Friday, October 29, 2010

All Alone in the Old Village Home.

The Ulu Bendul Mosque
Sister Azizah and Me

Tun at Work

It's certainly not the first time that I have returned home to the old village house in Ulu Bendul, NS, to clear up the compound and do what I can to keep the unoccupied house in shape. Once it was almost swallowed by wild elephant grass and "belukar' (secondary jungle) until I decided to take over its upkeep, although according to the matrilineal adat laws the place belongs to my sisters.

One of my sisters stays in Kuala Pilah with her family, some 12 km away. She too often visited the house with her husband to do some repair and clearing work. But she certainly needs the weekends for herself and family. Being a pensioner I have all the time to go there and undertake all the weed-clearing and grass-mowing job that needed to be done. Quite a job to travel from KL to do it, all alone.

Since my wife is still working fulltime, she could only accompany me on weekends. Not much can be done with a few hours per week and about an acre to clear. As such the major job must be undertaken on weekdays because the multifarious little things that must be done cannot be packaged and contracted out to paid laborers. Nor are such hired hands easily available in the village for all the villagers have their own piece of land to work on and which often remains unproductive . Some friends who have to return to the village to take care of inherited properties say they have to bring laborers from KL to do the work. It isn't worthwhile for me to do so since according to the adat laws a son doesn't even own the property left by his late parents. It goes to the daughters only to ensure their wellbeing, while the menfolk will take care of their wife's property. That's Adat Perpatih in brief.

Hey I'm not complaining. I certainly enjoy going back to my old home, the house in which I was raised though born in a different house in the village now owned by my late mother's sister ( but also left unoccupied after her children flew the coop and her husband passed away). Everytime I opened the locked door and entered the house alone, a creepy feeling crawled up my spine and neck. But heck, I used to stay all alone in that house as a little boy. So what was there to fear. I'd quickly step inside to open the windows and switch on the lights in the darkened rooms one of which used to be my study and bedroom. Hey. a lot of memories is buried in there....

For years I stayed with just my Grandma and a sister, many more years with just my Grandma for the sister also followed my other siblings to live with my parents wherever my father was posted to as a policeman. While in the day my Grandma kept busy working in the padi field, at night she'd spend hours weaving mengkuang leaves to make floor covers called tikar. And I'd be reading by her side sharing the gloomy yellowish light from an oil lamp. That went on from the time I was in Form 1 to Form VI. Prior to that we lived in a different house with my Auntie. When she got married and moved to Singapore we were left alone and we moved to the new house which had just been completed, the house I'm now taking care of.

Believe it or not I still don't feel comfortable resting in the house itself between work. All the memories came alive and I felt swarmed. I prefer to rest on the landing built for the steps, a little balcony-like structure with a knee-high railing made of wooden bars placed five or six inches apart. So you can easily see what's going on outside as you lie down there, enjoying the
breeze, aided by a fan blowing through the open door from inside the house. That's the wonderful part of the stay and I often dozed off for hours there. On Friday. I also have the pleasure of attending Friday prayer in the old mosque at Ulu Bendul and meeting the old folks, many of whom are older than me. (That makes you feel younger somewhat though death doesn't bother about your current age and comes when it comes)

The work that I do is simple enough, Mow the grass and clear the belukar around the house that kept creeping in like the surf on the shore. Want to know something about grass? It keeps growing (and wildly too) where you don't want it to grow and doesn't grow where you really want it to. Doesn't that remind you of some of the hairs on your body? I keep mowing and mowing just like we keep shaving and shaving everyday without winning the war. Even Sun Tzu's book on the Art of War cannot help us to win that war, hehehe. That's why I have been going back and forth to the village house with no end in sight. The work seems to increase all the time as the house gets older and older.

That last point makes me love the house more and more. Ey, what's that last point? The common experience of getting older and older together everyday. As I worked or relaxed at the balcony or landing, we implicitly realized that one day I will disappear and the house will have to depend on others to take care of it. And I hear the house say, stay on brother, stay on. We still need each other. That gives me the strength to carry on more than what the family members can say when we meet once in a long while.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
Now I can understand why you are doing what you are doing for your sisters' house in Ulu Bendol. I did not have that memories etched in my soul and memory like you did. The only memory I had of my kampong was few and in patches because I did not grow up there like you did.
People said a house if left without its occupants for months or years is bound to be occupied by the other beings created by ALLAH, and they could be Muslims or otherwise, perhaps that explained for that eerie feeling everytime you opened the door to enter. Always give the Salam before entering and say some prayers once you are inside it.
I envy your commitment and dedication to your parent's legacy, because not many could be that hardworking as you had done. It must have brought untold satisfaction at having that symbiotic relationship with the 'Rumah Posako'. Congratulations!

norzah said...

Thanks for the encourgement, Akhi. Memang sunat bori salam bilo masuk rumah, baik bertunggu atau tingga. Dah lamo se amalkan. Kadang-kadang takut jop kok ado yang menjawab "Waalaikum salam" dengan soro garau. Kok memutih tapak kaki bukak langkah seribu. No...kok ado yang menjawab pun akan se ajak berbual, hehehe. Being alone in a house where you spent your younger days with your grandma, really gives you an intoxicating experience. You might want to try staying one day in a rumah pusako, all alone. Meromang tak bulu tongkuk, hehehe.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
How lucky you are. 1. You have a house to come back to 2. It provides a week-end's 'sweating out' outlet for the self.

My late mother's house sadly is left in ruins as a result of 1. being broken into (by addicts most probably) who left whatever's left inside all strewn and unsalvaged 2. pilferage of metal parts/grills and the water piping ( that ran through our land ) to the other neighbours at 'baruh' that left them high and dry for 2 days before they scoured the length and breadth of the piping and found a big pool in our compound ( this we were told later) The house still has its roofing but it had seen better days ( not habitable right now) But the chengal structure of the original pusaka house is still standing. My niece who now inherits the house is not in that much of a hurry to have it repaired as there's no guarantee it's not broken into again. Maybe one day when she comes back to stay for good!

norzah said...

My old kampung house ( or rather my sister's) has gone through all the tragedies you mentionedm Akhi Kaykuala. It was broken into many times, all crockery and cutlary either stolen or smashed to smithereens. Clothes ransacked and strewn about. Electric wires pulled out and light bulbs smashed to pieces, roof and ceiling falling to pieces and the secondary jungle (belukar) almost swallowing it up. A sister of mine ( born after me) who stayed there alone after my dad passed aware was disturbed by some boys but she drove them away with a long parang. The rot began after she left for KL.

I took it upon myself to restore the place bit by bit
since the wooden structure was still sound and firm. After my initial work to clear the rubbish and the belukar, making sure that no human or the surpentine snake was inhabiting the place, the others came to do their part. It was a labor of love and we got the place back into shape. It was and it still is the place where i like to laze around even alone, enjoying the sweet sour memories of yesteryear.

You might want to embark in a new venture of love
in regard to your own place. The results I assure os more satisfying than taking a holiday in Europe hehehe.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
A friend of mine has week-end retreat where there's a relatively big stream with big boulders and gushing water running through the land somewhere near T.Malim. He had a house built and furnished complete with 'fridge, TV and air-con. He even had his Japanese guests there and how they loved lazing on the rocks and in the hot sun hearing the sounds of the clear water beating on the rocks. Within a few months he had just an empty house with all the contents rifled. What do we make out of this? I thought village mentality placed high priority on honesty and honest living. Thefts and thievery are not the monopoly of the urban folks it seems now! It's sad!

norzah said...

Sometimes it is the work of outsiders who have sought refuge in the village, Akhi Kaykuala. for the youths in the village have mostly gone out. I've met some of the young people who passed by my old house - the main Kuala Pilah to Seremban Road is only about fifty yards away - and the are complete strangers, certainly not negrisembilanees. The police don't seem to care about houses left unoccupied and old neighbors don't want to risk their lives by coming out to check on any suspicious noise.

What can we do? Almost nothing. I just make sure that we don't keep valuable things in the house. Leave a posh country house unattended and you'll be inviting the black-headed jackals.

Al-Manar said...

I wonder why this very well known place was named Ulu Bendul. Has bendul a specific meaning in Negeri?

norzah said...

Certainly, Akhi Pakcik Al-Manar. "Bendul" is the piece of wood that lies across the entrance through a door to a house - the threshhold. Ulu Bendul is the northernmost place you enter to go to Seri Menanti, the residence of the Yam Tuan, You must step over it before going to Seri Menanti if you come by way of
Seremban, Sungai Linggi. You can of course also come from the south ie. Tampin. Thanks for the opportunity to explain, Salamualaikum.

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