Friday, January 25, 2008

... Hang Tuah ... by Adlan Benan Omar

The Day Hang Tuah Walked Through My Door

Everyone knows who Hang Tuah is. Everyone knows that he was a great warrior, that he was loyal to his king, that he fought and defeated Hang Jebat in a gruelling duel. But I knew more about Hang Tuah than anyone else. No... I didn't read more than anyone else (how much more could a twelve-year-old have read anyway?). I knew more about Hang Tuah because he came to live with us a few months ago.

Yes, you heard me right. Hang Tuah did come to live with me and my family. Abah took him home one day. He had found the old man walking around the local playground one evening, while he was out jogging. It was getting dark and the old man had no place to go, so we took him in. Mak was not too happy about that, she thought the old man looked crooked. He was dirty and he didn't wear shoes. Mak said that people might think our family has gone weird. Abah just laughed. "Kasihan ...dia orang tua," he said.

My friends didn't believe me at first. They thought I was dreaming, or making things up, or just plain lying.

Azraai said that the old man was an alien from Mars and not Hang Tuah. Eqhwan laughed at me and said that either I or the old man must be mad. Anuar said that if Hang Tuah was still alive I wouldn't be able to understand what he said because he spoke classic Malay like in the hikayats. Hilmi (our local school's smart alec) tried to explain to me that the Melaka Empire was no more and that Hang Tuah was just a legend. He said that if Hang Tuah was still alive he would be at least five and a half centuries old and the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records stated that the oldest man in the world lived only to 120 years. Only Farid sympathised with me... and that was because he had an imaginary friend whom he always took along to play marbles with us.

I really didn't care what they said. I knew that old man was Hang Tuah. I know because I asked him myself.

The morning after we took the old man in, Mak asked me to wake him up for breakfast. I went to the spare room and found that he was already awake. He was sitting on the edge of the bed with a blue batik bundle on his lap.

"Jemput makan, Tok," I said, politely.

"Terima kasih," he said.

I was curious, so I asked, "Apa dalam buntil tu Tok?"

"Barang Tok... barang orang miskin," he replied.

Then he opened it up slowly. I saw him fiddle for something, then he took out a long keris with an ivory sheath. It was at least a foot long and studded with jewels.

"Ini keris Taming Sari," said the old man.

I snickered, "He! He! He!". I thought the old man was joking. Everyone knew that Taming Sari belonged to Hang Tuah and that it must have disappeared with its master.

The old man looked up at me. His eyes stared into mine. I felt a little queasy at that. His expression changed, he began to look angry. Suddenly his eyes drooped and he looked more hurt than angry.

"Kenapa cucu gelak?" he asked.

"Tak ada kenapa," I answered, a little frightened.

"Tok tahu, cucu ingat Tok bergurau." I kept quiet.

He began again, "Inilah keris Taming Sari yang sebenar. Ini keris Tok sendiri."

"Kalau begitu Tok ni tentulah..."

"Hang Tuah," he interjected, "nama Tok ialah Hang Tuah."

"Tapi Hang Tuah sudah mati."

He laughed, "Tidak, Tok belum mati. Tapi Tok sudah tua..."

"Berapa umur Tok?" I questioned.

"540 tabun."

Mak didn't really like Tok Tuah. But she didn't say anything when he just stayed on and on in the house. She didn't say a word when Abah and I took him to Hankyu Jaya to get some new clothes. She just kept quiet when Tok Tuah joined us to watch TV in the living room after dinner. I told her (and Abah) that the old man said that his name was Hang Tuah. She wrinkled her face (and Abah just laughed).

It was a Wednesday night and RTM had a slot then called "Teater P. Ramlee". It so happened that they were showing Phani Majumdar's "Hang Tuah". P. Ramlee, so young and thin, acted as the hero and the late Haji Mahadi was Sultan Mansor Shah.

When Jebat got killed, Tok Tuah pipped in, "Tidak langsung macam tu..."

Abah stared at Tok Tuah. Mak stared at Tok Tuah. I too, stared at Tok Tuah.

"Aku sudah tua masa tu, Jebat muda lagi. Jebat kuat. Dia sepak aku hingga aku tertiarap, kemudian aku berguling. Aku himpit dia. Aku kata sama dia 'baik sajalah kau mengalah'. Apa gunanya kita dua bersaudara bergaduh?"

Mak started to look worried again.

"Jebat tak mati."

Abah looked surprised. He said, "Habis tu, apa jadi pada dia?"

Tok Tuah said, "Aku tak mahu Sultan bunuh dia. Aku tahu Sultan zalim. Jadi, aku sorokkan dia di Ulu Melaka. Macam Tun Perak sorokkan aku masa aku difitnahkan. Lepas Melaka kalah dengan Portugis, Jebat ikut aku merantau."

I said, "Bila Jebat mati?"

Tok Tuah laughed, "Jebat belum mati. Baru tahun lepas aku jumpa dia. Dia meniaga di Kedah."

"Meniaga?" I said.

"Ya, Jebat duduk di Kulim. Dia meniaga kereta. Apa tu? Kereta 'second-hand' kata orang. Proton, Honda dan Nissan. Laku jualannya. Banyak orang beli."

One day, I took Tok Tuah on a walk around KL. He got bored just sitting in our small bungalow in Bukit Bandar Raya. So after school, we took the mini-bus to Central Market. Tok Tuah really enjoyed the walk. "Banyaknya orang..." he wondered. We ate at McDonald's. He didn't like the cheeseburger (well, he didn't like the cheese, though he loved the burger itself). After lunch, we went to Muzium Negara.

I showed him the frieze of a young Hang Tuah which was sculpted by an Englishwoman in the 1950s. It showed a handsome Hang Tuah in 'Baju Melayu' and 'samping'. He was holding Taming Sari in his hand.

"Siapa tu," Tok Tuah asked.

"Itu Tok-lah. ltulah orang putih gambarkan sebagai Hang Tuah. Hensem, kan?"

Tok Tuah chuckled, "Apa tulisan atas tu?"

"Ta' Melayu Hilang di-Dunia. Eh, takkan Tok tak ingat? Itu kan Tok yang cakap dulu?"

He kept quiet. Slowly he mumbled, "Ta' Melayu Hilang di-Dunia? Tak ingat pun."

Suddenly, he started, "Oh! Bukannya Ta' Melayu Hilang di-Dunia. Silap tu. Tok tak pernah cakap macam tu..."

"Habis tu?" I asked.

"Masa tu Tok tengah pergi masjid untuk sembahyang Maghrib. Isteri Tok ikut sekali. Dia tengah ambil air sembahyang di tepi perigi, kemudian kakinya tergelincir. Dia terjatuh masuk. Orang ramal pun menjerit-jerit sebab perigi itu dalam. Apa lagi, Tok pun terjunlah untuk selamatkan dia. Isteri Tok bukan sebarang orang, namanya Tun Sa'odah, anak Bendahara Tun Perak."

"Kemudian?" I urged.

"Bila Tok bawak dia naik, Temenggung Tun Mutahir ketawa. Katanya, Tok sayang betul pada isteri Tok. Tok pun jawab, "Mestilah... Ta' Isteriku Hilang di-Telaga. Jadi, mungkin orang silap dengar...!"

Tok Tuah stayed with our family for more than six months. He stayed at home in the first few weeks but he felt guilty not doing anything to contribute. So, one morning, he followed Abah to work. Abah was manager of a factory in Sungai Buluh which made video tapes and CDs. They needed a new 'jaga' or watchman. Tok Tuah got the job. Abah said, "Who better to guard us than the great Malay admiral Hang Tuah?"

The workers got along well with him. Amin, Abah's driver, said that Tok Tuah told them lots of funny jokes about Sultan Mansor of Melaka and his fifteen wives. Tok Tuah also got to know Rajalinggam, the sweeper, who he said reminded him of Mani Purindan, the father of Bendahara Tun Ali. Like Rajalinggam, Mani Purindan too came from Tamil Nadu and cooked delicious dhal curry.

One morning, my teacher at school said, "Tomorrow I want you all to bring a model of an old artefact. Then I want you all to explain its importance in front of the whole history class."

Hilmi (always the teacher's pet) spent days working on a matchstick model of the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Azraai decided to build a spaceship instead. Eqhwan bought Anuar's origami keris for fifteen dollars and brought that to school. Farid asked his imaginary friend to draw a picture of Mel Gibson as Sir William Wallace. I? Well, I just brought Tok Tuah along.

My teacher was flabbergasted. She said, "Why have you brought this 'jaga' along?"

I smiled, "He's not just a 'jaga'. He's the great warrior Hang Tuah!"

My teacher said, "I'll call your father and tell him you're playing jokes in class."

"Please, Cikgu. Just listen to what he has to say," I insisted.

Tok Tuah stood in front of the class. He coughed. My teacher sighed. I smiled. My friends sneered. "Assalamualaikum," he said. "Wa'alaikum Salam," we answered.

Tok Tuah began his speech. He started out by saying that the Melaka we read about in the history books was very different from the real Melaka. He explained how the Sultan used to let anyone come to the palace with any complaints at all, and he would settle it there and then. He told us that he and his four friends used to go on tours to Pahang and Terengganu and Ujung Tanah, even to Siam, on great galliards with five big sails. He described to us that Melaka had 120,000 citizens, each of whom had land and houses of their own and that no beggars were allowed to go even a day without food and shelter. He mimicked Sultan Mansor's snarl, and Tun Perak's twitching handlebar moustaches and Jebat's swaggering walk. Finally, he told us how Melaka got corrupted by its wealth and warned us not to do the same now.

That day, Tok Tuah got a standing ovation. Even Teacher clapped. I? I got an 'A' for History.

Tok Tuah died seven weeks after that. He was 542 years old. It was during the Puasa month and he took the LRT from Sungai Buluh. He wanted to stop and buy some sweetmeats (he absolutely loved 'pau kaya'). When he arrived at Chow Kit station, he collapsed on the platform with a massive stroke.

They rushed him in an ambulance to Kuala Lumpur General Hospital but he was already gone. He didn't feel a thing.

We buried him at Ampang Cemetery, right across from the grave of Tan Sri P. Ramlee, who played him in that film. I visit the grave sometimes just to tell him that I'm now a lecturer in Malay History at Leyden University.

I still remember the day he walked through my door. It's as if it was just yesterday. Ah, well...

By the way, did I tell you I met King Henry VIII whilst I was studying in Cambridge? He worked as a night porter at my college. But that, as they say, is a different story.


This short story by Adlan Benan Omar (1973-2008) is reproduced as remembrance of this intelligent and impressionable young man. (Apology for unable to quote it's original source.) Adlan passed way unceremonously at 4:00 pm yesterday, January 24th, 2008 in Subang Jaya and buried in Seremban this morning. Read an obituary for Ben by blogger A M Ubaidah S and my comment in his blog.


Anonymous said...

could this article first published here?

Maverick SM said...

Hi A Voice,

I really love this story. When I was reading I thought it was real. By the time I reached the end of the story I was utterly disappointed that it's a story by Adlan Benan Omar.

I had actually believed that Hang Tuah was alive as I was reading. I am not moronic, but I was passionate to believed it as true.

What a great piece.

A Voice said...

Hi Maverick

I am in no position to write an obituary of this exceptional young man. It will probably be strange to some UMNO observer for me to write an obituary to an ex Keadilan activist. However, he has provided an invaluable contribution to this struggle. So this is next best tribute I can give him.

To tell you frankly, I like this piece by him becasue I had actually went thru this chase for Hang Tuah once.

I know of this pious ole man back home where I regularly visit him to discuss and learn a thing or two of religion from him.

ALthough I am more a rationalist and he knows it, he would still get on a mystic mode at times. His name was Abdullah but is not as mysterious as another Abdullah with a dad named Ahmad Badawi.

In one visit he spoke to me of two persons and showed their pictures. One is believed to be wali or saint in Islam. This I verified with another person close to me, which happen to berguru with the man. I didn't bother to know of his sainthood but just his stories. Mystic stuff like this is usually infered than stated clearly.

In the other picture, it was a frail looking man. He was telling me this man is in Pahang at one kampung and he could be Hang Tuah. ... yes hang tuah.

I know it is illogical and by nature, I do not want to believe in supernatural stuff.

I actually set out on a trip to find him. I guess I wanted to believe it. Perhasp I am in on the biggest thing after Mat Kilau made his confession in early 70s, a kampung in Pahang.

Before that I was rereading Hikayat Hang Tuah to brush up on his life story and perhasp to find an obscure angle that woudl shed light to verify him.

I found the man; a very old, frail and weak, living in a dilapidated hurt with two young man at one end of a kampung. He can't say much and i figure there is not much I can talk with him. Nah .. he is not 500 years old. How can he have a teenage son or grandson?

Good thing I brought along rice, sugar, egg, milk, all sort of food stuff, and fruits. Gave the man all that, some money and left. Before I left, I asked him to pray for my blessed life. He nodded blissfully ...

Yes ... I went back to KL empty handed. I didn't get any ilmu, or "buah silat" or special mantra from Hang Tauh. I didn't even get to verify if he was actually Hang Tuah.

However, it wasn't totally in vain. I felt good to having made a long trip just to visit an ole poor man and luckily had something to give him.

Deep in my heart, I was telling myself, perhaps he might actually be Hang Tuah and I have gotten Hang Tauh to pray for me ... Still wishful thinking :-)

Maverick SM said...

A Voice,

You journey to discover Hang Tuah must be exciting.

I am glad you had got the "Hang Tuah" to say prayers of blessing for you.

Anonymous said...

Alfaatihah to allahyarham Adlan, semoga Allah rahmati roh beliau dialam baqa'... interesting piece of work.

Anonymous said...

A nice story, bro. i was also caught up with the realism as maverick was.

Here's something for you to ponder as an ardent admirer of Hang Tuah ...

i thought some people have discovered that Hang Tuah was Chinese and he's now being erased from our history books.

my point: so what if Hang Tuah was Chinese? Why the senselessness in erasing anything that is not Malay?

What else is being erased? What is there to be afraid of in real history?

If it proves anything, a non-Malay can be just as ferociously loyal to his / her ruler.

What's your take?

My condolence to the deceased: May his soul rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

I never knew Adlann Benan Omar. May God bless his soul.
But you wrote of him as "intelligent and impressionable" young man.
Is "impressionable' the word you mean to use? I'm no wordsmith, but I believe "impressionable' is like being naive or simple? But you called him "intelligent" too, so he couldn't have been impressionable.
Would "remarkable' be nearer the mark?

Anonymous said...

Kenapa nak sangat cakap hang tuah tu org cina? hanya kerana ada nama "hang" didepan tuah?.. kenapa ta sibuk plak nama tuah, jebat, lekir, lengkiu, kasturi sebagai nama cina? pelik la korang..

lima bersaudara terlatih dgn seni silat.. tak penah pon aku tgk org cina duk sibuk bersilat.. kalau since 5 bersaudara org cina yg pandai bersilat.. tentula sekarang org cina sudah ramai yg menjadi guru2 silat.

snang macam ni la.. tentu korang plak tak puas hati bila aku crita cam ni plak. mmg ramai org cina duk time kesultanan melaka. paramiswara pon lepas lawat cina.. baru dia masuk islam.. laksamana cheng ho pon org islam.. since ada cerita dia pegi haji.. maharaja cina time tu pon org Islam.. tu pasal cina sana kutuk sida kene potong kote.. padahal diaorng bersunat.. tu pasal paramiswara masuk Islam bebetul lepas balik dari cina.

cina time tu yg mostly berugama Islam tak byk hal berbanding cina yg datang masa org putih bawak mai.. cina zaman melaka.. byk pedagang2.. cina zaman british.. byk pelombong2.. yg pastu bawak elemen gangsterism..

sibuk nak cerita sapa sampai sini dulu mmg hampeh jadik.. apa pon korang cari la info pasal batu bersurat terengganu.. then decide la sapa yg kene hantar balik..haha.. dah duk sini duk diam2 la.. duk dlm aman kan best.. buat pe nak kecoh?..

untuk ewoon.. lepas ni kalau still bising lagi pasal hang tuah.. ko tukar la nama ko jadik woon tuah ke... woon tempe ke... or woon badawi cam patrik badawi..hahaha..

Anonymous said...

Lovely, heart-warming story ...

A Voice said...

ewoon - Any manipulation of history is wrong.

Before I can state any position on your assertion, I am interested to see the hypothesis in full. I've heard of it but yet to see the preposition in full. Most important, I need to know who the writer.

You see I have been warned by few distinguish historians that there has been a conspiracy to negate Malay history.

For a fact, I know precisely that the conspiracy is rooted from a speech in Parliament in 1965.

anon 11:08 - Jangan itu macam. eWoon is a pal and a fair minded Malaysian who do not mean no harm. We do not need to be emotional here. Just clarify to him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks bro, for 'standing up' for me.

It's people like anon 11.08 who behave like they are walking about with chips on their shoulders. Can never engage but foam in the mouth when they think they are being provoked.

Anon 11.08, i am a malaysian and i am blind to race, colour or creed. i have always upheld what is right, not who is rght. You seem to be offended even though i was not being contentious. It's when you react off-tangent that you begin to show your own short-coming. Relax lah, bro. Mengamuk kenapa?

a voice, i have heard students confirming that even their teachers are telling them the same thing.

i am doing research myself regarding this bit about history and will publish my comment when ready. You take care and God bless you.

xenobiologista said...

Good story =) Hang Tuah is a Malaysian legendary hero. So what if he was a time when there weren't a lot of Chinese, Indians, "dan lain-lain" around? Do you think kids living in the UK would hate to read stories about King Arthur if their parents were originally Polish or German?

Anonymous said...

Hang Tuah was ethnically a Melayu -- the 'Hang Tuah was Chinese' story is an urban legend spread about the Internet. However, that doesn't mean that I approve of appropiating Hang Tuah as one of the symbols of the more controversial streaks of Ketuanan Melayu.

I strongly think that it is very important to remember that 'Malay' as we understand it in Malaysia is a very recent and politically driven context (strange of me to say this is in a pro-UMNO blog). During the times of Malacca, as I understand it, there were just as much divisions between the types of Malay that you were, eg. Bugis, Jawa, Sulu, etc. And if you look at literature in English, in works like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Confessions of an English Opium Eater, there are mentions of Malays. An academic I know -- whose name I forgot, Farish Noor I think -- once mentioned that in those days, the term 'Malay' had nothing to do with coming from the Malay Peninsular or even the Indonesian isles then, it could stretch as far as to being from Madagascar. The concept of Malayness as we understand it in our Malaysian context is in itself an extremely narrow interpretation, functional only for the most disturbingly pragmatic -- and perhaps most base -- of uses: the political.

Political motivation -- either to call Hang Tuah a Malay or a Chinese -- is fine and dandy, but it is entirely political motivation. Political ideas about ethnicity are in their nature extremely base and simplistic. It only creates very unnatural and artificial divides. If you don't draw the lines very distinctly, you'll see that the perceived differences between ethnic groups in Malaysia are getting smaller. A feng shui-loving, 'typical Cina' type of girl I know felt oppressed in Singapore because she could not speak in Malay -- she had gotten used to speaking in a fusion of English, Chinese and Malay during her years in KL. Without being conscious of it, she had become assimilated into this world.

Despite generalizations of people groups and prevailing ideas all around, ethnicity is not fixed, it is hybrid. The sooner we understand that and accept that, regardless of which side of the political spectrum we stand, the better.

Long live Hang Tuah (the legend). Takkan isteri hilang di telaga...

That is a good story. Reminds me a lot of Gaiman, but more relevant and real (I mean in the aesthetic sense). I can't imagine it having the same quality without its bilingualism. The responses of the readers certainly show how much this story must have struck a chord.

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