12 October 2008
My pathetic garden at home
Quietness reigns: you could almost hear the sound of the wind. I am relatively undone; quite unsure what bothers this old, decrepit heart of mine.
The frangipani, despite my best effort, keeps leaning to the right, threatening menacingly to cross over to the neighbour’s side of the fence. The jasmine insists to grow as it pleased with branches soaring all over the wrong direction. I give up.
Late this evening, the boy quaffed his drink mightily, stopped midway to gulp fresh air and said, “Mommy, Man nak play dengan Bradley, boleh?” I haven’t the faintest idea what this linguistically-challenged two-year-old meant, but I am guessing it must have been one of the characters from Cartoon Network that he is so obsessed with lately, so much so that he retains sole possession of the Astro’s remote control.
Wonder of wonders, the name struck a memory chord in my head. It lingered on my mind right until this moment with the pencil and the badly crumpled moleskine.
I was born and I spent my entire childhood in Kuala Krai, Kelantan. In fact, my early adolescence was spent there, too, until the day I packed my bag to live a chapter of my life in a boarding school, some 200 miles from home.
Kuala Krai, by myriad of definitions, is a sleepy hollow. Descriptions of the town and my life here, are purely based on my rusty recollection, circa the eighties.
The town was made up of rows of shop houses; old train station with an adjacent management building – where my late father used to work; on old bungalow which used to serve as Post Office; a rather large police station and its staff quarters; depleted public library which stocked outdated books and magazines; a district hospital on top of a small hill across the man-made lake where I was born; a quaint market with poor hygiene.
I used to cycle with all my might across the narrow, tarmac roads of this sleepy hollow, popping my head once in a while at the wooden windowsill of Ayah’s office. Ayah would pretend of having the shock of his life upon seeing the sight of my sweaty face and endearingly asked, “Why are you cycling like a boy? Did you mother know you came this far?” Of course, the rebellious little me lied through her teeth and said ‘no’ to both questions.
Never once, during my cycling regime, I did not stop at a sacred spot: Tangga Bradley (the Bradley Stairs).
History christened the birth of Tangga Bradley in 1927 – which was subsequently named after the then Kuala Krai’s administrator, Sir Bradley – as a place to measure the water level of Sungai Kelantan during the monsoon season. Tangga Bradley also serves at mini jetty for the locals around the embankment of the river to unload their agricultural produce to be sold at the market.
Somehow, one of the hottest bloggers at the moment, Tukar Tiub, gives a different purpose to Tangga Bradley: it had been used as a spot to sight the Syawal moon to determine the arrival of Eid Mubarak. The said blogger also laments that the tradition is now dead and forgotten; to which he ends his post rather disturbingly with, “bangsa tanpa tradisi tidak melahirkan tamadun.” I digress.
I would stare at the flowing Kelantan river for hours on end. Sometimes, I brought a book, counted seventeen steps down, sat at the far left end corner of the step underneath a tree shade and read my book to the exclusion of others until the sky was fused with rays of sunset.
I could see, from a distance, life was going full speed at the floating raft house (rumah rakit) with pots and pants clacking, clothes flying with the river breeze on the clothesline and children chasing each other from raft to raft.
At Tangga Bradley, I first found the serenity of loneliness. I formed an intimate bond with my soul that I cherished to this day; the same way I adore this pathetic garden of mine.
But life – and as it is unavoidably so – swayed my course away from Tangga Bradley. I still think about the place fondly and, if time permits, I would love to return to the seventeenth step of the sacred place: preferably alone.
*Image of Tangga Bradley stolen from here*