There’s a lot of kutu talk in the family these days. The latest I heard was an unscheduled meeting by my siblings and spouses that was held under a tree at Dena’s; the main agenda was a trip to India. There had been several trips before – but mostly in the mind. But a meeting under a tree must be serious and the main question being discussed was how to fund such a trip. Thus kutu.
I remember kutu when the word was a mere kut in our family and the main kut master was Mak. From the 20 sens pocket money that we were allowed daily, we had to save and fork out 20 sens a week to give to Mak. That was considered a lot of money those days and it was quite painful to hand over the coins come Friday.
I suppose that was Mak’s way of making us save. The tabung ayam that she bought for each of us never got us anywhere. Suffice to say the effort was hangat-hangat tahi ayam. The tabung ayam ended up being raided in moments of desperation and when temptation got the better of us.
So, Mak came up with a plan; one that worked quite well with her friends; Mak Limah, Kak Nab, Mak Siah and the rest around Jalan Tunku Mahmud. But theirs was more on a monthly basis. She kept some housekeeping money, which meant we had less meat or no chicken on some days. They’d have a kind of afternoon tea for the first meeting to decide who gets the first payment. Then, subsequent payments were collected by the kutu master on her rounds, either on the way to the market or after their subuh prayers at the mosque.
I don’t think the final amount added up to a lot and Mak never spent the money on herself. It would either be new curtains for Hari Raya or a trip to visit Kak in Johore. Or sometime to get back her precious jewelleries that she had pawned at the pawnshop next to Ah Leng’s, when money was tight.
Anyway, with us, it was 20 sens. I remember gathering around the kitchen table one night. I was very excited. There were several match sticks of various lengths. Mak held them tight in her hand and each of us pulled out one. The one with the shortest received the first payment. How exciting!! But the excitement was shortlived as one soon realised that being the first to receive meant you have to keep on paying until everyone got their share. And believe it or not, Mak was always the last to receive hers and by the time her children had received theirs, no one wanted to play anymore! Sorry, Mak.
The last time I played kutu, the amount had increased to £100 a month. Wow, that was a big increase from 20 sens. And with ten Cik Kiahs contributing £100 a month, it was a handsome amount in the packet that went a long way; some as far as Harrods or Selfridges. But unlike playing with Mak, I had to discipline myself and prise out the monthly payment of £100 until it was over.
Over the next few months, there will be a few kenduris as two nephews will be tying the knot. Methinks its kutu time again. Anyone for a game of kutu?