web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: The Rose Myrtle
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Friday, June 02, 2006
The Rose Myrtle

Alah kesiannya orang Teganung yang tak tahu apa itu buah kemunting. Here is a description from botanist Lam Peng Sam, published in New Straits Times :
A BEAUTIFUL and useful plant by any standard, the Rhodomyrtus tomentosa or the Rose Myrtle (known as the Kemunting in Malay) is a popular shrub, even growing wild in open ground and easily recognisable. Almost all parts of the plant are densely downy; they have a cover of greyish velvety hairs. Native to Malaysia, it adds colour and interest to the landscape, and birds love to feed on the sweet, juicy fruits.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Its leaves are ovate and leathery, about 4-6cm long, with three longitudinal veins running from the tips to the base of the leaves. The flowers are rose to deep pink or lilac and are axillary: 3cm wide with pink stamens and downy on the outside, like the foliage.

Berries form after the flowers have set. The fruits are very sweet and juicy and attract even children. They have a pleasant taste and are good for jams.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The plant has local medicinal value. A concoction of the roots and leaves are drunk as a remedy for diarrhoea and stomach ache.
Now let me tell you why I have a kemunting bush in my front yard.

When my sisters and I were children, we would spend our school holidays commuting between two grandmothers : one who lived in Merang and the other who lived in Besut, both of which are in the Terengganu countryside.

Merang is a village by the sea, and there we'd spend our days swimming, beach combing and occasionally fishing in the nearby rice fields. When it gets too hot to do anything, we'd take long baths in my grandmother's bathroom, which shouldn't be called that, because there isn't a room, but an open-air enclosure underneath a large jambu air tree, with a telaga in the centre, and all sorts of water pump contraptions around it. Then we'd lie down in our wet kain 'sahang, or old sarong, on an adjoining jemorang or veranda and look up at the light coming through the spaces between the leaves of the jambu tree. We're hardly expected to do any sort of work in Merang, mainly because my grandmother was a super-efficient housekeeper, and also because she was sure we'd break something. Together with my sisters and our friends, we'd be out gallivanting among the kampung houses and coconut groves, poking at belimbing and mango trees and running away from monitor lizards, and then we'd come home when we're sure there was lunch.

Both my grandmothers were strict, but we only feared the one in Besut, because she doesn't flinch when pinching grandchildren. Unlike Mokciknab in Merang, whose identifying feature is her ability to nag, my Besut grandmother is a quiet disciplinarian, a trait which made her even more terrifying. She would hardly lose her temper, but she'd make it clear we were walking on eggs. In her house we knew never to laze around. We'll have recite the Quran every morning and then feed the goats and sweep the leaves from her backyard. Then she'd send us on errands to buy kerosene or a kati of biscuits or a box of mosquito coil, and as our reward we'll get assam masin or Yumbo with the change.

Sometimes, she'd let us follow her to the mosque at dawn, after which we buy breakfast, either nasi kerabu or nasi berlauk, or nasi kapit with sambal ikan. In the late afternoon, if it doesn't rain, we'll walk to a nearby pasar for kueh, like tepung boko, or fried bananas. If the weather's bad, we'd stay at home and boil sweet potatoes or tapioca or ubi keling, and eat them with tea while listening to the sound of the rain pelting down the roof.

If it's a clear day, and if my uncle, Ayah Sa is done with his batik painting, a much loved activity is to hunt for buah kemunting. Around my grandmother's house there was still scrubland, where lallang and kemunting and tenggek burung and marigolds grow wild, and where tiny streams of dark cool water run deep into the brambles. We'd spend hours in the bushes, collecting the deep purple berries and eating them on the spot. Ayah Sa is a terrible prankster. Once he went ahead of us and smeared booger over the ripe berries in our path, and watched in delight as my sister Dolly picked and ate them.

Today there are no remnants of the pokok kemunting around my grandmother's house, the streams have dried up, and the small sandy paths have all but dissapeared. In its place there are terrace houses and schools and a huge traffic junction. My grandmother passed away a long time ago, and her house has since lost its soul. I planted the kemunting bush in my yard as a memento to the time I spent with her, and to the childhood I wished could linger.


Ssiangnye ke saye :( I know how kemunting looks like, but never had the chance to try it.

I enjoy reading your childhood memory!
You have an outstanding good and well structured site. I enjoyed browsing through it » »
Post a Comment