Sunday, November 30, 2008

Riau Diary

On the 23 November 2008,Nasimah accompanied me to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport in Subang for a sendoff to Pekanbaru. Husni, my second son drove the car as I knew that parking would be a problem as renovation works are under way at the airport. I arrived at the same time as the other members of BERKAT ( acronym of our family association) and it indicated a good start because I emphasised the importance of punctuality, especially when one is leaving by plane. I was glad that I held on the intention to fly with MAS subsidiary airline, viz; Firefly, because it's aircraft is new and the service is better. I always said that I would fly other budget carrier if given the choice, but not Air-Asia! The haste many passengers made on boarding that low-cost carrier puts me off, even though they give priority to children and senior citizens. At the airport there were many who arrived after me, those who are in our BERKAT group, 19 passengers altogether, and we were met by the travel agent's owner En. Helmi. He's a pleasant man and we got acquainted easily. When I told him that my name was incorrectly printed on the name tag for the luggage he was quick to ask his assistant to check the entry in the airline computer system and to his relief it was correct. A surprise of sorts was also discovered when my cousin Basri introduced an elderly looking person wearing a coat and a songkok to me as Prof. Suwardi from Riau also going to Pekanbaru. I have heard of him before from Basri as a historian who was on the panel that recommended Pakih Saleh @ Tuanku Tambusai as a National Hero for consideration of Jakarta. We were planning for a seminar on Tuanku Tambusai a few years ago and he was supposed to be the leading player. As fate had it, we shelved it till further notice and here's the man whom we were supposed to invite in presenting one of the papers on Tuanku Tambusai. Nasimah and Husni left before our flight which was at 1205 hrs and we proceeded to the departure gate about 1120 hrs. It was quite a walk and when we were at the departure gate, the immigration counter was yet to open.The waiting crowd were fortunately small and when the aircraft landed to take us to Pekanbaru, it was about 1145 hrs. We boarded and the flight took of at 1210 hrs and all the way the journey was smooth, thanks to the prayers of many in the group, including me of course, anxious that nothing untoward come our way on this historic journey. We landed at the Sultan Syarif Qasim II in Pekanbaru at 1210 hrs local time, as our time is ahead of Indonesia by one hour. Upon embarkation I suddenly realised that we are actually in a foreign country although everything seemed so familiar, especially the airport reminded me of Kota Bharu, Kelantan. We lined up for Immigration clearance and although it is a visit Indonesia year 2008, somehow their immigration personnel does not seem to have that ready smile or that welcoming warmth effusing from their body language. Nevertheless, we collected our luggage without hitch and went straight to the waiting travel agent's personnel already at the airport.After the introductions and a wait of about twenty minutes for the bus, we were on the road to the city. Before boarding I managed to strike a conversation with the consular official from our Malaysian Consulate based in Pekanbaru who was waiting for his plane to Jakarta for a meeting at the Embassy. As it was lunch time, we were taken to a Restaurant for lunch and it was our first taste of Riau dishes. Perhaps due to the fact that we were hungry as the on-flight refreshments only consist of a muffin and orange squash, it was a welcome change. What a noisy lot were we, and since we are mostly related by blood lineage, this is the first time such an experience of travelling in a large group as family members, the excitement was understandable. The food was good and we enjoyed the company of everyone present, which was a fine start. We then checked in at the hotel which is about two kilometres from the city centre and when we got down we were told by the tour guide, Ronaldi, that a shopping tour to Pasar Ramayana was scheduled at 1500 hrs. As I needed a rest, I stayed back with Uncle Dol before we keep up our appointment to meet Boy Dharma Subekti Tambusai at about 1630 hrs. When it was 1700 hrs and Boy DS Tambusai still did not show up, Uncle Dol and I went down to the lobby. Somehow I forgot to inform the reception that we were in the lobby in case Boy asked for us. Sure enough, we were at the lobby when he enquired at the reception for us, as I had messaged to him earlier our room number. When I decided to inform the reception, immediately I was informed that he had just left. As such the receptionist rushed out to ask the security guard to call him, since he was still in the hotel compound. We were of course elated to be able to meet in person, as I had been in correspondence with him all along since before the fasting month. He had been introduced to me by Dil Ishak, another waris Tuanku Tambusai, the grandson of Hj Tahir. His demeanour is the opposite of what I expected, because he wore a serban and jubah, but we got along as if we had known each other a long time already. As I did not bring down the family-tree chart of Tuanku Tambusai so I went up to the room to fetch it while Uncle Dol and Boy chatted. A few minutes later I came down and gave him a short brief on the chart and it showed up to only the fourth generation. I also handed him a compact disc of the video on Makam Tok Ungku. Then we invited him to the coffee-house for refreshments and continued our conversation. He told us that it was unfortunate that Dil could not come along because he first knew him through his website, but I explained that he's committed to his new job and he cannot obtain leave since he had just taken up the new appointment. After about almost maghrib time, he excused himself and invited us to visit his family's house in Pekanbaru. With a promise that we would inform him before coming, we bade him goodbye for the day. We went up to our room to perform the solat maghrib and waited for the group to return from Pasar Ramayana and dinner. We left the hotel for dinner outside and it was again another generous spread of Padang dishes. Since we would be leaving for Rokan Hulu at the following morning, the group decided to get some tidbits for the journey. So we stopped at the hypermart situated on the same road as the hotel. When Normah and others were furiously looking for " asam-boi" and I told them to ask the hypermart salespersons, the only asam they knew is "Asam-Jawa"! What a hilarious experience for many of us and I quipped that next time they should bring along packets of " Asam-boi" as part of their presents to the locals. By 2200 hrs many were already tired and had to prepare for the next day's journey to Rokan Hulu which would approximately take about five hours on our tour bus. So we returned to the hotel and that ended the first day of our arrival in Riau. I will continue the diary for the second day where we are leaving the hotel for Pasir Pangarayan, the district capital of Rokan Hulu, InshaALLAH. See you on the next instalment!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Passing of another Tuanku Tambusai's descendants.

Yesterday 12 November 2008, wednesday morning I received a message on my mobile phone, the passing away of a relative who suffered a stroke more than 24 months ago and since then was bedridden and could not speak a word nor could she do things on her own. She had to depend on a maid to look after her for everything and fortunately her son and daughter-in-law, both working stayed with her. So I drove to Seremban accompanied by Nasimah straight to the Makam at Bukit To' Ungku in Rasah because I was told that she would be buried at 10.30 am. Luckily I did that because the normal route which I am familiar in going to the makam was closed and I had to detour twice in order to find the entrance to the Makam. The steep incline to the top of the small hill caused me to change to low gear because the drive mode could not bear the strain. As I reached the hilltop, I knew that I was the first relative to arrive because only the grave diggers and the supervisor from the Majlis Perbandaran Seremban were the only people present. I greeted them with the normal salutation and told them that I am the waris of the deceased. Since the jenazah still had not arrived, I read the Yasin and " sedekah" it for the soul of Tuanku Tambusai, my ancestor whose last stand against the Dutch in Daludalu earned him the National Hero status conferred on him in 1995 by the Indonesian Govt. It was timely since I would be visiting Daludalu on 24 November 2008 with my BERKAT group of 19 people. After I completed reciting the Yasin, I then went to read the names on the gravestones of several very old graves. I showed Nasimah some of the names who are familiar to me since I remembered them when small. It's a family graveyard actually where most of Tuanku Tambusai's descendants were buried. I was more or less transported back to several decades in memory of those whom I came to know before. Of course I sedekah fatihah in rememberance of them when they were alive. A visit to a graveyard is actually a reminder that one day your turn will come to leave this mundane life. All that stands witness to your existence before would be the good name you leave behind.There were some gravestones which were inscribed with the word " Fakih" in front of their names or their fathers. Obviously the descendants of Tuanku Tambusai had quite a number of those learned in the Fiqh. Perhaps this poignant moment is the time for me to reflect while waiting for the burial of Mak Lang Nor to take place. It was about less than an hour after my arrival that the jenazah arrived for the burial. After the recitation of the Talqin by the Imam and the Doa was read, the people who are familiar to me greeted each other. I also met Datin Zuraidah, the mother of Sheikh Muzaphar, the first Malaysian spaceman who docked at the space station and of course she could not recall me, till I reminded her that we were in the Malay class in form one in KGV with our teacher En. Yahya,only then she said she remembered him. Uncle Dol also said she could not remember him, so the Makam was the place where not only the memory of the dead was brought to bear, even the living ones where more than four decades of attending school were revived. Such was the event accompanying the burial of a relative which brought back old memories of the living and the dead became resurrected yesterday morning. Even Thuraiyah, my second cousin's spouse had a hard time to recognise me at first till I told her who I am. He told me that Aziz Sheikh Kadir( her husband ) had to keep an appointment which he could not cancel, thus her presence accompanied by Amrah and Sheikah, her sisters-in-law.I was also surprised to see a member of my Class of '64 Mohamad Akbar Baba at the burial too. Apparently his wife's family were neighbours to Allahyarham Hj Tahir's family before. No wonder it's always said that nowadays, we only revive our family and old ties at weddings or funerals, such is the way of the world in this century! See you for the next posting.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Hajj, a never ending journey.

The Tabung Haji Complex in Kelana Jaya which is about a kilometere from my house is again abuzz with departure of Hajj pilgrims from the central states of Peninsular Malaysia, namely Selangor, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Pahang. One morning as my wife and I passed in front of the complex, there were many traffic policeman stationed at the junctions leading to the Complex. Only later I saw on the evening news that the Yang diPertuan Agong was there seeing off the first batch of pilgrims leaving in buses for KLIA. My wife is very nostalgic about Makkah and she gets quite emotional whenever she saw groups of pilgrims being driven by the busloads to the journey of their life, in answering the call of ALLAH S.W.T. to perform the last pillar of Islam. To hundreds of thousands or even millions of pilgrims from all over the world, the Hajj is a never ending journey of not only the physical bodies, but their souls as well. The Hajj could only be performed in the last month of the muslim lunar calendar which is Zulhijjah and not in any other month and due to the movement of the lunar years, the Hajj season now falls in the winter period. When I first went for my Hajj in 1986 it was at the height of the summer and the heat then was ranging in the high forties centigrade, just like what I experienced when I went for my Umrah in July 2008. In comparison, the Hajj season beginning this year is marked by the absence of affordable accommodation within the walking time of about 15-20 minutes to the Al-Haram. The majority of Tabung Haji pilgrims, even those going through approved travel agencies will be travelling quite a distance from the Al-Haram because the old familiar places have been demolished to make way for the expansion of the Al-Haram. Unlike most pilgrims before, they have to take buses to and fro the Al-Haram from their lodging places and this means they have to almost camp in and around the Al-Haram from morning till dusk if they want to have the benefit of praying at the Al-Haram during the prayer times. Even the place for the Sa'ei has been added to the third and fourth levels now, when previously only two levels, one on the same level as the Al-Haram and the other on the first floor. All these additions are to cater for the rapid increase in the number of pilgrims performing the Hajj every year. Apart from the renovations in Makkah, the place in Mina where the throwing of the devil symbolised by the the three Jamrahs have also undergone tremendous changes where another two levels are added to the previous two and the round pillar signifying the small, medium and large familiar round structure is now a flat wall. So the Hajj is actually more a journey of the heart and soul rather than the physical body and it's a never ending journey to cleanse all and when has gone through it should feel the difference, otherwise they shall crave for more worldly affairs. In finding one's direction in this world and the hereafter, the Hajj is the most important journey which must be performed by the able, in order to find salvation in the next world. So to those who are fortunate to be called as the " Guests of ALLAH S.W.T." be Blessed and may you all find the journey fulfilling.