In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
"Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80)
DURING the one week break from work which I took recently, I took my family to travel to all the 12 states in Peninsular Malaysia including the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur – from Melaka to Perlis, and then to Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and back to Melaka.
In Kedah, I fulfilled my wife wish to visit her alma mater; Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Jitra (SMKJ) which she told me was situated in the middle of Jitra town.
In the car, on the way to the school, she was very exited; she could not recognize the road there since Jitra has changed a lot, she remembers the road to her school was flanked by paddy fields but during the visit she could see none. Instead alongside the trunk road were rows and rows of shop lots and commercial entities.
Yes people and their surroundings change; she was in that school in late 1970s when her army father was posted at the Kem Tok Jelai, on the outskirt of Jitra town. I thought how strange; in the 70s, I was at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar; we were totally strangers, yet about 10 years later we met each other; fell in love and got married. This demonstrates the greatness of Allah SWT; His mercifulness and kindness.
After spending a lot of time searching our way, finally we found the school. Well, on all sides of the school are full of commercial activities; so I could not blame my wife for not recognizing the road to her alma mater.
On the journey she kept on saying that the road to her former school was marked with rubber estates and paddy fields. I reminded her do not expect the same scene because it was more than 30 years ago. Well, people change, including their physical side; what more their surroundings!
I was happy to please my wife; but I was sorry for her because she had lost her ‘precious world’. Yes that ‘world’ has gone forever; time has killed it; scholars had advised us that we have only three situation; yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Yesterday is very far away, there was no return; tomorrow is uncertain, we have only today as our capital to do our best for our life in this world and Hereafter.
If my wife has lost ‘her world’ as her story was ‘a yesterday one’, once we reached our home with is situated next to my parent’s house in Melaka, I realise that I too have lost ‘my world’. I have this description about my family’s house some 40 years ago.
Our house in Kampung Semabok is surrounded by paddy fields. I loved the scene and the smell of mud when the paddy fields were ploughed by men using a tractor. I saw birds such as ‘wak-wak’ or ‘ruak’ (white-breasted water-hen) and ‘pucung’ (a kind of heron) running or flying away for their lives; and when I went into the fields, I could easily catch fish which were dizzy or pick up dead fish.
When the fields were cleared of grass including ‘menerung’ (a kind of weed, cyperus malaccensis) and then turned into ‘a green lawn’ when the paddy was growing; I knew the time was right for me to get busy with my favourite hobby – fishing.
The fishes caught in the paddy fields by using bamboo rods which its ends tied with strings and fish-hook with ‘cacing’ (earthworms) as baits were ‘haruan’ (snake head fish), ‘keli’ (cat fish) and ‘betuk or ‘puyu’ (climbing-perch).
To catch the ‘haruan’ more effectively was by using the ‘tajur’ (large fishing rod and hook) and by using live small frogs (kodok) as it bait but I seldom used this method because it was hard to find the small frogs. At times I thought it was a brutal act because you had the pierce the frog to the hook and then let it swim in the water before it died.
To catch small fish as the ‘sepat’ (trichogaster trichopterus) and ‘pelaga’ or ‘ikan laga-laga’ (fighting fish; this fish is not for consumption but for display purposes only) I used my father’s ‘pongkes’ (flat open basket). My father used this ‘pongkes’ to do his gardening but when he was not around I used it to scoop up fish; one day when he found out I had been using his ‘pongkes’, he got really angry and chased me out of the fields!
After spending much time it the fields; when I was in Standard Five (about 11 years old), I thought I had ‘mastered’ the art of catching fish in the ‘sawah’ (fields). To catch the ‘pelaga’, I need not use the ‘pongkes’ anymore. I only have to find the fish's ‘buih’ (foam or bubbles) among the weeds near the ‘batas’ (bund) and then carefully scooped the water around the ‘buih’ with my hands. Normally I could catch a pair of male and female fighting fish. The male is bright in colour and is very aggressive. I put the fish in bottles and played with it day and night!
To catch the ‘haruan’, I used the ‘tajur’ method, but I did it my way. I used live ‘sepat’ fish which I hooked at near its fins; by using this method the fish would not die fast. I submerged my small bamboo rods in the water so that other ‘fish crazy people’ would not find it. I put scores of ‘tajur’ in the fields with marks on the bund so that I could find them easily. One late afternoon when I did my rounds I caught about ten ‘haruans’. It was enough for me and my family to have a feast of ‘haruan masak lemak daun kesum’(haruan cooked in deep coconut milk with a kind of herbaceous plant). To me, the best part of ‘ikan haruan’ meat was from its cheek.
By using the ‘tajur’ method; believe me I did not only catch ‘haruan’ but a few ‘pucung’as well! In the fields, there are areas where the water level is not the same; the water gushed down forming a small waterfall. At this site, I put my ‘tajur’ with the ‘ikan sepat’ bait.
One day when I did my usual rounds, I found a ‘pucung’ trying to run away with its mouth attached to the ‘tajur’. It was easy to me to catch it and that night I had a good dinner of fried ‘pucung’. I slaughtered and cleaned the ‘pucung’ myself and my mother forced me to cook it!
‘Pucung’ and ‘wak-wak’ like to explore the ‘waterfall’ where fish swam and struggled to go the lower fields. I would spy on them from behind a coconut tree. Quietly with a stick in my hand, I would move nearer to them and then aim and hurl the stick at the bird. Of course about 90 percent of my ‘shots’ would be off target; only once in a while I had a great feast of ‘daging burung pucung’ and ‘wak-wak’. To me the best part of meat from the ‘pucung’ was from its breast. You know, ‘pucung’ stands with its ‘proud breast’ in the air!
The paddy fields was my world but it ended abruptly when I was ‘snatched’ to go to the Malay College when I was barely not even 13 years old. I had lost my world but today when I look around my house; ‘that world’ is gone forever as the paddy fields are no more around; instead on it stand commercial buildings including petrol stations.