Sunday, March 29, 2009

Story from my Mother XII; Sawan Mayat

Story from my Mother; Sawan Mayat

Kaum kerabat, is a Malay word describing families, people who has blood ties with us, uncles, aunties etc. In this story here, my mother is telling me of relations that goes back 2-3 generations.

One thing that make me a bit perplexed and confused when I were in the village, was the absurdity of calling almost everyone uncles and aunties as well as grandfather and grandmother. The Javanese descent people in my village are a bit feudalistic. They have stratas in society, a sense that the society is a bit paternal and feudalistic. True that Malay society is very much feudal, even today we refer each other by their position and tilte in society, the so called Datuk, Datin, Tun, and Tan Sri and whatever. The Malay word for grandfather is also datuk too. It is considered ‘kurang ajar’ or no manners to call your uncle by his first name, much worse if that someone is your grandfather by lineage.

So one day, when I was in the village, a lady visited my mother, she is the sister of Pak Imam, Ruminah her name. So I asked my mother how we are related. And my mother told me that their grandfathers were brothers. So who else are we related in this village? Practically almost everyone, my mother said. Also some people in the next villages, she added.

The story as related by my mother, was that early last century, (ie 1920’s or thereabout) quiet a lot in the family migrated from Pekalongan in Java to Tanjong Karang, Selangor. It seems that uncles, aunties, cousins from Java all get together and planned the migration and bought land titles in Tanjong Karang close to each other.
I wrote about this in The Girl from the Coast,, blog entry, the only story I got from my late grandmother Mariam, she told me when I was about 10-12 years old.

My mother told me that when an old man or old woman died in the old days, when the casket or keranda was carried to the graveyard, all the children and grandchildren were asked to walk under the casket. That’s the custom in those days, and no, it’s not practised these days. Heck they don’t even carry the casket on their shoulder; I mean 6 or more people take turn carry the casket, these days. They just hire the funeral van from the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor. My mother said that by practicing that custom of walking under the casket, none of the children or grandchildren ever suffered from sawan mayat. She explained further that sawan mayat is a kind of sickness whereby the sufferer become lazy, and sleep all day and all night, ie like a dead person. She said that the remedy is simple, just get some fresh graveyard soil, mix it with water and bathe the sufferer with that ‘tanah kubur’ soil.

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