"Acu cuba tra test" fascinated me for a long time. It is one whole complete sentence consisting of different words with each sharing the same meaning. "Test" is of course English and so is the original tra which came from the word "try".
There are a lot of words in Terengganuspeak borrowed from English. Most are automobile -related. We didn't invent the automobile. I am not sure if we even invented the kereta keruba (the ox cart). Hence, we do not have words for them.
Step into any workshop (that's what Terengganu people call the place where they repair your car) and you will hear the pomeng (original: foreman, now it means a mechanic) talk about spana or minyokselendar (spanner and cylinder oil). If your jalopy is diagnosed as "tok rok tarik body" (not enough power to drag itself) or "jalang tige selendar" (limping on only 3 cylinders and your car has 4) the pomeng might suggest that you grengba (grind the valves) to rejuvenate the engine.
Gears or gia in Terengganuspeak is not a mechanical term but what we call the stick-shift. Even the auto T-bar is gia. That's what you push to move the vehicle. Since cars in Terengganu cannot move sideways yet, moving involves only two directions. Gohed and gostang. Gohed, from the English "Go ahead" means go forward. Sometimes, In Terenganu, it can also means "to start". Gostang is to reverse, from the English "go astern". So there you go with your Po' (the o as in load) Gheghe, an old Ford rattler, on your way to raoong bando (go round the town).
Raoong is both a verb and a noun but never an adjective in Terengganuspeak. It is advisable not to smoke roko' segeret (cigarette) in the car lest you burn the koseng (cushion, the car seat). If evening is nigh, make sure your headlights have working bol (bulb) and you have already cah (charged) the beteri (battery). Strangely, batteries for the torchlight are not called batteries but obat lapu.
There are also borrowed words pertaining to legal matters. Offhand I can think of samang from "summons" and also loyar from "lawyer". Peguam is hardly used. Loyar gave rise to some idioms like loyar burok (someone who talks nonsense) or beloyar (to tell tall tales).
As far as food is concerned there are a few English words used in Terengganu. Cakes or pastries bigger than kuih semperit not native to Terengganu are collectively called kek or kuih kek. Biscuits became sekkut. Ever heard of makang sekkut pat seggi atah sejjid? They are talking about eating square biscuits (cream crackers, actually) inside the mosque.
Oh yes, there is another theory on why we call Europeans etc. "Mat Salleh". It seems that once upon a time in Kuala Terenganu many English sailors came ashore and got gloriously drunk. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that. A few of the British officers then tried to apologize by telling the locals that those inebriated visitors were "mad sailors". So, not being able to pronounce or remember "mad sailors", they replaced it with the nearest equivalent that they know, which is Mat Salleh.
Just to welcome Kak Teh to the world of blogging, I will write about crabs, the crustaceans, not (God forbids) the STD. Actually, I should thank Kak Teh for giving me a topic to write on.
Any seafood restaurant worth its gaudy sign will have crabs on the menu. You are spoilt for choice. There are many. Among them chilli crab, marmite crab and steamed crab. The chilli crab I love is the one with layers of burnt udang kering underneath. Drat, my keyboard is wet with my saliva already. Used to have crabs in the old Bangsar Seafood and also in the "coconut grove", outside Klang town. I had ketam in Pulau Ketam too. I also remember the delicious crab meat cold salad (complete with chili padi booby traps) in a coffee shop in Sungai Golok. My friends gave me that to eat while they drink beer. I drink glasses upon glasses of asam boi.
The other notable crab dish I know is in Terengganu. Baked crab in Malaysia Restaurant, Cukai is famous. The crab meat is mashed with other stuff like slivers of ginger and onion and then placed back in the crab shell and closed with a layer of egg white before being baked. Hj. Wan Adnan, a native of Cukai, assured me that the crab is halal. Go early. They run out fast.
Crabs (ketam nipah in Terengganu because ketam batu is rarely eaten) are not fished but trapped or netted with ssauk. In Terengganu, the traps are called bito. The activity of catching crabs using bito is called, well, bitto. A bito looks like a small pyramid. The frame used to be made of wood but now steel is used instead. The walls are made of nets with an opening for the crabs to crawl in. The opening is fashioned such that the crabs can go in but cannot come out. Sort of Hotel California for crabs ("You can check in but you cannot check out"). To entice the crabs to check in, a bait is hung on a hook inside the bito. Usually, shark meat is used. The bito is dropped into the river where the crabs are suspected (and expected) to pass by. A small plastic float at the end of the rope marked the position of the bito for easy retrieval later.
Non-commercial crabbers use ssauk (see pic) and a kerosene lamp to catch crabs. This method is called nyuloh ketang (Shining the light for crabs). I have fond memories of my Bah and me catching crabs in Merang and Setiu using this method. The lamp is not to attract the crabs like the sutong. Crabs are rather homely I think and not swayed by bright lights. The lamp is there for you to see where they are in the shallow river water. Then you deftly bring the ssauk under them. The hissing lamp is also useful to see other denizens of the river like snakes and a nasty fish called ikang depu. This ugly fish has a habit of rushing in front of your path and then wait for you to step on its thorny head. If you do, you are in for a painful time. I was told that a good antidote for the sting is your own taik idung (snot). Never tried it though.
If we go on moonless nights, they say that the crabs wil have more roes in them. At the end of the evening (with or without the moon in attendance), usually nearly , this nyuluh ketang method got us about a kerosene tin full of ketang nipoh. By that time, my mother was too crabby to do any fancy stuff with the crabs. So we usually have boiled crabs and eat them with kicap (soya sauce, Jackie).
We will take a break from talking about food which leads to eating and the consequent wardrobe replacement. Neither are we taking requests today. We will talk about something that we haven't seen in Malaysia yet.
Have you ever come across phone numbers written like this?
They are Vanity numbers and they are easier to remember than just plain numbers. If you use the International Standard keypad in the figure below
you can figure out that their numbers are
Vanity numbers are good to advertise your business because they are easy to remember especially if you advertise on radio. Radio stations wanting more listeners to phone in would do well to have a number like 03-RADIO MUZIK instead of 03 72340 68945 because people can remember words better than numbers. Alas, Radio Muzik's number doesn't begin with 7 and the numbers do not go up to 10 digits.
Given the numbering system used in Malaysia at the moment, businesses and organisations in Malaysia would have to get a 1-300 number or a 1-800 number to use this Vanity number thing. I guess they have to sit down with Telekom Malaysia or the relevant Telcos and come up with:
1-300-AHLONGS (to ask about loans)
1-800-PEMADAM (Drugs Hotline)
1-800-AIRPORT (Landings and Take offs)
1-300-LAPTOPS (Notebooks bargains)
1-300- SAUNAS (Special offer on massages and spas)
1-800-KAHWIN (Kursus perkahwinan)
You can work out what their numbers are and then take it from here and cook up your own vanity numbers for business or pleasure.
(Posted by request) If you drive at night along the Terengganu coastal road between May and December, look past the coconut trees and beyond the waves. You will see a long row of lights. Chances are you are looking at the lights of the squid jiggers or in Terengganuspeak, people candat sutong.
If the Northern and Southern Hemisphere have four seasons and Malaysia has two (wet and wetter), Terengganu has many seasons. Not just a time to be sowing but a time to mukat bilis (netting the anchovy), mengail kerisi (fishing) tenggiri or other fish in season and a time to candat sutong (squid jiggling).
Fishermen will leave as early as to scramble for the choicest lubok, where the most squids congregate.
Soon after night falls, the fluorescent lights, powered either by a generator or an auto battery (wet cells) will be switched on to attract the squids (or calamari, if you haunt Italian restaurants). The fishermen use multiple hooks (the candat) with fish bait or they use a jig made of lead with 10 hooks embedded. This is called a "twist" by the locals. The candat and the twist are both attached to a separate fishing line, usually nylon.
During the candat season, squids are easily caught. Depending on the lubok, the fishermen can catch between 40 to 100 kg of squids per night. The squids hardly put up a fight although they are known to hose you with their black ink as soon as you get them on the boat. Mostly the squids are the straight torpedo type called torok (male) and the sotong tupat (female, with eggs). Sometimes you can get the big sutong katok and during the day, you might hook a sutong mengabang, which is shorter and fatter than the torok or sutong tupat. There is another sutong which Terengganu people call sutong kereta. It was much, much later that I found out that it was actually kurita or octopus.
If you are interested in experiencing candat sotong and you are not sea sick, contact your friendly travel agent. There are packages starting from RM140 per person (from Kuala Terengganu).
Squids aka calamari are good eats. They are delicious grilled, fried ( with or without batter) or whatever other way you can cook them. Like all delicious food, they are rich in cholesterol. But Terengganu people ignore this and gave us ketupat sotong with extra cholesterol. Ketupat sotong or tuppat sutong are egg-bearing squids stuffed with pulut (glutinous rice) and cooked in savoury gravy made with santan (coconut cream). You have to try this tuppat sutong once in your life. Hey, live dangerously. Since losing my teeth, I have managed to avoid this temptation but I won't stop any Kuala Terengganu people from telling me where they still make mouth-watering tuppat sutong. Lead me not into temptation, for I know my own way. Just tell me where the joint is.
Pictures of people (non-fishermen) catching squids. Can be slow, so be patient.
The Malays have a saying "Banyak udang, banyak garam, banyak orang banyak ragam" which roughly means when there are many people, you have as many antics or idiosyncrasies.
Well, I had a lot of prawns today. Six- inch tiger prawns flown in from Sabah. You can get themready-packed in icefrom KotaKinabaluAirport but they are cheaper in KK market.
Somehow, during my younger days in Kuala Terengganu, I have never seen tiger prawns. Probably it was because we have enough real tigers in our backyard. We had udang kertas (soft-shell prawns), udang ketok (lobsters), udang baring (small shrimps) and udang galoh ( freshwater prawns). Udang baring (lots of them) are made into belacan, the odorous paste used in cooking Malaysian food and cencaluk, preserved salted shrimps while the udang kertas found their way into sambal tumis (sometimes with petai), mee goring, rojak and lately, Tom Yam and tempura. No Jackie, Tom Yam is not related to Tom Jones although it can sometimes be as fiery. Tom Yam is the Thai hot soup.
Udang ketok got caught in fishermen's nets once in a while and sold at Pasar Kedai Payang or Pasar Tanjung for a few riyal. Now you have to pay an arm and a leg to enjoy lobster thermidor unless you go to Tioman. There you pay the local boys 10 ringgit or so to dive for a lobster.You have to cook it yourself though.
Udang galoh (galah) the freshwater prawns are the challenge for anglers. You have to be really patient, sensitive and quick to catch them. I haven't caught any. That says a lot about me eh? These buggers are smart even though Malays call brainless people otak udang. Udang galah are not easily caught. Folks in Tanjung Karang used belat (traps) to catch these much-sought-after prawns. If you want to try fishing for these prawns, there are shops with tanks of prawns where for a price, you can try to fish for them. You can keep whatever you can hook.
Why are udang galah much sought after? They are reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Don't ask me why. To me, all crustaceans make me itchy. After eating prawns or crabs, I begin scratching. I wonder if you have this problem too. That doesn't stop me from eating tempuras or other prawn dishes. I like them too much.
I just had prawn curry with rice (and not much anything else) for dinner. Please excuse me; I have to go scratch now.
Once upon a time there was a great king who loved the arts and most everything else.
He commanded that the best musicians be invited to play before him.
And they came.
And they played, very well.
The king was pleased. He commanded that gold coins be stuffed into each musician's instrument.
Everyone was happy except the poor flautist. His thin flute didn't get many gold coins stuffed.
The king commanded that the musicians perform again the next night.
That night, the king was not in a very good mood. His haemorrhoid was acting up. He found everything wrong with the music. In the middle of the jazz fusion rendition of Chan Mali Chan, the king stood up and bellowed that each musician's (musical) instrument be stuffed in the player's posterior.
Again, the flautist was not happy.
Stormclouds(c) FreeFoto.Com The northeast monsoon, which lasts from roughly mid-November to March every year brought heavy rain to the Malaysian east coast states. Sometimes, like last week, bad flood occurs with some death and a lot of people temporarily displaced. To its credit, the government was well prepared, having dealt with floods before. All the relevant government departments were told to prepare long before the northeast monsoon hits. I remember, when I was in the east coast, I was not allowed to go on leave during the monsoon period.
Apart from listening to my Bah (father) mentioning Boh Air Meroh (The Red Water Flood) of 1926, I didn't experience any boh (o as in "boss"), a flood myself until I was 12 years old when we were in the Customs Quarters in Padang Bongor, Kota Bharu. It was on the way to Pengkalan Chepa and I remember the Thai Consulate across the road. The quarters were clusters of single-story brick houses joined together. You might call them terraced houses but there were only 4 houses in a block. It was the first house without stilts that I lived in.
That year it rained heavily and the whole complex was flooded and so were the padi fields behind. I didn't mind the water in the house but I was a bit apprehensive when baby cobras and other creepy crawlies started swimming towards the safety of our walls.
When I was teaching in Kuala Berang, we were told to evacuate when the school was flooded from the monsoon deluge and the water from the overflowing river nearby. The school was so flood-prone that the generator had to be housed 10 feet above ground. When the flood came, we had to stow our belongings high up in the house and took refuge in the school hostel which was on higher ground. Most of the time the flood came during the school holidays. We packed our stuffs, stowed them high up and left for Kuala Terengganu. During one year, the flood didn't come. We unpacked our stuffs and later went to Kuala Terengganu.
We couldn't come back because the road was flooded. And so was the school.
(c) BBC.News When we were able to come back, we found out from the watermark that our house was almost submerged. Everything in the house was waterlogged. I lost a lot of books, my collection of Playboy magazines and music collection. All the LPs were bent like Pringle's potato chips. For the young people, LPs are long playing records before compact discs were invented. When I turned on the gas stove to boil water for a much needed cup of coffee, water came out of the stove. The fridge was ok though. IGNIS fridges are watertight. At least ours was. It floated around in the water and when the water receded, it managed to rest at the kitchen steps. We moved it to its usual spot, plugged it in and it hummed happily.
I am glad to announce that none of our fridges after that had to swim again. Touch wood (touching my head).
To Buaya, Chief and all other readers celebrating Christmas, Have A Merry Xmas!
I am sure all of you have come across onde-onde or buah melaka. Some of you might have had unfortunate accidents with this bobby-trap of a Malaysian tea kuih at one time or the other. If you unwittingly sink your teeth into a freshly boiled, deceptively cool on the outside onde-onde, you will get a mouthful of hot nissang (gula melaka) scalding your palate and tongue. Worse, the nissang will dribble down your expensive shirt/ blouse/dress or squirt the nearest bystander.
I wish I can advise you on the safe way to demolish hot onde-onde but the subject today is the nissang a.k.a. gula melaka alias moulded coconut sugar, the heart and filling of the onde-onde.
For the sweet nissang, we are indebted to our friends in high places. To wit, high up the coconut tree (ok, palm, if you insist). In Terengganu, these friends are called Tok Nyadat without having to pay a single kepeng for the Datokship. Tok Nyadats are usually sun burnt, muscular and thin. I have never seen a pale, flabby and overweight Tok Nyadat so far. They are not prone to altophobia or vertigo and have a high tolerance for kerengge (big red ants) or other pesky pests that lurk in the coconut fronds. Their job is to climb the coconut trees (one at a time), collect the coconut sap, come down again and make nissang out of the collected sap, called tuak in Terengganu or nira somewhere else. In India it is called neera before it becomes toddy. In some parts of the Philippines, the sap is similarly collected and turned into an alcoholic drink- the tuba, the same name as the juice that we Malaysians get from certain root to make fish drunk.
A Young Tok Nyadat Doing His Thing In Malaysia as it is in Indonesia, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Fiji or wherever coconut trees (ok, palms) are abundant and fully utilized, the sap is collected by cutting (saddat in Terengganu)unopened flower buds (inflorescence, if you want to nit-pick) of the coconut tree (ok, ok, palm) with a special knife (the penyadat or sadap in standard Bahasa). A container is used to collect the slow flowing sap for each bud. In Terengganu, all Tok Nyadats use tukir, a cylindrical container with a diameter of about 3 inches made out of bamboo cut to about 18 inches long. Enough to hold about a gallon of tuak. Inside the tukir, the Tok Nyadat will add small chips of wood, usually chengal, called laru. The laru, I suspect, is to preserve the tuak from going bad and also to add flavour. Different laru will give a different taste. The tukir is left overnight and collected the next day.
After collecting all his filled tukir and cursing the occasional kerengge, our Tok Nyadat will go home where there is a big shed (usually with not more than one wall) within spitting distance. Inside, there is a table or a shelf lined with a plain yellow mengkuang mat. There is also a big wide pot (kawoh) that always makes me think of a WWII British soldier's helmet turned upside down, only bigger. Into this kawoh, the Tok Nyadat will pour the content of his tukirs, straining the liquid with a piece of fine muslin to catch the kerengge or other interlopers. Then the liquid is boiled for a few hours with the occasional stirrings. Soon water will evaporate leaving a golden thick liquid. The liquid is ladled into rings about the size of tea cup saucers. The rings are made from half an inch wide strips of pandanus leaf joined at the ends. These rings are called kerek (pronounced like care rack). They are laid out neatly beforehand on the mat on the shelf or table waiting to be filled with the hot mush. The liquid sugar soon cool and harden into cakes, the nissang. If you look underneath each cake of nissang, you can see the imprint of the mengkuang mat patterns. If you see imprint of auto tyres, sole patterns of Timberland boots or other suspicious design, be careful. The nissang might not be genuine.
Think about this the next time you sputter on your onde-onde.
Malaysian comedians have come a long way though not as far as the comedians in other parts of the world. Even in America, the richest celebrity is not a comedian. Forbes Celebrity 100 list gave a list of Best Paid Actors for 2004. There is no category for comedians although Jim Carrey (see pic below), who is also a comedian managed to get the Number 15 spot with an income of USD 66 million. Another popular TV comedian, Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) is at Number 39 with USD44 million. At Number 1 is actor Mel Gibson. Mr.Gibson earned USD210 million but you would not call him a comedian even though he made us laugh in a couple of pictures.
We see Malaysian comedians on TV and on stage. Some make good money being a comedian. Some that I know, like Yussof Chong, have day jobs. I am sure you would know of other comedians with day jobs. I guessed the Senario guys might be the exceptions at the moment but I really can't think of any full-time comedians in Malaysia before them. I know very little about comedians from Instant Cafe Theatre or other art groups. I am a darat fellow. Do they have day jobs too?
Making Malaysians laugh is hard. Trying to make a living out of it is harder. Since this is no laughing matter, we should think hard about this.
I grew up listening to people like Mat Kambing, Ismail Bontak and few others on radio. They were popular but they weren't rich. In Kuala Terengganu, the most popular comedian on stage was Berahim Kelako. He made a living as a book distributor. Now we have Mat Over. He was the guy with the Terengganu dialect and Hindustani songs in "Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu" series.I was surprised when he told me that he was my student in Kuala Berang. He must have been a very quiet boy back then. Nope, I didnt teach him to be funny.
When I was working in Kuala Terengganu, I got to know Wak Sir and Pok Ya. Our Entertainment producers like Basharuddin Ahmad Osman (also my fishing kaki) used to invite Wak Sir (Nasir), Pok Ya and another gentleman to take part in our audience shows. Wak Sir seemed easy-going but was enterprising. He probably still is. Among other things, he rented out P.A. System, drove a teksi sapu and electrified fish. I really don't know what Pok Ya did. I didn't ask him even though I had the chance when he took me around Kota Bharu a few times. The last time I asked the RTM friends in Kota Bharu, they told me Pok Ya had a maid agency.Pok Ya had a wife, Habsah, who is a very good asli singer.
Wak Sir and Pok Ya had this riddle:
Wok Sir: Godio hok kecik sekali dale dunio nih?
(What is the tiniest thing in this world?)
Pok Ya: Kume?
Pok Ya: Anok kume?
(A small germ?)
Wok Sir: Dok! Ado lagi hok kecik pado tu.
(No! There is a smaller thing than that)
Pok Ya: Godio? Acu ghoyat.
Wok Sir: Anok kume kuruh.
(A skinny small germ)
Read the Forbes article here. I got the pic there.
As for bunga taik, there is really no such flower. It is an idiom used to mean seeds of discontent that will lead to a quarrel or fight. When there is horseplay between siblings or close friends, mothers will ask for the horseplay, tauntings or debates to stop before the flower blooms and a serious fight develops.
"Jadilah begelor tu, kang jaddi bunga taik kang!" (Enough of the name-callings lest there will be reasons to fight)
Cakne (rhymes with the Johor-Riau "mana") means to care about or be concerned with. Probably the modern equivalent would be prihatin.
"Mung kena cakne sikit ke anok mung tu, jangang bui dia berasa macang anok yateng"
(Pay attention to your son. Don't let him feel that he is an orphan)
Bedo'h lalu is "too much" or "over the limit". Bed'oh comes from the Arabic bida'ah which actually means "new" or "innovation". Theologically, it means "not in the original teachings" and therefore not acceptable.
"Bed'oh lalu mung ning Jusoh, suruh bining pakai tepong gandung gati bedok"
(You are too much Jusoh, asking your wife to use flour instead of face powder)
Afiq also asked about Terengganu phrases that look like similes but are not. I will give a few here:
(A partial response to a request from reader Striker, a Terengganunese in Scotland)
Terengganu is always colourful visually and figuratively even at the height of the monsoon. When the sky is jok ong (overcast & grey) and the road along the Kuala Terengganu General Post Office is flooded, you can find people in colourful dresses under umbrellas of various colours indulging in their favourite monsoon pastime - main air. They find pleasure by walking in ankle-deep (sometimes higher) flood water. Maybe they are chasing the monsoon blues.
Terengganu people tried to explain the colours around them as best as they could.
Hence we have:
Red - Meroh nyaler (merah merrang) Green - ija menaung Yellow -kuning besio'r Black - itang beletung (itang legik) White - putih seleput Blue - biru heghang
Merah nyaler is fiery red, like the burning fire or the glowing embers, used to describe anything red like a shirt, a Lamborghini Diablo, an infected eye or even a pulsating ripe pimple. Meroh merrang is used more to describe a blushing, sun burnt or an embarrassed face like when your Diablo is overtaken by an old Morris Minor. (It can happen on a gravelly kampung road).
Ija menaung is the greenest of green, whatever shade the green is. Menaung probably came from the word taung (overcast) or naung (shade). It is likely that upon seeing such an evocative green, the speaker thought of being under a shade of green foliage. On the other hand, he might be green with envy.
Kuning sio'r is probably the freshest and brightest of yellow. Sio'r is usually associated with sparkling shiny new things like a pair of golden subang boong. There are no specific words for other shades of yellow. Terengganu people had to resort to mentioning similarly coloured things for comparison. So, pale yellow is kuning lemok ketang which would be clear only to those who had cleaned crabs before. Of course there are other yellow-coloured stuffs invoked to convey the yellowness of things which I would not dare get into at the moment.
Itang beletung (rhymes with the German achtung) is the black of burnt things, including but not limited to ubi kayu, overgrilled fish, toasts or civilian buildings after a blitzkrieg. Very black things that do not involve fire are usually described as hitang legik(legit). My Kamus 3000 translated legit as "sweet and amiable". Made me think ofR.Azmi and his hitang manih.
Putih seleput is used to describe a person (usually female) who is alabaster-white. I am not sure whether seleput came from the word leput because I have yet to come across dua leput or tiga leput for that matter. My theory is if you skin, say, a fruit, you will come across a selaput (membrane) that is usually very white. Other theories most welcome.
Biru heghang got me stumped. Heghang is the Terengganu version of hairan. With so many things blue in Terengganu, why would that colour be so amazing? I can understand some of the Terengganunese confusing blue with green and vice versa. This form of colour blindness could be induced by watching the sea too much. The sea can get green or it can get blue. Now you know why there were changes in the government in the last 10 years.
Incidentally, there is no word in Terengganuspeak or even the Malay language for the colour brown. Read beta blogger's post ("Does Cadbury Exists In Nature?") on this.
Downloadthe Free Trial of Kamus 3000 (with Dewan Eja spellchecker)
(In his comments to my previous post, Kervin wanted to know more about air zam zam. I will try my best to enlighten him)
The zam zam water is unique. Some years ago, there was a seminar on water at Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur and a Japanese expert was invited as one of the guest speakers. He showed slides of the molecules of water samples including mineral water collected from many places. Most molecules shown were ugly looking. Some molecules looked like the devil but the last slide shown was beautiful. It came from the purest water. The speaker challenged the participants to identify the sample. Nobody could- except one of the only two Muslim participants. He correctly identified the sample as zam zam water. Read more here.
Another Malaysian attempted to analyse zam zam water but his equipment burnt a fuse. He published his experience on the web.
Air zam zam tastes and smells unique. During my hajj, I bought a plastic can (20 liter, I think) of air zam zam to take home even though millions of bottles are given free every hajj season. It is also available free at the Grand Mosque and the Masjid Nabawi in Madinah. My friend Pak Masduki bought a bigger can (50 liter). He got tired of lugging the can while going to the bus stop. He spied a row of smaller cans at an open air "trading post" and decided to exchange his big can for a smaller one. The zam zam trader was nowhere to be seen and Pak Masduki got tired of waiting. He slid his heavy can into the row of similar size cans and took a smaller can from another row. At that instant, the trader came out of nowhere and shouted at Pak Masduki. He must have thought that Pak Masduki was shoplifting. After a short explanation mostly done in sign language and a bit of English, the man uncapped Pak Masduki's bigger can, sniffed the water, confirmed that it WAS air zam zam, gave a grudging smile and nodded his head, in agreement to the exchange.
The Well of Zam Zam in the Grand Mosque (Masjidul Haram) never dries up even in severe droughts. Year after year the water was and is still drawn by pilgrims who came for hajj or umrah. The water still flows, inexhaustible. The spring was buried deep by the sand once a long time ago and as a result Makkah lost a lot of the caravan traffic. It was rediscovered by the head of Bani Hashim during Abdul Mutallib's time. Abdul Mutallib was the Prophet's grandfather. The discovery helped Makkah to prosper.
The origin of the well or the spring before had a few versions. It began in the time of Prophet Abraham. His wife, Siti Sarah was barren and suggested that Abraham marry Siti Hajar (Hagar), their servant on condition that Abraham would never hurt the first wife. Siti Hajar bore a son, Nabi Ismail (Ishmael) while Siti Sarah miraculously got pregnant and gave birth to Ishak (Isaac). Somehow Siti Sarah got hurt. She felt that Abraham favoured Ismail over Ishak. She drove Siti Hajar and young Ismail out of the house. Abraham took them near where the Kaabah presently is. He left them with some water and implored Allah to take care of them.
Soon the water ran out and Siti Hajar ran back and forth between the knolls of Safar and Marwah looking for water or someone who had water. She couldn't find any. Young Ismail, temporarily abandoned, soon cried for his mother and stamped his feet.A spring sprang. Siti Hajar returned in time to see water trickling out and excitedly coaxed out "Zam! Zam!" meaning "Gather! Gather!"
Some version said the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) broke the ground with his wing.
Is air zam zam miraculous like the water of Lourdes?
The Prophet said:
"The best water on the face of the earth is the water of Zam zam; it is a kind of food and a healing from sickness."
"The water of Zam zam is for whatever it is drunk for."
Read about two people who experienced the curative effect of air zam zam in this Indonesian webpage.
The next time a friend comes back from the Holy Land, go visit him/her. Chances are you will be given some kurma (dates) to eat and air zam zam to drink. Face the kiblat, recite the doa', make your wishes and drink in 3 breaths. May your wishes come true. I'll drink to that.
The side stories of the hajj will have to be put aside for now. I just remembered another Zainal. This time it is the late all-rounder Dato' Zainal Alam bin Hj. Zainal Abidin whom RTM people knew and remembered fondly as Pak Alam.
My contemporaries (which would be your parents or grandparents) would remember watching Pak Alam in various filmlets made by Malayan Film Unit (now Filem Negara. Terengganu people then called the films "wayang cap rima"). This multilingual broadcaster sang the "Mother of All Election Songs", the "Undilah" song in English, Malay, Chinese (not sure what dialect) and Tamil for the country's first General Election. His other hits were "Susu" and "Rose Rose I Love You". Sports fans might remember Pak Alam as the ring MC for the Muhammad Ali- Joe Bugner fight in 1975.
Pak Alam preferred to stay in Penang and he had to refuse a number of promotions to do that. As the doyen of the regional directors, he was the man to call when advice was urgently needed. At the annual Budget Sessions with the people from Treasury, Pak Alam would be there to explain the finer points of broadcasting operations on behalf of the other directors and smoothed the proceedings in his humourous and jovial way. He would tell the other directors what terminology to use when drafting the budget. Among other things, he told us not to ask for carpets for the studios or offices.Instead, Pak Alam told us to ask for "acoustic dampening material".
Pak Alam had a lot of jokes and stories that he loved to tell. Once, after a long meeting in JB, Pak Alam exchanged jokes with me until way past . He invented a lot of the Singh jokes which even our friend Santokh laughed at. I suspected that the "Drums of Malaysia" joke was also concocted by Pak Alam.
DRUMS OF MALAYSIA- WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE:
Malay Drums: (slowly) tak, tak takun tung!
Indian Drums: ( a bit faster) kadang kadang untung, kadang kadang untung!
Chinese Drums (fast) Untung untung untung!Untung untung untung!
I last met Pak Alam just a few days before he passed away. He stopped by my house, sang the karaoke because I wanted to learn how to sing "Stardust" and then took his leave. He left us this:
(Pak Alam being interviewed)
Anchor: Apa nama anak pertama Dato' ?
Pak Alam: Oleh kerana dia anak pertama, saya bagi nama Zainal Awal- Zainal Awalludin.
Anchor:Apa nama yang bongsu?
Pak Alam: Yang bongsu ialah Zainal Akhiruddin. Sebab dia yang akhir sekali.
Anchor: Kalau ada anak lain lagi lepas ni? Apa namanya? Zainal apa pulak?
Pak Alam: Kalau ada lagi, saya kena panggil Zainal Silap lah.
I couldn't think of any other Malaysian broadcaster as big and as versatile as Pak Alam. Can you?
Tomorrow is Hari Q in Angkasapuri and my thoughts turned to the various radio stations in RTM and the personalities made famous by those stations. One of the personalities is Zainal Din Zainal. In my opinion, Zainal Din was the first dj in RTM. The rest then were announcers.
Zainal Din joined RTM as Broadcasting Assistant Grade 4, the bottom rung of the ladder. He was given a chance to be an announcer but could not satisfy the powers that be and he was transferred to Schedules & Programme Operations Division, a support service. He kept himself busy shunting tapes, scripts and jaduals while waiting for another break to go on air.
The break came in 1981 when my friend Hj. Yusof Awang took over as the head of Radio Malaysia Ibu Kota (RMIK) now known as Radio Malaysia Kuala Lumpur. The first boss of RMIK is Hj. Zulkarnain Hassan who was the first Radio man to be stationed in Terengganu. I used to see him on his Lambretta.
Hj.Yussof, a former teacher, joined RTM the same day as I did and we were even posted to the same unit albeit to different language services. He was in the Schools Broadcast Malay Service while I was sent to the English Service. Hj. Yusof had some idea of what to do with RMIK and he was looking for fresh talent. He got Zainal Din Zainal out of Schedules & Programmes Operation, gave him some guidelines and let him loose on air.
With the gift of the gab, a sense of humour, lots of creativity and an indulgent boss, Zainal Din became a hit with the metropolitan listeners. He had a trademark bell, not unlike the bell used by the kacang puteh sellers, that he rang in between banters and songs. Zainal Din communicated well with his audience, sometimes with silly riddles like this:
"Kalau 2 orang kawan, sorang di JB dan sorang lagi di Padang Besar, berjalan undur kebelakang, agaknya di mana mereka akan berjumpa?"
(Answer: Tanjung Rambutan. They would be mistaken as lunatics for walking backwards.)
Zainal Din was given the morning show which was so popular that he could not go on leave. His supervisor would not allow him. After a while, Zainal Din decided to take matters into his own hands. He found a replacement and took off on a much deserved holiday.
As soon as he came back he was brought on the carpet. Hj.Yusof is from Kedah and Zainal Din Zainal, although from Kuala Selangor, spoke to his boss in Kedah dialect too. So read this dialogue in the dialect of the North:
Hj.Yusof: Ada Encik Abu (The supervisor) beritau apa pasai aku panggil hang?
Zainal : Ada...aa
Hj. Yusof: Awat hang cabut lagu tu?
Hj.Yusof: Sajaa, sajaa! Kena tindakan tatatertib macam mana?
Zainal:Tak apa aa.
Hj.Yusof: Tak apa? Nanti aku rekomen potong gaji hang, macam mana?
Hj.Yusof made Zainal Din promise not to go A.W.O.L. again and let him off with a stern warning. Both are retired now but I suspect they still have an occasional chuckles whenever they remember this incident.
(WARNING: LONG POST) Two of my friends who got left behind at the Jamrahs in Mina wanted to go back to Masjidul Haram to take care of unfinished business. They wanted Pak Masduki and me to accompany them.
We got an official car, a GMC Suburban, but were told to find our own way home. We didn't foresee any problem with that.
We couldn't get a taxi to Mina. It was past midnight. The few taxis that stopped refused to take us after knowing our destination. We decided to take the public mini bus. After a long walk and many inquiries, we found the right mini bus. We showed the slip of paper with the Arabic version of the Ministry of Information's address and the driver nodded. He was a young boy of about 18. His co-driver/conductor was very much younger. We agreed that he was no older than 14.
The bus took many side streets and back lanes to get out of Makkah. Enough to get us apprehensive and a bit worried. We could pay for the ride but we wouldn't want to be taken for a ride, if you get what I mean.
We relaxed a bit when the bus finally joined the now-familiar highway and the crawl. The drivers amused themselves by taking turns at the wheel while the other clambered on the roof of the bus and shouted instructions. Their antics amused us too until they spied a Ministry of Information signboard, stopped and told us to get out. It wasn't where we wanted to go. It was Muzdalifah, where we got our stones. I remembered that the Mina complex is on a hill and that was where we wanted to go. The drivers tried to argue but finally saw the wisdom of not continuing arguing with bigger adults who outnumbered them. We got to our quarters safely.
The Ministry of Information's complex in Mina consisted of buildings and also refurbished containers stacked on top of another. We had a vantage view of the Jamrah area from our quarters on the hill. We saw that it was getting very crowded day by day. "Ustaz", our Palestinian friend from Ramallah, looked at the swelling crowd one morning and grimly predicted that soon there would be dead people there. He decided to go and do the final stoning right after subuh. I wanted to follow him but reading the book my wife gave me, I was made to understand that I can only start the stoning ritual just slightly after . I decided to follow my book. Pak Masduki and a few other friends decided to do it after middday too.
In the afternoon, six of us walked the steep steps down the hill to the Jamrahs. Even there, the crowd was already big. The traders on the steps were doing brisk business selling Russian binoculars, Chinese watches and other souvenirs.
To get to the 3 Jamrahs, the Saudi built another level, an overpass much like our highway viaduct, to accommodate the massive crowd. We found the "ground floor" already packed and decided to use the upper level. It was getting unbearably hot and I stopped to pick up a free plastic bag of frozen air zam zam to cool my head. By the time I got up on the ramp towards the first Jamrah, the air zam zam has melted; I lost sight of my friends and trouble started.
People started pushing forward. In spite of the repeated announcements in over 20 languages over the loudspeakers urging people to be calm and orderly, there was a stampede. I had no inkling of what was happening until I saw soldiers running around at the edge and I was pushed forward. Then it hit me.
"There is a stampede and I will die here. This is my end".
Dying in the Holy Land has its merits but at the moment, I rather be alive. I surrendered my whole being to Allah.
I did my best to keep myself from falling and being crushed. I didn't know how, but I did it. I kept holding on to my glasses for some inexplicable reasons. Whatever was going to happen to me, I wanted to see, clearly. I lost my sandals while I was pushed right to the front of the first Jamrah. I threw my seven stones, properly and confidently but how do I get out of this mess of unruly mass? In the rows behind me, people were already falling down and trampled or pushed off the viaduct. My end would come soon. The hot sunburned concrete burned my bare feet. My mouth and throat were very dry. I kept submitting myself to Allah's Will.
Just as some people in the row nearest to me fell like bowling pins, I saw a tall big man who could easily pass off as an American Football quarterback. I saw him calmly and confidently going out of the melee. I hung to his back as he cut a swath through the thick crowd and got to the safety of the railings away from the mobs. The man was gone before I could thank him.
I saw two abandoned selipar jepun, one red and the other one blue. I got them and put them on so I could stop hopping on the hot concrete. Both were for the left feet but they would do for the moment. I flopped by the side of the railing, catching my breath and heard the wail of the ambulances above the din of the pandemonium.
I took off my glasses, wiped my sweat-drenched face and thanked Allah profusely. Only the burning concrete prevented me from doing a sujud syukur. I put my glasses again and saw what looked like an African lady sitting quietly by the railings. She had a kettle with her. She handed me a tin cup of water. I had a much needed drink and gave her many "shukrans" (thank yous).
The drink refreshed me and I was able to get to the next two Jamrahs without much difficulty. The entrance to the Jamrah was closed off by this time.
On the way back, I was so overwhelmed with fatigue as well as the emotions of the experience that I had to sit on the steps of the steep hill, which by then were cleared of traders by the security people. I sat there for a long time until my friends found me and took me back to our quarters.
118 pilgrims died that day. 180 were injured including some of the soldiers.
On the plane home, YB Tan Sri Dato' Paduka Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman told me that the fatwa had been changed. Malaysians pilgrims now could do the stoning after subuh. I knew too late. To those going for pilgrimage this month onward, may Allah keep you safe and may you be rewarded with haji mabrur. Amin!
Soon after sunset, we left Arafah for Muzdalifah. Traffic was very heavy with buses, cruisers and other vehicles as well as pilgrims on foot. We arrived at the special compound of the Ministry of Information and rested in the tents erected for the purpose while waiting for Isya' and dinner. We were to combine (jama') Isya' and maghrib prayers in one.
While lying on the carpet, I thought of my mother. She warned me to bring a torchlight along when collecting pebbles at Muzdalifah for the melontar jamrah (stoning the Devil). She didn't want me to inadvertently collect goat's droppings. I checked my sling bag to make sure that my pencil torchlight was inside. Then I discovered that there was no floor under the carpet. But there were pebbles. Lots of them. Alhamdullillah! I told other friends and we stocked up on pebbles.
After prayers, we were served dinner. It consisted of all kind of sweets. Did we miss the main course? I am not against sweets. I love my occasional jala mah, buah tanjung, lopat tikang, sekaya or even Haagen Daaz ice cream. Not for dinner though. I could not find anything savoury. I ate a little even though I was hungry. It turned out to be a mistake on my part.
We then moved on to Mina. The bus crawled along the choked road. The stops and starts began to take their toll on me. I am always prone to travel sickness on stage buses. Even on this chartered bus, I felt sick. With an almost empty stomach, it was worse. I consoled myself that at least my mabok would be halal.
We made it to Mina without me polluting the bus, did our melontar for the day (or night) and clambered back into the bus for the tawaf and sa'i at Makkah. We noticed 3 of our friends missing. Some of us tried delaying the departure of the bus by getting down from the bus. I smoked a cigarette, trying to quell my wooziness as well.
Our hosts saw through our ruse and told us to get to our seats. They left our friends to fend for themselves.
We ended our ihram at Masjidul Haram and clambered into the waiting bus and headed for the Ministry of Information's complex at Mina. The traffic was still bad. Starts and stops redux. I threw up in my sling bag and developed a splitting headache. They got a doctor to look me over. Of course doctors could not cure travel sickness. Sleep could though.
I missed subuh, my breakfast and the official tour to the Ministry of Haj and the abattoirs the next morning.
Our three friends, left behind at the Jamrahs eventually found their way to the complex and wanted to do their missed tawaf. They wanted Pak Masduki and me to accompany them. We agreed to go after dinner.
The Aidil Adha Dinner was at the King's Palace in Mina and we were invited.
The invitation. Some Malaysian VIPs who were in Mina were invited too including The Minister in the PM's Dept thenYB Tan Sri Dato' Paduka Dr. Abdul Hamid Othman. So, in my baju Melayu and sampeng, I didn't feel too much out of place in the opulent Saudi palace. The food was superb but I could not remember or too ignorant about Arab cuisine to remember the menu. What was memorable that night had nothing to do with food. One was being shocked and frightened when while waiting to do our prayers in the special surau inside the palace, a group of fierce looking men in Bedouin garb dropped nasty looking swords and automatic weapons on the plush carpet right in front of me. The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Fahd ibn AbdulAziz Aal Saud and H.R.H. Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn AbdulAziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the National Guard were present. I found out later that those Bedouins were their special body guards. Mujo the guns didn't go off accidently. They would have ruined my nice new baju Melayu or the songket that originally belonged to my father.
In Makkah we were roomed in Makkah Intercontinental, a very nice hotel but too far for walking to the Masjid ul Haram. Every prayer time there was a mini bus to take us to the mosque. At the end of each prayer, the bus would wait for us under the viaduct to take us back to the hotel. The bus could not wait too long and if we missed it, we had to take a taxi back. (See pic above taken by Pak Masduki at the entrance of the hotel. Khaled (Tunisia), Coulibaly (Mali) and I were pooling our riyals for the taxi fare. Apologies for the visible nipples.)
During the hajj season, taxis were a bit picky. I got a bit anxious after prayers every time Pak Masduki got distracted by the batu aqiq sellers outside the mosque. At the end of the trip, he collected about a pouchful of various stones. I spied a nice African cap (kopiah) made of sisal sold by an African lady under the viaduct. I didn't get to buy it. Procrastination again. Bad habits are difficult to lose.
One day we were in the crowded open area near the Kaabah looking for a place to pray 'asar. Masduki sandwiched himself between some pilgrims from Indonesia (they had tags) leaving me standing. One kindly old man, without tags, without ihram but in a dress that didn't seem to belong to any country or culture, beckoned me to sit beside him. I accepted gratefully, salammed with him without speakingjust as he was standing up to begin praying. I prayed next to him. Immediately after the final salam of the prayer, I wanted to thank him for his thoughtfulness. But he was gone. I looked around for him but he wasn't anywhere in sight. How could an old man go so fast?
At the Makkah Intercontinental, we were joined by the CNN crew who were covering the hajj for the first time. We caught sight of Riz Khan many times in the hotel restaurant. None of us asked him for an autograph.
The CNN crew went on to cover the wuquf at Arafah. There, I shared an air conditioned tent with friends from Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan. We were in the Ministry of Information's permanent complex which had towers for TV cameras. Some of us were asked to give a running commentary in our language on the event for the Saudi TV live broadcast. We had a panoramic view of Arafah. The Prophet said "the hajj is Arafah". Miss Arafah on the appointed time and day and you are just doing the umrah.
And the pilgrims converged on the Plain of Arafah under the watchful eye of the helicopters from The Royal Saudi Air Force.
From the tower, we saw people in the white ihram moving about. There must haven been thousands and thousands of them. The usual number of pilgrims annually is around 2 million and all of them have to be here in a designated area of about 15 acres. Some were in the Masjid Namirah nearby listening to the special sermon. Some were seen arduously climbing Jabal Rahmah, a historical hill. Adam and Eve (Nabi Adam and Siti Hawa to the Muslims) were believed to be reunited there. The universality and equality of Islam were much in evidence here. People of all colours, white, black, brown, yellow and whatever other colour they come in, all there in white, in the same garb. No Guccis, no Armanis. No defining and showing of status.
Someone told me that being on the Plain of Arafah during wuquf is a small preview of the Padang Mahsyar, the Day of Reckoning. Only, I won't be on a tower then and the burning sun would seem much closer. That day, the Saudi government tried to keep the pilgrims cool as much as they could by installing structures along the roads that reminded me of our bungamanggar only theirs had jets of cold mist streaming out of the branches. Much later, I saw similar system back home installed in Amcorp Mall and other places.
Do not hope too much for a similar relief at Padang Mahsyar.
(To be continued)
I didn't get to visit the Prophet's Tomb after subuh the next day because there were too many people. The procrastinator in me told me to try again after Friday prayers.
Right after breakfast we were herded into the mini bus again and taken on a tour of the historical mosques around Medinah such as Masjid Qubaa, Masjid Qiblatin and a few other mosques. Then out of the city to visit the grave of the Uhud Warriors. I recited fatihah for Saidina Hamzah and other syhuhadas.
(Pak Masduki & Me in Madinah) We went back to the hotel just in time for Friday prayers. More people were in the mosque and we had to pray outside under the sun. Thank goodness the marble was cool. Masjid Nabawi has air conditioning UNDER the floor too.
We were told to hurry back, have lunch and check out of the nice Oberoi Hotel. We broke a record of sort by having the shortest stay in Madinah for any group of pilgrims. We were in Medinah for less than 24 hours. The visit to Prophet's Tomb had to be aborted. Only the hajj protocol prevented me from letting loose nasty invectives. I could almost hear my late father telling me "Bustaman, when there is no programmes given, play by ear and prioritize!"
The good news was we were finally going to Makkah Al Mukaramah to begin the hajj rituals.
It began just outside Madinah. We stopped at Bir Ali (The Well of Saidina Ali), one of the 5 meerqats of the pilgrimage. The meerqat is the boundary where pilgrims have to put on their ihram and abide by the ihram rules. Among the rules are you are forbidden from having sexual union with your spouse and no shedding of body hair all over the holy land. Remember, when you are a man in ihram, you are not allowed to wear any sewn apparell and that includes underwear. There was no danger of the sexual intercourse. Wives not around. Everyone trooped into the bathroom area of Masjid Shajarah with their ihram, belt, nail clipper and razor in hand.
I was warned earlier and had myself defoliated (defollicled?) at home with the help of a tube of hair removal cream. Not sure if it was a wise move because people noticed that I wasn't busy and started showing me their pubis and underarms seeking my opinion on whether their remaining body hair were in danger of falling off. I played safe and told them to shave all.
After a refreshing shower and prayers we boarded the bus and headed for Makkah. Even though all of us were in high spirits, there were no usual banter and jokes. We were busy reciting the talbiyah led by the Palestinian editor from Ramallah whom we have started to call "Ustaz".
"Here I am O Allah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner."
And how we meant it.
When we saw the roofs of the building in Makkah, The Ustaz taught us another doa and we stopped at the Holiest of the Mosques, Masjid ul Haram where we have to do our tawaf and sa'i. We were given 2 hours.
Pak Masduki, the Indonesian and I decided to go together. We both realized that we had no more air sembahyang. We didn't know where the ablution area was. I spotted a row of faucets outside the mosque. We turned on the tap. Ice-cold water trickled out and we managed to take our wudhu'. Later we learnt that those were for drinking. They were air zam zam. There were tin cups attached to the taps. Definitely not for air sembahyang. Duh! We were lucky not to get caught.
We then rushed into the nearest door. Bad move. We stumbled into the women's section. That's what we thought anyway because we saw only women. We treaded very very carefully between the masses of women towards the Kaabah.
You have to be there yourself to know the feelings of seeing the Kaabah for the first time. My words would not do those feelings justice. Those who have been there would know.
We made our way through the throngs of pilgrims doing their tawaf looking for the starting post. We went the wrong way. The crowd went anti-clockwise and we went clockwise. The phrase "Go with the flow" suddenly seemed very wise.
We found the starting point and did our tawaf without getting anywhere near Hajarul Aswad (the Black Stone) although we didn't intend to kiss it. We also did not get to pray the sunat prayers at Abraham's Tomb which is at one corner of the Kaabah. Instead we prayed near the entrance to the well of Zam Zam.
I found out how out of shape I was while doing the sa'i between Safa and Marwah (also in the mosque compound). I ran out of breath especially at the section where I was supposed to trot. Pak Masduki, who is younger wanted to rent a wheel chair for me but I declined.