Tuesday, February 21, 2006

watching tv

In a small village like Kemasek, television came late, only sometimes in the 70’s. The first television was bought by Tokeh Ah Sa, the village big fishing man, the ‘taiko’ of fishing industry, with his own fleet of fishing boats, ice making facility and lorries. Stories told that the tv was bought when he strikes big on the ‘nombor-ekor’. In his ‘bangsal’ fresh fish were packed with ice in wooden boxes and the waste of the fishing industry, ‘anak ikan’ (small size fishes) as we call it were boiled and later dried under the sun together with the dried salted types. The smell of the ‘bangsal’ was nauseating. When television made its way to this village to Tokeh Ah Sa, the ‘bangsal’ became a cinema of sort. The smell of dried fish became oblivious. In Kampung Baru, where Aki and Che lived, the first television was owned by an enterprising Malay businessman (Pak Cik Jakpo I think) who operated a transport business. He was truly enterprising, that he placed the television at the window, built rows of benches on the ground among the coconut tree and had a ‘mi-goreng’ and ‘keropok’ stall set up.

Until the television, movies came to our village like three times a year, sometimes by ‘van jabatan penerangan’ (information department’s van), or by the traveling Nestle or tobacco company motorcade. Of Jabatan Penerangan, I recall the drama ‘Atap Genting Atap Rembia’ and the propaganda interlude in-between, of the cigarette company, some cheap spaghetti-western cowboy kill red indian flick. Those were the era of Rough-riders and ‘tiga-lima’ cigarettes. Camel and Marlboro were unheard of till a decade later.

There were few then who could afford a set. Those who do found their house as unofficial cinema especially on Thursday evening when Malay movies particularly of P.Ramlee or Mat Sentul were aired. How we laugh at their antics.

For us, there was no television at home. So TV viewing became a reward of sorts. Behave and you get to go to Che’gu Zaid’s house and watch TV – once a week at the most. But we have our favorite like Ultraman. Yes we had that on Saturday at 7pm. To watch that we had to sneak away making excuse of going to the grocery (Pak Li had a TV at his shop then) or delaying our bath at the well till Maghrib and risk the cane or the belt.

Then came ‘SINGER’ with its motto ‘menawan keluarga bahagia’ (capturing the happy family). In later years I joked that SINGER kept the happy family captive with its never-ending installment payment. It was they who until then were selling sewing machines that revolutionize TV ownerships. The sales promotion were good, salesmen make house calls and once you signed the agreement have the TV delivered. Then come the installment collection. Many a time hearts were broken when the sets were carted away for non-payment. Then also was the time when the TV license man came calling, like once or twice a year to find the whole village scrambling to hide their sets away.

Those were the years of TV1 and TV2 and in black and white too.

Color TV came at the time of Hussein Onn as the Prime Minister. It was at Cikgu Zaid’s house that I remember waiting eagerly for the TV to change from black and white to colour as the PM officiate the transition. Well Cikgu Zaid had a colour TV way before others.

Today, there are many-many channels to click at the remote. Soon there’ll be many more. The favorites of the yesteryears are now a part of a classic channel. But something remains the same. Our children love the new Ultraman, and best of it all, we are still laughing at Mat Sentul and P. Ramlee.

Monday, February 20, 2006

kemasek (part 1)

Kemasek was the little village I was born in and enjoyed for some twelve years before I got shipped to MCKK. It was once an important little town, with a courthouse of its own, a forestry station and a local council. It was the capital of the once Majlis Tempatan Kemaman Utara.

Now, Kemasek was a village lost somewhere between Kijal, famed for its ‘lemang’and Kerteh the oil town. It is a little village on the seaside road one can’t really recall passing. Soon, there will be a highway to Terengganu, cutting through the hinterland. Few will use the seaside road and pass by its decaying village. And it will be all forgotten.

Despite its insignificance, it was a beautiful village with a beautiful beach. The very beach that was once immortalized in the movie ‘Fenomena’ starring M.Nasir and Ramona Rahman. The scene of the foaming waves breaking on the rock outcrops beautifully captured on the screen was the scene I held dear in my heart. How every school holidays, I climbed up Bukit Taping just to be if lucky at eye level with the eagles and to see the white waves below.

Kemasek, to me, lies between two rocky seaside hills. On the south, Bukit Kuala Kemasek and in the north, Bukit Taping. In between along the beach was all there was to the village. Coming along the road from south one passes Kuala Kemasek, Masjid, Sungai Kemasek, Simpang Empat, Balairaya, Pondok Polis (and Pak Long Polis – the village lone ‘mata-mata’), Rumah Tok Penghulu Wan Hamid and then to me nothing more. Next to Rumah Tok Penghulu was Rumah Mak Wan Gayah (oh her unforgettable ‘kueh tak’- jackfruit tart to be exact) with its plentiful ‘jambu air’ where I was born. Across the road from Rumah Tok Penghulu Wan Hamid was Che’ and Aki’s little sundry shop. Our first house next to it. Maybe I should add Rumah Aki Wel, my grandfather on my father’s side at the foot of Bukit Taping with its ‘pokok pauh’ (mango trees)

Am I nostalgic I am writing this?

Kemasek was about ‘nasi dagang’ CheNgah Dayang, sate Pok Daling, ‘paung’ Che Jah and the Chinese New Year ‘kuih bakul’ of Mek Kiat. It was about Tok Bilal Embong, Tok Imam Haji Mat, the mosque officials, the two copra trader Pok Heng Nyor and Pok Mang Nyor, Pok Mat Nyadat the ‘menisang’-man, Tokeh Ah Sa who got the first television in the village, Awang Hitam and Pak Harun the ‘juragan’. Mak Su Che Sek, Mak Su Bunga, all the colourful Man – Mang Porong, Man Ayam, Man Itik, Man Bas (my grandfather), Ah Kuang the bus conductor, Pak De Kapal Selam, Pak De Pistol and maybe I should add Pok Said Setoking.

Those names - I recall them all from my memory, as I note a colourful and memorable past. But this is only a short note. Maybe in freer time I’ll make a longer note of what I recall of the event and individuals. Till then ……

Saturday, February 18, 2006

isa masuk doh

This is one old tale that Aki (my grandfather) used to tell us. I wrote this sometimes back but held myself from posting it. I could not tell it then as it was not a politically appropriate time to do so. On the national news, the headlines were about a politician ‘Isa’ suspended for money politics. To say ‘Isa masuk doh’ was like saying that Isa was to be arrested or punished. But ‘Isa masuk doh’ was a quip we in Terengganu say to mention the Isya prayer time and being the last prayer of the day to configuratively described the end of one’s life. This Isa; the one in the story was not a politician, only a thief – a small timer at that.

The story.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Isa. He was a thief. Not a fancy thief but a small timer. He has no ambition to be a big time crook, or even a village ‘samseng’ but just happy to steal a chicken or two.

Those days in the villages, houses were on stilts. Underneath the house were normally the chicken coop. Some even kept cows and goats below. That was the way at my grandfather’s house. To keep the cows warm, a small bonfire is kept alight. Rather the wood, the bonfire uses coconut husk. It was slow burning and smoky no doubt but the smoke kept mosquito away. How we could sleep in the smoke was a wonder but those were the days.

Because there were no electricity, nobody lighted the ground and anyone like Isa can sneak in and stay there unnoticed waiting for people to sleep and the opportunity to grab the chicken away. Some village kids uses the same method to ‘skodeng’ or to peep especially at the newly-weds or the ‘orang bujang’ – the good looking ‘janda’ or divorcee. It’s not advisable though because some were known to be showered with hot water or worse ‘cuka getah’. Some men had the scar to remind them of the misadventure for the rest of their live.

Without the electricity, there were no loudspeaker for azan. Prayer time depended on the sound of ‘geduk’ or ‘bedok’. Without electricity, nights were early. Village folks normally retire soon after isya’ prayer. That the family were normally large, was not at all a wonder.

One night Isa the thief went under Pak Mat’s house. He had targeted the chicken coop for sometimes and knew there were chicken and eggs for taking. Upstairs, Pak Mat was reciting the Quran waiting for Isya’ prayer. His wife and kids were gathered at the kitchen. Then in the distance the ‘geduk’ was heard.

‘Mari belaka. Isa masuk doh.’ (Come all. Isa is inside) Pak Mat called out to his wife and kids to get ready for prayer. The kids were up quickly. Footsteps heard.

Downstairs, Isa heard his name mentioned. He panicked and dashed out. In Aki’s word ‘Isa pun lari kecik pala – pala.’ (So Isa run away, his head felt small – sorry I can’t find the right word to translate this)