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Friday, February 15, 2013


Things have changed. Used to be, the adat Minangkabau was of overwhelming influence in our daily lives in N. Sembilan. An outsider initiated into a  suku would remain as 'menumpang' to be reminded such at times and looked down at.

Along both sides on the banks of the now defunct river (much wider, deeper before and there were ikan kaloi and crocodiles) that supposedly flow to Sg. Muar were shops run by Chinese. They were later relocated to a new village during the communist insurgency under the Briggs Plan.  The river is 'baroh' ie. west in front of my house.

My mother, a Hakka (or Khek) peranakan was adopted at an early age did not say anything about her roots as if taboo. My father also didn't want to talk about it.

I would feel a tinge of disappointment or anger when people talked to her in Chinese. Such feelings deadened my curiousity of her heritage.

We know that she was from Btg. Melaka, some 10 miles away from the kampung. Guess, it's too late now to look for the roots of my Hakka connection for the older generation of Chinese shopkeepers in the new village nearby - Ah Kwai, Ah Leong, Ah Ba, Toh Ee etc who knew her well had long gone. Hopefully, Ah Kok who is in his mid 70's may be able to provide me some information. The old people at Btg. Melaka were also gone.

Map of China showing the region where the Hakkas come from, and architecture of their traditional settlement.
The Hakkas as immigrants worked menially in the tin mines, rubber estates, construction etc. Their hard work paid off and many became rich. Leong Sin Nam was one of the richest tin miner in Ipoh. He built the Eastern Hotel, Tanah Rata (now much renovated by a different owner and given a new name) where I used to frequent in the early 70's. His son is a famous chest physician in Ipoh whom I come to know personally and  through the biography book they published.

One of the peranakan (Baba-Nyonya) heirloom in my keeping. My mother's dodoi: Buai laju2, sampai pokok sena; Apa dalam baju, sekuntum bunga Cina. 
There are countless cases of the early Chinese giving away their daughters especially for adoption by the Malays. This was due to economic hardship and their preference of boys over girls in those days. My sister-in-law, of Chinese parentage was  adopted at preschool age and she too suffers  a similar missing dimension.  

Bilik cantek berbagei bagei,
Dalam kelambu berbau stanggi.
Malam berchakap sampai pagi,
Chuchi muka kiasai pergi.

Hal nikah tepok rebana,
Perkara baik bukannya hina.
Karangan burok tiada guna,
Buat ramai tambah warna.

(Adapted after Si Melata. 1894. Pantun penganten. Dlm Bintang Timor 1(10), 12 Julai 1894. Cited by Tan Cheng Beng. 1982. Mengenai sebuah pantun Baba dan perkahwinan dulu-kala Orang Cina. J Sejarah Melaka 7:42-53)

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