Memento truly a gift of wealth

The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.

–        Charles Kuralt, American journalist

Many generations ago, there lived a very poor couple, Mara and his wife Siman. They stayed alone at a dilapidated hovel, just a short distance from a longhouse headed by Ajuk, who was Siman’s father. 

It was said that Ajuk was very much against the marriage of Mara to his daughter Siman because Mara was very poor and lazy – he was only interested in making ‘bubu’(bamboo fish trap) and spent most of his time laying down the fish trap in various sections of the nearby streams. 

His seven pieces of ‘bubu’ were very well done and durable too. Their intricate looks were opposed to the fact that they were done by a man known for his laze. These seven were placed in the best sections of the stream just a short distance from each other nearby the couple’s lodge. 

On one day, he would go around and collect the catch from his fish traps. Mara was very happy to find that his bubu had trapped numerous big carp that Siman cooked in bamboo, making ‘pansuh’.  His catch included the king carp Semah as well as Tengadak, a lesser carp. His seven fish traps were found to give husband and wife happy pleasing moments of joy due to the bountiful catch daily. For seven consecutive days all his bubu had plentiful catch.

On day eight, as usual he went down to check the fish trapped in his bubu. Upon arrival at the first trap he saw a python mating with a red corn snake. He took the opportunity to cut the tail of the python and placed it at the side of their staircase, outside their hovel.  It was then raining heavily. After being soaked by rainwater, Mara needed to warm himself by sitting next to some burning firewood. 

It was during lunchtime that three visitors in full Iban warrior costumes came over for a visit. All were using headgears lelanjang out of hornbill and pheasant feathers and armed with parang Ilang, typical of warriors on a warpath. Siman and Mara welcomed them and asked them to be seated.

Both husband and wife were happy to provide lunch and they shared their fish cooked in bamboo that the three visitors gladly accepted. It was the first time that they received visitors at their humble home. The three visitors thanked the couple for the sumptuous meal.

After lunch the three strangers told Mara they needed him to settle a case in their longhouse. Mara told them he knew nothing about settling cases and told them to get his father-in-law Ajuk. But they said only he (Mara) could settle the case. So Mara agreed to go. Before going, they asked Mara if he had seen a mating session between two snakes earlier in the morning to which Mara replied in the affirmative.

So, all were ready to go but before going they asked Mara to close his eyes for a while. After some seconds they asked him to open his eyes and he noticed that they were standing in front of another longhouse. After dinner he was tasked with settling the case. He confirmed seeing the two snakes mating and showed the cut tail of the python as evidence.

As a memento, they wanted to give him a gong and a jar but he refused. Instead, he asked to be given a special stone for audibility, one which could enable hearing tales of the unknown. This would be able to comprehend the tales and talks of all living things. They happily handed over the special stone of audibility to Mara. They told him he would be able to hear tales or items that others couldn’t hear.

Subsequently all, except for the three visitors, were transformed into snakes. One of the three told him, they were all snakes and that the stone of audibility enabled them to hear all human conversations. So, the three asked him to close his eyes and shortly he was back at home.

Mara overheard cockerels talking about the wealth hidden by their forebears at one place. True enough, when he went to check it out, he found treasures hidden at the location. He couldn’t believe his eyes. But truly these were real and thereafter he and his wife became wealthy that many people were amazed. Some, however, were sceptical, with lots of question marks.

For the couple, they managed to build a much better home but lived their usual life and continued on with their fish traps.

Ajuk regretted his reluctance to accept Mara as his son-in-law. He was bent on making amends.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.  

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