This is a posting specially for today May 6 - a day Zaharah Othman of Kak Teh's Choc-a-Blog and Ailin Abdullah chose to have what they have called #blogreviveday. They were part of a group of women who were actively blogging more than 10 years ago but had in the last few years stopped blogging due to the more exciting lure of Facebook et al. I was not part of this "Mak Cik bloggers" but Zaharah - a dear old friend and classmate in college - has included me in it.
Horas horas horas. It's usually said more than once. I'm beginning to like the sound of it.
This is a language of my ancestors on my mother's side. It is a greeting like hello.
It is the language of the Mendailing people.
My mother is Mendailing of the Lubis clan.
And so it has been for me this past couple of weeks, being in a whatsapp group "Kombur Halak Hita" (loosely translated as Chit-chatting with/of Our People - although there are no prepositions) or in Malay "Sembang Orang Kita". The whatsapp group is run by fellow Mendailing Ramli Abdul Karim Hasibuan, also a journalist.
But this is not my first foray in rediscovering my Mendailing roots. I joined the Facebook group Mendailing Malaysia and Ramli's Halak Mendailing much earlier.
Even before that, I took the journey of rediscovering my mother's ancestry and heritage by delving deep into the documented literature of the Mendailing people.
There are many things that I remember about the Mendailing told to me by my late grandfather (Haji Hassan Idris Lubis) whom we called "Ompung" and my late mother that have remained etched deep in me.
Most people, because of my late father, know me as Javanese. I am proud of my Javanese heritage which is rooted in Banyu Mas in Central Java. My late father was not pure Javanese, well at least not on his father's side that was part Persian. His mother, though was of pure unadulterated Javanese stock and, we were told, was very proud of it.
My curiosity about my mother's ancestry piqued about 10 years ago although my fascination began way back as a child because I was very close to my Ompung.
There is a lot about my Javanese side that I know because of stories told not only by my late father but by my aunts.
All that know about the Mendailing when I was young, was from my mother who had 3 sisters and Ompung because all their close relatives are in Medan, Sumatera. My mother and her younger sister are survived by their 2 sisters who live in Kuala Lumpur.
My grandfather came to Singapore from Medan with my grandmother, Habibah who was of Burmese descent in the early 1920s. But they would go back to Medan occasionally during their early years in Singapore. Two of their 4 daughters were born in Medan.
So, my siblings - except for my (late) eldest sister who visited Medan years ago - had very little contact with our Medan relatives.
In the early 60s, we had a relative - my mother's uncle, Om Hakim who lived in Petaling Jaya. Some time in the 70s, an aunt, Tante Ida, visited us.
There was also a grand-aunt - Ompung's sister (of a different mother) who visited us some time before "Confrontation" from Medan, Sumatera. We called her Nek Biah. She came with her niece (my mother's cousin), Chairani Nasution. We call her Tante (which means aunty).
Nek Biah left for Medan in time before Confrontation erupted. Tante wanted to stay on a little longer and when Confrontation started, she was stranded in Malaysia -- and did not return to Medan until 30 years later. She lived with us until she got married (in 1968, if I remember). She settled in Petaling Jaya and has four children and several grandchildren.
It had been a ravenous and hungry journey for me. But I am so heartened to know that it has not been disappointing.
I remember of Ompung's travel to Chemor, Perak during his regular visits to our home in Petaling Jaya in the 70s. After staying a few days at our home, he would tell my mother that he was taking a taxi or bus to Perak to visit his relatives. I remember that although it seemed so insignificant then..
So many mundane things that happened in our life when we were young would grow to be meaningful and significant as we get older. As we begin to appreciate who we are, it becomes a bursting fascination.
Later, it became clearer why Ompung traveled to Perak. There is a large population of Mendailing in the state as it was where they migrated to from Sumatera in the early 19th century. I also found out that there is a large Mendailing community in Selangor scattered around Klang, Hulu Langat and Gombak and also in Kampung Baru in Kuala Lumpur. I was told that names like Raja Bot and Raja Laut in Kuala Lumpur were those of Mendailing royalty - the early settlers of Kuala Lumpur.
And in my whatsapp group, many are from Perak.
I was also told that former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris was a Mendailing. Malaysia's R&B queen Sheila Majid is also a Mendailing.
I remember a television personality back in the 60s through the 70s, Rubiah Lubis, who would catch my mother's attention every time she came on screen.
"Dia Lubis tu," Mak would squeal in delight.
It continues to be a journey of rediscovery.
My siblings and their children are sharing this exciting ride with me.
In our last gathering at our family home in Section 16, Petaling Jaya, I told them about the whatsapp group and this "new' language I am learning. I must confess that I am a silent participant because I am still a little reticent to participate in conversations. But let me say that I am a passionate learner.
I gave them a heads-up -- telling them it may sound very very strange to them. Hardly any Malay-sounding words and one that is familiar to them - "mangan" which means eat and has a Javanese equivalent.
I showed them a print-out of the words I learnt -- their eyes almost popped out.
"Assalamualaikum koum sudena, biado hobarna? Madung minum manyogot hamu?" (Assalamualaikum, my brethren/kith&kin, how are you? Have you had your morning drink?"
koum sudena: saudara sekalian
biado hobar na : apa khabar
minum : minum
manyogot : pagi
"It is a strange language," Ellysha, my niece remarked.
It is, I suppose, to the uninitiated. But it grows on you.
I told my daughter (who is studying in the US) about this in our Skype last week. She, a language lover, was excited.
So, now every time before we end our conversation, Shaira would say: "Salamat borngin, Inang. Au marsitundu, Au giot modom. Ancogot hita dope markombur."
(Good night, mother. I am sleepy. I want to sleep. Tomorrow we chat again.)
I tell her the words are correct but I am not certain of the sentence structure. I would need to refer to my whatsapp group teacher.
It is a good try. It will get better.
I know one thing -- there is more to learn in this journey of mine. Of ours.
(N.B : My first blog was named Sri Mendahiling - a tribute to my Mendailing roots. At that time (August 2006, I think) I was not quite ready to blog - it was uncharted territory for me. It was daunting. I was intimidated by its sheer power. I posted a one-liner and stepped back, convinced myself that I'd return. After all, writing was my passion. I did return but when I wanted to resume posting on it, I forgot my password. Ergo 3540 Jalan Sudin was born.)