(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’.