Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Adventures of a Modern Dr.Dolittle #1

There was a doctor who was living in a big Govt. quarters in Kuala Brang, way back in 1974.

Kuala Brang is the district head-quarters of the large district of Ulu Terengganu in the State of Terengganu in the east coast of Malaya. It is full of virgin jungles and mountains. It is cut by many rivers and there were only two roads. One of them was of gravel. The mode of transport used to be by land-rovers or shallow draft boats.

The place was noted as a tiger and elephant territory.

Trade was by some form of barter involving cheques. A cheque which is issued may be circulating with other cheques for at least three months before ending up in someone's account. Thats because there were no banks in the vicinity. Petrol was bought in spare jerry-canes because there were no petrol bunks.

The folk living along the rivers used bring vegetables to a riverside 'pasar migguan', twice a week. A biweekly market of sorts.

For three months in a year, the place would be flooded. It will be cut off from the rest of the world. The only mode of transport was by helicopter.

At such times, food would be restricted to cracker biscuits, potatoes, tinned sardines, all types of dry rations like potatoes, etc. And of course....you guessed it - fish, fish and more fish. Fresh water fish, of course.

It would be an adventure alright.....but then there were the hazards. Snakes, rats, iguanas, all forms of insects, and other animals might want to share your house with you. Sometimes, a tiger might stray nearby. Elephants might decide that your garden would be suitable for a short snack break.

But our doctor fully enjoyed himself because he was an adventurous type who used to go boating in rivers. He was also interested in carrying out a historical study of the place. Hence, he would go around ancient sites which were covered up with jungle.

That quarters was never fully occupied except once. Very young doctors used to be posted for about three months. But they seldom slept in that house......and none of them were married.

The only full-time occupant was an Albanian (or was he a Yugoslavian?) contract officer. He was a funny kinda guy. Nobody was allowed to enter into the house. Even the windows were latched and locked. He never allowed patients to come into the clinic. He went to the waiting lobby and prescribed medicine after asking for symptoms. There several stories as to who he was. One of the stories was that he was a former Nazi.

Well. He died under mysterious circumstances. The thousands of dollars and that were found in house was stufed into drawers, almaris, pillows, matteresses, etc. There was also a fantastic book collection. Some more thousands of dollars were in the bank. All his money was held by court of trustees.

After a short interval, our doctor found himself in that place. For convenience, shall we call him as 'Dr.Dolittle'?

Of course nobody cared to tell Dr.Dolittle anything about anything.

He stayed there for three years with his wife and two small children.

From the beginning, he started having strange feelings and experiences.

One night, he was sleeping as usual in the master bedroom. The doctor still beleives it was no dream. Suddenly, the walls vanished. He found himself in bed in the open space. Then there was a man who rushed past, helter skelter. Following him was another man, chasing after him, brandishing a parang - a sharp sword shaped like an aruvaaL. Both of them were screaming. They rushed past about five feet away from the doctor's bed. They did'nt seem to have noticed him. Then.... silence. The walls reappeared. The scene became normal.

The doctor's wife and children were sleeping soundly. He woke his wife and went outside and had a good look around. Everything was normal.

The doctor's wife also had a separate similar dream, one day.

But after that incident there were more and more disturbances. After a few months the doctor got an audio-tape of mantra recitals and played it in the recoder. But in a very short time, a storm cloud gathered and a lightening struck behind the house. The fuse went. The recorder died out.

The doctor put on the fuse and replayed. But a second lightening struck in the same place.

Thus started a feud between the doctor and something that was already there.

The last straw took place one morning. While in the bath-room, the doctor felt as if a hand grasped his ankle and jerked it off. He fell down soundly. The fall cracked an old fracture that he had sustained in a martial game of bull-chase (jalli-kattu) in India, some years ago.

Finally, the doctor went to see his brother who was living in a town about 100 miles away, Pasir Puteh in the State of Kelantan.

He took the doctor to see a bomoh(a sorcerer, black magician). The bomoh was living in a remote kampong - a very small village. It did not have electricity.

The bomoh was very old and after nightfall, he went into a trance and started asking questions in Kelanatese. Kelantanese is a dialectical form of the Malay language. It is spoken by the people of the State of Kelantan. Other Malays cannot understand it. Some sort of answer was also coming out of him in some strange language. My brother said, it was the Thai language.

After the seance, he explained to the doctor's brother. He gave a vivid description of the doctor's quarters and its surroundings.

He said that there was a small rivulet behind the house (the place where the lightening struck - which he did'nt know). There was a hantu raya(a very powerful spirit - like a muni) dwelling there.

"All the area belonged to him. Ask your brother to make perjanjian sireh-pinang with the hantu and leave the master bed-room. Your brother always goes along the riverside(Sungai Trengganu,Tersat,Brang) and interferes into old history. The spirits there do not like it. Its all rahsia(secret). What is rahsia, must be kept as rahsia. Ask him to mind his own business."

The doctor's brother told him to follow the instructions.

'Perjanjian Sireh Pinang' is very special form of oath-taking or swearing. Betel leaves and betel nuts are taken and upon these, the oath is taken with the incantations of mantras.

They got hold of the most efficient bomoh in Ulu Trenggaanu and asked him to do the necessary. But the most efficient bomoh was more inquisitive about the doctor's income and status and asked an exorbitant price. The doctor complained to his brother.

The brother was thoughtful and brooded silently for a while. Then he uttered the pearls of wisdom.

He said, "It seems that it is more profittable to be a friend of a hantu than being a friend of a bomoh. You leave the bed-room to the hantu and don't talk ill about it. Just go about things normally in a peaceful manner. Let's see what it does. In a way it will be a pact of understanding."

So the doctor let it be.

Hence forth, the doctor did not have any problems. He left the place peacefully after a few months when a long overdue transfer was given to him.

But his newly married successor's wife had an abortion.

But wait. I heard that there is an interesting sequelae to this story.

Let me get the rest from Dr.Dolittle and pass it on to you.


There is a sequelae to the Kuala Brang episode.

Kuala Brang is on the confluence of three rivers - the Terengganu, Brang, and Tersat. Old legend says that Kuala Brang was an emporium in those days.There is said to have been a kingdom around these parts. Further interiorly, there were at least two more.

Across the river, from Kuala Brang, there is a certain Kampong Buloh.
A kampong is a small village. For all practical purposes, this was a kampong allright and looked like one.

Except for one thing. It was too large.

In 1974, its population was 1400, being slightly more than Kuala Brang. It is also very large in area.

Malaysian history has a prominent place for the famous 'Batu Bersurat' of Trengganu. Batu Bersurat means a stone inscription. It is from the 14th century. There is a sinister story about this batu bersurat. But that will be a different story. Perhaps Dr.Dolittle might tell it to us, one of these days. Well, it was found here in Kg.Buloh. It was, in fact, a stepping stone in front of a local Mesjid. The British noticed it in 1910, and soon afterwards, hoisted the stone onto a raft, and floated it along the Trengganu River. Half-way along, something happened, no-one knows what, and the stone broke in two. The top portion of the stone slid off into the river, causing frustration for history scholars for the next three quarters of a century.

You can see the remaining portion in the Museum in K.L.

So..... this kingdom we were talking about.

It had its capital which was Kg.Buloh/Kl.Brang complex.

Kingdom means civilisation; civilisation means wrong-doers. And according to laws of civilisation, wrong-doers means execution. And so, they executed in various ways; including the "Bersula" method, so I was told. So it had its own execution grounds. The bersula method is a horrible way of torturing-cum-killing.
A sharp pike or spear is passed into the anal orifice, right through. Thus the victim was impaled and left to die. The Thais had modified versions.
The execution grounds were just outside, towards the north. That was the site over which, in later times, the Kuala Brang Hospital Desa was built(a Feng Shui-practioner's night-mare). A hospital desa is a rural hospital.

Dr.Dolittle was once told by a Pathan teacher that there was well in that site. His mother fell into the well when she was seven month's pregnant, and died. The well was subsequently filled-up.

Soon after the Japanese occupation, a Malay district officer who was friendly with the Japanese, was tied to a tree in that area, and shot to death by the Anti-Japanese Peoples Army. That tree was standing just on the spot where the porch of the present Doctor's quarters is situated. (The house where Dr.Dolittle had lived for over three years).

All this story was told to Dr.Dolittle, only after he had left on a transfer away from Kuala Brang, to Besut. This is another place in Terengganu. During his stay in the house, he used to hear single, isolatd gun-shots, in the middle of he night. He always thought that people were shooting wild-boars or mouse-deers. Once he asked his trusted land-rover driver about it, and the driver described the incident. He said that after the execution of the district officer, it was customary to hear the single gun-shot in the middle of the night.

There was also another funny noise that Dr.Dolittle used to hear at nights. Something like "Uuunnngghh....Aaangghhh.... Uungghh...Aaangghhh". At first he thought that it might be some saw-mill oprating some distance away. But then why so infrequent and why so sporadic?

The doctor asked another driver about this. He told him that it was the tiger roaring in the distance. The doctor told him that the sound is nothing like what we see and hear in the movies.

He said, "But Sir! Dat kind noise all, you see in pictures oni-lah! Dis one, real real one, you know-ah!"('You can see such roaring/growling noises in movies only. From the sound track. But this sound is what you will hear under natural surroundigs). And so!

That's the back-ground to the story of the 'Hantu Raya' of Kuala Brang.

But mind you, it might *NOT* afterall turn out to be any one of the executed victims, the pregnant lady, or the pro-Jap district officer.....or the mysterious fugitive contract doctor from Albania.

Who or what is the Hantu Raya, then?

Dr.Dolittle still wonders and still has not got any answer.