Life in the Rejang Basin was very simple and slow paced when I was a child, until I was a teenager. And I love the way my father and many other Foochow men adopted the throw net as part of their living skills. My father could throw the jala as well as any other man in Sibu. I believe there was never a jala throwing competition in Sarawak. But to me jala throwing is indeed a wonderful skill.
(Note on photo) The photo is part of my window to world of the past. One day when my camera is at hand and the opportunity comes, I would definitely take a photo of an old man and his jala.
One very remarkable memory I have of this life was the occasions of fishing I experienced and observe.
The earliest memory of fishing was when my father took a pail, a torchlight (then a luxury) out to the jetty in Hua Hong Factory and lowered his "basket". After some time he had three fish of about a kilo.
Another memory was his wooden traps which he set on the muddy banks of the Rejang. After the tide had gone out, he would trudge through the mud and we children would wait eagerly. Again, he would have his pail ready. and yes, he would have a few fish in his pail for lunch or dinner. These were very interesting days for us kids. Going out for the catch with father.
Another memory of fishing was how he used the bubu (a fish trap) to catch cat fish in the little streams in the rubber garden behind our house. This rubber garden is now the Ngui Kee and Sibu Public Library. There were a lot of cat fish in the streams. We loved to hear the rubber seeds "popping" loudly in the serenity of the afternoons when we went to check the bubu. Whenever we harvested the fish, he would put the fish in the recycled kerosene or cooking oil tin and take them to the market for sale. I remember all of the fish would bring back only about 5 dollars at that time. But it was a good deal for us anyway. It was kids' fun and a special "family" activity.
Sometimes in the afternoons a few of my friends and I would cycle to Bridge Road and watch the kampong boys fish on the bridge. They were very patient, with their can of earth worms, their little homemade bamboo, fishing rods. We were told not to make too much noise but we were allowed to watch. We then waited for the pineapples to arrive. We would go home with our purchase of some pineapples at about 15 to 20 cents each.
But the most amazing fishing activity I can remember was the use of jala. My father was quite skilful in using the jala and he owned one. He would skilfully throw his net into the river from the jetty. He would slowly pull the net up and we could see the prawns wriggling and sticking to the net. What a wonderful catch!! Even though we had only a small bowl of prawns, it was a good dinner personally brought home by father. In the kerosene light, the dinner was especially delicious and memorable.
Years later, I often would watch the skilful Iban or Malay fishermen throwing the jala from their small boat. It is such a magical moment. I would catch my breath and wait. And time would stand still for memories to come back.
At moments like these, there was just so much longing in my heart that the man throwing the jala was my late father. A tear would just creep from the side of my eye and drop into my shaking hand. Whoooosh,splash....and then a few moments of waiting, and later the gentle, quiet pulling up of the jala while the fisherman still stood so majestically in his two men little prahu, dipping the net once or twice in the river water, and then careful pull out the net and placing it into the boat....the boat would rock a little, and a little.
And all of a sudden I am plucked back into the twenty first century again.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 6:52 PM