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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


A few months ago we were shocked by the news of a drug trial that went horribly wrong and put six healthy men in intensive care units fighting for their lives.

“Hai ubat, hai ubat…mari beli ubat. Kalaulah terlambat tak dapat”, enticed Do, Re & Mi into buying their concocted (and untested) medicine.

Earlier this year, an academician from a Malaysian premier university opined that Malay traditional bomoh with their healing methods should not be cast aside but instead should be studied to see whether it could play a complementary role to the modern medication available in the country.

All these, somehow twined into what I would say one of my favourite pastimes whenever I found myself back at my Tanah Serendah Sekebun Bunga, i.e. my passion of tengok oghe jjua obak (watching traditional medicine sellers). In my far-away hometown, there is in fact an established spot where medicine sellers conduct their theatrical performance, which adds to the town’s colourful and unique quality not found in other parts of the country.

If its still there (I hope)… the very spot is in the old market area, on the road where Sayang Berjaya Supermarket was (I can’t remember what it is now)… near the kereta sewa ranks, in front of a keda taya (tyre shop), near Ching Seng Supermarket (still exist?). When the green and white party reclaimed the power in 1990, the chief minister donated a couple of payung ija besa (big green umbrellas) to the medicine seller informal establishment. There must been an ‘election’ system that took place in the mid-morning before the theatre opened on who would go first, his time slot and the rest of the rota. If my memory serves me right, I think 1 hours is the time slot per person.

And… as always, the one with ubat kuat-besar-panjang-tegap-lama draws most audience.

This brings me to another story, recently told by my dad when he was here last year. If you’re looking for the cocktail for the above ubat, sorry… it was not on that; simply more on mystical or magical knowledge as I’ve blogged before. It happened in the early 70s, when I was running around with my ultraman toy in between knitting; the period when my dad was actively seeking the knowledge with his 6 close friends which sometimes brought them to remote caves and jungles. The days when I couldn’t wait for another peghasat/mmandi kegheh session (keris cleaning ritual) when I would sat a tad away from dad, copying each of his delicate steps with my little screwdriver on top of my twirling asap ubat nyamuk.

Anyway, one fine day in the Land of Lightning, a young Javanese medicine man came to town. Astonished by the young man performance, especially with his magical keris, my dad and his very close friend, Abang M, went to visit the man on the night after his jjua obak slot in the morning. He was staying at KB Resthouse (once stood where Perdana Hotel is now). The javaman demonstrated his magical abilities further but although my dad and his friend were indeed impressed, the man’s arrogance slightly disgusted them.

The next day, when the very man got his slot at the theatre of dream, my dad and Abae M were again in the crowd. As on the previous day, the man sliced his wrist with a super sharp knife but amazingly he wasn’t even cut… his flesh was intact, apart from an artificial/dented cut line. He was what we called kebal (invincible). But this time, just before he did that, Abae M whispered to dad:

“Kito aja sikik dio ni”.

“Tok soh la, ssiae ko dio. Nyanyo, dio nok caghi makae”, replied dad.

“Ahhh… tak po, aja sikik”, Abae M said, and proceeded.

The man, again, sliced his wrist. But this time… fresh red blood came pouring out instantly from a gap on his wrist. He was really panicked and quickly covered his cut with the other palm but the blood kept dripping out. Abae M and dad stepped in ….. and stopped the bleeding (don’t ask me how… it’s too complex to write here lah).

The man put his both hands up and sembah Abae M and dad repeatedly; “Maafkan saya, maafkan saya…“, he kept going.

Dad explained to me, the man’s 'sin' was, apart from behaving arrogantly, he forgot the first and basic rule of engagement for doing such thing; that is to seek permission from the audience in ‘showing’ some mystical abilities (for the purpose of cari makan, not for showing off per se). Hence, he was lessoned…

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