13 June 2012

All in the Family ( Pt 3 ) – The X-File


This is probably the longest single posting in this blog. I can have it in two or three installments with the risk of interrupting the reader’s train of thought. So here I take the risk of boring my dear visitors. Be honest to tell Pakcik if in future this should preferably be in more than one whole length. Thank you.

With Makcik as my sleeping partner the two of us drove to Raub very early on Saturday 9th June for a wedding that we could ill afford to miss.

An equally strong reason was purely sentimental. We had a strong urge to see, possibly for the last time, an old wooden house in a village named Dong some twenty kilometers away on the main road from Raub to Gua Musang. Dong may indeed sound a ‘gong’ to many people who followed the famous bizarre murder committed by a ‘charmer’ named Mona Effendi. That was several years ago and our Dong has nothing to do with that.

Indeed, Dong had been intimately known to us many years before that sensational murder case. There was an old loving couple who spent their lives in a wooden house we used to visit and spent many a night. The devoted wife whom we called ‘Wan’ passed away a couple of years ahead of her life partner whom we called ‘Tok’. My last visit to Dong and to that very house was more than thirty years ago. That was when I accompanied the old man’s body to his final resting place beside his wife’s.

Arriving early in Raub we had over an hour to spare before the wedding. As we would have another long drive back to Kuala Terengganu that same day we decided to visit the old house first. To be sure of the day I repeat Sarurday 9th June, not a day earlier or later.

Over the years the road from Raub to Gua Musang had been straightened and widened, making it difficult for me to locate the spot where a narrow path used to lead to the house we used to know too well. What I could remember was the fence of a small school running alongside the path.

It was just a matter of a few minutes before we reached Dong. I had to slow down, stopping at times, to be sure that we would not pass the path, if there was still one.

Soon a road-block came into sight. But that did not matter in the least. We kept inching our way until, when we thought we were about where the path should roughly be, we came to check point.

We must have been noticed to drive in a suspicious manner. Two uniformed JPJ (Road Transport Dept) personnels scrutinized our car and one of them came around to ask for my driving license. With confidence I produced my recently renewed driving license and my Identity Card as well, though the latter was not asked for.

After seeing my driving license the man dropped the bomb-shell, “Lesen kereta encik dah mati (your road tax has expired)”.

Not wanting to believe what I heard I stepped out and walked ahead of the car to see for myself the road tax on the windscreen. It read ‘ 8 June 2012’ and today was 11 am on Saturday 9th June 2012 – just eleven hours past the expiry date!

Loudly and with disbelief I told myself how sure I was that road tax would last another couple of months.Dutifully I moved my car aside and approached the officer-in-charge who was sitting beside a small table under the shade of trees by the roadside.

I pleaded to be excused as I was totally unaware of the expiry date of the road tax and it was a matter of less than one day. Very firmly he declared that he was very sorry about that but he was not in the position to let me go on this kind of offence. He then picked up his pen and was ready to prepare the top sheet of his book of summons. Then to clear his conscience, perhaps, he lifted his face to look straight into my eyes. Politely he asked why I was driving slowly within sight of his road-block (meaning driving suspiciously out of guilty conscience?)

That was an opening for me to detail the very strong reason why we both had to revisit the dear old man’s house.

At this point for the benefit of my readers I should say something about our loveable man, ‘Tok’ who died some twenty years ago at the age of eighty plus. I came to know him when he was in his seventy. He was a very popular figure in the village. People talked, and still do, of him with awe and admiration. Apart from his admirable personality in general he was believed to possess a lot of ‘mystical’ knowledge, being associated with warriors of the famed Mat Kilau (the Pahang warrior with unusual or supernatural abilities in the physical and spiritual realms.)

His light-heartedness and the wealth of old stories he had to tell were reasons enough for me to enjoy his company. During one of my many sittings with him he told me how, as a member of a land survey team, he was taken to the old Kuala Lumpur to carry out some survey work of the area where Foch Avenue ( now Jalan Cheng Lok) is. It was hard not to be convinced of his visits to various places as he often gave known landmarks of places he talked about.

Following the May 13th incident in 1969 Tok was requested by the villagers to reactivate his teaching of ‘silat(Malay art of self defense) of which he was known to have special skills, and which he had ceased to teach for a long time.

Relatively tall and thinly built Tok was very tough, with obvious agility and strength. It was hard to believe how on his own he managed to run his fruit farm. Villagers believed he did not work alone but with help from his ‘invisible’ friends. Close to his house he built quite a sizeable pond where he reared fresh-water fish. The pond was linked to a small stream running outside his land.

Not once during our acquaintance he ever boasted of his ‘unusual’ abilities. He never gave a hint that he wished to talk about it to me. But people around him talked of various strange and unexplainable incidents.

A very close friend of his, called Meon, told me a number of strange stories. On one occasion a stranger entered the old man’s house intending to cart away some brass wares. The stranger was found later wandering in the house unable to find his way out. The whole ground of his house was known to be similarly ‘fenced’. One with ill intention could enter his land but would not be able to find his way out. Meon also related to Pakcik his personal experience which took place one dark evening. With one mutual friend he went to the fish pond to get some fish for dinner. To their surprise their torch-lights showed nothing in the pond but snakes slithering all over.

Tok’s youngest of three sons talked of his father’s special knowledge. At one time the son was interested in acquiring from his father one skill which would enable him to open a locked door without a key. He knew that his father possessed that ‘special’ knowledge. On hearing the son’s request the old father agreed; it had to be on two strict conditions. Firstly, he was never to abuse the special skill in any way other than on emergency, and, secondly, the son would not be allowed to meet him for a minimum period of several months immediately after being taught the skill. The first condition was acceptable to the son but, knowing the age of the old man and the need to see him regularly, the second condition was not acceptable. So he lived without acquiring the skill. How I wish I had acquired some of these skills to put some fear in Almanar children!

Although Tok has gone for so long no one in the family would pull down whatever left of the old man’s old house. His youngest son, who passed away last year, conveniently built his weekend home on the available ground behind the old wooden relic, reportedly after having failed to have it demolished. Unfortunately, he is no longer around for me to ascertain whether it was a fact that an attempt had been made to demolish the house. The idea was abandoned when the worker engaged became seriously ill and refused to carry out the work.

What is left of Tok's old house  


Now we go back to where we left with Pakcik and the JPJ officer who was about to issue a ticket for my traffic offense.

Almost immediately after hearing what I had to say in earnest of my sole reason for driving slowly, and still looking in my face, the officer raised his right hand which was holding the pen. He pointed at one direction very close where we were.

Baiklah encik, boleh pergi. Lorong tu ada dekat situ, sebelah sekolah. (Alright you may go, sir. The path is just there beside the school.) Then he added by saying that there was nothing he could do to help should there be another road-check on my long way home later.

So I was let off scot-free!


While driving the 500 km home after the wedding that afternoon, I was praying that there would not be another road block. At the same time I felt strangely sure that all would be well. But I could not contain my thought over the earlier incident. At one point I turned to Makcik to say,
What happened this morning was rather odd. Allah made the officer change his mind in the last second. Was it because of our Tok? Or was it a pure coincidence?”
May Allah bless Tok, Wan and his three sons. After all Tok and Wan were Makkcik’s grandparents, and the second of his three sons, the only one I never had a chance to meet in my life, was none other than my own late father-in-law.


This morning I went to have the road tax renewed. It is valid from 10th June while the previous one ended on 8th June. Have I gained one day's grace for all the trouble, or a gift from heaven for the trouble taken in memory of our beloved Tok?

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
I was in the same predicament once. I could kick myself for not checking. True enough. It had expired for 3 days. I apologized profusely. Apologies accepted and I was asked to proceed. Then it struck me. What if there was another road-block ahead. I posed that question to the policeman and he replied, 'itu nasib!' ( he meant
'that is your bad luck' ) I just turned back. I had the road tax
renewed the next morning.
On hindsight, I was grateful that it happened. To be involved in an accident with an expired road-tax is a very serious offence.


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
Whoa! Spooky stories you have there. Anyway, I believe that everything happened for a reason. purrr...meow!

GUiKP said...

Thank you for sharing a very personal story. Awesome. And Foch Avenue sounds so romantic ...

Haslina said...

Everything happens for a reason.. and who could have the heart to fine two innocent-looking pakcik and makcik?

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
Since you've asked, I would go for this format certainly. It combines the Prose and the Process notes at one go. Together we are brought through the wonderful measure of good English that you always have for us. Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

Saya belum habis baca entry ini tapi sangat suka dengan istilah 'sleeping partner'. Istilah yg sama saya gunakan kpd isteri saya. Salam utk 'your sleeping parner' & saya doakan kesejahteraan Pakcik sekeluarga.

- Mohd Mishod

Al-Manar said...


What a predicament indeed. I had the same fear of an accident in mind. It was not just the absence of a road disc but getting involved in an accident without insurance; the consequence!

I value your feedback, Hank. You see the poems you write are short and fully loaded, at times too taxing for my old grey matter to digest.

Al-Manar said...


Just imagine had I added a couple of black cats roaming around the premises growling at every visitor! That will send you back to Sydney for good.

Al-Manar said...


Honestly I keep popping in at your site every so often, only to be disappointed. I can only imagine the pressure of work. It is well and good for me sitting on my laurels watching the sunrise day in and day out.

Al-Manar said...


You have not yet seen the faces of these 'innocent-looking' couple! Call over one day and assure yourself.

Indeed, there is a reason for everything and we, being human, may never know or understand.

Al-Manar said...

Sdr Mohd Mishod,

Itulah sebabnya saya tanya awal awal lagi sama ada penulisan kali ini terlampau panjang. Kalau tak mahu jadi tatapan umum sila email saja pandangan sdr ke- almanar@pd.jaring.my.

Cepat sdr tangkap isatilah 'sleeping partner' - mwemanglah berdengkur selalu bila berjalan jauh! Betul kan?

kotastar said...

Sdr Al Manar,

A very good account of yr escapade for a late renewal of the road tax but Tok's account tops it. Mind you we have been to Dong several times and know the place well. Ever reached the waterfall site?
Our daughter's husband and her in- laws are at Dong.Truly the road from Raub towards Kota Bharu has changed and you may easily get on the wrong track if you miss a turn at Raub. The length of the story is perfect only it may have taken people like us a bit longer to sit at the table. BTW, do you mean to say the 'sleeping partner' as she was resting while you were on the road to Raub or what it really is? Thanks for the story and the pix of the house. It would be exciting if you could have a photo of the JPJ people at the road block.

ninotaziz said...

The JPJ story was the icing on the cake, but really, I am fascinated by Tok. Men like Tok took care of the essence of our people. The quiet dignity. The wealth of knowledge. The ability to engage.

That could be you too, Pakcik.

And that house. What lovely possibilities. Can it be saved?

who is dusting bookshelves, painting the house and repairing the kitchen sink at the moment.

Al-Manar said...


I was right thinking that ‘sleeping partner’ would catch my visitors’ eyes. You and our friend, Mohd Mishod, noticed that.

So Dong is not a god-forsaken place after all. You know it as much as I do. In fact I am now beginning to think that the family your son is married to, is somehow related to my 'Sleeping Beauty' – (would 'sleeping beauty' make it sound more romantic than ‘sleeping partner’?)

You see that 'Tok' was one of ten siblings. Given a conservative figure of three children per family, Tok, who had three sons, would have 27 nephew /nieces. That is to say, my Sleeping Beauty’s father had 27 cousins. She herself would have 27X3 = 81 second cousins. So if we take a bit of trouble we may have a surprise in our hand to find some connection between your son’s in-laws and my sleeping beauty.

Early this year a lady living in Taman Tun Dr Ismail chanced to mention a name, ‘Ning’, at a party with a hope that she would meet this distant cousin she had heard of but never met. Well this casual talk finally reached my sleeping beauty who as a child was given that name, Ning, to be used within the family circle. And that led to our attending a wedding in that lady’s family, a newly found cousinship.

It is a small world, Sdr KotaStar.

Al-Manar said...

'who is dusting bookshelves, painting the house and repairing the kitchen sink at the moment.'

Poor girl, an established poet and writer, doing odd jobs, for a living?
Never mind, you have your lovely children to keep you company.

A member of Tok's family has a son who studied architecture. He is said to be interested in 'creating' something with the near ruin of the old house. We are hoping that this would mzterialise some day.

ninotaziz said...

Oh, I can only dream that my better half would call me Sleeping beauty one day in the distant future.

Al-Manar said...


There is plenty of time for it. That endearment term comes when one is past half a century and you are nowhere near there.

naliahmad said...

sleeping partner...
sleeping beauty...
ahhh...how my heart melts...

pakchik, your description of tok could have passed for my own wan (kedah-speak for grandpa). i still remember the du'a he taught me when i told him that i was scared of the resident hostel ghost at school. the last time i saw him was at my own wedding. he passed away when i was about to have my second child, halfway around the world. he never got to see any of my children. i miss him still.

Al-Manar said...


Resident hostel ghost? That rings a brrell somehow. I have heard something about this being of a hostel.

If only your Wan were to be around today what a pround grandfather and great-grandfather he would be. The fact that our memories of grandparents are of love and tenderness and with prayers in our heart, we ought to act with similar love and tenderness to our grandchildren; for them to reminisce years from today, hopefully with love and prayers as well.

Wan Sharif said...

I seldom have sleeping partner when I drive. Reason being. I was caught driving at 180+km the other day when she fell asleep..
I think Tok would have share some Hikayats to you non?

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

Do you call 180+kph driving? My car will disintegrate at that soumd barrier speed. You are a limit my dear Ayak Wang. What kind of sleeping beauty/partner would you still enjoy at that speed?