Two days before Hari Raya I made my way to Parit. That is where my late father hailed from in Perak.
Parit generally refers to the area in the mid-Perak region, straddling both sides of Sungai Perak and its vicinity, stretching from Parit town to Kampung Gajah downstream. People from this locality are thus referred to as “orang Parit”.
In reality the “Parit area” comprises numerous small towns and kampongs sprinkled all along both sides of Sungai Perak. My father’s very own kampong was called Kampong Selat in Layang-Layang Kiri.
The “Kiri” here denotes the fact that this place is located on the left bank of Sungai Perak if one were paddling the sampan upstream during the old days. And whenever there’s a Kiri, there’d always be a Kanan settlement. Thus, we have Bota Kiri and Bota Kanan, Layang-Layang Kiri and Layang-Layang Kanan, and so on, dotting the banks of Sungai Perak.
Parit was a backwater of sorts. It still is, to a certain extent. That my father managed to get a good education and continued his studies in Liverpool all those years ago still amazes me no end.
My trip to Parit this time was for the specific purpose of visiting my Opah Chu in Padang Tenggala, about 10 kilometers from Parit town.
Opah Chu is Salamah binti Alang Pintal. She is my late grandfather’s youngest sister, and the last of his surviving siblings.
Ever since I was small, I always remember her to be one very kind lady. But what I remember most about her is how much she loved her favourite nephew – my Apak – whom she fondly referred to as Amat.
Whenever Opah Chu meets Apak, she never failed to grab Apak and gave him a loving peck on the cheek as if he was still a toddler. That my Apak was now all grown-up with five kids of his own was never a cause for concern in the slightest.
As a small kid, I was so touched by this gesture. Especially so at the sight of my big and macho Apak looking sheepishly at us after being hugged and kissed by his aunt right in front of everybody.
Even when Apak passed away, despite having problems with her knees, Opah Chu still managed to pull herself right up to Apak’s bedside to give him her last kiss on his forehead and a peck on the cheek. She then raised her hands and ran her fingers lovingly over his face.
That Apak loved her aunt, too, was obvious. I remember whenever we visited Opah Chu during Hari Raya, Apak would always look forward to his Wan Chu's lemang, rendang and dodol.
And as he sampled Opah Chu’s festive goodies, he would never fail to urge us to have a bite ourselves, saying “rasa la, sedap ni Opah Chu punya lemang”.
Opah Chu is now in her mid-eighties. Her knees are giving her problems – osteoarthritis, I suspect. But otherwise she is still healthy and alert. She still remembers many stories and details from her younger days. Especially stories about Apak and stories with her Yop (her eldest brother – that’s my grandfather).
Opah Chu has eight children, all daughters. She is now staying in PadangTenggala with her third daughter, Sabariah.
As I left her that Friday morning, I shook and kissed her hands and wished her Selamat Hari Raya. Quite un-expectedly, Opah Chu grabbed me and pulled me close to her and planted a kiss on my cheeks just like she used to do to Apak.
I almost got teary-eyed.
May ALlah continue to give my Opah Chu good health and the best of iman.