Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Distant but close relatives

The title of today's post seems a bit like a paradox, but that's exactly how I can describe some relatives of mine who live in Sabak Bernam, Selangor.

Last Saturday, I attended the wedding reception of my third cousin at Kampung Sungai Air Tawar in Sabak Bernam. Since I was already in KL to help my brother-in-law move house (see earlier post), it was just a couple hours drive to get to the wedding. It was an extreme of sorts from my BIL's place to the groom's house. From the swanky condo at Bukit Jalil to a simple wooden kampung house whose planks show obvious signs of age. Although they are not well-to-do, the groom's family received us with their customary warmth and kindness.

I consider the relationship between the groom and myself as distant because we are third cousins (in Malay we call it tiga pupu). My father and the groom's mother are second cousins because my father's birth mother is a cousin of the groom's mother's father. I hope I have not confused my readers by that description. Anyway, apart from the distant family ties, the physical distance between our homes also meant that we seldom get to meet. This however, does not mean that we are not close. Whenever there is a reason such as this (a wedding invitation), I make the effort to travel up to meet them.

Our arrival was greeted with warm hugs all around. Throughout the reception I can hear fair-skinned ladies talking excitedly in thick but familiar Banjar accent. The Banjarese are a minority Malay sub-ethnic group who originally hail from the Kalimantan region of Indonesia. In Malaysia, large groups of Banjar people can be found residing in Sungai Besar, Sabak Bernam and in the southern districts of Perak. In Johor state, the Banjarese are concentrated in Batu Pahat and Mersing.

My grandparents, both on my mother's and father's side are pure Banjar. Unfortunately, I cannot speak the language although I can understand it well enough. My childhood friends are from a mixed bag of races... Malay (mostly from Javanese and Bawean descent), Chinese (from the Hokkien and Teochew dialects), Tamils and even Eurasians. We converse in Malay and English. While growing up, my mother sometimes speaks to me in the Banjar language but I only reply to her in Malay. Those days, I didn't know anybody else who are from the Banjar sub-ethnic group.

In Sabak Bernam, I can hear the language spoken in its almost pure form. Some of the newly-introduced relatives started to talk to me in Banjar but I could only politely reply in Malay. Luckily, I knew enough of the language to understand what they were saying.

My wife always reminds me that it is a pity I'm losing part of my heritage by not being able to speak my grandparent's language. Well... what to do? I can try to re-learn the language but I don't think it will help much. It is more important for me to strengthen family ties with my distant relatives, no matter how far they may be.

The above pic is the new Ma'muniah Mosque at Simpang 5, Sungai Besar, Selangor. We stopped at this mosque on our way back from Sabak Bernam to Johor Bahru.

11 comments:

HLiza said...

Just like me and the Javanese language..though I can only understand less than 10 words..I feel 'sayang' that this language had never been passed to me..my dad is Javanese and my mom.. Malay. I guess dads never passed the language to their kids; so I can only nod and smile whenever people speak to me. My kids will never admit there's Javanese blood in them. I always feel it's the Javanese blood that makes me strong like a warrior!

hanitha said...

salam bro, i pon ader gak sedara mara yg dh lamer tk berjumpa sejak kami semua dh membesar n arwah bapa dh tk larat nk travel jauh2..esp kat tanjung karang tu. situ kan ramai jawa. yg dekat2 pon dh lamer tk berjumpa. hanya semasa kenduri kendara la dpt berjumpa semua. i pon takut trlupa dialek jawa nie n biler sesekali berbicara dlm bahasa jawa..kelat je rasanya ehehehe

Nurie said...

Tu la kan...reading yr post makes me realised how much our so call busy schedule makes us loose touch with our families, be it intermediate of distance relatives. Usually tunggu ada invitation kenduri or raya je baru jumpa kan..but then, mcm life kat sini (saudi) we msians jumpa almost every week, for makan makan or something..and that created a strong bond between friends and ironically u feel like saudara mara je with strangers. I guess we must make efforts to keep the ties alive, like what u did, drive all the way there for the wedding. Dapat jugak kenal saudara mara...

My late dad was a pure pakistani guy and he speaks urdu and hindustani. Sayangnya none of us know how to speak his language. I think I only know like 10 general words in urdu!

Now I make sure my kids knows how to converse in Swakian language(hubby is swakian) senang nak cakap secret things! heh heh....

Zulkifli Bin Zahari said...

salam,macam mana pertalianpun,yang penting kita berasal dari moyang yang sama.moyang2 saya berasal dari Tanah Jawa dan mereka mula berhijrah ke Malaya.Perkataan Jawa lebih kurang macam HLiza juga.Tambah sekarang saya minat dgn silsilah,memang rasa sedih kehilangan bahasa tersebut.Bukan itu saja,sudahlah terputus saudara-mara di seberang,ini kita di sini lama kelamaan dah tak kenal lagi jika kita abainya.

Patricia said...

My mum's people were from Sri Lanka - no lah, they're not Tamil Tigers! Hahaha! They're the ones the Tigers are fighting with! - but when he landed here, my great, great grandfater stopped speaking the language. He felt that Malaya was their new home, and they learnt to speak, and only spoke, the language that was spoken here. At that time, it was English.

The same happened on my dad's side - his people were from Kerela.

So that leaves me fluent in English and B.M. and I wouldn't recognise Singhalese or Malayalam if it knocked me between the eyes!

Pat

Oldstock said...

Hliza,

Normally, our fathers do not pass down their ethnic language to us because we do not interact with them as much as with our mothers. So it is not surprising that you cannot speak javanese.

Your kids may not want to admit that they have javanese blood because from you their only have half portion. If your hb is not javanese, then your kids would only have a quarter portion :-)

Oldstock said...

Hanitha,

Saya ada dua orang biras yg bangsa Jawa. Bila diaorang berdua berjumpa time balik kampung, boleh la dengar slang Jawa sedikit sebanyak. Masih pekat lagi.

Oldstock said...

Nurie,

So you have Pakistani blood in you... Should be proud of that, even though you may not know too many words in Urdu. If you make the effort to try, I'm sure you can improve. Kalau tak dapat cakap, at least faham pun dah kira okay.

Just wondering... do yo have `Khan' as your surname?

You remind me of my first ever crush on a girl, years and years ago. She's a Sabahan girl with mixed Pakistani/Kadazan parentage. Lawa sungguh... boleh bayangkan wajah dia sampai ke hari ini :-)

Oldstock said...

Salam Sdra Zulkifli,

Terima kasih kerana sudi menulis komen di blog saya ini. Saya telah mengunjungi blog-blog saudara... wow, begitu banyak.

Rajin juga saudara memuatkan cerita-cerita keluarga dlm laman blog.

Oldstock said...

Pat,

If you can't speak Tamil, I gather your kids would probably not be able to either... but at least, they would normally be mistaken as Malay, I guess... heheheh.

zahiruddin said...

I read from wiki that banjarese is the result of intermarriages between malay, javanese and dayaks in Kalimantan.

Dayaks(Dayak Bukit, Dayak Ma’anyan, Dayak Lawangan, Dayak Ngaju, Dayak Barangas, and Bakumpai) are descendant of proto-malays that came to borneo 2500 BC

Malays came from Sumatera around 400-520AD

Lastly Javanese who came 1200-1400AD