“The last time I slept with a grandma, I was 11. We slept in a kelambu. GrAnma was unusual cause she used a bolster for her head pillow. I was her favorite grandson, as she wud not let me sleep wt any1 else . We slept 2gether for 11 yrs. Today i say Tq 2 Benaufa for upgrading the status of my sleeping partners. For life inshallah”.
I wrote the above in jest particularly the sleeping with the new grandma. The rest of the story was not made up. I did sleep with nenek for 11 years.
Emak was an active kampong woman ahead of her time. Having been born to a rich family with multiple nannies, she was not into housework and child care. Do not get me wrong, the home was not neglected, she was and still is a home-maker. She still likes decorating the house, and tending the garden and she inherited the mak andam job from nenek. Thus the frequent attendance to weddings. The work of pampering me was delegated to nenek. The fact that I was the youngest gave me the benefit of being pampered by almost everyone but nenek was my grandmama extrodinaire.
I slept with grandma for 11 years. The big house had only one room. So the kelambu became the private sleeping den. I could not remember where abah and emak slept but there would be several kelambus all over the house.
It was romantic and secure. It was like camping but doing it every night. There was no mention of dengue but there was the occasional malaria.
There was no insect repellants, no pesticide sprays, no mosquito coils, no mosquito tablets and and no clogged nostrils in the morning. Occasionally in the dry season, mosquitoes would come in hordes. Then just before maghrib, fumigation by smoking the insects out by burning the husks of coconuts would be done. Not very pleasant for the dwellers too. But these are non vectored mozzies. I remember while camping in Taman Negara many years later the smell of smoke from the mosquito coil was enough to kill the mosquitoes in Taman Negara. Not any more.
To nenek I was her “kontol Landong”. There is no other phrase or title that would be able challenge the intimacy of that special relationship. You would be the envy of your siblings if you carry that title. It literally means my “hanging or plumbing testicles”. you can get away with anything with that title.
It was not just the sleeping benefits, not having to prepare the pillows and tilam kabu and the sheets and the thin blanket. It also included the benefit of not having to lift a finger in clearing up your sleeping area. That shortcoming I had was fortunately made up and rectified in the Malay College.
It also carried the benefit of having the first bite to her favourites. She loved the roes of “parang” . She loved the fried guts of parang. She Loved botok, chicken pecel, chicken lengkuas, pindang ikan, pais. That explained my love for those exotic Malay/Javanese dishes particularly fine taste of that delicacy, the innards of parang.
I also have right of access to her pouch or kantung which doubled up as her belt. When she went for the hajj, I was given the delegated authority and rights to collect and spend the rental from Cina Toh for the piece of land at the Pekan. It was a miserable RM 1.50 and till today I could not comprehend the exploitation , the sense of value and the lopsided rental. The Taukeh insisted that I produce a receipt and so I did. During the tree months she was away I would be taking the Lian Hoe bus to Semerah. There I would be at the beginning of the month having my mee sop, the ultimate treat for the rent collector.
Nenek did not smoke but she did the songel. This was sucking of dried tobacco. The difference between a sentil and a songel is in its size. Songel is a handful being stuffed and moved from both corners of the mouth. Looked awful. Yes it was. The other person who had a bigger songel was NEK ODA the other wife of Tok Siraj.
As I approached my standard six, I began to get restless sleeping with nenek. After the circumcision, nature took its course and nenek understood. So I found my own bed. Subsequently I got so focussed on my school work and the move to the Bandar with Kak Cik and later to the Malay College.
My kontol landund status did not mean much to a teenager. Later on it was busy time with the spouse and the relationship with nenek suffered.
She must have missed me. And now I miss her. She was bedriddeen in the final few years of her life. I did not manage to return her show of love and the special status she had given me. This is one of the not many regrets I have in this life.
Now I miss you nenek. I love yo nenek.
Ps. The above is dedicated to all cucus. Value that special relationship with all your grannies.