Bukit Setiawangsa is deep in sleep. Sahur will not be for the next few hours and I am still wide-eyed and could not go to sleep. What else could I do but to switch on my laptop…so, here I am writing away again.
Earlier, my uncle, Su Man in Kota Kinabalu, had called for confirmation whether I would be back in Kelantan for Raya Haji or Raya Puasa. I had made a promise to him that balik kampung this time around will be during Raya Haji not Raya Puasa. I told him the deal was on. After all I only see him once a year.
Su Man is a year older than I am. My early childhood was filled with happy memories spent with him – climbing rambutan trees, fishing at the nearby stream near grandma’s. We were very close…did everything together so much so I acted more like a boy than a girl. Back then, grandma’s house was haven for me. If they could talk, the trees at grandma’s old orchard would testify how I had sat on their branches almost daily. My comrade-in-arms was of course, Su Man. Apart from climbing trees; we would chase after butterflies and picked up pebbles along the stream. Oh those glorious childhood days in my kampong which I hope to tell my son, Luqman.
We used to climb almost all the trees at the orchard right behind grandma’s kepuk padi. Once, I fell down a few feet from a rambutan tree because the branch I was stepping on could not hold my weight. The fall was followed by a big thud which sent the birds and monitor lizards away. Boy that hurt! On seeing me on the ground grimacing with pain, Su Man, who was on a few branches above me, panicked and shouted, “Li ok dok? Saket dok?” I cried in pain, “saket ah ngok!” Su Man quickly climbed down and sat beside me saying “tak per…orang kuat tak nangis.” Hmmmm so typical of him offering comforting words whenever I was hurt even to this day.
Sometimes other kids from the village would play hide and seek with us but not games like pangkah guli and catching fish down the river (catching fish will need a posting on its own!). These activities were confined to just the two of us, which means we play these games to the exclusions of other kids.
My favourite hiding spot was the Kepuk Padi because nobody dared venture into that spooky little hut except the mice. Su Man would hide his lithe body among piles of gunny sacks stacked behind the old kerek telaga and upon finding him, I would kick his butt, just for fun. Then we would fight like boys do – using our fists to hit at each other and ended up rolling on the grass in fits of laughter.
Sometimes, out of sheer boredom, Su Man and I would challenge each other to a bicycle race – starting from grandma’s house and all the way to Cabang Empat, passing by miles of rubber trees and padi fields. It did not matter what time…could even be in a hot afternoon. And we weren’t bothered about the heat from the scorching sun nor did we heed Mama’s warning not to go near the stream.
Oh, how I long for those carefree days again. Now, I don’t even own a bicycle! Lol!
When we were back at grandma’s recently, we caught sight of the abandoned kepuk padi while walking around the compound. The kepuk padi brought back old memories. Turning to Jefree and pointing the kepuk padi to him I asked “Papa, apa tuh?“
“Eiiii rumah hantu!” was the reply from my ignorant city-born other half.
At times I wonder if Luqman would be more interested in hearing tales of my childhood as compared to that of his father, who was born and brought up in the city and who surely missed out the “fun” of kampung life.
Good night folks.
*Kepuk Padi is a small hut built on stilts for purposes of storing sacks of padi during the harvesting season*
*Kerek telaga is a concentric ring made of cement used to build wells*