Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cameron Highlands - Now and Then

The opening line of Joget Malaysia “Dato Panglima pergi membajak, Ke Tanah Rata senja pulangnya” echoed in Papa’s head as the sight of the ubiquitous sellers plying their agricultural produce by the roadside stalls became more commonplace as we approached the principal town in the cool hilly resort of Cameron Highlands.

And immediately after we passed the main thoroughfare in the town centre, we were greeted by the unforgettable sight of an imposing pre-WWII colonial building perched on the hill overlooking the vibrant town centre. It was once a British Military Hospital, providing services largely for the British Army personnel, but now converted to a primary Convent school for the local kids. The exquisite building, at times enveloped in misty vapour, does not look out of place, even in the cobbled streets of Chester or Sandringham.

We were here in Tanah Rata last weekend to bridge silaturahim with the families of Pak Ngah’s girlfriend who are the early residents of Kampung Taman Sedia. Kampung Taman Sedia aptly got its name when a group of pioneering settlers discovered that all the essential herbal plants like serai, kunyit, lengkuas, pandan, etc. were already planted when they first arrived here during the period of The Malayan Emergency (i.e. war against communism) in the late 1940s. Were these herbs planted by the Orang Bunian?

Pak Ngah is Mama’s younger and only brother. Our entourage includes Tok Ayah and Mama’s siblings and brother-in-laws from Kelantan and uncles and aunties who are living in Kuala Lumpur. Mama’s relatives in Kuala Berang could not attend the majlis menghantar tanda, a ceremony to mark the engagement of Pak Ngah and his girlfriend whom he has known for many years. We brought with us several trays of hantaran (gifts), including the
engagement ring for the bride-to-be.

After the doa selamat, the spokesman for the bride-to-be asked our delegates our purpose in coming here, as a formality. Pak Teh, our spokesman, peppered his reply with flowery words like tanda ikatan, kumbang and bunga di Taman Sedia. After our indirect expression of interest through the usage of metaphors was understood, the tray containing the ring, as a marker of engagement, was presented. The families of the bride-to-be happily accepted it, and Pak Ngah’s girlfriend is now officially his tunang (fiancée). The representatives of the two families then discussed the preferred date for the wedding and the terms for the bride settlement and exchange, highlighting specific requirement such as hantaran serba satu. Alas, no pantun-memantun were exchanged. Papa had this little pantun in mind to wrap up the ceremony, but decided to keep it to himself:

Dato Panglima pergi membajak, Ke Tanah Rata senja pulangnya, Alhamdulillah kedua keluarga telah sepakat, Semoga ikatan silaturahim kekal selama-lamanya.

When it was time to menyarung cincin, Mama, Mak Teh, Cik Yin and Mak Su were visibly teary. This role of placing the ring on the hand of the bride-to-be is normally performed by the groom’s mother, but Tok Ma has left us to rest in eternal peace in August 2007. Wan Cu, Tok Ayah’s younger sister, did the honour. After it was over, the mother of the bride-to-be congratulated her eldest daughter “Tahniah Kak Long” and they were in tears too, but of immense joy.

A sumptuous lunch was then served. Later that afternoon, we took the 2km narrow and precipitous road to the Sungei Palas Boh Tea Estate, and were duly rewarded with breathtaking vista of rolling hills carpeted with manicured tea bushes. Visitors can enjoy fine views of the undulating valleys while sipping tea and nibbling assorted cakes and snacks at the spanking new tea centre. Before returning to Kubang Pasu, we stopped by at Wan Long's and Tok Long's cottage in Tapah.

Cameron Highlands is special in many ways. Thirteen years ago, Mama and Papa spent their perfect, albeit slightly delayed, honeymoon here. They only had each other then, as there were no blogs and adorable kids clamouring for their attention. And this time, with an enlarged group of five, no prizes for guessing who is the centre of attention. And right here in Cameron Highlands, I had my first taste of the dainty strawberries and could finish the full cup sekali hadap.


Kak Teh said...

You've got me humming the Joget Malaysia now - so early in the monring! But its not fun with the fan heater buzzing in the background.

anyway, who do people get teary during engagements and weddings? Aren't they supposed to be happy occassions? When a friend of mine got married again - I made such a fool of myself when I let out a huge sob!

and next anyway, there's no stopping you with the scrapblog, is there?

GUiKP said...

Kak Teh
Been wondering - Is AG game for a duet with you?

Crying at the moment of happiness, or as a sign of huge relief, like I did towards the end of my PhD viva, that the examiners had to call it a day, even though they had plenty more to ask me.

Even if I were to spend 2 hours daily for the next 1 month, I will still not be able to document all the places we visited and the important events in our life.

GUiKP said...

Did you ask what next? Hmmm shall I do a scrapblog with me (non-blogger then) posing-memosing with all the Mithali Bloggers. Gotcha!