THE MESSAGE NO. 107 OCTOBER 2010
THE ANONYMOUS LADY'S SERIES - THE MUNZIR ABAS 2ND EDITION
HARBANS OBSERVATIONS IN PUNJAB IN 1960
Punjab is the rice bowl of India. Just like in Alor Star and Tanjung Karang in Malaya, all you see around you are padi / wheat fields.
In punjab the farmers are virtually self-sufficient needing very little from the Mandi (something like Pasar Malam) where they may want to sell
one of their animals or excess grains and buy other necessities. Mandi is also the name for the place where the traders barter goods, animals
and whatever they have for whatever they need.
The farmers grow various crops in their fields, some by rotation and others simultaneously. They grow padi, wheat, corn, cotton, beans,
vegetables, sugar cane to mention a few. Fodder like hay and green weeds also come from the fields. Their cattle produce milk and its by-
products such as cream, yogurt, butter, cheese etc.
The cattle usually two or three buffalos together with other animals such as oxen, camels also provide dung for heating and fuel for the kitchen
stove. Excess dung goes back to the field as fertiliser. Dried dung is also used to cremate the dead. Wood is a rarity and very expensive. The
wheat grows to a height of nearly six feet. You have a lot of place to hide and do mischief.
The oxen and camels also provide the horse power for the carts, persian wheels and sometimes, transport. The other means of transport is the
farmers' two good legs, very rarely a bicycle or a horse cart - the two-wheeled type. Only few villages are connected by rickety van-sized buses
that rattled and rolled through the potholes that filled the mud roads.
The farmers rarely use detergents. The clothes are whacked until they are clean and the utensils and crockery is dry-cleaned with ashes from the
AT MY GRANDFATHER'S VILLAGE
My grandfather had only one regret. He commented that while he served in the cavalry in world war 1 and survived; his nephew served in world
war 2 and was still alive, his arrogant son (my father) refused to join the armed forces but still got killed in world war 2 in Singapore !
So the first thing he wanted me to do was join the armed forces ! He said the children of veterans were guaranteed recruitment as officers. When
I told him that I had one leg shorter than the other he was very disappointed. Of course I did not tell him that I fell down a coconut tree and
broke my leg.
My grandfather (named Roor Singh) is a well-respected man in the village for his principles. When my grandmother died leaving no relatives to
claim her paternal property, my grandfather refused to lay claim to it. I have my own, he said.
Cousin Harbans and I did not have very much in common. We did go to the fields once or twice where I tried my hand at farming. I found their
changkuls too heavy to lift. Their changkuls are half moon shaped and each scoop of soil could be anywhere about 15 to 20 kilos. It is used to
patch or cut bunds during watering of the fields. When the weather became a little milder we would sleep in the open and watch the sky,
which was so clear that occasionally we would point to each other what we thought were satellites passing overhead.
One day cousin Gurdev from Kaunke called and I was off with him to visit my mother's sister who lived closer to Ferozepur Cant. We took a train
from Jagraon and travelled for about an hour before we reached the nearest station to Korewal. It took us another hour to walk to my aunt's
village from the railway station. This aunt (named Bhagwan Kaur) was my mother's sister. It was at her son-in-law's place that I had stayed in
We spent two days there and then returned to Jagraon. We visited Korewal many times after that.
In Jagraon I was introduced to Gurdev's uncle who then introduced me to two more of his friends. One day this group and cousin Gurdev took
me to see a movie. Before the movie I was taken to a tea stall outside where tea and "special" pakode were ordered. Hearing the word special
I refrained from eating them. Boy wasn't I lucky? In the theatre all of us sat in the same row and when a sad scene was shown my comrades
were so touched they started to cry. Sometime later the movie proceeded to a comical scene but my friends were STILL crying. It was then I
realised that the pakode contained ganja. One lucky escape.
On another occasion they took me to the fields where sugarcane was being pressed to produce juice for making sugar. The bulls were driving
the crushers in the same manner as the camels drove the persian water wheels. The juice flowed into a flat pot that was sitting on the fire boiling
away the juice and turning it into molasses (the thick sticky stuff). I was invited to taste the molasses and sit before the fire to warm myself.
Sensing a trick I refused the invitation. On the way home I was told that if I had tasted the molasses and sat before the fire I would be purging by
now. Escape number two. Phew. These Punjabis !
The next thing I learned about these guys was that Gurdev's uncle was a con man. I followed him to a town some miles away and found what
he was up to. He had put up posters in that town advertising the opening of a school for 'patwari's or officers who deal with land, water and
crop planting affairs at the villages. He had set up a desk and stationed one of his cronies to "register" the intending students and collect the
fees. He had even bribed the policeman to look the other way.
The best part was the games they have during this time of the year. Since they are held in Jagraon I went to watch. First was Kaudi-badi (sadu-
gudu locally). They play in a pitch as large as a tennis court not a badminton court as in Malaya. Secondly the players participating must be
below a certain weight. So before a game a weigh-in is conducted and the overweights DID NOT walk away. Instead some of them ran
around the field to lose some of their weight on the spot ! They sweated the weight out. The participants had beautifully shaped bodies like
bodybuilders but not too muscular. Their bodybuilding equipment consists of only a wooden log three feet long and about two feet thick. The
rest is all squatting, pumping etc.
The last game is called 'oily man'. One participant has his body completely soaked in oil. He is supposed to hit his opponent (the non-oiled
fellow) and escape. Try catching an oily man and you will know. The opponent has to detain the oily man within the next few paces or he loses.
Many lost until one oily man got caught by his G-string (a bikini like cloth secured around the buttock and private parts) and it came off and
the snake popped out. Fortunately for him, one quick thinking onlooker quickly took a shawl and wrapped it around him.
10 OBSERVATIONS FROM MY TRIP TO CHINA
1. We have to walk a lot when boarding and leaving the LCCT in Sepang, Malaysia
2. Summer is very much hotter in China than the hottest weather in Malaysia.
3. In China most people speak the common tongue called pudong hua in China; especially younger generations speak no dialects.
4. There are pockets of people around the Guangxi area who speak pure local dialects for example in Rongxian all the people speak the
Rongxian dialect; and in Beiliu, all the people speak the Beiliu dialect.
5. Foods are served in abundance in China.
6. Breakfast menu in most hotels are all Chinese delicacies. No western food served like bread and butter, juices or wafer. Neither coffee nor
7. Tourists are mainly Chinese. Even then tourism is a flourishing industry. I saw few westerners or Caucasians while visiting.
8. Children are quite spoilt. Everywhere they run about, talk and play. Adults with them do not seem to care.
9. Some rural townships are still unmanaged; people there throw rubbish everywhere.
10. Cars are increasing. There are many electric motorcycles moving noiselessly around.
In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was this Doctor that visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu.
Many of the farmers and their family had contracted it and many died.
The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that
was different the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back
The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when
he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore, keeping the family healthy.
Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser in AZ. She said that several years ago many of her employees were coming down with the flu and so
were many of her customers. The next year she placed several bowls with onions around in her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It
must work. (And no, she is not in the onion business.)
The moral of the story is, buy some onions and place them in bowls around your home. If you work at a desk, place one or two in your office
or under your desk or even on top somewhere. Try it and see what happens. We did it last year and we never got the flu.
For flu cure:
cut both ends off an onion put one end on a fork and then place the forked end into an empty jar...... placing the jar next to the sick patient at
night. It said the onion would be black in the morning from the germs...... sure enough it happened just like that..... the onion was a mess and I
began to feel better.
Onions and garlic placed around the room saved many from the black plague years ago. They have powerful antibacterial, antiseptic
One more thing, never store cut onions and consume the next day.
WHAT HAPPENED THIS MONTH
50 YEARS AGO OCTOBER 1960
There was frenzy in the school to scout for blood donors. However, there were no lack of volunteers. So the Bentong hospital had now a ready
reserve of blood donors from MES.
Names mentioned this month in the Ted Miles's Volume II Past Notes included: Ampusadchy, Tiamah, Amran, Wai King, Rosely, Foi Lan, Zubir,
Tengku Ibrahim, Chin Yong, Say Kuang, Shafie, Kim Loy, Bala (he must be Bala the clerk), Muthu, Mohd. Noor, Khalid, Sunny, Murad, Dzulkifly,
Don Turman, Asha’ary, Koon Peng, Brian and Kim Len.
The hostel people celebrated St. Crispin's Day. What does this Saint represent anyway?
It was mentioned that Mr. Miles the American was going to take a test in the Malay language to become a Malaysian citizen! Kim Len wished
him the best in his coming test.
To end this little bit of history let us read how the mentor nagged someone into stopping his knuckles popping habit:
"If you pop your knuckles, you’ll have big knuckles; if you have big knuckles, you won't be able to type; if you can't type, you won't get a
certificate; if you don't have a certificate; you can't get a job; if you can't get a job, you will starve to death. Therefore, don't pop you
I wonder if that little piece of advice had put the whole class into a hilarious roar! Knuckle popper concern, are you starving outside there now?
I know you are still kicking around !
FROM SIR WITH LOVE
I've noticed that westerners, writing about a visit to the Orient, often mention smells that will always remind them of a certain street or city.
In the old Missouri house where I was born, there was a big closet between the kitchen and the front hall, used mainly for keeping brooms and
mops and furniture-polishing paraphernalia. I remember the smell of that closet well because that's where my mother used to put me when I
was throwing one of the tantrums I was famous for when I was five years old. I can't remember how I spent the time during my incarceration,
but I certainly remember the musty O-Cedar smell of that closet.
Opposite the closet was the door to the basement, or cellar, something most American houses have, but that you’ll never find in Malaysian
homes. The coal-burning furnace that heated the house in winter was down there, sometimes filling the house with an acrid smoke smell if the
coals weren't stirred properly. There was one section of the cellar where potatoes and apples were piled on the floor and where sauer kraut
and dill pickles were kept in large earthenware jars. I remember the damp spicy smell of that cellar, of apple cider and sorghum molasses.
Outside the back door, a little way from the house was the smokehouse, where salted and cured meat was hung on hooks. I pause to
remember the aroma that greeted anyone who opened the door. No wonder we had such voracious appetites.
One of my daily chores - even when I was quite small - was to milk a tame old jersey cow every morning and every night. Squirting the milk into
the pail made foam that emitted a delicious milky smell - akin, I declare, to the aroma of teh tarik.
The barn itself had a pungent scent all its own, too, cow dung dominating. Now - from the distance of time and place - even the smell of cow
dung is pleasant to think about.
When western visitors leave this country, there is one smell they will never forger. For some, memories of durian will bring forth ecstatic
exclamations of an unforgettable taste / smell experience. For others - well, the less said, the better.