Thursday, 23 March 2017

One local destination a month - Part 2 : Tanjung Kling, Melaka

Without doubt, the most famous warrior in Malay history is Laksamana Hang Tuah, an admiral and royal aide in the court of Melaka's sultan during the 15th century. His bravery, strength and fighting skills are said to be legendary. His adventures and exploits are written in a literary compilation of stories known as Hikayat Hang Tuah, the author or authors of which are unknown. Also mentioned in those stories are his four close companions named Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu, all of whom were also brave and skillful warriors.

Perhaps the most intriguing and controversial of the stories (to me at least), is the one where Hang Tuah was accused of having an affair with one of the sultan's maid. The king, without further investigation or trial, ordered that his admiral be executed for the alleged offense. The bendahara (chief minister), not believing in Hang Tuah's guilt, did not carry out the sentence but chose to hide the accused at an isolated place.

On hearing the unjust punishment on his friend, Hang Jebat vowed to seek revenge. He attacked the palace and killed many of the sultan's guards but the king himself managed to escape. Hang Jebat's rampage was violent and without mercy. There was no one left with equal skills to fight him.

The bendahara finally had to confide to the sultan that Hang Tuah was actually still alive and that only Tuah could persuade his friend Jebat to surrender. On hearing this, the sultan pardoned Tuah and summoned him to surface from his hiding place. Tuah then confronted Jebat and requested the latter to give up his fight. Jebat was surprised that his companion still chose to be loyal to the king despite being unjustly accused and sentenced. A fight ensued between the two close friends and it ended with Tuah killing Jebat.

This episode has been subject of study by Malay historians and scholars for many years. Does blind loyalty to a wicked king take precedence over the life of your closest friend who stood up for you or does avenging a fellow warrior's unjust execution allow you to revolt against your ruler?

This story may just be folklore. Whether it really happened is hard to say. There are some people who think that Hang Tuah and his four friends never actually existed. According to one legend, Hang Tuah was part of the entourage that went up the mountain to seek the hand of Puteri Gunung Ledang on behalf of the sultan. On hearing the pre-conditions set by the princess for the marriage, Tuah realised that they were impossible to fulfill. Feeling that he had failed in his task, Tuah reportedly threw his kris into a river and vowed never to return to Melaka until it floated, which it never did. Another version of the story has it that Tuah did return to Melaka and died of old age. His grave is said to be located at Tanjung Kling, about 10km from present-day Melaka city centre.

On 17 February 2017, we were in Melaka to attend a wedding reception. I took the opportunity to visit Hang Tuah's mausoleum, using Google Maps Navigator to guide me to the location. I had not known of the place until I discovered it while browsing Maps a few weeks earlier.

The cemetery is old but well-maintained. The peculiar thing about the grave is its elongated structure, not corresponding to the average height of a normal person. I doubt the particular deceased had abnormal length. Indeed, it is also not definitive that it is the body of the great warrior that is buried there.

Anyway, whether it is actually the grave of Hang Tuah or not, it makes interesting contemplation nonetheless.

The mausoleum of a great warrior

The entrance gate to the cemetery

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Departed List (updated to 12)

On 12 January 2011, my Facebook friend and former classmate at MRSM Kuantan, Roswati Abdul Wahab wrote a note in her FB page. In it, she listed out the names of our friends from the MCE/SPM 1979 batch who have departed ahead of us. At the time she wrote that piece, I already had some inkling of her intentions. It was a poignant reminder that our time on this Earth was only temporary and that we would be leaving it behind none too soon. Roswati herself was under treatment for liver cancer.

When she left us in October 2012 while performing her hajj in Makkah (which I wrote about here), I made a copy of her note and amended it by adding her name. She became the 10th name on the list.

Last week on 6 March 2017, after a lapse of more than four years, I made the latest amendments to the list. But this time, adding two names at one go. Indeed, the Almighty has written it to be so...

At 4.35am, our friend Puan Noorleha Darus exhaled her last breath in Johor Bahru. At 9.30pm, our friend Sdra Azmi Abdul Samad passed away in Seremban. Both succumbed to the vagaries of cancer.

The photograph below was taken in 2012 at the residence of our batchmate, Capt Norhisham Kassim, for the Aidilfitri gathering of that year. The late Azmi was standing at the back, 8th from the right as we view it. The late Noorleha was sitting at the front, 1st from the right. The late Roswati was sitting 2nd from the left.

May Allah swt have mercy on their souls and place them amongst the soliheen...

K79 2012 Raya gathering at Norhisham's

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Oscitant...

I have installed on my mobile phone, an app which I regularly use to check the meaning of words and their spelling. Unsurprisingly it is called Dictionary.com. This app has a `Word of the Day' feature, where it sends daily notifications of a selected word, its meaning, pronunciation and example of use.

Most of the time, it sends me words that I very seldom use or have not heard of (which I guess, is exactly the reason why they have such a feature). In such cases, I would often ignore the notification by swiping it away, without even opening the page to read the definition. However, the particular word chosen for last Friday had an eerie sense of coincidence. Or perhaps, synchronicity.

I was in Melaka two days ago. I decided to perform Friday prayers at the Masjid Selat Melaka, a relatively new mosque built partly on reclaimed land and partly with its main structure sitting on piles above the sea, thereby giving it the `floating' appearance. It is my first visit to the place and I like the beautiful view of the mosque with the blue sky and green sea as its background.

It was a hot and sunny day. The interior prayer hall is kept cool by three huge industrial-sized ceiling fans. In addition, the large open doors at either side of the hall allow the refreshing sea-breeze to flow through. It was as comfortable as can be. To the extent of making me sleepy. I was trying hard to remain awake during the khutbah (sermon). The tasty lunch of asam pedas ikan jenahak I had before coming to the mosque did not help either.

To help me snap out of the drowsiness, I took out my mobile from my pocket (which I should not be actually doing) and noted that I have not checked on the day's `Word of the Day'. I opened the page. Lo and behold... the selected word exactly described the situation I was in a few moments before.

oscitant (adjective) :

1. drowsy or inattentive
2. yawning, as with drowsiness; gaping
3. dull, lazy, or negligent

And that killed my drowsiness immediately...

Masjid Selat Melaka

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sarah

I have a thing about babes...

The real ones, those tiny tots or newborns.

The latest one is this lovely beauty from New Zealand whom I'd like to call my grand-niece. Because among the large family of MRSM Kuantan brotherhood & sisterhood, any grandchild of yours is a grandnephew or grandniece of mine.

Sarah is daughter to Aida Farhana Zamri and Angus Archibald. Granddaughter to Norlaila Hussain and Ahmad Zamri Zahidin. Norlaila is a friend and sister from my MRSM days, more than 30 years ago.

Comel bangat....

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

One local destination a month - Part 1 : Bukit Kepong, Muar

On the final day of last year, a friend and former schoolmate, Cordelia Mason posted some of her aspirations for the coming new year on her Facebook wall. One of these was `one local destination a month'. I thought it was a splendid idea and commented that I would like to borrow it. And if we actually manage to see it through, we could perhaps compare notes.

This is my first step towards that initiative. I have chosen to visit a place in my home state of Johor which, ironically I've never been to before.

Bukit Kepong, Muar

In the early hours before dawn on 23 February 1950, the police station in the small village of Bukit Kepong was attacked by about 200 communist insurgents led by a man known as Mat Indera. Although overwhelmingly outnumbered, the station chief Sgt Jamil Bin Mohd Shah and his men put up a brave fight. Despite being told to surrender, the policemen did not give up. In the end, 14 police personnel, 5 auxiliary policemen, 5 family members and 2 local villagers were killed. The communists razed the station and living quarters before fleeing back into the jungle.

The Bukit Kepong tragedy is well-documented and has been made into a film. It is an example of the bravery and sacrifice that our policemen are prepared to face.

In recent years, the Royal Malaysian Police has constructed a memorial and museum at the site of the original police station. It is called Galeri Darurat Bukit Kepong. The soft-opening was done in 2012 by the then IGP, Tan Sri Ismail Omar. To date, the museum is not officially opened yet, which explains why not many people know about it.

On 27 January (eve of Chinese New Year), we made the trip to Muar with the intention of visiting this gallery. Little did we know that another event put a slight dent to our plans.

Bukit Kepong is located upstream of the Muar River, about 42km from Muar town as the crow flies. However, if you are to travel by boat (the common mode of transport in the 1950s), the meandering river route would likely double the distance.

The police station is located by the river bank. In fact, there is a small jetty for berthing purposes. This strategic position meant that it is prone to floods. That was what we encountered on the day of our visit. It was actually a dry day but the flood waters from previous days at the upstream district of Segamat had flowed down and accumulated at Bukit Kepong and Lenga. At the gallery area, water was about knee-deep. According to the staff, most of the exhibits at the ground floor were moved to the upper level in time.

Front gate of the gallery

Welcome signboard to the town

The new building on the left with the old barracks on the right

Upstream view of the river which has overflowed its banks

The Bukit Kepong - Labis road is not passable by traffic

Kg Raja, Pagoh

Although we did not manage to enter the gallery, the day trip was not a total waste. We made a slight detour to Kg Raja in Pagoh on our way to Muar town. Within the compounds of the mosque at Kg Raja, there is the grave of the 7th Sultan of Melaka, Alauddin Riayat Shah. According to history, this sultan died of mysterious circumstances but how he came to be buried in Pagoh was not explained.

The final resting place of a king from Melaka

After the short stop at Kg Raja, we headed towards Muar town where we had a lovely steamboat dinner at a foodcourt with a lovely view of the river. On the way home to JB, we made another stop at Air Hitam to buy some local produce. All in all, a nice day out...