The year 1951.

I was born on April 20, as recorded in BC, at 4 am Friday, 13 Rajab (7th) 1370H, to start a life, an ordinary life, my life; a second child to my mother, Selma Musa who was born in 1934 in Mengabang Panjang, Batu Rakit and a third child to my father, Zakaria Hj Ahmad who was born in 1914 in the same spot I was born, Pengkalan Arang, Kuala Nerus, Kuala Terengganu. My elder brother, Osman was born in 1949. My younger brother Num was born in 1953. My mother then was only 15 but my father was 35. My father's previous marriage, two marriages actually, failed. The first one born a son, but he died a teen-ager. I had no memory of him at all, even my father and my mother had only rarely talked about him; my father's true family was thus my mother and the children with my mother.

These are my homes: the house I was born, the people, the trees, short and tall, many varieties of them, fruit trees, rubber trees, bushes with many edible shrubs, the river Nerus, and the padi fields, not very far from the eastern Malayan coast of the South China Sea, the state capital Kuala Terengganu, and the river estuary. All had their bearing in the making of my life. I grew up by the river and grown on the river water. I washed in the river, and my clothes were washed in the river, and fed partly on the produce from the river. When I was big enough, I swam in the river, and on many occasions, acrossed the river. My forefathers lived by this river, the Nerus River.

This is the house, after many times renovations since I was born. (Left) Looking in the direction of sun set which used to be the front of the house. The structure of the main house is original, the roof (originallay of thin red-brick slates, called "atap bata") and the wall obviously had been changed many times, as well as the peripheral architecture. The kichen on the right was about ten feet out-projected, but it was streamlined during renovation in 1974 because that part fall in somebody elase's land. On the ground at one of the stilts was a big 'tempayan' in which I kept live fish my brother and I cought in the field before we consumed. The house perimeter was not fenced; I used to play a lot under it; my family's living gears, field possessions, and sundries were kept here; including chicken laying barn, and at one corner, goat sleeping "quarter", and my father's bicycle. There was a verandah (consumed by the room of the first window), and two steps upto it, and in turn another step into the house. A big rambutan tree was a hop away from the step with a water vessel to wash the feet before getting into the house. A bacang tree was about ten feet in front of the right wall, sometimes its fruit fall and leaked the roof. Shooting this view was on the spot where there was a well under a big mangosteen tree. Our fresh water supply was drawn from the well, although bathing and washing (by adults) were mostly done in the river about 300 meters away. My father was a carpenter, obviously he built himself the house. (Middle) Viewed in the direction of South China Sea coast. (Right) The original "atap bata", a more permanent feature than the "atap nipah", or "atap sagu" - the precursor to the proverb: "atap genting, atap rumbia";

Some of the the fauna that soon to became part of my "home" as I was growing, respectively:

belatuk (I never missed to hear it pecking everyday); enggang (high up on tree with tumpeting sound); gemala (the yellow beak - gemala lembu could become a pet bird, the white beak - gemala kerbau, less 'domesticable'); kedidi (I never could catch a single one, but dreaming of from stories that they were many of them on the islands in the Trg estuary, easily caught with rachip); kelichap (very elusive altough flew very low); kekunyit (only caught one by catapult, slaughtered and fried); murai (competing with belatuk); pipit (I spent many hours a day with my brother to catch them, and got many of them);

merpati (their sound I never missed to hear on passing the road beside the home of China King, just before the bridge); tiong (the China Tiong had it, I always stopped by in Batu Enam to ensure whether it was true that this bird talked); gogup which normally visited our home after the rain for the worms on banana leaves and we normally took their presence as indication that the rain would not come again for a few days; taptibau the bird which never stopped reminding us that the sun was rising in the morning and again setting in the evening, I never see this bird in my kiddy days, only in the books in the school; burung hantu my mother was so scared of its sound that one night high on the rambutan tree next to the mangosteen tree my father knocked it down by throwing a stick at it;

cawi the tagged split tail with its characteristic song, punai (I saw some of them high on the nibong at the field); chiak raya (tempua) and its nest and swing (my brother and I 'hunted' for them as far as Banggol Limau; tupai which the villagers hunted ocassionally on Friday morning to reduce their rampaging on the coconuts and local fruits; normally a lot of adults and children participated in the hunting, with sticks, parang, golok, etc, it was like a festival; one day, we heard a gun shooting, it was under a coconut tree I saw only a few persons, one was very smartly dressed and holding a rifle, the others were Raja Ali, the head, and his adults companions and a few children. Since then I often heard the gun shooting the tupai (squirrel) and usually in the evening. After some times there was no more gun shots, the rifle man, Tengku Ngah (a royalty) had got married to CheWan Chantik, the daughter of CheWan Bakar; and since then hunting squirrel was no longer a phenomenon;

belalang (I catch in the padi field for bait to fish puyu); lipas (part of our house); kerengga (their eggs were for pipit); semut gatal (helped me to get rubber seeds hollowed to make tokong, many times I got bitten by many of them); pepatung (like belalang for bait to catch puyu); kekabo (kumbang - collected when the first time I saw them on cashew trees in the 'forest'- always in three colour: red, black, and white);

cacing (digged from the ground for bait to fish keli); ayam (my mather had quite a few - a resource for us, including for a quick cash for my schooling); kambing (we used to reared a few, started with the one Abang Mat left, and finished on the day of my brother and I went through 'adulthood' ceremony); lembu (we never had one, but encontered many, especially during the final months of my stay in 1963); itik (like ayam, my mother had quite a few);

katak (the marsh type, caught for bait to fish haruan); kekura (they caught my bait meant for keli or haruan); kidit (like belalang, caught for bait to fish puyu); nyamuk (they were clean, they suck my blood but did not return with any plasmodium); lalat (we shared our food with them);

And especially the creatures in the water, respectively:

belut (they caught my bait meant for keli); belida (I caught one and only one at Titian Hj Ahmad, on the way to Gong Kijang for 'bigger expedition' through out my 'fishing career'); haruan (the fish my brother and I always got);

karim (I always mistaken for the fighting fish, it nested under its foam the same way); kakap (the fish we occasionally caught from the river by way of 'mengambur'); keli (the haruan companion in the padi field, but using different bait);

lampam (only adault caught this fish, occasionally MakDa Nab gave us some of the ready curried, and her dish was her characteristic of fresh water recipe); pelaga (I nearly had a mishap in Kolam Gong Kijang in a searching trip for this fighting fish); puyu (another companion of haruan, in the padi fiels, fished by line);

seluang (the first fish the boys learned to fish - in the river); udang (caught by 'tanjul', 'tiruk', 'temerang', 'bito' and by line - I had never been better in this; I went a few times by the river and it was at night); pacat (the blood sucker on the grass); and lintah (the blood sucker in the water);

sepat ronggeng the fish that eluded all kinds of fishing techniques; they were caught by either net - I never had one - or 'tangguk' using a 'bakul' or exhaustively by 'menimba'. Sepat was good as bait for haruan; it had a tough 'life' and very luring. Most of the time my brother and I cooked ourselves the fresh water fish that we caught because, unlike my father, my mother did not like the fresh water fish, except prawns.

And some of the flora: The fruits around our home (which I collected very early in the morning when in their peak season): rambutan, manggis, langsat, duku, chiku, jambu air, rambai, jambu golok (cashew - the 'apple' or just the seeds, baked, splitted to get the nut), jambu butir banyak, pisang, and the million use coconut - the trunk for 'bridges', jetty, and the cannon; the leaves to make ketupat's shell, the trumpet, the dry one for torch, its bone (lidi) for brooms, for accessories in devices to catch prawn, the fibrous skin (sabut) for making rope, brooms, and for transporter to carry fire, the milk for every dishes and cookies, etc, etc.

The fruits my relatives had, and we thus had them occasionally: durian, nangka, cempedak, nanas, timun china, pauh, betik (very easy to grow - ironically we did not) ;

The staple food my father and my mother worked for, and the occasional substitute: padi, ubi kayu, keladi, keledek, ubi gadung, used to grow behind our home, one day I harvested them, my mother boiled it and we ate; somehow afterwards I felt very dizzy, and had to lay down for many hours. It should not be like that because boiled ubi gadung was sold in Batu Enam with grated coconut;

The flora for vegie dishes:bayam, kacang, peria, ketola, ketena, terong, timun, and tomato were those I attempted to grow as well;

The complementaries that were not so expensive (most of the times were neighbours courtesy: sawi, lada, lada jarum, serai, the unforgetable pandan for use as fragrance in cakes and dishes, even on my body my mother used to warm-showered after a bad smell like after an unwell; kemunting grown wildly along the road with fruits even the adults collected, and for kids, senduduk whose fruits would give purple mouth;

And other accessory flora: buluh (bamboo), like coconut had one million uses - it was a 'material resource' for all sort of living devices, bunga raya and puding the plants I sometimes grow to make the house beautiful, dedap (flame of the forest) - one tree grew near my house which never stop giving the red flowers; the rubber tree: the leaves (my mother used to make tapai), the rubber seeds (my possession), and the trunk, from which latex left-over was used to make football;

kemuncup which always followed me home on my sarong or whatever I wore and took me quite a job to get rid off; semalu (mimosa) which I loved to harass to see its leaves contracting; palas shoot my mother used to make ketupat ubi or ketupat pulut (triangular-shaped delis), but I used mempelas leaves to shine my pinang spinning tops or any other toys that needed shining; some boys used its stem (sulur) to scratch the chin for a "Kirk-Douglas-Look"; gorek, the local version of 'anggerik' (orchid) that grew on the rotting rambutan branches, the succulent leaves and the swollen bulbs of which I used to soften (it was so believed by the kids) the slate board when I was in Standard one;

And some medicinal flora: ketumbit, and kemunting china my mother ground and apply to our tummy when we had to go to 'toilet' very often, the shoots of mali my mother pasted on for extraction when I had boils on my back side, pinang and sirih for general medicinal purposes such as for insect bite; at one time we collected pinang fruits, the seeds were sold for 20 sen a gantang (later I knew that they used them to make dye, and also to extract a kind of alkaloid);

And many more plant my mother very accustomed to: labu laut leaves which she used to shower our head when we had a fever, sometimes she used kemunting leaves. Terapir leaves, a kind of shrub grown wildly around our home my mother used to ripe (peram) banana and chiku. Sometimes my mother asked me to collect various shoots to make bubur lambuk: kadok, ulat bulu, mata ayam, and pucuk midin; kemoyan was for vegie dish, the shoots of putat and cashew was for ulam.

Fauna and flora together: the fire flies on the bebaru trees (hibiscus tiliaceus) by the river. The tree gave yellow and red flowers, they fall in the river, floating and carried away by the stream in the direction according to the tide. Its bark had skin, when stripped could be made into strong rope to tie 'temerang' that last in the water. At night the trees were the home of millions of fireflies; they made a magnificient 'fireworks' lining the river banks giving non-error guide to the returning rowing boats, like the lighting on the airport landing strips.
Mengkarong leaves, I used to learn to make kites. That was after I had 'passed' the stage of making the kite using dry rubber leaf, with string a courtesy of my mother from her sewing thread. I would run along the road and the 'good' kite would make a 45 degrees non-spinning fly. With mengkarong dry leaf, the kite was actually taken to the padi field, and the wind actually flew it on a line only slightly thinner than the used for the bamboo kite. I made bamboo kite, when I was about ten, covered with coloured thin 'glassy' paper, glued with saps from young sago leaves stalk: 'wau tukung'. I made many kites, all were successfully flying. The last kite I made was the ultimate 'wau sari bulan', complete with its whistling neck-bar (busur), the bow was made from bamboo and the 'vibrator' strap made from stripped coconut leaf (needed to be replaced frequently). I played itu with Yusof the grandson of TokSu around his house at the "Alor" near Titian Lima Amas; 'tambang' it many nights. During this frolicking time, I was too much a boy to notice that arrangements were being made for the marriage of Yusof's eldest sister, Wok, to my causin, Abang Zak MakNgah.

My earliest memory, which I am sure was not a dream, was one late morning, I was crying when I got up to find out that nobody was around, I was alone. I remembered then my mother was rushing to get me from the nearby river bank, about fifty meters away, to get me and fed me from her mammary gland. I still could feel the soft, tender, and coolness of her chest on my face, because she was with her washing by the river. I could feel her wet batik cloth while I was laying on her lap, and the sweet taste of the milk. I should not be younger than about two then, or may be I was a kind that develop memory early. When I asked my mother many, many years later, when I was an adult, she confirmed that I fed on her until that late, but she could not remember any late morning as I described to her. My mother told me that she did not find it very difficult to bring me up, but I later theorised that with such a big age gap with my father, she could not adapt fast enough to my father's very adult life; she was not yet twenty when she had already had three sons, with my younger brother, Num born in 1953. So, I grew up in my mother's love, in my mother's family's love, in my father's love, and in my father's family's love, in traditional kampung, Malays kampung nature, in my case, of super-extended family.

Almost every one in the kampung was related to every one, close or distant, in a closely knitted and peaceful life. My home was my father's home which was his father's home. All my paternal uncles and unties were originated from this home. They then made thier own life, but lived within a walking distance. The closest was my father's eldest, a sister, MakLong, which was within the sight a bit off-right to the sun-set. The furthest was MakNgah, my father's second eldest, another sister, in Banggol Donas, on the western bank of the river. In the pre-Buloh Gading Bridge, crossing the river was by passenger rowing boat, which was very dangerous during monsoon season when the river was flooded with speeding water. A bit nearer were ayahChik in Ulu Takir and Ayah Endut in Padang Air, both my father's younger brothers who lived in their respective wife's place. Nearer still were MakDa in Pak Katak, and MakTehPah in Tok Jiring, both were my my father's (younger) sisters. The youngest, AyahLi, a brother, stayed in Batu6. MakTehPah and AyahLi stayed with my father until they got married. So did, the eldest son of Mak Long, Abang Mat, when both of his parents passed away. All these close relatives were in the matrix of distant relatives: my father's cousins, his second cousins, the childrens of his cousins, and closer relatives of his cousins.

My mother was a stranger at the place. She came here when she was married to my father. Her equally large and close relatives were in coastal area from Mengabang Panjang to Tanjung Gelam. Soon after my mother moved here, her relatives swarmly visited us from time to time for they felt that they did not want to lose their "princess". Like the variety of trees around my home, the variety of relatives of my father and my mother equally had the bearing in the making of my life, deep down to my DNA. She blended herself well into the texture of her new land, bringing her coastal skills into the family. My father's family was thus unique among his brothers and sisters. It resulted in my father's expanding carpentering domain deep into my mother's place of origin. As I was told, my mother was a respected woman in my father's place and my father was a respected man in my mother's place.

Contemporarily, my parents initially lived in a good life, self sufficient, and had a lot they could contribute. My father commanded the trust of his father among his brothers and sisters. He was a companion of the kampung head, Raja Ali. I remembered very oftens the head visited my father at night for a chat or for any matters, and I fall asleep during their meeting. My mother, in her young age, taught Quran reading to children around the house. I remembered joining other children as a pupil. So did my elder brother.

Before I started going to school in 1958, my mother had four children. The fourth, my sister, MekMaziah, born in 1955, was galantly celebrated for my mother had longed very much to have a daughter after the top three sons. She was adorned more than my mother herself was. We were growing in a neighbourhood no one did not take care of each other; very primitive in modern terms, no electricity, no piped water. We lived on whatever the earth, river, fauna and the rain consented us.

MakDa Nab, Mek Bunga and Mek Tam; 1977 pics.

To the sun-rise was Mek Bunga, whose husband's, Pak Omar's father was a distant relative but very close to my father. Pak Omar was a sawmill worker in Pulau Kambing, and sometimes was on loaned to as far as Merchang. Pak Omar's eldest child is a daughter, very much younger than me. For a few times, I remembered my mother and Mek Bunga had afternoon picnics at the padi field nearby, taking their childreen together, having nasi berlauk on the padi straws, in the soft and cool breeze, and small birds tweeting for either insects or padi residues. Used to be around Pak Omar's house was Mek Bunga's brother's house, Pak Sid, and their mother TokWa Lamah. When I was about ten, Pak Sid used to take me to Gong Kijang, fishing black long keli (by pelampong) at night. We went at about sun-set on foot, and returned at almost mid night. During that fishing, we were wet in the marsh all the time. I was scared and never very far from him. The catch was always very good.

Su Wok; she inherited her mother's delicacies recipe; and became chef to the neighbours when they gathered for a feast.

To the sun-set was PakNgah Wel and MakNgah Long; they were intrinsic farmers and, MakNgah Long, also a relative, sold delicasies in Batu Enam market. On certain days when sale was not as good, the delicacies were donated to us. We rarely bought them, for my mother could make as good. PakNgah was of old generation, a respected old man. He had many children. I witnessed the wedding of two of his daughters during my boyhood. His youngest child, a daughter, Su Wok, is older than me. Her elder brother, the most successful, was a teacher, graduated from a Daily College in Kuala Terengganu, after finishing his form 5 in STAR, Ipoh. He was the first boy in our neighbourhood to go to a distant school. A walking further down the sun-set direction was MakChik Laksan, very famous for her laksan, which like MakNgah Long, is sold in Batu Enama market. Once a while my mother let us buy the delicacy. A little bit further was Mek Tam who was laksa maker for Batu Enam market. From here to the east was some plots of padi fields. I spent many years in the fields, perhaps as early as I began to walk. My father farmed on one of the fields; the padi and sweet potato, I trapped pipit on the fields, and around the fields were natural materials we gathered for our daily 'home' needs. Through the field was a foot-path, a short cut, to Batu Enam, via a 'titian' very well known as "Titian Lima Amas" (the story was that, it cost 'five amas' to built: 5 amas equals 5 fifty-cents equals two dollars and fifty cents) over a very scary swamp only accompanied child can frolick around it. Across the road from Mek Tam's place was Pak Itam place, a distant relative of my father, the place I joined the kids around to further reading my quran. Pak Itam was not just a quran teacher to me; my family and I owed him many of his deeds to us when we were in deep misery and my father was home-ridden. Between Pak Itam and the grave yard was used to be a chinese home, China Tan, I remembered when I was a child, but they'd gone when I was a boy, the place eventually became an empty ground.

Pak Li;

Yusof Md Nong; Many times I prsuaded Yusof to come home with me from school to Tok Su's place (his grandmother), that caused his mother to worry a bit. He grew up and became one of those market dwellers in Batu 6, and owned a coffee shop in Wakaf Tembusu, and raised a stable family with a wife, Ali CheRus's daughter.

Towards the river, very close to my home was TokSu, an old woman, never less than a mother to my mother. Her son, PakNgah, who lived in Pak Katak, made coconut-sugar from sap of coconut trees owned by other people on sharing basis. Unfortunately, none of our coconut trees was of that state because we rather needed the fruit; coconut trees under his custody would not bear fruit because the sap is extracted from the flower bunch. PakNgah's sugar mill was right behind my house. I was very familiar with it, especially during afternoon, waiting for the sugar residue sticking at the side and bottom of the big wok (kawah); PakNgah was very delighted to 'feed' us. Some times my mother asked me to go there to take some fire for my mother to begin making fire in the kitchen. MakSu had another son, Pak Li, much older than me, but her daughter, MakTeh who lived in Pak Katak near Batu Enam had a son, Yusof, one year older than me, who later became my close school-mate in my later years.

Opposite Tok Su, towards sun-rise was Raja Omar, a very highly respected and pious old man, a not too distant relative, whose daughter initially married to my AyohChik. But Raja Omar's wife, a Mak Ku, was a very fierce and lasery lady, known to everyone in the neighbourhood. Their relationship with neighbours were very thorny, she ruined Raja Omar's reputation, perhaps for that they were cursed; their sons and daughters and grandchildren who lived in the house were living in a hell of life entirely unreflecting the reputation of Raja Omar. The neighbourness returned only to their great-grandchildren, who knew nothing about their great-grandmother, and only a few left around the neighbourhood to remember that particular thorny neighbour. It was a taboo, a far as I remembered for my family members to get close to the house which was very close to my house.

Musa (centre) and one of his sons (on his right) at my home in Sg Merab on Aug 24, 2002, while on some matters in KL, knowing that I had an occasion the week before, dropped by.

Ripin, dated 2009 Jun 5 Fri. On the wedding day of his #2daughter.

And by the river bank, the river that had nourished us, were MakDa Nab and MakDa Ud, a few hundred meters away from my home, but very close to me, because they had boys, Ripin and Musa, respectively, who are of my age. Ripin, Musa, and his younger brother Ismail, me, and my elder brother, grew up by the river; catching prawn by the water margin, learning to swim in the river, bathing, washing, and frolicking in the water. The Pengkalan Arang was one of the frolicking spots of the youngsters at that time. Boys and girls, and young adults too, as far as from Batu Enam and Pak Katak came to this place to frolick in the river in the afternoon, the fun todays kids would not be able to imagine. This was made possible because the river was clean and the water was clear, crystal clear. It was possible to dive down to the bed of the river to search for anything that had fallen, like coin, and it was possible to play a game called 'sulur bata': a handful of broken porcelain chips were thrown into the water, boys and girls scrambled and rushed to collect them, catching while they were sparklingly falling, or on the river bed. The one with the most was the winner, and was honoured with the next throw.

Ripin's father, PekTam Mezah made sago from the trunk at the 'mill' by the river. The trunks were obtained as far as Tepoh, and tranported in rafts by the river. He had a rowing boat which they needed to take the produce to Kuala Terengganu to sell. Sometimes, Ripin took me in the boat to venture more places along the river bank. MakDa Nab was very good in cooking fresh water fish. I longed to eat her gulai, to this day, of lampam and jelawat. As I was growing, PekTam Mezah and MakDa Nab nourished my growth to adulthood. They took me, together with Ripin, as far as Tepoh to collect his sago trunk; and the "pay" was rather luxary. Musa' father, Pak Ud, was a trishaw rider in Kuala Terengganu. Thus musa ride earlier than me. Sometime he 'stole' the trishaw and rode hismelf; I was the passenger, or just an onlooker. Like MakDa Nab, MakDa Ud was very close to my mother. Ripin and Musa did not have well, so during monsoon season, when the river water was very cloudy, they fetched the water from our well for the drinking and cooking. MakDa Ud's eldest daughter (with her previous husband), MekLong, was like my mother's eldest daughters too. I was told, that she used to baby-sit me when I was small, and in fact she used to baby-sit every baby around the neighbourhood. I remembered one Eid day of a year, I spent the afternoon quite long in Musa's place. I fall asleep on the verandah. When I got up it was late evening. I was very sad indeed for falling asleep because missing a full Eid day was very regretfull indeed, loosing all the fun and loosing the merryness of the day.

A pail like this, about 200 mL volume, and it was blue, was the only toy my mother bought for me in my childhood life. It was one Friday morning when she took me and my elder brother, joining a few relatives visiting another long unvisited relative in Pengadang Akar, KT. She bought the pail there, a blue one for me and a red one for my brother. When we returned home (by bus), it was just after Friday prayer. I did not waste the time to play with it; tied a thin rope and fetched some water in the (real) well. After several fetches, the knot loosened and the pail fall into the well. I wept like mad thinking that I had no choice but to depart with my newly acquired toy. I was solaced by my cousin, AbangNgah (many years older than me) and he helped picked up the pail from the deep well. I do not remember the rest of the story about the pail.
Raja Daik 2007 Oct 25 Thu. He went to Tengku Bariah (then an English school) in Pasir Panjang when I went to Padang Midin (Malay school), settled carrier-wise as a soldier, retired and returned to "tepian" and became a bilal of "our" mosque.
Along the bank after Musa's place towards the sun-rise was another frolicking spot called Pengkalan Luas, the home of the village head, Raja Ali. This was a bigger spot and many more youngsters came here to bathe. This place had more facilities for boat loading and unloading, the jetties, big trees, mostly rengas, with branches obove the water (loved by every kid), 'cliff', and steps for 'novices', and a wakaf for fresh air. In late 60's, the wakaf was the Adult Education Class for the neighbourhood. Information Ministry's Film Unit came here every now and then, to dessiminate any new information or programme, like the need to change to new IC, rubber replanting, and of course political campaign. They showed films (produced by Film Unit of the ministry, today precursor to Filem Negara), and we were not discouraged because they were decent, not undecent like the one shown in the cinemas. Raja Ali had many children from previous wife who had passed away. One of them is Raja Ibrahim, of about my brother age. Being bigger, and a son of a head, he peered in many of our frolickings, sometimes to the far of the night at the wakaf. Raja Ali's new wife, Raja Ngiam, was close to my mother for Raja Ali himself was very close to my father, especially on 'career'-wise, because Raja Ali was a carpenter himself. Being a head, he had many privilages; he had a gun for hunting, and on one occasion at least, my mother was given a slice of venison and landak (porcupine). Raja Ali's youngest from the previous wife, Raja Daik, is a year younger than me, and thus a playmate. The children from his new wife are all very young and escaped my "notice."

The front view, facing the sun-set, of the Pengkalan Arang Mosque. It was built in 1960's by the sweat of the villagers, replacing the old timber, high on stilt, mosque; the first concrete building in the area in that time. The front extension, and the fence were added in the 1980's. This building and its predecesor had partly built my life, in return for some of my sweat I shed when it was built in early 1960's.

The 'geduk' anchored at the right side of old the mosque. It is striked to indicate prayer time. When I was about ten or so, I was permitted to strike it. It was a great pleasure to get the trust of the adults to do their duties for them. And the adults did that as part of the training for the youngsters. The geduk was home-made, from a chengal timber, made cynderical by chipping bit by bit (by the villagers). The vibrator was made from cowhide; its supply was never a problem; every time after a wedding, there was always the cowhide. The big brass pail to draw the water from the nearby well to be filled into the 'kolah' for used by other to wash before prayer. It was so heavy, I could not go about it; only the adult could. There was always a small pail for small attendees.
The back of the mosque, facing the sun-rise; minus the fence, all are original 1960's. There was no electricity and the road leading to it from my home. It was a foot-path road. The trees along this road, the chengals and the coconuts, miraculously, had not been changed very much by man since my boyhood time. What had changed was all of nature. Very rarely, a lorry, with very much difficuties, passed along this road, slowly, to deliver goods of exceptionally difficult to carry by tricycles, like concrete structures. Many of us would run tailing behind the lorry; started from Kedai Hock, the tail grew bigger as more boys and girls joined. When the lorry stopped at the destination, it would not have enough room if it were to take all the children spectators. We went to the mosque at night through this road; during dark-moon nights, we used 'tin-torch', made from tin pot, one end opened, the other end perforated, a hanging wire handler, fuelled by pieces of old bicycle tyre or tubes collected from bicycle shop (the adults usually used fire torch made from dry coconut leaves). A torch light was very expensive and only rich adult could afford it. During my boyhood, I remembered we had only one torch light, carefully kept by my mother. It was a merry festival during bright-moon nights. Sometimes, during such nights, long after prayer, we went out to the open ground to play, many teenagers joined, and some adults watched us playing. During Ramadan nights, dark-moon or bright-moon, it was always 'festival'; spending the early night at the mosque joining (or rather following) the adult performing Tarawih. Every night after the prayer, Haji Omar would provide ginger-tea (ingredients: coconut sugar, ginger, and boiling water). During later years, the mosque organised a rotation of refreshment provision, for 30-50 people, among those staying around the mosque, once or twice per house per Ramadan. I remembered my house turn once during which my mother cooked gelatinous rice with coconut, and my brother and I carried it to the mosque (tea was always made in the mosque). The best night during Ramadan were the nights when there was a direct telecast of Quran Reading competition in Kuala Lumpur, through the radio (no TV in Malaya then); the only place that had a radio was at CheGu Ya's place Balik Ulu, about a km away. We would walked to the house, after tarawih, and gethered, in and under the house to listen. CheGu Ya, and his wife, Inun, were very happy we gethered in their house. Sometimes I fall asleep before it ended. In two consecutive years, my father's cousin, MakDa Wok (Wok binti Hassan) of Pak Madah was Terengganu's female rep, and she won in Kuala Lumpur too.

And the mostly indispensable, is the mosque, Pengkalan Arang Mosque, to the sun-rise after passing Raja Omar's place from Toksu's home and about two hundreds meters from my home. We all went to the mosque at night to pray or to continue frolicking. I went to the mosque from my childhood as long as I could remember, until I left the place to my destiny. Going to the mosque was fun; it was fun being at the mosque, and coming home from the mosque was fun. In the 50's and 60's, the mosque was the only mosque in the district. On Friday, people as far as Tebauk to the east, and as far as Tok Jiring to the west came to pray at this mosque. The next mosque was in Bukit Tunggal to the east, and at Padang Air to the west. Buluh Gading mosque is not far, but it was on the side of the bank. Every week, my close relatives from the western area conggregated at my home after the prayer, because my home was on their way, and seeing some one at my home, every one would stop to see who was at my home. There were no particular Imam of the mosque; whoever capable lead the prayer at any time; my father was once led the prayer during a ramadan night, for there was no other man more capable than him. Probably the most respected old man of the mosque of the time was Ayah Haji who stayed in Tebauk, many hundreds meters away. Haji Omar, Raja Ali, Pak Chan, all were equally Imam of the mosque. That goes to bilal as well. Any one who could call the azan was the bilal. That goes to my mate Ripin when he was about ten. The bilal on Friday was obviously a man, not a boy like my friend Ripin, and usually he was Ayah Umar who lived in Balik Hulu; he had a very pleasurable voice when he call for prayer. I myself never was a bilal, but striking the gedut was my favourite when prayer times come. Filling the kolah with water for ablution on Friday from the closely situated well was entirely the boys job. The old mosque was built high on stilt with big and thick timber. On Friday morning when there was ceramah, ladies sat underneath it, while the men scattered around. In the early 60's it was renovated with a lower concerete structure, completely changing the architecture. In one stage of building, earth filling was needed to raise the floor to about three feet high. It was cooperatively accompalished by the people in several weeks, working whenever anyone was free, morning, afternoon, evening, night, after pray, or before pray. It was opened. The earth was dig from the nearby field belonging to Haji Omar, rather downhill. Wheelbarrows were scarce, so the earth was transported by any mean, in pail, in sacks; on the shoulder, on the bicycle. Everyone contributed, and no one would like to find an excuse not to contribute. It was not possible to bring the earth from out side because the road was not big enough for the lorry to go through; and there were no free lorry.

Staying close to the mosque were Haji Omar's and CheWan Bakar's families. They were more or less guardian of the mosque. The former had a son, Raja Sulaiaman, many years older than me, but the latter had many children, mostly very much older than me, only the younger one are of my age and my younger brother and sister age. However, I was not very close to them because they stayed 'far' from us and they were rich people. A son from his second wife who stayed in Pak Katak, also known as CheWan, was of my age, and he was one of my playmates until I left the place; he himself ventured out as far as Singapore. I visited him once in Johor Bharu, May 26 1990, Sat night. As I remembered, Haji Omar was very old, but CheWan Bakar was rather young. He made mats from 'keruchut' (long straw-type plant grown on marshy land) which he accepted deliveries from as far as Banggol Katong and Sungai Ikan. From the former they were unloaded from boat at Pengkalan Luas, and from the latter by lorry at Pak Katak then man-transported to his house. He paid the villagers, and on one occasion, when I was a boy, I participated too. It was very heavy for me to carry it for about one kilometer. The pay was 20 sen per bundle. I was lucky on that day. CheWan's bigger son who used a trishaw needed an assistance and he offered it to me. At the end of the evening we finished quite many, and my share was a luxary pay if one ringgit and twenty sen. In early 70's, development came in full swing in our district; tarmac road were built after Buluh Gading Bridge and Manir Bridge were completed and Bukit Datu Ferry was closed. And the development was at cost with casualties. One of the casualty was CheWan Bakar; he was knocked down by a lorry at Batu Enam roundabout in one evening on Nov 5 Sun 1972 while cycling home and died in Kuala Terengganu hospital several hours later. I was at the hospital, and later on carried Raja Sulaiman on my scooter around the district telling the bad news to his relatives. Another casualty was Ma'Nong who stayed near Mek Abang's place. He was knocked down, also on bicycle, by JKR lorry in Banggol Air Lilih. The place was reknown was Banggol Ma'Nong for some times. Such an accident was a very serious matter those days, a life was very valuable; on negotiation, JKR empolyed Ma'Nong eldest son in its labour force, thus continuing the life line of the deceased family.

PakUd Pak Katak, probably the only elder, to Feb 2003, who still knew very well my family. He was quite an adult when I was a little boy. He is a relative of Pak Omar, our neighbour;

I remembered once when I was a small boy, unsure about before or after I started the schooling life, I suffered from a heavy fever, for quite some days. During that unwell, I had many times of nightmares, very painful head-ache, I needed somebody rub it all the time to calm it, and bad dreams: they were strange phenomena, unexplained by anything during normal day times, weird objects and strange movements and effects. I also suffered from night-blindness for quite some periods of times. The children ways to correct it was to splash the water from a yam leaf to my face during sun-set when the blindness started to set in; and my elder brother did that to me. I was cured after some times, obviously not by that 'treatment'; it was the fried shark lever diet in my rice that my mother gave; she had no problem in getting it, from her ubiquitous relatives in Mengabang Telung. I suffered from worm infestation, as did many other children, for many years when I was a little boy. I remembered my bulging tummy, and even was name-called by it. Only when I went to school, and after I was given many doses of treatments by the mobile health unit that came to the school, the syndrome disappeared. I remembered one evening, I was in leisure, hanging the legs on the railing of the verandah backing the river, I fall down to the ground, and my father, happened to be around, rushed to my rescue. I did not suffered much, other than a slight dizzy feeling. I remembered once I was stung on the head by a hornet while I was walking towards the house from the river, under the coconut tree a few meters from my house. It was a nasty one, I cried, and the swollen head lasted many days. I once had a quite annoying abscess on my left tibia. A sap from a medicinal bark was to be applied. I was scared, and ran away from the house. It took my elder brother and a few neighbours to chase, to catch, and to hold me for the treatment. My younger brother at the same time had one, more annoying, on his right chest; and he was suffered similar 'agony'. And both of us finally went through with our own scar left to be remembered for lifetime.

So I grew up around my home, pivoting around the mosque, beginning with the mates around my home, then around the mosque. I started reading Quran as early as I could remembered, as did other children, firstly with my mother with many other children whoever their parents wanted my mother to teach. It was in the morning. My brother and I continued at night. That was during my father's hay-day, to fill up much free time my mother had while my father went out carpentering. When I grew up bigger, and had friends, I was more interested to go to learn Quran with my friends, so my mother, who then had not much time like when she was young, let me do so in Pak Itam's home, about three hundreds meters away upstream, until I left for my hostel. I learned very fast, towards the end Pak Itam let me read myself, and gave me all by myself. Sometimes he asked me to teach other slower boys. Life of a small boy was such a fun. Every day it was more of a waiting for tomorrow; in Lat's words: a time we were not in a hurry to grow up.

Edition dated: May 2003