Monday 8 August 2005

Wartime stories with Pak

It was usually late at night and this was before we bought TV from Rashid’s little shop down the road. We’d sit at his feet, breathing in the aroma from his pipe - that Curve Cut tobacco which to this day, reminds me of Pak.

Of course we had heard it so many times before, but it was nice to hear Pak talking about his youth, about the brush with the Japanese, the kinship with the British soldiers and about the not so wonderful years eating ubi kayu during the Japanese Occupation. It got better and more interesting when joined by arwah Pak Teh Ei(Ismail), huffing and puffing his cigar, with more beautiful and jaw dropping war time stories, complete with dialogues in Japanese and sound effects.

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Pak was a young clerk at the land office then. Tall, fair and handsome and I imagine he cut quite a figure walking through the village collecting ‘hasil pintu’ from house to house.
And when he wasn’t doing that, he’d be playing his violin. Somehow this reminded me of Isa in Mochtar Lubis’ "Road with no End" - anotehr wartime novel. But I think, my Pak was better than that. He played his violin, while Isa let Hazil play his.

Anyway, back to the violin. It was the violin and the way he played it that put him in the good books of the Japanese. Very cultured people, the Japanese and I suppose, after all the hard work barking orders at people, they needed to let their hair down. And of course after all those other ‘strenuous’ work dealing with any form of oppositions or opponents, they needed some entertainment.

We were like ‘wow’ and imagined Pak on his not-Harley Davidson with the violin carelessly slung over his shoulders and Panama hat at a certain tilt on his head, certain to have broken not a few hearts, making his way to the cafe where he played. He was always in suits – white suit, complete with a handkerchief, neatly pressed and perfumed, tucked in his top pocket.

I often wonder what he played to entertain the Japanese. Never thought of asking. But I suppose if the Japanese soldiers said 'Play' – you play, whatever came to mind, if not no place for Panama to rest on. So, in a way, my parents who by then had one child, were quite fortunate to escape the wrath of the occupying troops. Mak said, because Pak was so fair and almost reddish in complexion, the soldiers would come and hug and sniff him first, to see whether he smelt British.

There were many other horror stories about the atrocities. And we would listen mouth wide open and knees shaking not quite believing that the Japanese were capable of that, until I watched some of their daring fear factor kind of programmes. But you see, those were war time situation. What excuse now for those test your endurance kind of programme?

And he’d sing us a Japanese song – a compulsory one for all to learn and sing in the presence of Japanese soldiers. I once sang that to a Japanese friend and she shuddered! We heard too about those Japanese currency - often referred to as 'duit pokok pisang' - which became quite worthless towards the end of the war. And very, very often when we didnt finish our rice, Mak used to remind us the days when they had to survive on tapioca and nothing else. That did the trick.

Pak also told of one lucky escape by a British soldier who was running away from his captors. Risking his own life and that of our family, he hid the soldier in the house, and Mak put the young soldier's uniform in the tub of water under the house. For that he should be given the Purple heart, no?

Oh, well, quite recently, I chanced upon a book by Adibah Amin - 'Tempat Jatuh Lagi Dikenang', a beautiful war time story as told by a five year old girl. It was funny, informative and well-written, Kak Adib style , of course. And that too brought me back to the days of sitting by Pak's feet in the front room, listening to his wartime stories, breathing in the aroma of Curve Cut tobacco from his pipe.


Sunfloraa said...

A life so rich full of stories and good memories :)

Nazrah Leopolis said...

My maternal grandpa, Awo who used to teach Malay to the Japs and Nippon-go to the malay officers,told us about tapioca days, cycling fr melaka to port klang to transport salt for a little pocket money. leaving behind a young wife and wee ones, hiding from the hungry eyes of the soldiers. those must have been very scary days for my grandma

miniME said...

My 'Tok'(grandpa) used to tell us only the funny stories, and spare us the scary/horrible ones. Would have share it here if only I can remember them, but being a little primary school kid at that time, I wasn't paying much attention (shame on me!). Should have listened more to Tok's stories...miss him loads.

Honeytar said...

Kak Teh: ...and in this blogosphere, we gather round Kak Teh's blog to listen to all those stories. Ain't blogging a great thing? :)

Kak Teh said...

sunflora - if only I can remember more!
nazrah: tell me more!
ajie kapai: mana gambark?
minime: try to remember, pls!!!
honeytar; gosh, now, i feel old!

Nazrah Leopolis said...

there were times when ppl had to hide under bridges when the japs make their rounds. friends were lost to drunk decapitations, girls were abducted and deflowered. however there were a lot of nice stories of friendships made with harmless officers. awo later joined the melaka voluntary force and fought the japs. he told me that he had buried some ammo and other war memorabilia under a mangosteen tree at one of the army barracks in Singapore. I was so young when he told me this, not knowing I'd reside here in my adult years. I remember drawing a map and the address where he buried the treasure chest. But I do not know where i put the notes of his stories and petua. what i still have are the kitabs that he wrote for me,an intro to tasawuf. fiqh and usuluddin, all lovingly written in intricate jawi. he made me promise to pass the ilm on to my children. and that legacy, InsyaAllah I will pass on.

AuntyN said...

I remember my arwah ayah used to sing Japanese songs for us too. He and his brother worked with the Japs too. Can't remember much detail now. But we used to play with the duit pokok pisang when we were young, main rumah2 tu. Memang pun rasanya dah tua sangat bila ingat cerita2 ni kan? :-)

Anonymous said...

taking the stroll down memory lane eh??? kak teh?? :)

nadya.s said...

kak teh,
good mmemories eh..

my late granduncle-toklong used to tell us us bout japs too,and his days during wartime.he was one of the 17 youngsters back then who was pick from my raub/lipis area, to work at siam/malaya borders to build the 'landasan keretapi maut'

he told us his experience,how people yg dah nyawa2 ikan,was burried alive with those who died earlier in a big hole. and those still healthy,dpt rasa makan ayam, keep the anergy. he also show us, kesan burn 'cop' pada kaki setiap pekerja.. to avoid them from running away.( mcm kita tanda pada haiwan ternakan..dgn besi panas..)

he returned home safely with another 1 or 2 guys,out of 17 yg pergi.

nadya.s said...

my toklong also cerita, how japs wil sembelih chinese people kt raub town, and put the head atas tong, and display to public.

he explain how the japs will seksa orang dgn minum air sabun lah,kena pijak la..macam2. he also teach us few japs word.

OOD said...

tak pernah wartime stories made me feel so rugi like this! my atoks never told me stories!

and what a dashing young man your father was too!


Kak Teh said...

nazeah, find them and keep them properly! history tu!
auntyN,yes, i remember the left overs of the duit pokok pisang too!
endeavour: ya lah...kan this is the time it all happened 60 years ago!
thinktankgirl - yes, we lived in Lorong Shariff before - email me pls and tell me yr parents' name, pls. I met some new friends last week, their tok also in Lorong Shariff - wah Lrg Shariff revisited!
nadya, thanks for adding on more stories.
OOd - yes - find the book - but quite an old book too. its autobiographical and I imagine, if it was you...u'd write like that...its funny!

Lollies said...

I've always like this era. The clothes, the way people speak, probably the way thinngs smell, walk, perspective, the women, the men. everything.

be it black and white or sephia. I love this era. Oh I love the songkok and panama hats too.

Sidah Salleh said...

kak teh,
"tempat jatuh lagi dikenang" is my favourite! i've been looking for it - kat library pun takde. isk... my copy entah sape tibai tak pulang balik. waaa...

Kak Teh said...

lollies, this last few years i have had to read novels from this era and its wonderful..well, not that what they went trhu was beautiful. but u know what i mean.
petaling street - this is why - old precious books never bagi pinjam! -

Justiffa said...

aduhhh KT ur pak's soo handsome laa :) must've cut quite a dashing figure ya masa collect duit hasil tu!!!

i dont recall any war stories other than the 'makan ubi & jepun kejam' variety to share here sorry. but what i do know is the present younger generation giler habis kat anything japanese (my kids included)... be it the culture, language, lifestyle, food. japanese manga & anime juga jadi kegilaan. wonder why?!!

Anonymous said...

My parents shared mostly on their childhood days. Rarely about their past working life. I can only recall that every time they narrate their stories, I’ll always have a pillow at hand to cover up the trickling tears, or pretending to look away. Sedih sangat2. They went through lotsa hardships in life. Make me even more determined to provide the very best for my parents.

It is always enjoyable though to listen to stories of yesteryears from yr folks kan? esp during festivities when you have all the uncles and aunties to add the sugar n spice lagik meriah. Masing2 mengungkit so n so yang menyebabkan arwah atuk marah, who has to suffer more doing chores etc.

hhmmm… rumahku, syurgaku..

Kak Teh said...

redkebaya - yes - he was a handsome chap! thanks. btw those fascination with Japanese made things - another form of colonisation?
lilheaven, until now i love listening to stories of years gone by. Once our grandparents, parents go..the stories go with them.
sunshine - that's a very touching story abt your great-grandfather. Its awful not to know what happened to our loved ones. But that's the tragic of war.

Anonymous said...

goodnes i didn't realised i was 60 years ago already... oh my...

Unknown said...

as usual you write so elegant about anything. I enjoy reading it. thank you so much sharing it with us.
I'm also a big fan of Adibah Amin.

Kak Teh said...

endeavour, yes, it was 6o years ago...when our parents were just a twinkle in their parents' eyes!
anasalwa - haha - thank you...i have never been described such before - thank you.

Nadia said...

aiyaa kak teh I read your hiroshima one before this and in the hiroshima i asked for jap occupation stories hehehehe so here it is eh?

The rice mother is a nice stories partly set during that time. Thanks for sharing kak teh.

Kak Teh said...

Nadia, and there are more interesting stories from commenters as well. Thank you all.

Lollies said...

oh recommend me books kak teh. I'd love to read them besides the adibah amin book.

Kak Teh said...

Lollies, I am sure you have read Salina by Samad Said and Jalan Tiada Ujung by Mochtar Lubis. But do read Tempat Jatuh Lagi di kenang - its sweet and nostalgic.

Anonymous said...

hi.. do u know where i can get the book tepat jatuh lagi dikenang oleh adibah amin? can't seem to find it in stores..