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