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)

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