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