Sunday, 26 September 2010

Culture Overload

I may be wrong but it seems to me that other than the occasional exchanges by Facebookers (where I live now), pantuns are used only at Malay wedding receptions. By that I mean they are not heard at Chinese or Indian or Punjabi or even Mamak/Mami weddings.  I mean, isn't that not a shame because even with this One-Malaysia and Bahasa Rasmi Kebangsaan jazzmatazz and all the public exams being in Malay, pantuns are never ever recited in speeches at non-Malay weddings.

I must admit I hadn't been invited to that many but on those occasions that I had and attended, I counted myself lucky to hear a cursory  "Salam Sejahtera"  and "Selamat Malam". How come that we can pepper English quotations and proverbs into everyday speak so seamlessly like pieces-a-cake, but not be able to use a little bit of  the official language at family functions and gatherings? 

Dari mana punai melayang
Dari sawah turun ke padi
Dari mana datangnya sayang
Dari mata turun ke hati

That's my pantun for this blog entry (in case I get accused of being the pot calling the kettle black).

As per the pantun above, it's saying that when the attraction has moved from the eyes to the heart, we get a situation called "love" (sayang). And if the stars and planets in the heavens above are aligned in the right constellation, the situation might end in a marriage between the love-struck pair, God-willing. In most cases  a marriage is preceded by an engagement ceremony where the wedding date is formally agreed upon, also the gifts and expenses.

Berapa tinggi pucuk pisang
Tinggi lagi asap api
Berapa tinggi Gunung Ledang
Tinggi lagi harap kami

The engagement period can be from a few months to as long as a year, but the shortest I have witnessed is ONE HOUR! This happened recently at a charming wedding ceremony I was invited to. The bride is still studying overseas and is on her summer break whilst the groom fresh out of university. Although it was just a formality prior to the actual wedding that took place a while later, it gave the MC of the day the opportunity to show off his amazing repertoire of engagement pantuns - which was why the engagement was one-hour long, come to think of it.

In fact both the engagement and the wedding ceremonies went flawlessly at the hands of this MC. A lawyer by profession, he undertook to represent both parties, the bride as well as the groom (at his job he probably is involved in  Property Sales and Purchase), reciting pantuns on behalf of one and then the other. Honestly neither party had to say anything at all save for the groom's spokesman stating their intention "niat kami dipertandakan dengan seutas cincin ini buat Cik Gegirl" for the engagement. As the cameras flashed while the groom's mother put the ring on Gegirl's finger, Mr MC went about his pantun recitations.

Daun selasih daun semulih
Pohon pinang jambatan mandi
Mari kita bertambat kasih
Kasih ku pinang mengikat janji

The Tok Kadi (religious officer) then arrived and proceeded with the Khutbah Nikah (Wedding Sermon) at the invitation of Mr MC. It wasn't a long one since the Kadi had another wedding to officiate, and to make matters go like clockwork, the groom got his lafaz nikah (verbal statement/pledge) right the first time. When the formalities were over and with bride and groom doing and re-doing their pengantin (newly-weds) rituals for the cameras, Mr MC recited more and more pantuns.

Ikan di laut asam di darat
Dalam kuali bertemu jua
Hati terpaut janji diikat
Atas pelamin bertemu jua
Orang jauh dikenang-kenang
Hanya terkenang pada yang satu
Mula berkenal kemudian bertunang
Diatas pelamin sama bersatu
Panas kering siapakan tahu
Hujan rintik di daun pandan
Berjalan seiring bersentuh bahu
Sama cantik sama padan
Tuan puteri tersenyum-senyum
Melihat laksamana bermain rodat
Senyum-senyum jangan tak senyum
Sudah sempurna segala adat
Pergi berzanji di pekan pagoh
Beli sekati ikan senohong
Sudah berjanji bersetia tegoh
Jangan dimungkiri bercakap bohong
Dengarlah ini ayah berpesan
Anak menantu, ayah ingatkan
Berkasih sayang sesama insan
Jangan cepat menjadi bosan
Di malam hari terang senegeri
Bulan purnama dihujung julai
Majlis gahari bertambah seri
Menyambut kedatangan kedua mempelai
Amat garang datuk bentara
Musuh melanggar habis dibenam
Dulu seorang kini berdua
Hidup bersama susah senang

Yes indeed it was a well-orchestrated ceremony, simple, no hitches, no long-winded speeches, no gaffes, no stammers, stutters, no jokes, just seemingly endless pantuns. To Boboy and Gegirl, yours is the wedding I will remember for a long time, semoga bahagia hingga ke anak cucu (may you be blessed with happiness even when you have grandchildren). As in the words of Saloma's evergreen:

Semoga berpanjangan
Semoga berkekalan
Semoga satu tujuan
Semoga aman

Hidup mestilah kukuh
Sabar paling perlu
Cinta setiap hari
Senyum mesti selalu

Malaysians of other races when considering using pantuns,  just two or three should do nicely. Otherwise it can be an overkill.... a culture overload.

Angin barat gelombang utara,
Tinggi petak dari ruang;
Jangan diharap semacam saya,
Budi tiada bahasa pun kurang

oooops.... I had meant to use only one pantun

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Let The Sun Shine In

Like all good Muslim households in Malaysia, be it in the towns, kampongs or in the sprawling surburbia of the Klang Valley, come end of Ramadhan we start sprucing up our homes for the Raya or Eid celebrations.

It's mainly because during Raya we would be receiving little guests and the not-so-little yet-to-be-employed guests who have come to collect their little gift-packets of money.

But more importantly we would be welcoming guests who have come to wish us peace and ask forgiveness for past incursions. It is a beautiful thing really, as this act of forgiving is almost always mutually rendered.

So we tidy up the house or even give it a paint job because at least if the house is clean and pretty, we will be actually preventing our guests from committing another wrong: that of their hearts whispering negatives about our house maintenance.

We want to lay out our best tablecloths and china for them and serve them good wholesome Raya dishes too, we honour them so their hearts whisper positives about our hospitality.

This mutual forgiving seems to be the practice at Hari Raya in this part of the world and which can be somewhat cleansing too... spiritually, depending on one's sincerity of course.

Like yesterday, when I was having all the drapes in the living-room laundered, that "heart" of the house (according to Feng Shui) looked so cheery with the sunshine flooding in and the gentle breezes wafting through, I didn't feel like having the curtains hung up again.

And I began to think, that's just how our own hearts are. We clothe our bodies as appropriate, but if we still veil our hearts, Ramadhan "cleansing" becomes superficial, just on the outside, the practices just rituals, maybe we had just chalked up "brownie points" for going through the motions only, for the quantity but not the quality.

Actually I meant "me", not you... because I know most of the time my heart needs to be aired, needs to be de-veiled, needs to be dusted and cleansed....  so that the light may shine through

That light that brightens our hearts, that make us reachable, and teachable, accepting, and forgiving, etc.

The light that cleanses...

But how?

That is the question.

Let the sun shine in. De-veil. Or be-deviled.

To all Muslims
Eid Mubarak, Selamat Hari Raya, Mohon Maaf Zahir dan Batin