A Song on The Verandah

In the days when I still wore shorts, I remember my dear, late grandmother as the sternest taskmistress who ever walked the face of the earth. The fact that she was a headmistress probably had something to do with this. Her reputation as a tough (but fair) cookie lived on long after she passed away.

This brings me to the time when I was courting a girl in Taman Permata. Unknown to me, her mother had been one of my grandmother’s students. One day, after a nice spot of tea and meaningless small-talk, the mother started to interrogate me – Nazi SS style.

“Tell me about your mother, young man!” she demanded. The only things missing were bright lights in my face and testicular electrocution apparatus. I fought an instinctive reflex to protect my crotch.

“Well, her name is Rohani and she lives in Ipoh –” I began.

“Rohani? And she lives in Ipoh? And would your grandmother, by any chance, be Enchum? Cik Gu Enchum?”

It didn’t look good. At this point, I was about ready to forget all my romantic intentions for her daughter and run out the door – while I still had healthy testicles. But family pride got the better of me. Instead of scrambling out the door, I stood my ground.

A meek and hesitant “Y- y – yes…” was all I could muster.

Upon hearing my answer, her face lit up like glowed like a million pink diamonds. The expression on her face, hard and severe, immediately softened. I could swear that her eyes went all glassy for a moment. It was nothing short of a miracle.

“Son, if you are even half the person your grandmother was, I will be able to sleep at night knowing that my daughter is in good hands…” she sighed with with undisguised relief.


“Son, your grandmother may have been tough on us – very tough, indeed. But without her, without her brand of caring, many of us – me included – would have lost our way a long time ago. She was a good person, son. I hope you know that.”

“Why, thank you ma’am.”

But despite having thus gained her mother’s wholehearted endorsement, the girl and I eventually went our separate ways. I guess my genetic advantage was no match for a surgeon who looked like Julio Iglesias. And the fact that he had more money than his accountants could keep track of didn’t really help, either. However, he probably could not write a love letter to save his surgically enhanced 12-inch dick. But that’s a different story altogether – better told in another posting.

Now, back to my grandmother. I can also recall something odd about her; something that didn’t sit well with her no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, mess-with-me-and-you’ll-die image. Every once in a while, I’d catch her, looking forlorn on the verandah, singing an old Malay song called “Serunai Malam”. Here’s how the song went:

Dari mana datang rasa kasih sayang?

Dari mata ke hati lalu dikenang

Kerana budi menjadi kenangan, sayang

Sumpah setia disaksikan bintang

Bercerai mati batasnya di dunia

Di akhirat kita berjumpa pula

Mengapa hatiku selalu rindu dendam

Kerna kekasih tak jumpa seharian

Tidur tak nyenyak wajahmu terbayang, sayang

Air setitik tak dapat ku telan

Hendak bergurau di manakah kawan? sayang

Melainkan (cant remember the word) dan bantal bersulam

Aduhai, sayang, serunai malam…

To this day, I do declare that I have never had the pleasure of listening to a sweeter melody. The tune was so pretty that at times, I could not help but hum along as she sang that song. And I do declare that no one sings it better than my grandmother did; I doubt if anyone ever will. She sang it as if she meant it: every word, every syllable of it.

But over and above the melody, it is the lyrics that get to me. They just don’t write songs like “Serunai Malam” anymore. If, for some reason, you want to let your heart hang out for all to see, get yourself an old Malay song like “Serunai Malam”. Though I am a dunce when it comes to Bahasa Melayu, the power and emotions of “Serunai Malam” never fails to blow me away every time. Just how do you beat “Air setitik, tak dapat ku telan”? You don’t! Its one of those things – that unless you were truly and deeply in love – you would never ever fully appreciate.

And as for my grandmother, that song showed me that she was human after all. Sometimes, though, I’d ask myself, “I wonder who she sings that song to?”

But then, some questions are better left unanswered.

19 thoughts on “A Song on The Verandah

  1. ahh, the lyrics of days gone by! They dont do it just as well these days. Serunai malam is one of the best – As for who your grandma sang it too, like you said – best left unanswered.

    Dear Kak Teh
    I couldn’t agree with you more, ma’am. Something about these old Malay songs makes those who are not in love, fall in love; and those who are already in love, fall into the deep end.

  2. sorry, never heard serunai malam before..how fond memories you have of your grandma..and between love letters and surgeon who looked like Julio Iglesias-had more money than his accountants- 12-inch dickie – seriously it’s a tough call.. and i like the pics..she looks so depressed with long hope in her face


    Ha! Ha! I’m sure it was a tough call.Who in their right mind would want a good-looking, well-endowed doctor with tons of money! Surely people would fall for the guy who writes passionate love letters any day, right?

    Er… they do, don’t they?

  3. Mamak,
    ‘Air setitik, tak dapat ku telan”?
    ‘ translate probably is water ‘one drop cannot shallow’

    to many air lior,I guess.

    How about Diana Nasution ‘Benci Tapi Rindu’?


    Benci Tapi Rindu is not old enough yet. ‘Sayang di Sayang’ or ‘Gurindam Jiwa’ works well, too

  4. i admire and even fall for those who can write well prolly because i done have the art of it..but with all due respect, i can only stand love letters maybe up to 3 letters and the rest i would prolly puke on it..i guess cloud9 suffocates and cause me nausea πŸ™‚


    How right you are! With love letters, quality must always come over quantity. Still, I don’t see how 3 little letters can stand up to, lets say, a BMW 3 Series.

  5. bogart-san,

    never heard of serunai malam (i guess i’m not that “old” yet, hahaha)… but would love to hear it…

    eh, your writing ni “banyak makna ni!” hehehhe!


    You ain’t old (yet). But give it time! πŸ™‚

    Writing is like that, isn’t it? So many layers…

  6. Lagu ” Serunai Malam ” itu tadi dibawa oleh AJ Ajamin bersama Orkestra RTM dibawah pimpinan Almarhum .Johar Bahar,digubah semula oleh Mendiang Getz Stein,brass section dipimpin oleh Srd.Syed Ahmad, dan vocal arrangement oleh Mendiang Jimmy Boyel.

    Pak Tuo

    Sekian persembahan Orkes RTM pada malam ini…

  7. You rasa i mewarisi nenek’s “no nonsense, tough-as-nails, mess-with-me-and-you’ll-die image” ke? Kalau ya, now I know where I get it from. Kalau tak, alhamdulillah.

    Dia nyanyi untuk Atok, la..apa plak…

    What do you think about “Tunggu Sekejap”? I like “Tunggu Sekejap”…sure you know why….tapi itu duluuuuu……(kena sebut macam Labi sebut dalam cerita Labu Labi)..he..he..he..


    Hmmm… it could be hereditary; scientists say that people take after their grandparents more than their parents. Did you know that? Don’t worry, taking after nenek is not a bad thing.

    “Tunggu Sekejap” – how apt… But things change: Even when we think the likelihood is almost zip.

  8. my grandmother died in an auto crash when i was a 2 mth babe (pun is indeed intended) in her arms.

    and julio iglesias is ugly.


    I am sorry to learn of your grandmother – and how close you were to becoming a road fatality. I’m glad you survived, though.

    However, I will concur – you are a babe.

  9. Sorry mamak gua lupa,

    For the benefit of all lagu ‘Serunai Malam’
    itu tadi merupakan lagu tema bagi drama ‘Atap Genting,Atap Rumbia’ hasil pena Almarhum Usman Awang@ Tongkat Warrant

    Thanks , bro!

  10. oh thank Pak Tua for mentioning Usman awang because that brings to mind the song Kekasih – aduh….the lyrics are to die for. If only…..

    KEKASIH – Usman Awang

    Akan kupintal buih-buih
    menjadi tali
    akan kuanyam gelombang-gelombang
    menjadi hamparan
    ranjang tidurmu

    akan kutenun awan-gemawan
    menjadi selendang
    menudungi rambutmu

    akan kujahit bayu gunung
    menjadi baju
    pakaian malammu

    akan kupetik bintang timur
    menjadi kerongsang
    menyinari dadamu

    akan kujolok bulan gerhana
    menjadi lampu
    menyuluhi rindu

    akan kurebahkan matari
    menjadi laut malammu
    menghirup sakar madumu

    Kekasih, hitunglah mimpi
    yang membunuh realiti
    dari syurga ilusi.

    ~Usman Awang

    Kak Teh

    Isn’t that the nicest thing one could say to one’s beloved! I remember being awe-struck when I first came across the poem on Elviza’s blog. Blew my socks off! Thanks Kak Teh – for putting it here in my blog. I’m still having trouble learning how to cut-and-paste stuff – I’m kinda technologically challenged.

  11. Bro Bangkai,

    Between you, Elviza and Kak Teh …

    You guys take my breath away.

    Matsalo da man!

    How can you put me in the same league as Elviza and Kak Teh? They are light years ahead of me, bro! But I was touched that you thought so. Really touched, bro!

  12. Bro Bangkai,

    Oh, I forgot. Great title, BTW.. along the same vein as ‘A Bend In The River’ and the like. Very original, bro. I am very poor in the title department. That’s why I’ll never make copywriter…

    Speaking of ‘breath’, as in ‘take my breath away’ – here’s another one:

    ‘Bangkai, Kak Teh, Elviza’ deserve to be spoken in the same breath…

    Bro Madsalo

    I am now convinced that your generosity knows no bounds. But brother, two is company, three is a crowd…

  13. Elviza, I got buried in work. Since Mat B’s blog have lotsa comments much worthy than mine and he’s getting the attention that he should get since he write so well, I’d rather be the silent reader now πŸ˜€

  14. I came back

    Having the urge to know

    What would be your response

    To my question.

    I’d never…

    You simply left me speechless!

    Then I broke into a smile

    Love it to bits…

    Recognition at last!

    As they say, ‘it takes a thief to catch a thief’……


    But, ma’am, you ARE one of Malaysia’s most read blogger.

  15. Beg your pardon mamak,

    Atap Genting,Atap Rumbia was a drama written by Kala Dewata in 1970 and not by Arwah Usman Awang as mention earlier .
    However the Serunai Malam sang by AJ Ajam’in was indeed the theme song for the said drama.
    It a good play.I remember seeing it at Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu Melaka in 1972.
    Lot of good play on stage which I enjoy,

    Bukan Lalang Dituip Angin , Alang Retak S
    eribu and the original Lantai T.Pinkie was a good theater.So do Jejak Langkah .It has deep effect on me as a wee lad.

    Error regretted.


    Noted. And thanks for the update

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