bungalows especially; measures 66ft in width.

A rod normally of five and a half yard interestingly originates from the poles used by farm boys. ‘Medieval ploughing was done with oxen, up to 4 pairs at a time. The ploughman handled the plough. His boy controlled the oxen using a stick, which had to be long enough to reach all the oxen. The term rod, pole or perch actually refer to the same thing but each term was used in different time. And, believe it or not, the legal rod of the 16th century was 'the combined length of the left feet of 16 men as they left church on a Sunday morning.'

A rood equals 1210 square yards or 19,890 square feet or 40 square poles. Rood was also one furlong times one pole (1 furlong x 1 pole). 4 roods made up an acre.

So how much was all that in square meter? Go figure.
Some facts of the Imperial System reproduced in the article quoted from www.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

the quran class

In the old days, a Malay child is sent to the Quran teacher with two items and a pledge. The items being a cane and a 'buah tangan' be it 'gula sekati' , beras secupak' or 'pisang sesikat'. In giving away the child to the teacher, the father normally remarked 'Ustaz, saya serahkan anak saya untuk ustaz ajar biar jadi pandai. Buatlah macamanapun asal jangan buta jangan cacat sudahlah. Rotan ni buatlah pukul anak saya kalau dia jahat.' (I gave you my child for you to teach till he's good. Do whatever you have to, so long he's not blind or disabled. This cane is for you to strike him if he's bad.) That was a legend even in my time.

I remember my father sending me to read Quran at the house of 'Tok Bilal M'bong' just a short distance from my house in Kampung Padang Polis. I can't recall the cane or the pledge, but the 'gula' was there. I was not a good student, a regular 'kaki tuang' (truant) - always finding all sorts of excuse to miss the lesson, prefering to join in the game of 'petik-mate', 'main to' or 'bedil'. There were other games too, 'galoh panjang', ...... To these days, I regret not attending those quran class properly. I end up not completing or 'katang' the Quran until I was much older. Not even the 'jehama' (juz amma) or Al-Baqarah despite being promoted to read 'Quran besor' rather early. That too after realising my own children were growing and in need of a good example.

I remember the day my father chased me around the kampung with 'lidi n'yapuh' when report came that I was often playing truant. The cane was there any other way.

When Tok Bilal M'bong moved to Kampung Feri, near the Masjid, I went to a new teacher I recalled as 'Che' Jah' at Kampung Feri. I remembered her for she was making 'paung' (pau) that my father sold at the school canteen then. I also remember her for crying the day P. Ramlee passed away.

Unlike now, there was not a standard fee for Quran lessons. My kids even have an Ustaz coming to teach at home. The fee then was 'ikok panda' depending on the ability of the parent. Paying with money was unheard of. Often it was with gifts mentioned earlier or whatever parents can afford to spare. For us kids, there were other fees though. No one can read the Quran until they have completed a chore. At Che' Jah it was either 'akuk air' (taking water from the well) or 'beloh kayu' (chopping firewood). Ocassionaly one or two were selected to accompany her husband to look for 'daung palah' (daun palas) to make ketupat. The older and better-behaved girls got the easier work of 'ayok tepong' or cutting 'daun pisang'. The 'paung' were normally prepared in the day time and cooked at dawn to be just ready for breakfast. I guess that was why we never get to 'rase' otherwise there would be little 'paung' left to sell.

Of the Quran lessons, I can't recall more. I must have 'tuang' so much.

To my Quran teachers, and all other teachers for that matter, thank you. You were the first light in my days of ignorance. To all of you Al-Fatihah.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

in place of a picture

A picture paints a thousand words. A picture, better still a video tells aplenty about anything and everything. But a picture without accompanying story is devoid of expression and punch-line, there were little of moods, excitement, joy or sadness. When children asked, especially of our personal history, the microcosm of our life experience, there often was little time or space for pictures, only words, but words were what kept them listening attentively.

Even when given a picture of the time passed, they will still ask for the story. So go, - tell them in a thousand words.

It is the thousand words – that truly paint a picture.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

talking architecture (part 1)

As an architect trained in metric system, I found it hard enough to convert to the imperial system of foot and inches. I have to, more often than not. The older ‘tukang’ can’t decipher the mm, cm and m, while we can’t talk about ‘hung’, ‘kaki’, ici’ or ‘ela’. Somehow we learnt and became ‘bilingual’. On the ground, in Terengganu the system of measurement took another detour. Coupled with local terminologies, it gets even more difficult to follow.

‘Kita paka plewook tige hung padang doh’ (We can just use the three ‘hung’ plywood) the tukang would say. ‘Hung’ is one eight of an inch. Carpenters of the older days use two main measuring instruments, a 's’siku' and ‘kayu lipat’. The first a steel L-shaped ruler and the later as the name implies, a foldable wooden ruler with brass end and swivel joint. Both type of rulers uses a division of eight for an inch, thus the commonly use term of scale ‘sekil se-lapang’ describing the imperial one eight (1/8) scale; that one eight is ‘se (satu) hung’. Lapang (eight) ‘hung’ is thus ‘sici’ (se inci), ‘dua belah ici’ (twelve inches) made up a foot. The ‘s’iku’ together with ‘timbang air’ (spirit level) made up an amazingly simple way of determining accuracy of angles. Artful positioning of the s’siku and timbang air assures every members of the building to be ‘makang s’siku’. Literal translation of makang s’siku is ‘eating the elbow’ but makang here denotes ‘ngam’, perfect, fit; the s’iku also mean elbow or angle. Makang s’siku thus means ‘perfectly fit to the angle. Anything ‘dok makang s’siku’ is ‘sengek’ (tilted).

Anything ‘dok makang s’siku’ was also the reason for numerous faults in a building, the roof may ‘b’alik air’, the beam may need to be ‘kene b’aji’, the tiling may end with ‘ekor tikuh’.

B’alik air’ means backflow. Roof not properly constructed, at too shallow an angle, or ‘atak berombok’ (the roofing material badly laid wavy, uneven roof surface), easily caused water to backflow into the house. Rain water supposedly flowing down the roof surface is often pushed by the upward wind causing water to splash upward in between the roof sheets or roof tiles into the house. This is nightmare. Normal leaks can be solved by ‘tepek belakeng’ (pasting tar) on the holes but ‘b’alik air’ requires re-roofing.

A shallow roof is said to be ‘tare’ (less than 15d) while a steep roof ‘ceruh’ (more than 45d). A 25d to 35d roof are considered ‘biase’ ( normal ). Roof is normally formulated at ‘sekaki akat sici’ (an inch elevation every foot) So a ‘tukang’ when looking at the plans will comment, ‘Tare do’oh atak ning, ujang sikek pung tobak b’alik air. Wi ceruh sikek, baru napok yeng’ (Atap ini terlalu rendah sudutnya, hujan sedikitpun sumpah akan berbalik air. Buatkan lebih tinggi sudutnya barulah bergaya / The roof angle is too shallow, I swear it will backflow when it rains. Make it steeper, it will look grander)

Another term is ‘koye’ - used to describe an area measuring 100 square feet or 10’ x 10’. ‘Koye’ is often used to measure works like ‘m’elah’ (plastering) or ‘pasang mozek’ (tiling) or ‘ikak bate’ (brick laying).

Khije se kong, dok ‘oh dok leh siak se koye ikak bate. Makang taing dok ‘oh le tu.’
(Kerja satu ‘kong’ takkanlah tak boleh siapkan ikat bata 100 kaki persegi. Rehat berlebihanlah tu.’ / A day’s work and yet can’t finish a hundred square feet of brick-laying. Must have taken a break too long)

Kong’ is a measure of a day’s work of normally eight hours. The word originated from Chinese’s ‘kong’ to describe worker. ‘Kongsi’ is a workers’ quarter. In Terengganu it's often pronounced as 'k'osi'. 'K'osi' can also mean to share. 'Awok-awok Pok Soh dok k'osi blake, taing makang ye pakak k'osi ma'sok.' (Pak Soh's workers stay in the quarter, come meal time they share the cooking task) ‘Buku kong’ is a card recording attendance of workers that must be signed by a ‘p’ala’ or ‘mandor’ (kepala / head). ‘King-kong’? The number one worker in Phua Chu Kang. Oooops.

(to be continued)

Monday, December 06, 2004

thinking of old surau

Except for the mosque, most if not all the old suraus in my village were built by individuals. Thus they were known as ‘Surau Haji Awang’, ‘Surau Pok Su Mat’, ‘Surau Pok Teh Ali’ or ‘Surau Pok Su Jusoh’. These individuals too became the imam and sometimes were the ‘siak’ and ‘bilal’ as well. The suraus served as a place for prayer and ‘mengaji Quran’ for the children as well as a place to borrow ‘kawoh’, ‘tuku’, and ‘pinggang-makuk’ come time for ‘makang pulut’. Without government’s money, the structures were modest and the facilities were basic. A well and a toilet were about all there were. Inside, few pieces of ‘sejadah’ normally for the front ‘saf’ and the floor if covered with ‘tikar getah’ was considered a luxury. For the times when ‘jemaah’ increased, normally in Ramadan or when there was a ‘ratik’ (with some ‘makang’ of-course) the rolls of ‘tikor k’uang’ sufficed. Modernism saw the tikor k’uang replaced by plastic ‘tikor gulong’. If anything else, the suraus were clean and well looked after. Haji Awang, Pok Su Mat, Pok Teh Ali and Pok Su Jusoh were important individuals, they were the village elders, next in importance only to the ‘Tok M’ulu’ or ‘Tok T’ua Kapong’. Their attendance at any functions were a must, be it for ‘makang pulok’, ‘ratik’, ’bace yasing’, ‘semayang ajat’, ‘s’unak’, and occasionally even to help to ‘semelih ayang’. For us children, surau was an important place of rendezvous. It was the place that parents would not object and a perfect excuse to leave the house. Well there was a river near Surau Pok Su Jusoh and a dip after the ‘mengaji’ was almost a must despite the scare of ‘broya k’atok’.

Perhaps it was the simplicity of the surau, or maybe the simplicity of the people that us children were tolerated despite our noise and annoyance. ‘Teraweh’ in Ramadan was a fun time. Always there were some ‘kueh’ and ‘kopi O’ for the jemaah but ‘makang’ was delayed until after the completion of the ‘twenty-one rakaat’. The ‘p’ala pengak’ among us would take a peek under the ‘tudong saji’ and loudly declare the feast. Normally it was a simple serving of ‘roti canai’, ‘pulok nyor’ or ‘wajik’. On lesser days it would be ‘biskuk balok’ je’, someone would proclaim. Not joining the ‘terawikh’ prayer’ however was not an excuse for not joining in the ‘selawat’. But ‘Sal’Allah wassalam Allaihi’ became something else. Sometimes it became ‘soh lah buleh makang wajik’ or at another time, ‘Pok Lah wi salang Pok Ik’. Such ‘daja’ were we.

Time changes everything. The suraus now are much nicer, built with government money, in brick and concrete. Now a ‘jawatankuasa’ runs them. Because there are now ‘luxury’ items, speaker system, clock, good carpets etc. inside, the suraus are often locked, at times at prayer time too. No longer are suraus ‘open’ physically and spiritually. Children are somewhat inadmissible with some suraus ‘inappropriately’ displaying a ‘no children allowed’ sign at the entrance. When allowed, they were at prayer time relegated to the back rows and noises are frowned upon. Once I saw a man actually lifting a boy to the back ‘saf’ when he (the boy) had already started praying. I look at these changes feeling sad.

My children, outspoken as they were, complained when they were asked to leave the front ‘saf’. Amir even retorted when told that kids were regarded as unclean. ‘Bakpe???, Amir ‘sunak mase umor lima tahung kang!’ (What? I was circumcised when I was five!). ‘Did you not tell me that we should aim to be early for prayer and the front ‘saf’ accord the greatest pahala?’ he may add.

I may be very much a ‘jahe’ when it come to religious matters but think my sadness is warranted. In our over-zealousness to protect the sanctity of the suraus and mosques we are instilling in the children’s mind a kind of aloofness that could later psychologically distance their heart from the house of Allah. A friend even remarked that such over-zealousness is turning our suraus and mosques into temples and shrine; a remark unkind but true in a sense. Maybe I should add that I saw in Masjidil Haram, children treated with remarkable kindness, families were actually having ‘picnic’ during Ramadan or on the fasting days of Mondays and Thursdays. The children of Quran classes in Masjid Nabawi in Madinah were equally noisy. Fact is children are children the world over. Are we too not once children ourselves?

Perhaps if we care once again to open our suraus to the children, we may be ‘vaccinating’ against future social disorder. For that, all our mosque and surau officials, the imams and bilals should once again be like ‘Tok imang’ Haji Awang or Pok Su Jusoh; for that matter.

Kawoh; kawah; couldron
Tuku; tungku; three legged steel stove
pinggang-makuk ; pinggan-mangkuk; bowls and plates; utensils
makang pulut; makan pulut; kenduri; feast
ratik ; ratib; tahlil; group rememberance (zikr’)
makang; makan; feast
p’ala pengak ; kepala pengat; a term to denote leader of the ruffians
tikor k’uang; tikar mengkuang; mengkuang mat
tikor gulong; tikar gulung; rolled mat normally of plastic
Tok M’ulu; Tok Penghulu; villages’ group (mukim) headman
Tok T’ua Kapong; Tok Ketua Kampung; village headman
bace yasing; baca Yasin; majlis bacaan Yasin; Yasin (a chapter in the Quran) reading session
semayang ajat; sembahyang hajat; special prayer
s’unak; bersunat; berkhatan; circumcision
roti canai; roti canai; what else ?
pulok nyor; pulut kelapa; glutinous rice with grated coconut
wajik; wajik; another type of pulut cooked in brown coconut sugar
biskuk balok; biskut balak; dried bread
Pok Lah wi salang Pok Ik; Salam Pak Lah untuk Pak Said; Greeeting from Pak Lah to Pak Said
Daja; dajal; devilish
Jahe; jahil; ignorant

Sunday, December 05, 2004

snippets from ‘kursus haji’

InsyaAllah, by the Grace of Allah, Yati and I will be leaving for our Haj in about a fortnight. Today was the conclusion of Ceramah Haji Perdana (Grand Haj Seminar) where we; all the 3000 odds Terengganu pilgrims were made to go through a full dress rehearsal. That includes the wearing of ‘ihram’, ‘melontar’(pelting of stones) at the ‘jamrah’, ‘tawaf’ (circumbulation) around the Kaabah and ‘saei’ (walking) between the hills of Safa and Marwah.

The whole rehearsal was orderly executed under the experienced guide of Tabung Haji personnel, a feat I found daunting. The 3816 pilgrims from Terengganu made up a mere fraction of Malaysian contingent of 52000 and a mere drop in the expected 2 to 3 million pilgrims in the ‘Haram’ this season. If three thousand was an endless flow of people, what more the few millions. The management, the planning, the logistic and everything else must be exponentially strenuous even with more than a thousand and four hundred years of management experience. Since the very day of pilgrimage by Rasulullah saw into Mekah, liberating it from paganism, the haj has been regularly carried out without fail.

For Yati, it was also an experience with a difference. In her group were the elderlies from Kuala Berang, northern hinterland of Terengganu. Those who know Terengganu know that people in Kuala Berang speak in a totally alien slang that even those in Kuala Terengganu could not easily understand. I could not myself. The way out she said was to diplomatically acknowledge herself as another one of the ‘mek’ (Terengganu for ‘miss’; the sweet way of addressing a younger lady), joining in the laughing and smiling; nodding at every words even though she ‘dok pahang satu sa’ (cant make out anything).

Kuala Berang folks were often at the end of Terengganu jokes, not unlike the Irish to the Brits or the ‘Parit’ and ‘Bota’ to the ‘Perak’ians. A popular one was about a ‘Kuala Berang’ian going to haj.

In the days before KLIA and its aerobridges, pilgrims from Terengganu had to take a flight from Kuala Terengganu to Subang before taking a pilgrim flight to Jeddah. Those were the days when passengers were ferried on buses to the terminal. On arriving at Subang, the pilgrims were orderly alighting in a row. An older man stopped at the door, looked around and let the other passenger passes, one by one until he was left alone. A stewardess noticed the confused old man, approached him and asked, ‘Maafkan saya, Pak Cik tengah cari apa?’ (Excuse me uncle, what are looking for?). The man answered, ‘Pok tengoh cari kasut’ (I am looking for my shoes). ‘Mana pak cik letak?’(Where have you left it?) the stewardess asked. ‘Dok ingak doh. Dok silak pok, mase naik takdi, Pok tok tangge.’(I can’t remember but if I wasn’t wrong I left it at the stairs when boarding) he answered.

The joke took a slight variation when KLIA was completed. The Kuala Berang’ian now was a little more savvy. Reaching the door of the plane, he stopped, turn around and call for a stewardess. ‘Mek, mek, tangge pah kuane?’ (Miss, where has the staircase gone). ‘Kenapa Pak Cik? (Why uncle?) she asked. ‘Tok j’upo payon. Tadi, Pok sakuk tangge.’ (Cant find my umbrella. I hanged it there.)

I wrote about a Terengganuan never having the ability to completely erase the ‘g’ in their ‘ucapang’ in my earlier blog. I noticed that in Halim (of Radio Era, Roda Impian) and in Wan Kamaruddin (NTV 7). The speaker at the haj’ seminar (a Terengganuan) related his personal story. In one of his seminar in Selangor, he was bewildered when the crowd laughed heartily at him after he had stressed a point. Confused he turned to his fellow speakers and asked. They too were laughing. Apparently he had ‘spread-eagled’ himself on the text of ‘saya tekankan depan tuan-puan’…… In his spirited speech he had unconsciously Terenganu-nised the sentence to ‘saya te(r)kangkang depang tuang-puang…..’ thus the laugh.

Monday, November 29, 2004

remembering ‘Pok Mang’

(with apology to the ‘aruah’ and their generations)

I used to live in Kemasik; a small village somewhere between Kerteh (famous for it oil industries) and Kijal (famous for its durian and lemang). I can’t remember what my village was famous for, perhaps none. For those who remember the movie ‘Fenomena’ (starring M. Nasir and Ramona Rahman; not John Travolta’s ‘Phenomenon’), that ‘beach’ was Kemasek.

Despite it not being famous for anything, I have many a fond memory. One, is of all the many ‘Pok Mang’ in my village.

Pok’(Pak – short of ‘Bapak/Bapa’) is a term to denote fatherliness. Terengganu elders seems to prefer ‘Pok’ over the more standard ‘pok cik’ (pak cik/uncle).

Ilmu menda gok pok paka? Napok gagoh sokmo’ (Ilmu apa pakcik pakai? Nampak gagah sentiasa’. / What’s your secret uncle? You are looking strong all the time’.) ‘Tak dok ilmu satu sa heh, memang keturunang hebak doh.’ (Tak ada apa ilmu pun, memang pakcik dari keturunan yang hebat. / ‘I have no special secret, just hereditary.)

Mang’ is a shorter call for Rahman (Deramang), Othman (Semang - not the ‘kueh’), Lokman or Sulaiman (Lemang – not the food). So ‘Pok Mang’ was appropriate to address all the elderly Mang’s (Man’s) in Terengganu. But because of the profusion of the name Rahman, Othman and Sulaiman, spelt and pronounced in various versions, a need arise to be specific lest one ‘Mang’ could be mistaken for the other. With the many ‘Pok Mang’s’ in Kemasek then, the need was present and clear.

My grandfather was ‘Pok Mang Bah’ (Pak Man Bas / Pak Man the bus driver). He was after all the driver of ‘Bah Tong Aik’ (Thong Aik Omnibus Co Ltd buses) plying the route between Kemaman – Kemasek – Air Jerneh. Together with ‘Ah Guang’ the conductor, they were kind of an ‘institution’ in the area, that I was known more as ‘cucu Pok Mang Bah’ a term ensuring free rides on Thong Aik buses anytime. Those days, he took the bus home in the evening so that he can set out early on his first trip to Kemaman. The red bus is treated almost exclusively his.

There was a ‘Che’gu Mang’ whose love of ‘ayam laga’ (fighting rooster) earned him the nick name of ‘Che’gu Mang Ayang’ (Cikgu Man Ayam / Cikgu Man the chicken). I can’t remember much about the ‘laga’ event but I remember well my uncle (not much older than me really) going to Che’gu Mang’s house challenging his son to a fight. Those days fighting among boys under the big jackfruit tree in the school compound were common and somewhat tolerated. If the fight was inconclusive – they never were; the fight continues outside school or repeated again the next days. With an ‘ayang’ (chicken) nickname already given, a new teacher also a ‘Mang’ coming to teach in Kemasek later were naturally called ‘Che’gu Mang Itek’ (Cikgu Man the duck).

The village coconut picker was ‘Pok Mang Nyor’ (Pak Man the coconut man). He would ride his faithful old bicycle, wearing a ‘kaing pelekak’ shirtless, a semutar on his head. The kain pelikat lifted and knotted into a ‘cawak’ before every climb. He goes round the village looking up at any ‘nyor tua’ and asking the owner if they would sell. When picking took place, us kids would normally hang around for some treat of ‘nyor muda’. ‘Ambik nyor mude etek, Pok Mang!’ (Take some young coconut too, Pak Man) we would call and he would always oblige. Not only he picks coconuts and climbs all those tall coconut trees (rather than employing a ‘beruk) he too operates a ‘rumah salai’ to dry the ‘kopra’. Those days when harvest was good, we kids could earn a few cents to ‘colek isi nyor’ (picking the coconut flesh from its shell).

In the coconut business is another man, not a ‘Mang’ but a ‘Pok Soh Nyadak’ (Pak Soh penyadat kelapa). Many of the new generation have not heard of ‘penyadat’ or ‘sadat’, a technique of collecting ‘nira’ or ‘air tuak’( juice) from the ‘mayang’ (coconut shoots). The juice is collected in a ‘tukir’ (a bamboo container) left on top of the tree. The tuak in the ‘tukirs were regularly collected and kept for making the ‘menisang’ (gula melaka). When the collection of ‘tuak’ is enough, Pok Soh would set out to make his ‘menisang’. Maybe once in a week. This was occasionally an event, with the kampong kids gathering around for the ‘kerok’.The bigger kids helps to ‘kucau’ (stir) the ingredient in the big ‘kawoh’ (kawah / cauldron) – very similar to the making of ‘dodol’. After all the works were done, the ‘menisang’ poured into its ‘kerek’ (a ring made of mengkuang leaves) us kids would be given chance to get the ‘kerok’ – whatever left in the ‘kawoh’ (cauldron). Of course he never disappoint us with some treats of the hot liquid ‘menisang cair’ along the way. Sometimes he makes ‘menisang nyor’ also.

The school gardener was ‘Pok Mang Tukan Kebung’. Together with ‘Pok Awi Tukan Sapu’ . Together they occasionally make some mean off-the-cuff, un-planned ‘b’alah patung’ (berbalas pantun) while cooking at ‘kenduri’. Of course ‘Pok Awi’ himself rearing some head of water buffaloes is known as ‘Pok Awi Khuba (Kerbau)’ a call he disliked but accepted good-naturedly.

The rich man of the village was 'Pok Mang Porong’. Beats me how he got the nickname.

Nicknames are a way of endearing a person to the society he lives in. Whether or not the nicknames are liked, the simple kampong folks are normally good natured enough to accept them; name-calling and bantering in their life. They were all like my father or grandfather to me. Such was the closeness of our society. If in my fond memory of them something I say was offensive, from the deepest of my heart I say ‘I am sorry’.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

j’etak words

J’etak literally means ‘spring’- the verb. Some has attempted to standardize the spelling to ‘jentat’ or ‘berjentat’ though I’m not sure if it was recognized by Dewan Bahasa. I’ll check it out later. Example; ‘perakak tikuh itu j’etak bila tikuh makang upang (perangkap tikus itu j’etak bila tikus makan umpan / the mouse trap springs when the mouse took the bait).

The word j’etak bring to mind a beautiful prose (or is it pantun?) I learn when young. It sounds like this. For effect, all e to sound as ‘e tanda’

Tak, tak ge,
Be-j’etak ekor nage
J’alang kire-kire,
Tige puluh tige

Anok itek To’ Wi
Jalang tepi kolang
Sakik ape To’Wi
Sakik senga tulang

Tak, tak ge
the dragon’s tail sprang,
walk about and count

Ducklings of To’ Wi
Walk by the pond
What ails To’ Wi
Arthritis (do I make any sense here?)

I can’t remember the rest.

It would be fairly easy to explain the j’etak pronunciation concept to those familiar with ‘sabdu’ (the small ‘w’ above) in the Quranic Arabic pronunciation. Example; k a l a is 'kala'(scorpion) but k a l (sabdu) a became ‘kal-la’, a m a is ‘ama’ but a m (sabdu) a is ‘am-ma’ (indian for mother).

When a word in Terengganu speak is spoken j’etak, it may one, carry a different meaning; two, became a shortened version of twin-words; three, changes noun to verb; four, replaces ‘ter’ commonly denoting ‘accidentally’

To explain, let me try.

carry a different meaning;
goreng (fry); noun becomes g’oreng (berbohong/lies); verb
sungguh (true); becomes s’ungguh(bersungguh-sungguh/determined)

In normal use of ‘buat -,as in 'Che Yah panda ‘buak’nasi dagang';buak (buat) carry the meaning of ‘making’. ‘Che Yah is good at making nasi dagang’. But when ‘buak’ is pronounced j’etak it takes on a different meaning. ‘Che Yah Nasi Dagang tu b’uak pulok doh, abih baju laki dia kena buang’; b’uak (b’uat) now means ‘at it again, throwing tantrum, losing one’s mind, mad’). ‘Che Yah Nasi Dagang (the nasi dagang maker) is at it again, all her husband’s clothes were thrown away.

changes noun to verb.
goreng (fry); noun becomes g’oreng (menggoreng/frying); verb
jalang (jalan/road); becomes j’alang (berjalan/walking); verb. ‘Pok Soh tengoh j’alang di tengoh jalang’ Note that for both ‘tengoh’ and ‘jalang’, the meaning changes. The early ‘tengoh’(sedang) function as English ‘is’, while the later ‘t’engoh’ means ‘at the middle’. Likewise the early ‘j’alang’ denotes ‘berjalan’ (walking) and the later ‘jalang’(jalan) means the noun ‘road’.

For note, the word ‘jalang’ in standard Bahasa means ‘vamp’ or ‘lady of bad character’. Terengganuan was not known to commonly use it preferring the term ‘orang bujang’. I tend to think that it was not in Terengganu vocabulary. Similar instance can be found in the use of the degratory ‘menatang’ (binatang/animal) as in the ‘menatang mung!’(you animal!) in Terengganu speak. In standard Bahasa ‘menatang’ means to carry something carefully as in the famous ‘peribahasa’; Bagai menatang minyak yang penuh’ (Like carrying a plate full of oil). So to get away after screaming ‘menatang mung’ or a much angrier 'menatang berayok mok mung' at someone, explain that you were using the standard terminology. That is if you are still standing after ‘kena terajan’ (being kicked a-la Jet Li)

became a shortened version of long or twin-words;
budak laki-laki (boys) becomes budok l’aki
budak perempuan (girls) becomes budok p’uang

replaces ‘ter’; also changing the meaning
kejut (wake) becomes k’ejut stands for ‘terkejut’ (surprised)
sepak (kick) becomes s’epak stands for ‘tersepak’ (tripped)

If you think the categorization was exhaustive, a friend pointed out something funny to me.

The word ‘punoh’ or ‘punah’ (destroyed/damaged) was not converted to ‘p’unoh’ but to ‘m’unoh’ (memusnah). How come, when the word ‘Munah’ is a short form of a lady’s name ‘Maimunah’?. Use it j’etak, it became ‘m’unah’ (memusnah/destroy). His explanation – ‘it takes a Munah (the lady) to carry out the act of destruction.

Try this for practice.

‘Moleklah tu Mek Nah, tengoh g’oreng mi gorengpun dang nye g’oreng k’ite’ (Eloklah tu Mek Nah, sambil menggoreng mi gorengpun sempat dipermainkannya kita semua. / It is so you Mek Nah, even while frying the ‘fried noodles’, you can make fun at us all.)

With all these variations, it is hard to differentiate the right usage of ‘j’etak’ words. Perfection may only come from experience and familiarization. It helps if one is a true blue Terengganuan or been neutralized into one. That requires a fair dose of savoring ‘budu’ , 'ulang' and ‘ikang singgang’.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

some ground rules

Were there ground rules for language ‘slang’? There definitely were; at least in the unwritten way. A study of slangs from Perlis, Kedah down south to Johor or eastward to Kelantan and Terengganu will reveal many an interesting traits. Slangs came about from (believe it or not) a fair distribution of alphabets. Kedahan had to make do without the ‘g’s in their ‘anjin dan kucin’ (cat and dog) because Terengganuan had taken them away for their ‘makang ikang’. Some considerate Terengganuan having exhausted all the g’s into their ‘pinggang dan cawang’ (pinggan dan cawan / saucer and cup) have inadvertently eliminate the g’s from ‘cangkung’ di tepi ‘longkang’ into ‘cankun di tepi lonkan’. Thus those that ‘kontro’ (control) their g’s in trying hard to ‘cakak lua’ (speak in standard external slang) may end ‘jalang-jalang cari ikang goren, ambik pinggang dan cawang, makang cankun tepi lonkan’ (walk about looking for fried fish, take a cup and saucer, squatting to eat by the drain)

pronouncing the ‘k’

The alpabet ‘k’ is also special in Terengganu slang.

‘Bakpe ?’

In Terengganu, the way of pronouncing the ‘k’ as in the ‘bakpe?’ (kenapa/why?) particularly if the ‘k’ is in the middle is almost non-existent. It stand only as a substitute for the apostrophe (‘). Just like ‘Datuk’ was spelled as Dato’; before Sistem Ejaan Baru. So the right way of pronouncing ‘bakpe?’ is ‘ba’pee?’ (The ‘e tanda’ sweetly stretched a little to fade)

pronouncing the ‘g’

It is not at all difficult to detect a Terengganuan and likewise the impostors. Terengganuan, no matter how ‘anglocised’ or ‘luar-ise’ they are, may once in a while slip in a ‘g’ into their ‘ucapang’ (ucapan/speech). The impostors on the other hand found it hard to pronounce the ‘g’ in that specific, ubiquitously unique Terengganu way of pronouncing it. It was hard enough saying it, harder still to write how to pronounce it. Maybe a linguist can but I am not one. The ‘g’ after the ‘n’ in Terengganu slang is not pronounced as a full ‘g’ but somewhere between half to three quarter degree of emphasis. The ‘ng’ spoken almost softly but with a tinge of nasal release. The closest example I can find is saying ‘teng’ (for ‘tin’) to rhyme with ‘ting’ in the older ASB advertisement. Help me ‘any-wang’(anyone)?

the ground

Children have no apprehension of rules. They take to the changes in their environment with ease – language included. My first two were born when we were staying in Shah Alam, while the ‘currently’ last two were born in Terengganu when we moved back home. I am a Terengganu’an, if you may call it while Yati my wife is a Kedah’an. Slang-wise we were at the two end of the spectrum, so it was easier to speak in standard Bahasa Melayu or English when the talk get ‘argumentative’ or ‘romantic’. In the early part of their growing years, my mother in-law, Yati’s mother, her sister, and four kids were staying with us. Across the road, fifty-feet away were my parent house. That provides a setting for a interesting language or slang development. My house has two parts with the kitchen in the middle. We live in the front and the ‘Kedahan’ at the rear. So there were the ‘Terengganu’ zone in my parent home, in my home - ‘standard Bahasa zone in the front and ‘Kedah’ zone at the rear and the kitchen as the neutral zone. So the word ‘mother’ is ‘mok’ in Terengganu zone, ‘mak’ in the neutral zone and ‘maq’ in Kedah zone. ‘Makang ikang’ (eating fish) lost its ‘g’ the moment they cross the road; ‘ayaq’ (water) is diluted to ‘air’ (not udara) the other way round.