19 November 2010

Pakcik Reminisces (Part 13) - Generations

This picture was taken on the recent Hari Raya Qurban showing a grand old lady and one of her great grand children - the most senior and the youngest in my family.

She is 87 and the little girl is just two, making them 85 years apart, spanning four generations. In the Merdeka year of 1957, my mother-in-law lost her husband. She was 34 and the father-in-law I never met was 39. And since then, for 53 years, she has lived a single mother, raising her four children, and now enjoying seeing her great grandchildren howling and shrieking around. How I wish I had met the man she loves all her life, the man who left a simple book TIGA BERADIK Di-ENGLAND, publishe in 1954, recording in simple children’s language, the family’s sea voyage to England where he was among the first lecturers at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Kirkby.

I have gone through materials left by my father-in-law ( the person I never met) and I cannot help feeling certain that I would have loved this man as I love my own father. We have many things in common. But life is never that simple. Who are we to have all the wishes we fancy. I have often told my other half that had her father lived long enough the chances were that I would have never met her at all, and the life we cherish today would never have been there in the first place.

That is life, perfectly destined, sculptured and shaped by the Greatest Creator.

How often I look towards the sea from our bed room window, watch the old and young coconut palms and philosophise on life. The old trees are truly very old. A number have rotted away beginning from the top, first losing their leaves followed by sections of their stems blown down by the wind. And finally the bottom section would just fall to the ground. They have served mankind in so many ways.

I cannot imagine there is another plant on earth which can equal a coconut palm. Its uses and usefulness are so numerous and varied from its stem to leaves; from making a temporary bridge for crossing to brooms for sweeping the floor and ground; from preparation of foods and drinks to medicine. Indeed it is a plant created for service, for life.


Every so often I ask my pupils to watch a coconut tree and think of the answer to a simple question. How on earth so much water can rise all the way up the solid trunk to as high as 160 ft or more to fill up the nuts? An engineer would have to work out the size of a pump to send water to the top of 16 storey building and can never be sure the pump will never fail. What is the perfect mechanism we take for granted used by this palm? Look at the stems and watch how they bend in the strongest of wind - and I have never seen one break. Look at the roots and see how they grip the sandy beaches to remain anchored.

The picture above shows an old plant, without its top. Coincidentally it is about 87 years old, the age of my beloved mother-in-law. At the end of its life a years ago its height was not less than 170 ft, higher than its younger sister standing nearby.

By comparison look at the small figure of a form 5 girl standing at the base. The tree is about 17 times taller, still healthy, occasionally throwing down a nut or two.

Not far from the dead tree a section of its fallen stem lies not far from a young plant, a new generation ready to grow and take over the duty.

As Pakcik ‘struts and frets his hour upon the stage’ he looks at the coconut trees and wonder how, blown and forced to bend in all directions, they keep serving mankind ‘to the last syllable of recorded time’. Yet we despite being the best of creation ( .. ahsani taqwim... of Surah 95, ayat 5) often fail to observe and learn to be a little selfless.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


kaykuala said...

Dear Pakcik,
Beautiful take, very philosophical and varied in terms of matters discussed. From your late father-in-law who could have been an accomplished author to the versatile coconut tree. The coconut tree, like the 4 angled bean have a reputation of usefulness from the roots to the leaves. Every part can be utilized.
I wonder if Pakcik could reveal some of the contents of the book. I'm sure a sea voyage of that era would be most interesting. Maybe some excerpts. Thanks.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Salam Pakcik. Beautifully written, menyentuh perasaan saya. Agree with you wholeheartedly re coconut trees.

the coconut tree figured as a major examination topic semasa saya student di ITM in the early '80s. the subject was malaysian studies. in one of the exams, we were asked to write a composition detailing all the virtues of the coconut tree. am proud to tell you that this mek tranu, who grew up surrounded by coconut trees, and who could de-husk buoh nyior without much effort, scored.. :D

Al-Manar said...

Dear Hank

I am glad we share something in common. Your poems are often much more philosophical, and to people like me they can be difficult to understand fully.
Salaam to you

Al-Manar said...


Your academic performance proves how correct it is to say that a string of A's is not a measure of one's true talent, and the reverse is equally true. You are a living example. I often marvel at how easy you seem to express your ideas and your points. You can even make readers laugh with just a few pictures - as you did recently.

mekyam said...

dear pakcik,

salam and belated selamat hari raya haji to you, makcik and family!

wow, your pa-in-law's gem of a book is certainly an invaluable heritage! i hope you will share some of its contents with us.

coincidently, only today i was telling my other half about the wonderous coconut palms.

we had grilled salmon steaks smeared with sambal tumis and garnished with fried coriander seeds for lunch, you see. i served them on plates lined with daun pisang that had been heated in the microwave to encourage that aroma we all know so well.

the upshot of it, he went and read up abt bananas on wikipedia. just now at dinner he proceeded to extol the virtues of the plant, about how every part of it has a use. so i told him about how our coconut trees are like that too. in a while i'm going to show him this entry of yours.

Wan Sharif said...

Dear Abang Hassan,
You are getting rather philosophical here.. Hopefully, Allah willing, I will be (with His guidance) a little bit more selfless..
In all sincerity we cannot be as selfless as the coconut trees (my opinion).. afterall all His makhluk (other than human and Jinn) always bertasbih to Allah.. and the muslimin/mukminin.. hopefully are not short of trying..

Ummie said...

Philosophically written.
Hits me on the head - HE who never fails to fill water in all coconut fruits and me who never realise HIS givings until today.
Thanks for opening up my mind.

Umi Kalthum Ngah said...

Dear Pakcik,

I do hope you and makcik are well..

Both of you are exemplary couples - really in the midst of the community in need.

While my husband and I try to fit in the little we could get done between our 9-5 jobs. Cant wait for the few years before we retire..

May we live long enough just like you too to be able to continue doing good deeds..insya Allah...Amin..

Salams to makcik..

PS. Am reminiscening the short but happy moment we spent at your wonderful place (the sounds of waves breaking at the shores, the soft sands, swaying palms amid the breeze, makcik's superb desert, your remarkable hospitality and all...) around this time, last year...

Al-Manar said...


That salmon is one of my favourite and is so difficult to get in this part of the world. Occasionally we grab a few pieces from the supermarket, frozen stone hard.And here you come to tempt me! And I wonder where in the world you obtain 'daun pisang' from. Do not tell me you have it planted your private greenhouse. But here, whenever we get the precious salmon, it is served with fresh coconut water plus banana split to finish with. How about that to be one up?

It is pleasant indeed to see your occasional visit, never mind the salmon. Thank you.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Ayah Wan,

I was pleasantly surprised to see your new update; but felt sorry about the disappointment. Life is full of that. Never lose heart. Last week I drove to KL and was pleasantly accpompanied by an old friend, a retired judge from Pulau Duyong!

All those I know from PD are pleasant. You often talked about the hard life many of them had but those I know are a very well educated lot, including a late mufti as a classmate.
They are a selfless lot. Would you be an exception? No, I know you will not break the tradition. I wish you well with your hydroponic project.
Abang Hassan

Al-Manar said...


You are being very modest. What you write is often an eye opener as well. Being a old man I ramble on reminiscing on whatever little events that come to mind.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Umi,

Even before going on retirement you and Sofian have been doing great service to mankind, and I did not have that opportunuty - and now am trying to catch up and make up on lost time.

On top of what you are doing you are an acclaimed writer which I can never be. And your children are following your footsteps, so will your grandchildren as well, I am sure. They are all chips of the old blocks.

You have written about your difficult past, of your parents' hard life and all. That is the sort of background from which great people emerge. Do not look too hard on the retirement bit of life if where you are today you are doing great job, Umi.

Over here the palms are not swaying but swinging and what is blowing is no longer that gentle breeze you experienced. I read about the bad tme our people up north experienced a week ago. We are bracing ourselves for something similar.

Salaam from us at Nuri

mekyam said...

salam pakcik,

i wish i could send you some fresh salmon from here. saya pulak rindu ikan tenggiri and good ol' ikan kembung kita. bukan tak ada kat sini, tepi they're a tad oilier than ours. agagnya pasal harvested from colder waters. bawal pun mcm tu.

daun pisang saya beli yg dijual frozen, pakcik. berbungkus rapi benar dlm plastik. harga kira2 us$2/sepaket. biasanya berisi 2 keping daun yg panjangnya agak 1 meter, tiap2 satu berlipat empat. mungkin drp satu pelepah kot.

daunnya lebar dan elok tebal. makcik nasi dagang kita sure approve punya. probably datang dari jamaica. atau mungkin juga siam. btw, it looks like thailand is way ahead of us in exporting all their "exotic" food and foodstuff to the west. dahtuh packaging dia canggih habis. to appeal to orang mats lah katakan.

selain drp daun pisang banyak lagi organic/natural food wraps utk masakan or hidang makanan yg boleh dapat kat some supermarkets. there are grape leaves for dolmas, fig leaves [for grilling or baking just abt anything, from cheese to fish to desserts] and cornhusks for tamales, etc. yg saya belum tengok lagi daun palas. :D

Anonymous said...

How are you now?? I have not heard your voice ,your joke for a long time,,,,How I miss that time,,,,There is nothing to share about moscow,,,,now,winter season, I can say,,it is too cold here. The temperature here today is around -4 degree,,, I tremble,,hahhaha all the surrounding of moscow is covered with snow,,,how beautiful,,,hahaha now, I have to wear my thick winter coat to warm my body.... about study,,so far,,I have no problem about that. I can say that it is not too hard to study here compared to Malaysia,,,,We always do our oral test and all the marks given depend on the lecturer 100%,,,, hairie,moscow

Anonymous said...

Pakcik, the book 'Tiga Beradek Di England' looks interesting. May I borrow it from you? I really want to have a look at it.


Anonymous said...

Salam Pakcik

In my kampong coconut trees do not grow that high (tanah gambut) and they recline as they get older so that the fruits can be taken easily. I do not care much for anything coconuts except for making rendang. With the price of coconuts at the wet market in littlereddot costing almost RM4.00 each I now bring shelled coconuts home every time I balik kampong where coconuts berlambak behind the house then clean and freeze them and save some money!!!

Been thinking of paying you both another visit but no more Firefly flying this route and tak larat nak naik kreta or bus, very sad.


Al-Manar said...


I see business potential here - a kind of barter trading, freshly flown salmon against banana and coconut based products; banana leaves, daun ketupat, penyapu lidi, husk-filled pillows, minyak kelapa for special massage etc etc. A few of our visitors are anak anak Terengganu ternama. They may wish to participate in this venture.

Sedapnya fresh salmon! Cuba buat budu salmon.

Al-Manar said...


Temperature of -4C? I wonder how cold it can get in Moscow. By the way,do not forget to keep diary of daily events. If you do not faithfully do it you will soon forget the details and live to tegret. E-mail Pakcik and tell me in greater details of your daily life, friends, classes etc.

Al-Manar said...


Whenever you are back you can read something about Makcik's childhood days.But you may not understand the old Malay spellings - beradek , cherdek etc.

Al-Manar said...


RM 4/= per coconut sounds a lot of money. Just like your kampomg, I have coconuts all around in our grounds, too much for family consumption. I have come to be good at dehusking and machining them.

What a shame Firefly have stopped operating this rout. I am sure they or Mas/Airasia will put it right.

nordinmusa said...

Dear Pak Cik,

Enjoyed your writing as usual. One day I would want my bedroom to face the sea as well.

Al-Manar said...


‘What matters most’ is what you enjoy writing about without pretension. That is your blog and I enjoy it, not always leaving my comments as I have access to you via your e-mail. Like you my e-mail is no secret as I like to allow readers to express their views privately. Some do that and I value those sincere messages.

Think about a bedroom window opening to the wild look of a range of hills with greeneries etching sharp skyline at sunrise or sunset. That is a good alternative to what I have, of the sea. Things natural are often beautiful and peaceful. Visit Kampong Maras or Pechah Rotan and assess the views. There, as a bonus, you would be closer to the best of durian as well. And I will visit you often when the fruit is in season!

Naa..a said...

assalamualaikum, pakcik.. lama tak berjumpa..apa khabar? smoga sihat hendaknya.

Temuk said...

Your late father in law must be a very loveable, lovely and loving person! Benarlah, orang yang Tuhan sayangi, Dia akan jemput menemui-Nya lebih awal daripada yang lainnya.

Talking about the coconut tree, I remember that it is normally referred to as the tree of life. But, may be it's not that true for our coconut smallholders. It's a pity that our government does not give enough attention to this crop. Sadly, because we do not have enough coconuts, we now have to import them from Indonesia. We introduced the Coconut Replanting & Rehabilitation Scheme (CRRS), way back in the late 60s, and that did help to improve the livelihood of our pekebun kecil kelapa. Beginning the mid 80s, however, our coconut smallholding sector began to dwindle, and that was also the time when the CRRS was stopped. Of course, several factors have actually contributed to the underdevelopment of the coconut industry in our country. These factors I think are closely associated with the government, the coconut smallholders themselves, and certain external forces.

Have a nice day.

Al-Manar said...

Cikgu Rosnah,

Lama sungguh tak singgah. Cuti dah hampir berakhir. Nanti bertambah lagi sibuk keluarga guru. Pakcik rehat sahaja. Maalumlah jadual sendiri, bebas tanpa sesiapa memberi arahan - tetapi tak dapat gajilah sayangnya.

Al-Manar said...

Sdr Temuk,

Memang pengtahuan sdr tentang tumbuhan sugguh menakjubkan saya - satu satu sebab saya sering melawati 'Nukilan' tetapi ketiadaan kebulihan untuk meniggalkan catatan yang sesuai.

Selepas sdr sebut CRRS baru saya teringat pada masa silang saya dengar tentang jenis kelapa baru dibawa masuk dari Africa, kalau tak salah dipanggil 'Mawa'? - Malaysia West Africa agaknya. Sekarang pun masih ada jenis yang dipanggil Mawar di tempat saya - ditambah 'r' betul atau tidak sdr lebih maalum. Sedap pula bila bunyi seperti bunga!

Salaam kepada sdr.

Al-Manar said...


Saya kehilangan banyak e-mail. Boleh sdr hantar kepada saya almanar@pd.jaring.my ?

Terima kasih

Anonymous said...

Dear Pakcik

I do hope some other airlines will cover this route soon.

Re coconuts I remember during my childhood we made our own gula melaka and minyak klapa. Very simple to make minyak klapa perah santan and boil till dry, it is very very fragrant unlike those bought from the shops and the tahi minyak really sedap, boleh buat business pakcik as you are adept at husking and paroting!!!.

However to make gula melaka a bit susah as your trees are so tall and difficult to climb to get the nectre from the coconut flowers.

Salam to you both.

nordinmusa said...

Dear Pak Hassan ( I hope you don't mind me calling u Pak Hassan instead of Pakcik Hassan, as my 3-year stint of going back and forth to Jakarta (2007,2008,2009)had a permanent impact on my language), I am amazed at how many people visited your blog. Thank God you are already retired, otherwise you need to retire early in order to finish reading all the comments.

Would love to read more about your early years in London. I always like London, a city full of historic buildings. A city full of stories. I made a brief stop in London in 1986. It was very difference from cities in the United States.

And about the bedroom window again, i would still choose a seaside than a hillside, and i would rather wait for the 'udang baring' season or the 'candat sotong' than durian and manggis. I grew up by the sea. The sound of the monsoon waves serenaded my nights during my growing up years in Kg Tanjung,Kuala Terengganu. So my last final years will also be at the seaside.

Al-Manar said...


Goodness me! It never occurred to me jadi saudagar minyak kelapa dara at my age. You are putting ideas into my head.

Al-Manar said...


At one stage it was a toss between sea-side or river-side. In some rspects the latter is more attractive when I think of the ease of maintaing a small boat, rowing around,going fishing etc. On the other hand, a place with heavy rainfalls like Terengganu there is fear and problems related to floods and erosion.

ninotaziz said...

Dear Pakcik,

I see you have lost some emails. I am not sure whether you received mine explaining that I will be taking some time off from blogging as I am embarking on two pet book projects with Utusan. I love everything about writing books on folklore, the research, the reminiscing, giving old stories a new twist, figuring out the history... Unfortunately it takes a lot of time. Your coconut tree inspired some revision to my Urashimataro story, now I have to check whether they have coconut trees in Japan? I am sure they do but I would still have to check!

I may be passing silently through and even poetry takes a back seat!


Al-Manar said...


Blame it all on my grand children. It is end-of-the-year school holidays. All my three laptops were fully utilised by my little 'rascals'. I had ten of them here at various times. With rain beating hard outside my laptops turned their playgrounds!

One other visitor alerted me of his comments which seemed to have been ignored. I must apologise to you and everyone else whose comments have not been attended to.
Once you have your works accomplished let us know so that we all can get copies. I will have one posted on my tallest coconut tree! All the best to you.