Saturday, 12 January 2013

Aunty Chom

Kg Sg Gelugor, Penang 1730s
A coastal Malay village

Kg Sg Gelugor is a Malay coastal village. It existed when my maternal great-grandfather Shaik Ahmad came to live in Glugor. His youngest son Cpt S. A. Mohd Noor was born in Glugor in 1890.

In an old photo of Dr Che Lah, on the rear is written "Kg Sg Gelugor 1952". His children were visiting his eldest and only sister, Mak Besar (Aunty Besar) bt Md Joonos in 1952, before his eldest daughter Tulip went overseas to Kirkby College. The group photos showed Mak Besar's children and his children in front of the house, while Dr Che Lah was up on the verandah in casual clothes - kain pelekat and white Pagoda T-singlet.

Dr Che Lah (up on the verandah), his eldest sister (second left) and his children at Kg Sg Gelugor 1953

Aunty Chom
Kg Sg Gelugor resident
A descendant of Habib Noh

There are 3 sisters - Aunty Latifah, Aunty Chom and Aunty Intan. The 3 sisters are related to Azeeza Begam Habib Noohu, and all are descendants of the Muslim saint Habib Noh Alhabshi who is buried at Makam Habib Noh in Singapore.

Aunty Chom is Kalsom bt Shaik Emam. She is the elder sister of Aunty Intan, Kamaruddin's wife.

We went to visit Aunty Chom at Kg Sg Gelugor. She lived in a double-storey bungalow next to an empty plot.

Aunty Chom, a very good storyteller about practices of traditional Malay medicine. She related the treatment of diabetic foot in Penang dialect, which was captivating to listen to.
Aunty Chom was cleaning rice grains when we visited her last evening. Here, the spoiled rice grains and foreign matter are separated from the unspoiled rice grains. The spoiled rice grains are called "padi-padi" and are fed to birds in the garden. 

Sadly, Aunty Chom passed away on 4 January 2016. She is interred at Masjid Jamek Gelugor.

Brown Garden/Helen Brown Garden, Penang 1789
Brown Estate
David Brown Esq of Glugor.

Brown Garden existed after the British arrived in Penang in 1789. It came into existence after Kg Sg Gelugor existed, which was 50 years older.

At first, Brown Garden was a standalone housing area. It comprised a narrow belt on the plains and which fanned into the hillside. Houses here were mostly double-storey and painted an ugly yellow. The houses were on both sides of the main road that led uphill. The houses uphill were on terraces and houses faced the sea. The upper reaches of Brown Garden ended in slopes of Penang Hill. The trees were quite big and plenty. The area became damp as there were many trees with dense foliage.

Later, sometime in the early 1980s, 2 small roads were built to join 3 adjacent housing areas. A small road was constructed to link Lengkok Pemancar to Brown Garden. Another small road was constructed to link Brown Garden to Cangkat Minden.

4-Junction of Kg Sg Gelugor and Cangkat Minden
Too wide, too busy and a death trap

As we exited Minden Heights to return to Kelantan, I saw 3 old signboards in Kg Sg Gelugor, which were very close to the main road - Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. One signboard indicated Kg Sg Gelugor. I didn't take any close-up photos of the signboards as Affandi drove too fast and I didn't have time to pull out my camera as I least expected to see the 3 signboards.

A brick community hall of Kg Sg Gelugor is its landmark. Most old houses here are wooden. Modern houses have a brick base and a wooden upper floor. 12 January 2013
4-Junction of Minden Heights and Kg Sg Gelugor, viewed from Minden Jalan 1. 12 January 2013. The Malay village is beyond the traffic lights, closer to the sea and land reclamation for constructing the peripheral expressway. The Malay village is now land-locked by 2 modern expressways, and the villagers no longer have free access to the sea. The main delicacy of this Malay village used to be chutney (acar buah).

Cangkat Minden, Penang 1971
Development of an old hillock

Cangkat Minden (Minden Heights) is more recent than Kg Sg Gelugor. Cangkat Minden was developed in 1971, when I was in Form 1.

According to my late mother, a small river runs under my late mother's house (my sister's house today). This small river was diverted and a big drain was made to contain the river. Since the earth beneath the house is not original solid earth, my grandfather only build 2 wooden homes on top of the buried small river. The land now contains my late grandfather's house and my late mother's house. The 2 houses lie side by side at 460-H and 462-I, Jalan 7, Cangkat Minden.

There is a small access road at the end of Jalan 7, that leads to USM, Penang (main campus). This road opens to USM's guard house and expansive green soccer fields.

Kamaruddin bin Dr Che Lah
Seberang Perai engineer
USM Bertam campus

Aunty Chom updated us about Dr Che Lah's only son, Kamaruddin (my Uncle Din). According to her, Kamaruddin is still the head of public works in Seberang Prai, the same department that sees to the recent development of Bertam, where USM had intended to build its Advanced Medical and Dental Institute. According to Kamaruddin, Bertam is an oil palm plantation land.

Aunty Intan informed that Uncle Din (Kamaruddin bin Che Lah) retired in early 2015. Din retired in February 2015.

Kamaruddin is a chronic diabetic and depends on traditional healing methods despite his father was an early Malay doctor and had owned Glugor Klinik, and his Chinese mother was a long time matron at the Maternity Hospital in Penang. He's scared to go to hospital. His son has a more modern outlook and calls the ambulance for his father's sake. Both Kamaruddin and his son Faisal were trained in Australia. However, Kamaruddin has fear of hospitals. His son understands his father's fear of going to hospital.

Fears of Going to Hospital
Diabetes Education

Many Malay men today still have fears about going to hospital. These fears have never been properly documented nor understood by modern doctors, nor are they studied by medical students. It is very difficult to make a Malay father believe in hospitals or go to hospital. They would rather take to traditional Malay preps which are "more earthly".

In Malay traditional medicine there are no quick cures but most herbs used in Malay traditional medicine are for protective purposes and health maintenance. There are many herbs used by the Malays to slow down diabetic complications. Traditional Malay medicine is of limited use as supplements but it cannot deal with diabetic complications such as diabetic foot or gangrene where limb amputation becomes necessary.

IMR, Kuala Lumpur 1905
Alternative treatment for diabetic foot
Sterile maggots of Lucilia cuprina

There are however, other means of overcoming diabetic foot problems done by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur, but these researched methods are limited to certain places as there are no nationwide plans to extend the services from research to the community. One of interest to me is the use of specially breed maggots to consume debris from diabetic foot. The maggots are applied under sterile conditions and then the injured foot bandaged. These maggots grow to enormous size and are then removed. Usually the diabetic foot heals; after some time, new tissue grows in place and the diabetic foot then heals well. I've seen a lot of progress of such therapy but it is still not available to many diabetic foot sufferers and I don't know what the problem is. Why can't they train the patients or supply the maggots to the sufferers and ask them to look after their own foot? I think there is a lot to be done for the diabetic foot sufferers.