Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The 2 kids had their run up the steep staircase leading to the attic stopped right at the first rung. Many times in the past they had been told of scary tales about the attic, and many times after that they would hear strange sounds emanating from it; the attic, or loteng, as it is known in Melaka, was built above a room adjacent to the living hall where the children would sleep whenever they follow their parents back to Melaka; in the dim light of the kerosene lamp at night, the 2 kids huddle close to their mother, fearing they would be snatched away by some unknown forces of the stories told to them by their elder siblings.

Looking up the staircase, the 2 kids must have had second thoughts about climbing up. On a rung or 2 leading to the attic, dried red droplets can be seen clearly. "Its just red ink!" cried Eli, a girl younger than the 2 kids as she rush past them up the staircase. "Honest!" she cried to her elder brother and sister "I saw Emi and Din put them just to scare both of you", and she dissapeared from view.

Ana and her younger brother looked at each other then braved themselves up to the attic.

Aje had explored every inch of the old house in Melaka Pindah save for this loft. For a kid who has never been there, it was a near majestic feeling. Here he was in this distant past, in the room which he had been afraid of entering, and found every item laid out in the open of a room which is as large as the 'rumah ibu', had a magical touch to them. He was still afraid, but could not help himself exploring as much as possible as even then, he knew he might just not find the courage to climb up again. He never did.

With the passing of time, the house now belong to the third generation of the original occupant, a Haji Jetti Ahmad. Quite rightly so, its original architecture too has been changed either to suit the comfort of the new owner, or due to ravages of time where many of the wooden panels, walls and flooring cost more to upkeep than the cement and bricks that replaced them. The facade of the house however, remain largely the same.

Back in the attic, Aje found a large chest, one which could have held several kids of his size within it. At that age, he did not know what to make of the chest. But as he grew older, he is reminded of it every time he reads or watch a movie where normally, chests as such hold treasures beyond dreams. Aye, quite like a pirate's chest. Any romantic notions for this particular chest Aje had however, were dashed when at a later age he learnt that the chest belonged to his late grandfather and grandmother, and had been used for a Haj trip way back when Aje was just an infant.

Back then in the mid 1960's, Haj pilgrims did not have the luxury of air travel and made their way by sea. Their voyage then, may take up to several weeks at sea. Together with about a month at Mekah and Medina, they may spend a total of 3 months away from home. And thus, into the chest went all that is precious to their survival. Amongst these items would include a stove, some cooking utensils and simple crockery, and...maybe hard to believe, but batu lesung meant for the preparation of sambal belacan. The latter, after all, is a dish which very few Malay can live without for a long duration. Off course, today, with all the convenience of Haj travel and lodging, it is no longer necessary to lug anymore. Besides, the very weight of the batu lesung can tear through the fabrics of today's luggage.
The chest above looks quite like the chest found in the attic.
Picture credit: Pirates Lair

For a pilgrim, performing the Haj then is almost akin to saying the last farewell to his kampung folks. Without the convenience of modern day travel and pilgrimage, there was a high fatality rate. Off course, when one compare to generations and age way before even then, the conditions were much tougher. Thus, whenever a man leaves for the Haj, almost the entire kampung would bade him farewell, accompanying right to the gates of his departure such as Port Klang. And it was at one of the gates at this port that a 5year old Aje waved goodbye to an elderly man boarding a ship destined for the Holy Land.

Belated now as it is, I pray for all Muslims, especially those performing the Haj this year:

"TaqabbAllahu minna wa minkum "
May Allah accept our good deeds.

"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair

May you and the whole world be well


* Had wanted to write this entry earlier but I was disturbed with the tragic events of the landslide in Ampang and the accident involving the express bus at Pagoh. As always, bad news sink slowly into me.

Though I am unable to verify, I was informed that hillside development in Ampang area was prohibited by the British Authorities way before Merdeka. If true, then the Be-End government has taken Malaysia back to before colonial days, perhaps heading back to primeval times. Curses be on you Be-End. May you rot in hell for every anguish a Malaysian suffer.


Kerp (Ph.D) said...

salam aildiladha to you too shah.

this entry is very informative. actually it has never crossed my mind why folks from the olden days have got to have such chest in every household. now its getting clearer. my arwah Tok had it but i never bothered to ask what's in it.

*that sambal belacan part reminds me of the ones prepared by Pak Halim...hehehe...

CelloTape said...

Salam Aidiladha...

rumah aku tiada pula benda tu...

cakapaje said...

Salam kerpie,

Well, in the old days, people travel with either a chest or large trunk. Their weight alone, can be a heavy lift! you owe me 2 mugs of teh tarik and nasi with sambal belacan ;)

cakapaje said...

Salam Cello Tape,

Hehe, tak dapek den nak tolong ha ;)

hegira said...

ya. sedih dengan berita tragedi. tapi bila alam dah bersuara. kenapa manusia masih diam?

cakapaje said...

Salam Alina,

Manusia yang bersuara, laungan mereka ditenggelami dek gelak ketawa mereka yang meraut keuntungan samada sewaktu merosakkan alam atau sewaktu alam membinasakan manusia lain.

Kata Tak Nak said...

I remember as a kid taking the ferry to the island. At times the crowd would be so huge that you would have to wait for a few ferries, something very rare. That is the kapal haji season.

cakapaje said...

Salam Cikgu,

That's right, you were living on the mainland then. But I thought the ferry terminal was perpetually crowded with passengers going in and out of the island, especially during school holidays; the Haj season must have worsen the situation then. I do enjoy those ferry rides, however :)

david santos said...

Brilliant posting!

cakapaje said...

Mr Santos,

Hola! Thank you.