My second sister’s wedding – of berembang and lokan

Of all the weddings of my sisters, Ngah’s wedding was one that had an impressions on me. It was not so much of the iternaries and wedding ceremonies at our house but it was the trip to the groom’s house that remained in my memory.

Ngah was to get married to Abang Ngah. At a time  when Malays were postmen, policemen, clerks, teachers and soldiers, being asked for marriage or pinang by a postman was regarded as special. Abang Long my first brother in law was an Ustaz who was from the neighbouring kampung. Abang Ngah’s kampung was Sungai Tunggul, six miles away. That was considered far.

I was the first one in the family that married someone  from another state. All my sisters and the brother were married to those who come from the same district of Batu Pahat. That was a demographic revolution of sort, a phenomeana,  when Malays started getting married with someone from outside the kampung. That was one of my record breaking feats.

I remembered being in the party to accompany the bride and groom to the grooms house in Sungai Tunggul.

Sungai Tunggul now is accessible by car. Then it was not. It was accessible by a footpath and obviousy the 4 km walk would be too much for the newly weds and the accompanying party.

The best means was by sampan from the penambang or jetty at Batu Pahat. The whole party with the newly weds in their wedding splendor boarded the sampan. Yhe sampan went down stream underneath the canopy of the berembang and the bakaus or mangrove before going upstream of Sungai Kelambu.

I remember the wooden bridge near which we disembarked.  The bridge was long. Henceafter it was the wedding procession on foot.

There is a photograph of the penanggah or the temporary shed where the guests were feasting. It was a bamboo structure on a platform of coconut trunks, with planks to create a sizeable open platform. At least two coconut tress must have been felled to construct the penanggah.

That was the custom. A few weeks before the wedding date the kampung folks would set a day for constructing the penanggah. After the wedding the deconstruction would be done on a gotong-royong or communal way.

I mentioned the berembang trees. These are the habitats of the fire fly. There were many growing along the river banks of Sungai Batu Pahat. Up till the seventies, we could still find the odd fireflies which we collected. The elders were against it. They would say, kunang-kunang ni kuku orang kafir yang dah mati. I did not buy that.

Many of those from abang ngah’s kampung were fishermen. The Sungai Kelambu, was a tributary to Sungai Batu Pahat. We used to get lokan, this massive shell fish that thrived on the muddy riverbanks. When wak milah, ngah’s mother whom I remember fondly visited us, the lokans were the buah tangan or gift that she brought.

Another place where lokan thrived was the riverbanks of Sungai Skudai in Johore. That was before the pineaple canning factories  and before it became an open sewer.

Both have dissappeared. The Sungai Kelambu became a small stream after the tidal dyke was constructed and the Sungai Skudai beacame a stinking open sewer.


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