Raja Chulan Raja Ahmad Tajuddin talks about his familial roots as well as fond memories of his grandfather, the late Raja Razman Raja Abdul Hamid, and days spent at the eponymous Rumah Hitam at Bukit Chandan. And not forgetting a few scary moments, courtesy of a tree.
I feel blessed to have descended from two Perak Royal Houses – the Idris I family on my father’s side and the Abdullah family on my mother’s side. It was by chance that I learnt of this when I was just about seven years old. I remember it was during one of those days when I followed by mother to her kelas mengaji taught by Allahyarham Haji Wok at the surau which was located between Rumah Hitam and the Istana Kuning (the yellow-painted residence of Allahyarham Ku Zaid).
I was seated amongst the men folk facing Allahyarham Haji Wok, whilst my mother and the other womenfolk were seated behind the tabir (partition) at the back of the surau. As usual before starting his class, Haji Wok would engage in conversation with his class, perhaps to break the ice. It was then that he noticed me and asked, “Payong ni anak Engku Nor, ayahandanya Ku Tak?”. I just nodded my head, surprised he knew both my parents. Then he addressed the assembly, “Payong ni dari dua keturunan, Mohom Idris dan Mohom Abdullah” which was etched into my memory until now.
Conveniently, we would visit Allahyarham Ku Zaid and family at the Istana Kuning after every kelas mengaji. His late wife was my aunt, my mother’s sister. I loved it when we were served ubi kayu goreng (deep-fried tapioca) which was sliced thin and crisply fried by their cook, Mak Kiah, whose husband, Pak Kimi (or was it Wak Kimi) who had a small plot of vegetables growing at the back yard of the Istana. We were never empty handed when we took leave from these visits, with freshly plucked bananas and tapioca.
After Istana Kuning, we would make a stop at Rumah Hitam, which was essentially my second home as this was the domicile of my grandfather, Ku ‘Nick’ Razman, and my grandmother, Sharifah Hendon. Their children who were also living with my grandparents were my late aunt, Ah (Allahyarhamah Raja Halijah Razman), Auntie Mimi and Ayah Chu (Raja Harun Al Rashid) a.k.a. ‘King Richard’. I loved Rumah Hitam because its backyard was virtually my hunting ground for fruit the likes of bananas, nangka (jackfruit), pineapple, rambutan and jambu batu (guava). Whenever it was the fruit season, I would be appointed ‘official’ fruit picker, being a good climber then, especially with encouragement from my ‘mentor’, Ayah Chu.
From this story I am about to tell, this mentee of Ayah Chu’s that is yours truly learnt to be brave the hard way. I was always the errand boy whenever I stayed at Rumah Hitam – my errands included buying a bottle cooking oil, a kati of sugar or even biskut Marie (in the days when biscuits were sold in kati and never well packed!), as well as what Ayah Chu described as ‘secret assignments’ which turned out to be buying a few sticks of cigarettes at Mamak Rahman’s store which was quite a distance.
There was no proper road that led to Mamak Rahman’s from Rumah Hitam, just a small track winding through the houses. The track would pass underneath a big (I thought it was really huge then, being a seven year old boy) bunga tanjung tree. With its big trunk and thick foliage, this tree looked foreboding especially at sundown. However, it was not too tall as some of its foliage were hanging quite low, almost touching one’s head. To worsen matters, there was this strange man called Pak Baki who made this particular bunga tanjung tree his home of sorts.
On errands to Mamak Rahman’s, it would be brisk walks for me, except in the evenings when it would trotting all the way, running even, when I passed under the bunga tanjung tree with eyes running wild on the watch out for Pak Baki. I was on one errand to Mamak Rahman’s to buy supplies for Rumah Hitam one evening and this particular time Ayah Chu was with me. I was glad because I had company and need not trot we came by the bunga tanjung tree. All went well and we were on the way back with me carrying the bottle of cooking oil. As we approached the tree, Ayah Chu abruptly stopped and started looking around. This wasn’t good, I thought to myself.
Then all hell broke loose when this mentor of mine shouted, “Pak Baki!!!”
Ayah Chu ran well ahead of me. Shocked, I stood rooted to the ground and began to cry. Realising and thinking that I could possibly be victim to Pak Baki I then ran for dear life. It must have been the fastest sprint of my childhood days!
There was one errand I made for Rumah Hitam that would invoke fond memories of my late grandfather, Tok Nick. This errand was actually a trip to Mamak Rahman’s which I made on my own accord on the day arwah fell ill with fever. I bought him 10 cents worth of biskut Marie which touched him so much that related it to my other mentor – my uncle, Allahyarham Ayah Din (more about him can be read in my early musings here). Before his demise, arwah Ayah Din would always recall this gesture of mine for his late father. May Allah bless their souls and place them amongst the dwellers of Jannah.
Raja Zairan ibni Almarhum Sultan Yussuf Izzudin, the younger brother of Almarhum Raja Di-Hilir Ekram.
One kati approximately equates to 600 g.
The spanish cherry/medlar/bullet wood tree. Take your pick.