Sunday, January 13, 2008

Changing of The Guards

In almost all societies of the world, the eldest male normally assume the role of the head of a family; making decisions which especially affect the family as a whole, acting as the peacemaker in disputes between members; and sometimes putting their life or honour at stake for the sake of a family member who may have gone a wee bit out of line. Occasionally, a decision may come into disfavour of several and leads to a rift where the head has to stand his ground either for the good of many or the unity of the family itself; this very decision or act may see one or 2 members leaving the family for a new life elsewhere. But the practice of Head of family is coming to a past due to many reasons mainly due to migration for the want of a greener pasture.

By the way, I should stress that the term family here refers to extended large families living cohesively in a certain area. Though such living may be rare now, it still exist in many areas of the world where an entire community are blood-related. Perhaps, the longhouses in Sarawak and Sabah may still practice this. Closer to home, or perhaps I should say 'yours truly', such was the practice albeit in smaller units some very many years ago in the state of Melaka. Though there are gaps which need to be filled or verified, I will try to stay true to the knowledge that has been passed to me by the elder generation of the family.

A certain Abdul Rahman and his wife lived Melaka Pindah, a small village some several kilometers from the town of Alor Gajah. They had several children of which one son became a teacher and was posted to Ulu Bendol, Negeri Sembilan, where the son married a pretty woman by the name of Zainun. At the around the same time, one of his daughters married a teacher by the name of Jetti Ahmad from Pantai Belimbing, Melaka, where the couple then bought and made their house opposite Abdul Rahman's. A son of Abdul Rahman, Yassin, then moved to Kuala Lumpur and became a teacher as well as one of the leading members of the Scout Movement in Malaysia. 2 other sons, perhaps lured by stories of sea adventures, moved to Singapore and joined the sea merchants. But even with the family members far flung, the family members would still keep in constant touch, affirming their family bond and Abdul Rahman as the Head of the family. All matters of family concerned were left to Abdul Rahman's wisdom to make.

As the years rolled by, so do human age; Abdul Rahman and his wife passed away long before I was born - he was my great grandfather, on my mother's mother side. With his passing away, the role of patriarch was left to his son-in-law, Jetti Ahmad - my grandfather. And when my grandfather passed away some 20 years back, there were no real figures to step in. Without a patriarch acting as an anchor, the family drifts apart ever futher. The only senior member of the family who might have been able to fill the vacuum is a lady by the name of Zainun, the once pretty young lady in Ulu Bendol who married a son of Abdul Rahman. But at 90 and with failing eyesight and hearing, plus a deteriorating health, she is in no condition to be a matriarch commanding respect from the younger generations. Still, she commands our affection.

Thin and frail looking, she still bear semblance to the pretty lady she once must have been. Of fair complexion and standing a mere 5 feet tall or so, she has a soft melodious voice and would always greet her family members with a smile and a big hug. Perhaps, once of the most memorable thing I remember when visiting her many years ago in Ulu Bendol, was her signature dish of (a fish) masak lemak cili padi - though I sweat profusely from the hot dish, I took a liking for it as it had a sweet flavour unlike most masak lemak cili padi and it appealed to my taste buds. Off course, I was only what, 10 or 11 then? A mere child who had yet to experience the bitter sweet taste of life. But the memory of the dish and the visit to her house in the small village came rushing to my mind when emak, makcik yam, Azman and I went to see her in her son's house in Bangi, Selangor.

Zainun, or Nek Besar as those of my generation would call her, was recently discharged from the hospital. Earlier, she had some indigestion problem and was also suffering from dehydration. When we visited her then, and as we did this morning, her memory too seem to fail her, as it would anyone of her age. Still, she was cheery as any could be.

When I took into consideration of the visitors Nek Besar had at the hospital, and before or after our presence in the house, I was numbed for a moment. When I totaled the relatives that came a visiting, there were 5 generations in all still living from the family Abdul Rahman had built! Abdul Rahman's wife, Nek Besar, is the eldest member at 90. The generation below her, where my emak is, about 70-80; my generation is between 35-50; the generation below me, 25-35; and the youngest generation of the family is between 3-7 years old. Now, while this does make me feel old - being a granduncle at 45 - I am also comforted in thought that my youngest brother is only 15, and can also be called a granduncle! In other words then, I am still spirit and mind, at least.

While my writing this is of little significance to anyone outside the family, it would, I hope, be a small guide for any member of this family who would like to trace the family tree.

Back to Nek Besar, though I do not pray it so, perhaps the time for Changing of The Guards looms nearer. But life and death is a matter only Allah s.w.t. knows. As mortals, our life is not defined by age, rather the circumstances of it. Death, has no respect for age; it comes at the precise time anointed - not a moment too soon, nor a moment too late. Young or old, is not within the dictionary of death.

I bear witness there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His Messenger.


Kata Tak Nak said...

Well, at least you have a lot to talk about your family lineage. I don't really know much about mine and there don't seem to be anyone around who could help me.

cakapaje said...

Salam Cikgu,

Alhamdulillah, but there are still lots or links broken. Perhaps someday, someone will be able to draw the whole tree.

And I'm sorry to note about your family. Then again, perhaps you could start off from where you are so your future generations would know theirs?

Kerp (Ph.D) said...


at least you made some effort to study your family's lineage, from your great great grandfather's generation. taking from my own great great granddad, i believe there are more than a thousand of us based on the family-tree i once saw when my dad brought it back. for all we know, my cousins may have married their own extended family members.

no offense brother, but you said you have a 15 year old brother? i mean, thats like 30 years gap between you guys, right? again, i could have read it wrongly.

tokasid said...

Salam Shah CA:

Wow! Hats off to you bro, you manage to keep track on the family tree.

Mine was large too and I was told that back in the early 20th century(maybe earlier) it was common for couples to divorce and remarry with another person in the same village and have off springs again and the family tree somehow became very 'rendang'.

Few months ago,I discovered that my friend was actually by mother's cousin.My great-grandma had 2 hubby(no,not at the same time.Its the cerai n kawin org lain pulak thing).My grandma was theproduct of her 1st hubby. When she remarried, she had several children with the new hubby.

So, anak2 with new hubby is adk-adik to my grandma and uncles and aunties to my mak.

One of my mak's aunty is my friend's mum, so my friend is now my pakcik. When my friend held the wedding reception for his eldest son recently,I took mak along and its was an emotional re-union of sort for mak and her aunties and cousins et al.

And if I were to make a family tree, mine will be a very large one( for mak had 8 siblings and most of her siblings have large families).

But its good if you could organised a family gathering like during Hari Raya or kenduris.

cakapaje said...

Salam kerp,

Bro, reading your family, for all you know we might be related. Well, at least by marriage. Er...not ours, mind you :)

And yes, I do have a 15year old brother, I don't mind telling you. But some reasons, I am not able to divulge more...yet. :)

cakapaje said...

Wa'alaikumusalam Doc,

Doc, I remember you mentioning having some Javanese relatives in Bagan Datok. If so, there's a probability we are related. More so if its connected to that certain armno man there.

tokasid said...


The Bagan Datoh not sure of the ameno man there.I haven't seen these relatives for the last 30 years I think. That was my only occasion that I went to BD coz arwah bapak still new his relatives there.Now that bapak is no more around and Pak Ngah is very old and not fit to travel from Merbok to BD, I might not be able to meet these distant relatives of mine.Maybe just maybe my cousin might still be in contact with BD guys.

Mat Salo said...

Bro' Shah,

I actually posted a long, rambling comment here but due to intermittent connection damn thing disappeared. I know have taken to posting the reply in Wordpad and then cut n paste. Waduh...

As usual great writing and I enjoyed it...except...except you have to do your part in maintaining the tree's branches... Ha-ha.

Can't remember what I said earlier but something to do with polygamous parts of the tree usually leads to disaster. I hope to expound on this one day bro'. Great stuff.

Maybe we are all related, eh? Armno branches included.. :)

cakapaje said...


Hmm...that's a shame. Still, that's life kan?

cakapaje said...

Salam MS,

Hmm...perhaps I too should start learning how to use 'Word' when writing my entry - too many mistakes! Buat malu je ngan orang Jowo :)

About making sure the (family) tree line continuing its course, then kindly pray for me ye :)

And yes...afterall, we were practically neighbours in PJ dulu. But lets exclude the armno brances, lol!