Yesterday, after a meeting in Ipoh, I took the chance to trek home to my ole kampung in Ulu Kuang (or Kuang Hilir rather). Not much has changed since I last came back, except the Ipoh – Padang Besar electric train railway bridge crossing is being built. The underpass is a major bottleneck for Chemor – Tanjong Rambutan – Kuang – Sungai Siput road. Not only the road under the railway bridge is narrow, it is also very low. So low that normal bus cannot pass through let alone those big trucks or the double-decker buses. In order for the bus to get through, the companies had to use mini buses or cut about 20cm of the roof truss and reattach it to the bodies of the bus. So only those pigmified busses can ply this route. After 52 years of independent, finally a new bridge is in the horizon. Mind you our area is under the jurisdiction of the Second Finance Minister.
I met my long lost kampung mate Mat Labu along the way. Meeting him remind me of the various Mats, Dins, Minahs, Timahs that I have come across all these years, especially in my kampung. Even till today I still cannot get the reason why he is called Mat Labu. Typical of kampong folks, they always give endearing nicknames to people so as to quickly identify them. With so many Mats, Dins, Minahs, Kassims, or Sallehs around they were assigned with nicknames normally as an extension to their normal names. My dear cousin had Muhammad as his name and he is known as Mat Saja – meaning his name is only Muhammad. Sometimes these nicknames can be very amusing or down right degrading. Pak Yop Misai actually had no moustache but a long flowing beard! My mother in law almost had a heart attack when we told her of a certain gentleman named Pak Husin Pecah Kepala. She kept asking what happened to his head. I am yet to find out why he was called as such. I can understand Mat Dagu Panjang had a rather longish chin on his Arabic looking feature, but Isa Koko has neither owned any cocoa plantation nor affinity for the hot cocoa drink. He was actually suffering from wooping cough and constantly coughing with ko..ko.. sound emanating from his throat.Then there was this Pak Ngah Rabit – a name given to him due to one of his ear torn off when he was fighting off with a tiger, and Leman Rabun with a terrible shortsightedness. Timah Rongak is not actually Timah, but a a boy. He had no broken teeth either, I did not understand why people called him Timah Rongak. I guess I just follow the tide in calling him Timah, maybe he is a bit sissy, poor Adnan – his real name. Of course then they were Din Meriam, Teh Jelusui, Lan Afrit, Dolah Hantu Raya, Din Geduak, Arif Bundek, Haji Mangkok…and the lists goes on. It goes to show, we give people names for easy identification and as terms of endearment without even thinking whether the person like the name or not. Boy, surely my journey back this time brought back a lot of memories with all those crazy but endearing names.
My brother informed me that, the fela that I met the other day on my way back home is definitely not Mat Labu since Mat Labu died in an accident many years ago, but actually he is Mat Libut, son of Pak Sahak Pot Pot. Mat Labu was a unique one since he had three fingers on his left hand stuck together, from the middle finger to the little finger – a sort of birth defect. We used to teased him about it in school. An affable rotund boy frequently bullied by us. All in good fun, anyway, nothing serious. He took it jovially. How could I have forgotten about him and confused him with Mat Libut anak Pak Sahak Pot Pot who lived near Pak Dolah Hantu Raya. May Allah bless his soul.