Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Monsoon Tale.

Come October Dungun is all set to welcome the first monsoon headwind out of the farthest end of the South China Sea. If you know your monsoon like you know your way around Sungai Buaya, you'd have no trouble sleeping through the night while the coconut trees around the house dance violently as if in a trance; creating such a racket you'd think the world is coming to an end but you know better that it is not because you pray hard for a long life to see another day to play in the waves of the first day of monsoon.

Aunt gets up from sleep to check things around the house, making sure every piece of batik sarung still damp from the day's washing is pegged tight to the clotheslines that crisscross between one end of the veranda, to the other end, and crisscross many times over from this end to the other. I know my monsoon like I know the stories of men lost at sea. First the headwind comes on hard from the East to brush the roof off in a giant sweep. Coconut trees cracking at the base, the fronds blowing upwards like hair undone from sleep. And then the rain. It comes in a violent, angry spray, slamming itself against the windows to wake you up from sleep waiting for Aunt to come over to check on you. You try hard not to be afraid because you know better real men are not afraid of monsoon.

You hear Grandma asking Aunt if the windows are latched good. Aunt says you go back to sleep now, everything is all right. I get up to go look for Aunt, walking about in the dark towards the door that leads to the veranda all the time calling out to her that it gets to her quite a bit to say what are you doing walking about like a lost ghost in the dark? I wish she didn't say that because now that she did, I'm thinking about a lost ghost walking about the house with a torchlight searching for me so it can yank me from the house into the monsoon where I'll never find my way home ever again.

I follow Aunt to her room because no way I'm going back to mine now that I know there's a lost ghost about the house. Aunt says you go to sleep now and be quiet. I sleep in her bed, my back against the wall, leaving no space even for an infant ghost to get in between. I curl up into a ball to bury my face on Aunt's bosom feeling so safe nothing in the world can ever get to me.


Blogger Kak Teh said...

I dont know monsoon, so it sounds quite scary. May be its the way you describe it...its so real to me, sitting in my lounge watching the autumn leaves fall.
Its beautiful - your monsoon.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Kama At-Tarawis said...

This is brilliant. Bergen, thank you for revisiting our monsoon.... reading it, I could almost hear the distant growls of an angry sea..

Tumpang lalu, Berg - Kak Teh, monsoon was nothing but scary. The howling winds alone were enogh to put the fear of God into you.

4:21 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Kak Teh: It can be scary - in the 70s we would be cut off for a week from the west coast, so supplies like newspapers wouldn't get to us. The sea would be too rough for the men and we'd make do with sardine and fried egg. And salted fish, and salted egg. These are nice eaten during the monsoon with the wind, rain and the waves rolling in angry roar. It may sound funny but I do miss these moments - and wish they didn't improve things with proper drainage and such he he. I know this is a cruel thought, especially for the folks behind our house i.e sungai udang and sungai buaya.

Kama At-Tarawis: Thank you, ma'am. This means a great deal coming from you. LOL, you've got that right, the howling winds alone is enough to put the fear of God in you. How true. I remember making a promise to God never to be bad ever again if I made it through this monsoon.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Awang Goneng said...

Bergen this is good. I can hear the wind howling now, and our house swaying a bit. I was in Trengganu last 'monsoon' season, but where has it all gone to?

We had the Monsoon Cuppa at Keda Pok Loh Yunang instead.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Pok Deng said...

That makes me feel like home, picturing coconut trees swaying as if in trance (like you have said), scaring us in a family like it was going to hit us on the roof with a total wreck to the house, and hearing a big roar of ombok besor from the nearest beach of Sura Tengoh. But we tried to not to heed those things by enjoying a hot cup of kopi kawa (Malay black coffee from 'Kawa' brand) and ubi kayu cicoh nyor (boiled tapioca with grated coconut) on a piece of metal plate called 'talang besi'.

The next morning, we literally brushed our yellowish teeth (due to the kaw-ness of kopi kawa) with a tasty simple dish of nasik goreng ikang kering that kicked to life.

And the coconut trees continued to dance in trance as if they were commanded by the mighty ombok besor that roars like an angry lion at the nearest beach of Sura

1:41 AM  
Blogger Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Bergen
One midnight last week, we had a thunderstorm (complete with visual and sound effects) that could have led those living on the top most floors of high-rise apartments and flats wishing they were at ground level.
I checked the living room and saw that the carpet near the sliding door of the balcony was soaked. The strong wind swept the rain into the balcony.
So you see, you don't need to be in monsoon country to experience this.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Zabs said...

Salam Bergen,
Dengar kabar, Monsoon Cup akan diadakan juga tahun ini. Tapi kalau nak Monsoon sebenar, bawalah belayar sampai ke laut dalam sana bukan di dalam sungai je, tak gitu?

8:46 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Awang Goneng: Thank you, Abang Wan. We have not had a perfect monsoon for a long time - the last was 1972 - it was a beautiful monsoon that peaked for 2 weeks. Everything was wet and damp - much like scenes from Frank McCourt Angela's Ashes. I believe the monsoon has migrated to the west coast. So what we are left with is a confused monsoon - a mix of November/December weather, and March/April buka kuala season. In between you even have August mid-day sun. I still wait for the real monsoon though - camera ready, this time a real man-size camera he he he.

Pok Deng: Sura Tengah is a rough spot during monsoon - its coast is fully exposed to the headwind. We dared not venture that far from Belakang Sekoloh China - our limit was the opal, beyond that was considered the outer kingdom.

Fauziah Ismail: LOL, you've got it right about the storm but you do have to be in a monsoon kingdom to experience sleeping at night with the howling winds and the angry waves, and the coconut tress swirling about like a drunken dervish, ready to flatten the house on a count of three, in a synchronize drop. And to eat salted fish and salted egg for weeks on end. And to live with damp clothes hanging about the house like drenched bats. It's different. He he.

Zabs: You are right there, sir. At first I thought they would race out in the open sea - I even had the intention of starting a sea rescue company, and invest in boats, equipment, clothing and bringing my friends from Norway and Australia i.e those with real-life experience with North Sea to make the company a professional sea-rescue company with world-class equipment.

Tengok2 diorang race dalam sungai - hampeh LOL. Kalau macam tu baik race dalam bath tub.

10:27 AM  
Blogger A w a n g said...

Tengkujuh...jangang ke laut, ombok besor sangak,kalu bahagiang teluk lipat,pasir slalu naik ke darak, dekat2 rumoh D.O dungun tuh...

2:25 PM  
Blogger Monster Mom said...

It is now raining heavily and I'm accompanied by my kitten, CheeChuq. Am waiting till the rain eases a bit till i go and pick the kids up from mengaji...

Takut pulak bila baca entry u nih...hmm...

4:55 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Awang: Belakang rumoh d.o dulu was rather close to the coast line - a curve marked by a pokok rhu. Masa saya sekolah rendah pernah mandi kat situ one time and then tiba2 ada orang kena bawak di ombok, hanyut dan lemas. Lepas tu nak mandi ssitu sapa ke le ni. Phobia. Masa orang bawak victim naik ddarat, saya tengok mayat biru gelap.

Monster Mom: LOL, don't worry about it, ma'am. KL is far from the coastline.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Ida Hariati Hashim said...

i never had the chance to enjoy the howling of the wind during monsoon season as all that we have here in KL are acid rain and flash flood. So bila hujan lebat semua orang dah risau.

11:35 PM  
Blogger bergen said...

Ida Hariati Hashim: Rain in the city has its own charm too. Unfortunately people blame the rain for a lot of things when it's the way people manage the city that has got us to deal with flash flood and stuff.

Thank you for visiting, ma'am.

10:02 AM  

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