21 March 2013

Fly high, my boy

Syami, the boy I featured in the End of the tunnel ( Pt 15 ) on
21st Feb 2012, called on us yesterday to say goodbye. Today
he is leaving home on his longest journey ever. In a couple of days he will be in Germany practicing and enriching whatever German language he has learned in Kuala Lumpur.

With a final glance at Almanar he left; and I knew what he felt about the years he and his group frequented that lowly looking building. He has had excellent academic records  so far. He will one day, insya Allah, graduate in mechanical engineering, and I am certain he will not forget his root. I am optimistic that Almanar has given him, like to many others, the value of gratitude and humility.


Fly high , my boy, and come back to be of service.

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14 March 2013

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 30 ) – My two cousins

A recent sad event took Pakcik way, way back in time. Let for a start talk about three cousins, all boys, who were born within months of each other in three different parts of Malaya over 70 years ago. One was born in Teluk Anson ( now Teluk Intan ), one in Kuala Kangsar and Pakcik and the oldest of three, in K Trengganu ( now K Terengganu).

Many would not believe how far apart these places were; K Trengganu in particularly Today I can drive my old jalopy all the way from K Terengganu to those two places within hours. On the other hand, 56 years ago Pakcik’s first road trip to Kuala Lumpur, much nearer than Teluk Intan and K Kangsar, took two whole days, having to cross seven rivers by ferry and putting up one night in a lodging house in Temerloh. I described this in my ‘Pakcik reminisces (Pt 11)’ on 9th Sept 2010 – click here.

My late father made many trips to Teluk Anson and K Kangsar about the time those three cousins were born. A sure route to reach those two places was on board a slow wooden sailing vessel (the wind-powered ‘perahu besar’ - the big boat ). The vessel would crawl southwards along the coast down to Endau, Mersing and Johor Baru from where he would take a train up north or another boat journey to Teluk Anson, from there to K Kangsar. Each of his business trips would take weeks.

So, during those years the three cousins were born at considerable distances apart. It was that distance which justified my old Trengganu family to venture to Perak and set up small batek-making centres in those towns, and there they settled down.

As the land communication improved the small batik-making centres became less important, coming to a close around mid 1900’s. On the positive side, the shorter and easier journey by road helped to bring the isolated family members closer again. My Teluk Anson cousin was sent to K Terengganu for his early schooling. But the wooden houses by the river-side in Teluk Anson and Kuala Kangsar are now mere memories.


a) From K Kangsar

Zamri is my cousin from K Kangsar. He went to Clifford School in K Kangsar and then to Anderson in Ipoh. His career began as a teacher but that was a brief one before he had to make a choice to work with Telekom Malaysia or Lands and Survey Department. With Telekom he would have to work in K Lumpur. Lands and Survey had an office in Taiping. All his three successful children are working in Klang Valley, but my poor cousin would not get his mother’s blessing to go to KL, a place considered too far from home in Kuala Kangsar. Taiping was not near but was certainly not as far. That was the sense of distance then.

So Lands and Survey it was where this cousin worked for. Twenty years later, in 1981, an experienced person, he was seconded to a team involved in a joint project between Thailand and Malaysia to improve identification and demarcation of South Thailand-Kelantan border. The job required him and team to spend on alternate basis, one whole month working in the deep jungle, living in make-shift tents followed by one month back at their base camp.

Travel in and out of the jungle was by helicopters which were used to carry to sites heavy loads of cement, stone, sand and two-metre long concrete boundary posts. After about twenty trips by helicopter, my cousin Zamri, now in his mid forty came to face with a situation that we would shudder to think of – a helicopter crash.

On the fateful day Zamri and three others boarded a Nuri helicopter which was taking its normal heavy load to another site. Imagine the gigantic jungle trees with large umbrella tops and rough terrains and ravines below. The machine with two experienced pilots and an assistant began to take off, ascending and maneuvering its way through the gaps between the tall trees. Disaster struck when a branch caught the blades of its tail rotor. Immediately the machine went into an uncontrollable spin and crashed in a ravine. One friend was crushed to death by the heavy load carried by the machine , two others injured and Zamri himself was pinned down and unconscious.

I was momentarily awake when a voice called my name and asked me to move away quickly from the burning helicopter,” related Zamri to Pakcik of the only instance he was vaguely conscious.

Of course I could not move at all. Then I lost consciousness again” he continued.

When he regained consciousness several hours later he was lying in the General Hospital in Kota Bharu. He had a severe spine injury which prevented him from being transported to KL for treatment. Pakcik can still remember how we all in the family prayed that he would pull through. Of course he did .

It was a case of ‘pantang mati sebelum ajal’

The fateful incident hit the headline no doubt.

Today, Alhamdulillah, he is as well as he could be, only needing a walking stick for support, his permanent feature. He and wife can still enjoy shuttling between Kuala Kangsar, his home, and Klang Valley where his three children and grand-children are.


b) From Teluk Intan .

That brings Pakcik to the other cousin who started life in Teluk Anson, and because of whom I am reminiscing. Apart from his stay in K Trengganu during his early days in school, we became very close when as a bachelor I was posted in Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan) for six months; and he was then a young teacher. Having nothing to do in that sleepy town I spent much of my time with him and the family. It was then I learnt to enjoy the large fresh water prawns (udang galah) caught by his father from the big Perak River running behind their wooden house.

During his school days Abdul Aziz was exceptionally active in sports. Possessing a heavy frame he took up rugby very seriously. As a pupil of form 4 and 5 he achieved the distinction of being a player in the Malayan (before independence) rugby team. It was a feat considering the participation of heavily built European players prior to Independence. Somehow I cannot help feeling that the heavy falls and tumbles he received during his young days took their tolls in his later years when his health began to fail and had to undergo frequent medical treatments. I made it a point to ring him at regular intervals apart from our meetings at family weddings.

About three months ago, when I visied him in Teluk Intan, he expressed to me his desire to pay his ‘last’ visit to K Terengganu. Last week, however, I received the sad news of his demise in hospital. Later I learnt from his wife and a younger brother that he again mentioned of a ‘must’ trip to K Terengganu when he was out of hospital.

No, his meeting with the Creator took precedence.

And I will live to remember him with a prayer. _______________________________________

The following all-in-the-family picture was taken last year at a wedding of a family member held in Masjid Wilayah, Kuala Lumpur.  Four of us sitting on the right in the picture were cousins.

R to L - 4 Cousins -  Zamri (K Kangsar), Hussein (KT),arwah A Aziz (T Intan)  sitting  on  Pakcik's left


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