Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Rain, the Paddy Fields and the Generosity of People - Back to Tanjung Karang

How do you drive when you can barely see out of your car? But we did just that as we headed once again to the rural area of Tanjung Karang, about an hour's drive out of town (See earlier posting entitled 'A Little House Among the Paddy Fields - a hard but beautiful life.' Click Here). I was sending my Kak Mutiah back home when the heavens suddenly opened up in a biblical rain storm (well it felt biblical). I was only worried about the muddy track leading to her house and whether the car might get stuck in the morass... On the way, her mother called and informed us that (perhaps) due to the heavy rain storm, there is no water supply to the house. Water, water everywhere but where you need it most. 
Happily the rain ebbed away and the Sun peeked out of the overcast sky. The track looked muddy alright but it was not too bad. The electricity poles which dot the paddy fields however looked a little shaky as their underground foundation loosened under the torrential rains pouring on Malaysia for the past couple of weeks. The poles were all leaning sideways and hanging precariously to each other.
It was a crisp cool post-rain air that greeted us arriving at Kak Mutiah's house. The rich golden green stalks of rice are all gone now, harvested over the previous 2 weeks. Its all just muddy fields to the furthest vista. But muddy or golden, I was happy to be back again. To be able to flex your sight and soul. Sometimes I think that a far horizon is the best spot for reflection, whether it is in the deserts of Arabia, the plains of the Dakotas or the sweeping meadows of rural England. The calmness I felt earlier in my first visit returned to the senses like a familiar friend. Now I am certain I like it here. I did not immediately enter the house, but amused myself around the compound and neighbouring paddy field and canals.
Kak Mutiah and her family has been staying in the house with the blue roof for the longest time. Their family were initially from Jawa, Indonesia. There are many Javanese who have made Tanjung Karang their home, and although they speak Bahasa Melayu (the national language), the elders often revert back to their Javanese mother tongue. But the number of people fluent in Javanese is dwindling as the new generation becomes more integrated and marries into the indigenous Malay population.
Kak Mutiah's father mused that the village used to be a lot busier in the past. The houses were much closer and there were more young people about. Nowadays, duplicating the migration trend the world over, the small hamlet of Tanjung Karang sees the continuing drift of its young to the big cities. Things were certainly more lively back then. Kak Mutiah recalls how the village girls would be walking home from Quran recitation lessons when inevitably someone would scream "Ghosts!" and the girls would scamper home at top speed.
Mikhail came along this time, together with my auntie, Mak Ndak. "I cannot live here. There is no computer." lamented my son. But he was curious enough to accompany me around. He was looking at the paddy field canal and asked, "Papa, can I pee in the stream?" And later while we were exploring the compound, "Papa, can I pee under the house?" I think Mika actually needed to pee and was not asking me a purely rhetorical question. Mika's Papa can be really slow sometimes. I directed him to the toilet in the house.
From the left: My aunt (resting after climbing the steep steps into the house, Mikhail looking nervous and shy and Kak Mutiah's mother, named Saleha. Like all grandmothers, she enjoys the presence of grandchildren, even if not her own. She may appear small, but even in her 70s, she is still very strong, "Much stronger than me." admitted Kak Mutiah.
The family served up tea, consisting of fried curry puff, bananas, yam and cempedak. Kak Mutiah's mum was pleased my aunt managed to come too. They updated each other and my aunt invited her to come for my aunt's granddaughter's wedding this coming February. Mika disappeared from the table for a while before coming back and declaring, "Papa, this house has 12 doors!" I think he meant thresholds. I nodded appreciatively, "Good to know, Mika... good to know." Later the mother hugged and kissed Mikhail, and furtively slipped RM15 into his hand. Mika protested that he doesn't need the money but she would not take no for an answer and said "You can buy ice-cream..." And just before we left she presented my aunt with two pairs of batik cloth. How can you not love such people?
There are many, many flowers, ferns and other assorted faunas which somehow looked all so familiar to me. Then I suddenly remembered that Mutiah had over the years been given the saplings from my late mother's large garden. My mother used to potter around the garden for 1 to 2 hours every morning without fail. Like my mother, that garden is no more, so I am glad to find these beautiful trees and flowers alive and enriching Kak Mutiah's home. My late mother was awfully fond of (if at times annoyed by) Kak Mutiah and greatly respected her parents.
I was a little sad to leave and hope to come back soon.
Thank you for sharing a little space in your day with me.
Pax Taufiqa

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will find a way

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