Thursday, January 13, 2011


I have listened to this story many times. My mother relating it with a certain zest and pride in her voice. It seems like it came out of an old manuscript and brings me back to a time when everything seemed to be seething with mist, mystery and maidens. And elephants, sultans and escapes. It all sounds too fairy tale like. A little cliched and a little too thespian. 

But I suppose when stories of old are told, by word of mouth, they have no other way to go but to become romanticized. They become exotic, alluring and idyllic. And then someone comes along with screen and keyboard in hand and types them down.

This is one more old story that has become no less. This is a perfect story, I think, of a damsel in distress.

Malaya ~ late 19th century

What could have raced through Yang Kundor's thoughts as she rode through the wild, virgin and untamed depths of the Malayan jungle? Faith? Fear? Or Fearlessness? Perhaps all three in turns. Or in confusion. 

Could there have been moments when she longed to call out, to turn back and to return to the comfort of home whenever virulent hisses and savage howls were discharged from the dark unknown? Or were her lucid thoughts of royal life as one of the Sultans wives just too demeaning that it made her resolute to move on?

She must have been given a talisman that she lay close to her breast to ward off evil , harm and the distant chants of black magic. Something that she could clutch at with both fear in one hand and faith in the other. She must too have felt disquieted of what might await her once, or if ever, she emerged from the depths of that journey. Yang Kundor's mind...whirling as hard as her heart was pounding. Surely.

But I suppose the certainty of life in royal restraint must have seemed far more distasteful than that of the uncertain unknown. I would have clung on with unyielding grip to the carriage atop the elephant as it trampled through the dense undergrowth. It must have been the longest journey of Yang Kundor's  life.

When reverberations from the thumping of the canang  were heard to proclaim Yang Kundor as the Sultan's future wife, on the evening before, I can only imagine the heart of Datuk Panglima of Mengkarak and Cemur being weighted down with dilemma and consternation. But resolute in his plans of escape for his daughter. He must have braced himself for the Sultan's wrath. To whom he had promised to defend and obey. The man whom he had thought worthy of his services and his life. Until ........ his daughter became the object of his master's desire.

What excuse could the Datuk Panglima have brought forth to the Sultan the next morning to explain the disappearance of his daughter? Was he spared and then forgiven or did he have to bear the Sultan's outrage and be banished from the realm forever? Or did it cost him his life? Or did Yang Kundor plan her own escape? No one knows. And no one could tell me.

But what we do know is that Yang Kundor and those who went with her successfully escaped and survived the journey. After three perilous days and nights through the jungle they arrived in Kajang and Yang Kundor spent the rest of her short life there. She was my mother's paternal grandmother. 'Twas a pity she did not live to see the grandchild who is said to resemble her. My mother.

Beraja dihati

Bersultan dimata

No. Not this time your majesty ~

*Beraja dihati, bersultan dimata ~ a Malay idiom literally translated ~ ' The heart of a king, the eyes of a sultan' which means ~ to attain whatever one desires.

1 comment:

  1. Zurin,
    Wow...imagine your life now as the great great grand princess living in the Palace :) A beautiful ' family legend ' Your mom a beautiful lady and you takes after her :)