He walks the cat walk
and talks to strangers and fisherfolk. Kucing bapök
he is called, or Father Cat, which, as cats go, are derisory words, as they give him a bad name among kampong
folk. He's got eyes only for the ladies, they say, and he is known to be vociferous in the freshness of the morn when half the kampong
are still in bed nursing the thought of another day away from work. His language is crass and his coat’s badly in need of a brush, and is full of dirt and debris caught while rolling in the dust with another cat. It was over a female cat, or a disputed patch, he isn’t sure now as his cat-diary and memory were strewn about and got lost in the fight.
Cat-speak raised in anger is kkarak
, but cat-fight is never ggöcöh
He has feathers in his hair from his travels in the dark beneath a house, and cobwebs still dangle from unwieldy whiskers from his visit to the gök
for the morning eggs — raw, if you please — for a cat’s breakfast amid the hullabaloo all about him that sent the mother hens into a cacophony of kketök
His parts are thought to be therapeutic and good for the hypertensive (and those with surplus sugar in the blood), but you’ll have to dunk his whiskers, but not his beard, in a bowl of hot water for that.Kucing korèng
he is sometimes called, because his face is due for a wash. Sometimes, when the moon is right, he sits and wails at nothing in particular, and hisses at the passing traffic of little boys walking home from their Qur’an class at night, and then scratches anyone who pokes a stick into his belly of fat.
His coat is grey with mackerel lines, and he likes fish heads for supper, still dripping in blood from the throwaway bin of kerepok
makers. He speaks when his mouth is full, mostly expressions of abuse at other cats in the sideline who are trying to get into the act, but kucing bapök
keeps saying to them, "Grrrrrrr, grrrrr", and "*@&!!+*!" and many things besides. Cats with such dark pastel marks on their fur are sometimes called kucing cicök,
and they resemble tigers with their puffed-up cheeks and eyes that are reputed to see in the dark, and when he sleeps he doesn’t roar but he purrs.
He goes to market to snatch some meat, and then jumps onto rooftops and steals through an opening beneath the thatch into the kitchen of the village midwife. He reaches for a piece of fish-meat that has been soaking in the night in a chipped belanga
of the house. And then, turning to his side and smelling of fish basted in lengkuas
, he lifts his hind leg to paint a little spray on the wall, his visiting card
A long time ago a cat tried to pull a prank on a Tiger that happened to drop in for a chat. Angered tiger pulled his tail and tied it into a knot. And that, boys and girls, is how Malaysian cats have a stump for a tail and are always burying their poo in your back garden, in case Big Tiger gets a whiff their whereabouts.
Cat language is easy to learn (why, even kittens master it within a week) but human understanding of it is sparse. But all cats know that humans chirp ch-ch-ch
when summoning them to eat. And whilst it’s bok!
for goats and siok!
for fowls and geese and ducks in Trengganuspeak, when a cat is not wanted, the aroint thee word for cats is cis!
. Which takes us back to the Bard’s ‘aroint’ word that is supposedly borrowed from the vocabulary of milkmaids in Cheshire who used to say "Rynt thee" to restless cows to exorcise the witches in them and keep them pacified.
Cats are never witches but are said to be the witch’s familiar in the Western world. Our fat cat kucing bapök
travels the night and braves dew drops and monsoon winds, but at bedtime he looks for the cosiest place, which in Trengganu is the para,
and that is the rack in our dapor
. But as the night pulls down its blanket of dark and a chilly wind brings in the ghosts, cat moves from para
to where the bara
was, curling and snuggling up in the abu
that will soon be his bed. This is the origin, I believe, of startled housewives in the morning who believe that they’ve just seen a ghost — the hantu kucing
shaped as a cat, whilst in truth it is just our kucing bapök
covered in ash.kampong
the high-pitched mewling of argumentative catsggöcöh
a fist fight (human)ggömö
grappling in the earth, (cats & humans)gök
a hen-house, usu. beneath the kampong house.kketök
the sound made by hens in distress or after laying an eggkerepok
fish, pounded and mixed with sago and salt, the mainstay of our Trengganu diet.belanga
a clay potlengkuas
also known as galangal
, a ginger-like rhizome used in Malay cookingpara
a rack, usu. for holding the pots in the kitchendapor
the ktichen area, or the stovebara
lit. ‘cat ghost’
Labels: hantu kucing, Kucing bapök, kucing cicök, Kucing korèng