On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Miracle has happened....

...some months ago I was agonising about the lost Comments from my older blogs. This happened when I changed to's new upgraded version. I tried all I could to bring them back as I value them very much, but nothing happened. Some of you suggested ways to bring them back, but none worked.

There was nothing more I could do. They were like old friends who were gone. Some commenters, like Long Ladang (whose comments I valued very much), are no longer with us. That we know for a fact. Others were avid commenters for a while, and then they disappeared. I was resigned to the fact that all those good friends were lost forever.

Then suddenly, last week, two regular commenters (GUiKP and Rindunya hati ini) pointed out that the old comments were back. I checked, and was delighted.

Welcome back old friends, you are part and parcel of the work.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Prison in Tanjong

Sultan Zainal Abidin III (1881-1918)was given the posthumous title of Marhum Haji. He was, by all accounts, a devout man whose policy of non-commitment whilst maintaining friendly relations kept both the British and the Siamese at arm's length. Sir Frank Swettenham found him to be "an extraordinarily reserved man, very silent".

Swettenham also noted that for a Sultan, he had little wealth, and he went on to tell a story that he had heard in Trengganu, that on the Sultan's second visit to Bangkok (Zainal Abidin visited Bangkok twice) where he was lavished with presents by the King of Siam –
"he had been told that the Siamese government would lend him $2,000,000 and that he could have $500,000 as advance. This was a large sum to a poor man and it is a credit to him that he declined it."
Things were different then.

In a way the Sultan's other-worldliness also disadvantaged his subjects. He left the affairs of state to trusted men, and although himself a just man, he was unaware of many things that were carried out in his name. The administration of justice was entrusted to one Tengku Musa, and in this he was assisted by Tuan Hitam, a Sayyid who also acted as the Sultan's treasurer, and Encik Abdul Rahim, the Sultan's trusted adviser.

Clifford reported that justice was rough, people were imprisoned on scant evidence, and fines were imposed to punish as well as to collect revenue for the court. On April 22nd, 1895, Clifford went to Kedai Tanjong, not to buy fruits or fish, but to visit Kuala Trengganu's penjara (prison). He was appalled by its condition.
"It consists of an enclosure, built in the very centre of the Kedai Tanjong - one of the most crowded positions of the town - surrounding the cages in which the prisoners were confined. The prison is built of heavy slabs of wood, some 3 inches thick, a feet broad and 10 feet high, which are fitted together so as to form a solid wall. Inside this fence, and at a distance of 30 inches from it, are two rows of cages placed back to back, which are made of heavy bars of wood with intervals of a couple of inches or so in every eight for the admission of light and air. These cages are raised about 6 inches from the ground, and measure some 6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 5 feet in height."
He reported that there were 20 cages in all and during his visit, the penjara was 'fairly full'.

Prisoners were not permitted to leave their cages and sanitary arrangements were non existent. "[T]he space between the floor and the ground, and the interval which separates the cells from the surrounding fence, is therefore a seething mess of excrement and maggots," Clifford wrote.

The closeness of the cells, poor ventilation, and the solid wooden walls all added up to something appalling. "To add to this misery," he added, "no bathing appliance of any kind are supplied to the prisoners, and the filthy persons of the inmates of these cells beggar all description."

M. C. ff. Sheppard, "A Short History of Trengganu", JMBRAS Vol. XXii Part 3, June 1949.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

The Game of Gömök

My story of the buöh gömök has resurrected many ghosts and brought many memories to many people. I reproduce here (with translation) an email I received from my friend Mat Mbong of Kuala Trengganu.
"Mase kecik-kecik dulu adelah jugak mmain buöh gömök tu.

"Buoh ning ade jugok orang panggil buoh gandu atau buoh ipei. Name lain, tapi buoh tu lle je. Kalu nok mmain buoh ning ade macang-macang care.

"1. Lukis satu bulatang atah tanoh lebih kurang besor beseng, pah tu wat satu garisan lebih kurang 20 kai dari bulatang tu kemudian bbadi lepor (jangan plekong) biar die sserek (slide) masuk ddalang bulatang tu. Kalu dok masuk kire 'out'. Orang hok buoh die ade ddalang bulatang buleh ambik buoh dia (ikut giliranglah) dang gi lluar bulatang pah tu uting buoh sape die nok pakoh. Kalu duoh hok die pakoh tu klecat keluar orang tu 'out'lah dengan syarat buoh tukang pakoh tu dok keluar dari bulatang. Pah tu orang kedue pulok ambik giliran. Sut sut tinggal se je buah ipei ddalang bulatang. Hoh, orang tulah dikire benang.

"2. Budok-budok hok tinggal ttepi sungai, dia pilih buah gomok hok leper-leper kemudian die bbadi lacor ke atah permukaan air. Dok leh golek, kene lacor wi jadi dia nnopk cakting-cakting atah air. Kite bilanglah berape kali dia nnocat. sape banyok dia benang. Pah tu jerba ke dalang air brenang gi ambik buah gomok masing. Kalu byuoh gomok tu hanyuk jauh dok dang ambik, nasib tuang dielah. Kalu tuang die hanyut, nasib buöh gömök lah die takdok ttuang doh.

"3. Kadang-kadang budok-budok ning, nye cari buah gomok besar dan leper (flat) bukang kepek (dented) kemudian nye tebok lubang ttengah lebih kurang besar pitih lima seng, korek buang isi habis, masak timoh sampai cair (timoh boleh cokeh diwayar burok (zamang dulu die orang dok pakai casing, die pakai jalur timoh lebih kurang lebor ssuku inci dang dipaku kiri kanang wayar supaye wayar tu kemas. Hoh, timoh tu lah, ambik banyok-banyok, bile massok doh cair teruh tuang ke dalam buaoh gomok tu. Nok molek tanang buog gomok tu ddalang tanoh biar timoh derah sejok. Doh siap molek boleh mmain gambor. Sorang-sorang wat tubek 2 atau 3 keping gambor kemudia tanang gambor berdiri atah tanoh. Wat satu garisang lebih kurang 30 kaki dari gambor kemudian sserek(slide) buöh gömök tu ikut giliran. Kalu buöh gömök sape hok kene gambor tu danggambor-gambor tu kelecat hanyarkkubang, make semue gambor tu boleh ke dielah. Kalu dok kene, orang yang kedue pulok cube. Kalu nok wi panjang sikit mainang tu, cacang gambor macang pagor, hoh nok wi tebalik semue tu ppeluh lah.

"4. Care yang lebih popular lagi, tanang gambor macang tadi tapi wat urat atah tanoh lebih dekat, lebih kurang 15 kaki. Letok buöh gömök di belakang urat, berdiricre mengiring (misalnyya pandang ke kanang dang gambor berade sebelah kiri kite), kaki kirilangkoh satu langkoh kedepang (mase tu tubuh jadi ppewenglah), letak buöh gömök tepi kaki kanang dekak ibu kaki kemudian twis kaki kanang anti-clock wise supaye buöh gömök tu sserek ke aroh gambor. Mung tengoklah, kalu boleh buah same sedah, macang orang mmain golf hole in one lah. Boleh angkat tabek!"
I used to play with this buöh gömök when I was small.

This seed is also called buöh gandu or buöh ipé. Different names, but the same seed exactly. There are many ways of playing games with it.

1. Draw a cricle on the ground, approximately the size of a basin, then draw a straight line about 20 feet from the cricle. Then you compete with each other by tossing (not hurling) the seed in such a way that it will slide into the circle. If it fails to enter the circle, then you're out. The player whose buöh gömök is in the circle can now take it out of the circle (according to turn of course) and then take aim to hit whichever one he pleases. If the buöh gömök that he hits is pushed out of the circle, then the player whose seed is out leaves the game, the condition being that the seed that pushes it out comes to rest within the circle. And then the second player takes his turn and so on until only one buöh gömök remains in the circle. And that is the winner, of course.

2. Children who live on the riverbank select the buöh gömök that are flatter in shape. Then they compete by skimming the seeds on the surface of the water. You do not roll it on the water, but throw it in such a way that it will skim on the surface of the water. You count how many times the seed skims and jumps on the surface, the greatest number wins. And then we dove into the water to retrieve our buöh gömök. If the seed drifts far away and is irretrievable, tough luck. If the owner of the buöh gömök drifts away, then tough luck for the seed, now an orphaned buöh gömök.

3. Sometimes the children look for a buöh gömök that is big with a flat but not dented surface. A hole is made in the centre of the seed, approximately the size of a five cent colin, and through this hole the kernel of the seed is dug out. Molten lead is poured in through this hole (the lead can be taken from old wiring (in those days we did not use casings for electrical wiring, but wires were held in place by strips of lead of approximately a quarter of an inch wide). Yes, that's the one, taks as much as you need, heat them, and then, when they have melted, pour into the buöh gömök. To obtain the best result, bury the buöh gömök in the sand so that the lead will cool down quicker. When it is ready, you can play "Photo Cards". Each player produces 2 or 3 photo cards that they stick in the stand. Draw a line about 30 feet from those upright photo cards and then take turns to slide the buöh gömök in the sand to hit the cards. The player who hits the cards, throwing them helter-skelter all over the place takes them all. If a player misses, then the next player takes his turn. To lengthen the game, stand the cards upright like a fence. It will take some effort to topple them all in a throw.

4. A more popular way of playing this game: stick the cards into the sand as above but draw a line closer to the arrangement, about 15 feet away. Place the buöh gömök behind the line, then the player stands there, facing another side. For instance, the player stands looking to the right while the cards stand to his left hand side. Take a step forward with the left foot (your body will now be twisted), place the buöh gömök by your right foot, near your big toe, and then, twist your right foot anti-clockwise to send the buöh gömök sliding towards the cards. See if you can topple the cards in one shot, the way golfers do their hole in one. If so, Salute!

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