Pompeii tanpa lahar

June 23, 2013

Merbuk mengadu
sesak dada musibah rakus jerubu,
Sedikit saja yang ku perlu,
Sebutir bijirin,
kejar belalang dipadang,
hak hela nafas panjang,
untuk terus berlagu

Ramai yang redha
malah tikus gembira sawit melata
orangutan sudah letih bersahut
Ni perkara biasa
Walau hak bernafas dirampas

Dayus tak terkata
Hingga satu hari
Tiada daya suara
Bagai Pompeii
Cuma yang tiada laharnya saja

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lessons from the vegetation in the DUBAI desert

January 22, 2010

It rained today. The grid was chockerblock. I did not complain

If you are seated at Chinoz KLCC on a rainy day in June or JUly, you are likely to see young Arabs playing in the puddle and fascinated  by the rain. They are not unlike the curious beings who have never seen snows.

How blessed we are because of the rain. I never complain of the rain. I love it when it rains. Correction. I love it when it rains in Kuala Lumpur. I would be cursing if it rains in the dreadful month of December in London. Combine the London rain with the Northern wind, you have to be careful with your earlobes. It gets brittle.

Those emiratis must be admiring how green Kuala Lumpur is. Would you imagine being a tree in the desert  of Dubai. You are pampered with whatever you need to make you grow but the scorching heat and the loose shifting sand make you feel as if it is perpetually Ramadan. You could see and sense how each tree and of course its caretaker struggles  to establish its roots, to get its first shoot and to survive the 50degrees summer heat.

Here we are in Petaling jaya, an idiot has grafted a ring around the stem of this beautiful tree. I have been cursing every time I see the leaves falling and the tree struggling to get its nutrients down  to the roots.

I love the rain trees. Maybe because of  my affection for the BIGTREE. Not just that, the rain tree is so majestic and dome shaped canopy  makes it more regal. I planted one at my newly restored ancestral home. It was already 15 ft tall with a girth of 12 inch. It has been more then a year since the RM 1k tree was planted and now it is taking shape. I have been impatiently waiting for it to flourish to its full glory.

I like the PULAI too and so is the BUNGO. It has been a long wait. I therefore cannot understand why trees are being chopped down for no apparent reasons.

For those who dislike trees and dislike the dry leaves which my mother considers as rubbish, may be a few weeks in Dubai will make them appreciate the bounty they have been blessed with.

Rain rain, come again. Do you know why frogs like rains? Perfect time and ambiance for mating.


pucuk manis, turi. Do you know what they are?

August 5, 2009

I peeped into the boiling pot and asked the bibik what’s cooking. Pucuk manis.

What? I have not had that for decades. Pucuk manis and turi were two greens  in our standard diet. We could not afford to buy any vegetables. Not even the humble taugeh. These greens were grown around the house.

The pucuk manis were usually boiled with a sprinkling of anchovies and chopped shallots. That was it. Simple and healthy. It was usually accompanied by a dash of sambal belacan and fried salted cencaru,  tamban, gelama or cekek leher. No big stuff.

That perhaps explained for the lean feline that I still am.

It may also  be cooked in coconut milk to make it sayur pucuk manis masak lemak.

With turi it is masak lemak . It is mandatory perhaps because of it bitterness. Kangkung or morning glory were grown in the pond behind the surau. Then there were the belinjau shoots. We still enjoy the belinjau masak asam. The pucuk keladi, or the young shoots of yam are also favourites for masak asam.

Ocassionally other types of “difficult to get” stuff became delicacies. Umbut or the coconut core shoot could be obtained if there were storms that victimize a coconut palm or the palm were felled to be used to construct the wedding penanggah or tent. Rebong were aplenty but the preparation was quite messy. So was nangka muda with the sticky gum.

I liked the young papaya cooked in black peppery  clear soup. It has been ages. I must get someone to do this.

My all time  favourite is the botok-botok. It is a real delicacy. It is a combinations of at least seven shoots and ketumbar, jintan and  kerisik made into a paste. The shoots and paste are then used to wrap cutlets of fish. Tenggiri and parang are favourites. The funny thing is that it is better if the fish is no longer fresh.

When I visited my Uncle’s house in Kluang, the standard fare for the household was taugeh masak air and belanak goring. With seven sons, his primary  teachers salary and no pucuk mnis, or pucuk ubi, or turi  around the quarters, the humble taugeh were the perfect source of roughage and vitamins from greens.

Back to the pucuk manis that was on the stove, I had three helpings of the pucuk manis. The combination was perfect. Pucuk manis masak lemak and ikan tamban pais. Try it out.

I am just wondering if my children’s generation  know how turi look like.


My second sister’s wedding – of berembang and lokan

July 30, 2009

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.


Batu Pahat ( Minyak Beku) – a deteriorating environment

July 4, 2009

On the surface the town of  Batu Pahat looks modern and clean.

You will be impressed with BP walk the place youngsters and the old alike,  hang out till the wee hours of the morning. “Orang BP” are so proud of their BP walk and their coffee tradition.The place for good food and good coffee.  Bintang Walk on a small scale with new world warongs. The Padang is  impressive. There are more malls then Kajang,  Seremban or Muar. There are many  luxury cars on the road.  You will see that it is a thriving and prosperous township and district.

Scratch  a little harder. After the asam pedas,  peep into the drains,  the filth of BP would be revealed. But the makan places are thriving.  People are oblivious. As long as the lontong , the satay, the mee rebus and the asam pedas taste good. As if It is  an exotic combination, the combination of filth and good food, very anthony bordainne.

The area around the market has not changed much, as filthy as it was during the 70s. This is Malaysia, and BP is not that bad, you may say, but drive out beyond the facade and excuses. Drive to Minyak Beku, and I did.

The only sea frontage asset that BP has, is Minyak Beku. Lo behold,  it has  has been abused and neglected. The environment, in this case, Minyak Beku tells a lot more about the people. It tells the  story of  the business community,  the society, the administration and political leadership beyond the facade of the township and municipality. Beyond the “biasalah”  of a local government  administration.

MInyak Beku, the place where the Perigi gave Batu Pahat its name, my favourite camping place during my school days. It is a promontory at the mouth of the Batu Pahat river. Save for the lighthouse and a radar station,  the promontory  is gone.  Left standing were   a few  concrete structures of what was  once a  quarry..

It was not as bad as this. The meandering road used to be lined with durian orchards, serene kampongs, but what you see now are haphazard factories.  There were many unhealthy coconut palms and durian  trees, the foliage  being enveloped in dust. The culprit? a hungry  quarry in full steam. What you get are miles of dusty third  world environment.

Where there was no quarrying, you see barren hills with excessive erosion. Deep gullies made it look like a miniature Little Canyons.

As we approached Minyak Beku there were dump sites by the roadside. My son, Adam noticed the urbanised wild (stray)  dogs which were aplenty.

There were ramshackle huts that they turned into food stalls. There were  Orang Laut selling oysters and cockles. At RM 1 per piece it is a bargain but I dare not touch them. The orang laut man cleared the hut of debris and rubbish by pushing and sweeping it aside. That summed up the attitude of the populace. As long as my domicile is clean. Who cares about what is outside my territory.

What is our country becoming into? During my camping days we embraced  the innocence and idealism of youth, we have been brought up to hope  that the country  will be a better place, but what I saw  was disheartening.

Why? why? why? How could this happen?  This is my take. A one liner,  the consequence of  greed of a  corrupting minority thriving on a apathetic populace combined  with inept regulatory authorities subservient to corrupt little sultans and little napoleons.

Another one liner, there is easy money in quarrying.

Shame on you Batu Pahat. Shame on you Johor. Shame on you Malaysia. You are so third world. At least the orang laut do not destroy the hill and pollute.