Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Something lives in this tree

Around two weeks ago, I accompanied my brother-in-law for his bernikah ceremony at the bride's home in Hutan Melintang, Perak. From Kuala Lumpur, we took the coastal road by way of Kuala Selangor and Sabak Bernam north towards Teluk Intan. The small town of Hutan Melintang is situated in the district of Bagan Datoh, just across the Selangor/Perak border demarcated by Sungai Bernam.

I have travelled this road a few times before and have always been fascinated by the lovely kampung landscape that included paddy fields in the areas of Tanjung Karang and Sekinchan. As we neared Sabak Bernam, we can see many roadside stalls selling mentarang, a type of shellfish that lives in the muddy tidal flats along this particular stretch of coastline. I have not seen this type of shellfish anywhere else in Malaysia.

Also along this road I spotted a number of stalls selling `kekabu'-filled pillows and mattresses. Kekabu is a type of fluffy cotton-like fibre used as the pillow filling. Before the advent of foam or artificial fibres, kekabu was the main material found in pillows and mattresses. The fibre comes from the seed pods of the kekabu tree whose English name is kapok (ceiba pentandra). It is also known as the Java cotton tree. Kapok trees are quite huge... they can grow in excess of 30m height.

I remember as a small boy, there was a big kekabu tree at the back of my grandfather's house. When the family gathered there for hari raya, the older cousins like to frighten us younger ones by telling that a certain pontianak lives on this tree and would come down to suck our blood if we persist in playing outside past maghrib (sunset) time. It was a very good scare tactic... but it also created a problem. Kampung houses those days do not have flush toilets. Latrines were all located outside. You drop your poop through a hole in the outhouse floor into a bucket. A very hardworking gentleman would then come every few days to manually collect your deposits and clean the bucket.

The latrine at my grandfather's house was located next to the kekabu tree... and if there is a need for any of the young ones to do business at night, we dare not do it alone. Therefore one or two of the other cousins are forced to accompany the person doing the business. And because we were chicken-hearted, the business is done with the latrine door full open. If you are the one doing the business, then you'll have to live with the embarassment of having other people watching you crapping your stuff. On the other hand, if you are the one doing guard duty, you have to bear with the aroma from the outhouse while at the same time stealing glances at the imposing kekabu tree for anything that may swoop down from it and grab you by the neck. A classic lose-lose situation...

For the wedding at Perak the other day, we put up at a homestay not far from the bride's house. Next to this homestay is an old abandoned kampung house. In front of this abandoned house is a kekabu tree... and this was what reminded me of today's story.

An abandoned house with a big kekabu tree... brings back scary memories from the past.

Don't want to be around this place after dark...

30 comments:

Awang Goneng said...

Alas there are too many abandoned old houses in kampungs nowadays and not enough kekabu trees. Otherwise folk in the kampungs would do their stuff and have enough pillows to cry on.

Good story. I like it!

PS Sometimes I wonder how those gentlemen of the night who visited our outhouses in the dark had no fear of ghosts, kekabu trees or men.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Eiiii! gives me the creeps too...

Nin said...

A classic cerita seram set there =)

I remember seeing a pokok kekabu on a windy day when I was a child... "snow" falling from the tree hehehe!

mamasita said...

hahahahaha..nak tercekik makan my wantan mee kat kopitiam!
Your are a first class clown!! Thanks Oldstock!
Selalu buat orang lain happy!
So true..those days, mesti ada orang berteman bila nak gi melabur..sampai upah seposen!
Kalau takder siapa sanggup,liar mata memandang kiri kanan kut2 ada ghost nak menerkam..hahaha..seksa2!

Lili said...

Love this good story...and it's been a while since you last treated us with one!

Wah, makan kenduri sokmo awal-awal tahun ye!

VersedAnggerik said...

Hahahahaha.... Oldstock!

This entry does bring back a flood of memories. Masa kecik2 dulu, gi mengaji, lepas Maghrib, kat rumah Ustaz di hujung kampung tuh. Ada lah lalu kat satu pokok kekabu tua yg dah tak berapa berdaun, tapi ranting2nya mcm jari2 kering mencakar ke langit.

Pun, diberitahu, ada yang menunggu diatas pokok tu, untuk menghisap darah muda budak2 kecik yg balik dari mengaji. So, time balik jer, mesti angkat kain baju kurung ke paras peha dan buat sprint yg maha dasyat supaya melepasi area pokok kekabu tu dgn lajunya!

Sekarang, pokok kekabu tu pun dah tak ada, sbb proses penglebaran jalan telah memangsakannya. Tapi kenangan itu, tetap ada....

noir said...

salam encik fadhil

enjoy reading this. reminds me of my childhood days.

Pat said...

That ghostly house was once a beautiful place and someone's home. I wonder what the story is, there.

I love these old houses, all made of wood, and with so much character - the original beauty with a purpose. Their design made sense for our climate.

Anonymous said...

In my village the hard working gent of the night was a woman who lived few doors away from ours.

But none of us kids knew-if at all we had any thoughts about the matter.

It was only when we were adults that we knew, by accident. And I believe my siblings and friends of the time still do not know the identity of the woman. I think our mother thought we will not be mature enough to judge her fairly.

I was touched by your simple line of sentence about the hard working gent and the memory it evoked.

allanwee

Oldstock said...

Pak Awang,

Actually there are two abandoned kampung houses on either side of the homestay.... and I took a pic of that one too.

Those night soilmen of old had nerves of steel. They beat us anytime...

Oldstock said...

Kak Kama, I have a few other shots of the house at closer distance... but I dare not walk right up to it. It was creepy, even in daytime.

Oldstock said...

Nin, I have another cerita seram revolving around a tree.... somewhat along the lines of Verse's comment above. Nanti ada free I'll write it..

Oldstock said...

Mamasita ni gelak ke seram... heheh..

The funny thing those days, bila terasa nak melabur je mesti waktu malam... aduh...

Oldstock said...

Lili,

Yeah, been some time since I wrote stories from past memory.... it needs something to trigger them, in this case, the kekabu tree.

Eh, you pun banyak pergi kenduri awal tahun ni kan?

Oldstock said...

Verse,

Yes there are many such memories as yours, lari pecut bila sampai depan pokok besar ke, kat kawasan kubur ke... nak pulak zaman tu lampu jalanraya memang takde sangat..

As per my comment in reply to Nin above, I have a similar scary story about a big tree.... nanti ada free sikit I tulis.

Oldstock said...

Salam En Noir,

Glad to know you like the story. Hope you can share some of your childhood experiences too. Thanks for dropping by.

Oldstock said...

Pat, what attracted me to the house was its classic design. If you are to look closer at the fascia board below the roof line, it shows the symbol of the sun and the sun's rays. According to a relative of mine, such houses were built before Merdeka.

Oldstock said...

Allan,

Not many of us would have the guts to take on such a job... so I guess anyone whose willing to do it deserves the respect. Which reminds me, I must pay my Indah Water bill...

Nurie said...

Oldstock, I really salute u la for your excellent writing skills in describing hal melabur kat luar waktu malam, heh heh heh...If I wrote abt it, I think people will puke reading it! hahaha!

Apasal semua orang takut pokok kabu ek? My kampung house in Butterworth has a big binjau tree with a BIG nail terpaku kat pokok tu. People say ada "benda" kat situ but so far alhamdulilah we all tak pernah kena kacau, maybe coz we all tak kisah hal tu kot...

By the way, the picture memang nampak spooky lah!

zafi said...

Olstock,

"Grab you by your neck" --> Hilarious
I did experienced on this. My kg in perak. Very the ulu (Bote. It's a challenging moment though :D

Oldstock said...

Noor,

It took me a while to think and describe that part of the story without using the sh*t word... hehe..

Aha... pokok binjai pun menyeramkan.. tapi kalau you yakin takde apa benda, insyaallah memang tak kena kacau.

Oldstock said...

Whoa Bro Zafi! You must share with us your story!

STEEST said...

The story ended too soon. More please.

Oldstock said...

Lita, the next posting would be about another tree... I think..

3yearshousewife said...

Oldstock,

Mentarang curry is yummy.
I am still using kekabu pillows, nothing beats them.

Everytime I saw nice kampung houses now abandoned, just like your picture, in my kampung, my heart sank. I imagined them in their glorious days, colorful and lively and me riding bicycle passing them.
So sad...

eddy said...

Bro, you should consider to write our Malaysian Version of Ghost stories.

You have a gift for writing, just need the little push to become a real author. I'll buy your book!

Andrea Wh@tever said...

I saw this type of tree the other day. My husband said that it was a candy floss tree. Said that people would harvest these white balls and then dip them in pink sugary syrup and sell it at carnivals as candy or fairy floss. Yeah, right! LOL.

But I must admit, the shape of the tree does kinda look ghostly esp against the moonlit night.

Oldstock said...

As,

Didn't know that mentarang can be cooked in curry. When we bought them, my wife simply boiled them in water with a few stalks of serai. Sedap juga.

I think I have another way to prepare them. Baste them in seasoned oil (a bit of ground garlic and ginger), then just bakar over charcoal. Have tried this method on mussels and they tasted delicious!

We are going to have more old abandoned kampung houses as we go along... selalu sebab masalah pewarisan harta. My late grandfather's house in Pontian may face the same situation too..

Oldstock said...

Eddy,

Thanks for the vote of confidence but I doubt my first book will be about ghost stories. Don't have (and hope not to have) that so-called 1st-hand experience.. heheh..

Oldstock said...

Andrea, hahaha... very cheeky la your hb.

The very huge kapok trees can look scary indeed... but only because adults fed us the scary images. Stuff of standard kampung legends.