There is really nothing special about me, or my stories. But I think they are just as good to tell. Perhaps if any of the story could inspire someone, then, I have done something good in my life. Or, perhaps, some of the stories created a guide to someone in order not to follow that certain path in life, then, I hope, I have earned a brownie point with that someone, somewhere.
The childhood was good, actually they were great. But, as what I said to George, maybe my brain just tend to shove some of the bad memories to the deepest recess and hopes they stay there for a while. In my mind, the world looked bigger and brighter. You know, bright, sun kissed pictures that you see when you watch CSI Miami. The sun always look blue and the air is so clear that you can almost smell the sunshine rays.
The dame of the family – my grandmother – was always dressed beautifully in her short kebaya and kain batik. Heavy gold necklace, bracelets and dangling earrings were her “kain basahan” (every day wear). She was a modern lady during her time, stylish, independent and well traveled.
My grandfather…well, can I say about this guy? Ex policeman, farmer, hunter, a savvy entrepreneur, a husband to four wives…
The family lived in a small kampung. Raub was not exactly as how it is today where there are easy access to town and the surrounding areas. There were many sawmills, reflecting one of the main livelihoods of that time. Paddy fields and rubber plantation were aplenty. The gold mine was churning so much gold. That is the reason why the place is called Raub (a handful) – se “raub” emas (a handful of gold).
The kampung house was big, befitting the status of orang kaya kampung (the rich man in the village). There were three parts to the house. The rumah ibu (the main house) which was a raised portion of the house using strong concrete stilts. It housed the main bedrooms, two family halls and a beautiful staircase that extended towards the front of the house. The walls were painted in shades of green. This staircase was only used to usher important visitors such as the kampung elders.
The second part of the house was joined by another structure with heavy cengal steps. Spacious with big, open windows, this portion housed another bedroom for guests. The formal dining table with at least 12 seaters was flushed to the back. I remember the big gramophone, the sofa and this huge, flat floral carpets were in this very room.
Finally, the third part of the house which was the real heart of the house – the spacious kitchen. Modern, of sort for its time, it had two types of stove. My grandparents prefered using the old ways of using the fire wood and so this stove was located towards the back end of the kitchen. The “modern stove” consisted of a two-burner Butterfly kerosene stove. The family dining table was this long wooden 12-seater. Several wooden chairs and a long bench make up the composition. On top of the table, there was always a chopstick holder packed with red chopsticks. For some reasons, the family was quite partial to other customs, which was also different for those times. One of the walls was lined with shelves filled with rows upon rows of herbs, spices, dried meats, dinnerware and grandfather’s exotic books. Exotic because I could not understand most of them. They were written in some jawi writings with odd drawings.
Behind the kitchen was another kitchen. Smaller in size, it had para (drying shelves) above the fire wood stove. The shelf was used to smoke all the meat that grandfather brought back from one of his huntings. It was also used to boil all the great herbal concoction that grandmother prepared for her “patients”. She was the village traditional masseuse. A very sought after one at that too.