Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The first departure in 2010

On the morning of Sunday 3rd January 2010, I received a call from my sister in Singapore informing me of our uncle's demise. It was a good thing that we decided to come home the night before after sending our son back to college in Shah Alam, otherwise we might have missed the burial.

My uncle's departure is not unexpected. He had been suffering from heart and kidney ailments for quite some time. I last met him during Aidilfitri celebrations in September last year. Although the death occurred more than a week ago, I want to post about it because there are two related topics that I wish to write about. The first is more for personal reflection while the other is for general information.

1. Strengthening family ties

In Johor (and perhaps Melaka too), there are many families similar to mine who have relatives on both sides of the Causeway. This is hardly surprising because Singapore used to be part of Malaysia not too long ago. Before that, both countries were British colonies.

My mother originally comes from Pontian in Johor. When she married my father, the family moved to Singapore. A few of my mother's sisters also did the same and even took up Singaporean citizenship. Some of my mom's siblings remained on the Malaysian side. I therefore have about equal number of relatives on either side. If you are to count the cousins, the second-cousins, the nephews and nieces, it would be a large number indeed.

As is the norm, the extended family members would get to meet each other once in a while during the standard occassions, i.e. weddings, funerals and Hari Raya. Not all family members come under the `close and cordial' category. There are of course some of us who prefer to remain distant, either by choice or by design. That's the nature of human beings, I guess. Some people prefer to be left alone.

In this respect, I have observed that my Singaporean relatives are more cordial than those from Johor. Whenever a Johor family member holds a wedding, many of the Singaporean cousins make the effort to attend. Sadly, it's not quite the same the other way round. I have heard many excuses but the main one is always, `takde passport nak pergi Singapura.' Granted that it costs a few hundred bucks to apply for a passport but if you do use such an excuse, it just shows how much value you place in the importance of forging close family relationships. And my Johor cousins are not desperately poor people either!

Such an excuse was again heard when news of my uncle's death was being passed around. Being based in JB, I became a sort of point-man to relay the news to relatives in Johor and other parts of Malaysia. Those who stay in distant places such as KL and Shah Alam are not expected to come but I would've thought the ones in Johor Bahru could've easily crossed the border. A few came... but many more did not, mostly citing the sorriest excuse ever.

Entahlah... dah tak tahu nak nasihat macam mana lagi...

2. The need to recycle

In one of my earlier posts in July last year, I touched on this subject of Muslim burials in Singapore. The common burial ground for Singaporean Muslims is called Pusara Aman, located on the western side of the island.

Since the past few years, the authorities have revamped the burial plots by constructing pre-cast concrete chambers or boxes laid out in a grid system, each plot assigned a unique number. This way, all the plots have the exact same dimensions and are neatly positioned with no waste of intermediate space.

When the time comes for burial of a body, the lid of the chamber is lifted out using a small mobile crane to reveal a 6-ft deep cavity whose base is lined with sand. The body is then placed on the bottom and another small backhoe fills the chamber with red earth till about half-way level. The final prayers are then said and family members say their last good-byes. When everyone has left, the cemetery workers would later top-up the earth to full level and re-install the lid. Quick and efficient. Not a single cangkul in sight.

Fifteen years later, the remains would be exhumed and grouped together with the remains from seven other plots for re-burial at a smaller space elsewhere. The original plot can be re-used for another body.

Empty plots prepared well in advance

Lifting the lid off from one of the chambers

The eldest grandson saying final prayers for his grandfather

As I have mentioned before, trust the Singaporeans to come up with ingenious ways to solve their limited space problems. I don't think we'll see such a system in use in Malaysia anytime soon but it is something worth considering for overbuilt urban areas such as Kuala Lumpur.

Buat Allahyarham Ayahanda Supian Bin Ahmad, semuga Allah swt mencucuri rahmat ke atas roh ayahanda dan ditempatkan di kalangan orang-orang yang beriman. Amin.


Justiffa said...

Takziah kepada semua ahli keluarga.. semoga rohnya dirahmati dan ditempatkan bersama mereka yg soleh & beriman.

Al Fatihah.

lili said...

Begitulah kehendak Allah... my condolences to you and your family.

I can understand when one or two family members start to build their own nuclear family... it is sad...

You have done your part, insyaallah, barakah hidup you.

Rina said...

Mr Fadhil,

Takziah kepada ahli keluarga semua.

Tapi berkenaan sistem pengebumiannya tu..

No offense, but for me nothing can beat an old fashion way to bury the deceased loved ones by own hand. Not as efficient/systematically as they have, but the feeling should be different..

Rina said...

And oh..I never against new approach's. In fact, I'm indirectly involved in new invention/IP..

3yearshousewife said...

My condolences to you & family.
I don't think the recycle idea will come to Msia very soon given the luxury of land that we have. Anyway, it still strikes me as scary to be exhumed and put into smaller space. Dah mati pun boleh risau kena pindah? Apa daaa...

Zendra-Maria said...

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

Oldstock, just curious, but do they mark the graves with standardised batu nesan? And I guess planting of plants are not allowed as well. Yup, very practical. But a haphazard cemetery with shady plants has a certain, I don't know, coolness about it. Off course that has got nothing to do about the state of its occupants.

May your uncle's soul be with the soliheen.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Oldstock, it's so true the part about Johorean having relatives in Singapore & all those home & away 'matches' to & fro keeping in touch :))

I remember back in my days, we do not need passports for a while & then they introduced the restricted RM5.00 blue passport, so cool having your own first passport..hehehe, every weekend my buddies & I would take a bus across to hang around at Peninsula Shopping Centre / Bras Basah / Rocor Rd / Sungai Rd to get our Saddle King Jeans & Army surplus gears/equipments for camping at Happy Valley.

Those were the days!!

TQ for the memories,


Patricia said...

I am glad you got to see your uncle before he passed away. That's important, especially now he is gone.

May your uncle's soul rest in peace.

VersedAnggerik said...

Al-Fatihah buat arwah and takziah buat keluarga yg kehilangannya...

Oldstock said...

-> Justiffa, Lili, Pat and Verse,

Thanks for the kind thoughts and wishes.

-> Rina, there is still a bit of personal touch involved in the burial in that the body is lowered into the ground by hand. In this case, my uncle's two sons and his son-in-law went down in the grave to receive the body.

Oldstock said...


Even in death, nothing is permanent... not even the plot you are buried in. Anyway, bila kita dah mati, dah tak perlu nak risaukan apa-apa, ya tak? Whether we like it or not, there is nothing we can do after we are gone.

Oldstock said...


Wow... new callsign eh?

To answer your question, the relatives of the deceased can come back and `beautify' the graves by adding new batu nesan, planting flowers etc... although this is not actually encouraged by the authorities. Tapi, you tahu lah orang kita ni... benda macam ni tak makan nasihat punya.

I actually have another photo of the cemetery that has been re-worked by such alterations. It looks just like any other ordinary Muslim cemetery except that the plots are all neatly in line.

Oldstock said...


I still have the old blue passport. Keeping it as momento.

The places you mentioned were part of my old hangout areas too... How come you forgot to mention Bugis Street meh? Heheheh..