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Sunday, October 10, 2010
Whenever I am in the garden, it is a trip back in time. Generally, my instinct for gardening was borne of unconscious observation...watching my grandmother in her garden.
My two grandmothers must have played a significant role in my life. One gave me stories, the other an absolute love for all things green. It is of my late Tok Jamilah that my thoughts fly back to today as I weeded and got rid of browning leaves in my lttle garden.
Tok Jamilah never sat still in her garden. As she sat on the steps of her house, she diligently removed all the baby aloe veras sprouting beneath the huge aloe veras that flanked the magnificent entrance steps to the old cengal house in Kampung Baru Jaya Diri. Tok Jamilah's garden had golden coconuts, rambutan, jambu air, mempelam and delima at base of the back staircase leading to the kitchen. There was the great towering sireh, serai, lengkuas, kunyit and a bush of chilies. There was guava at the gate entrance snd a circular rose garden as you drove in.
Tok Jamilah was constantly weeding, pruning, removing unwanted young sprouts. This was my first lesson in the garden. This is vital. It is a serious undertaking - this removal of the weak and browning. My grandma was relentless.
One day, I saw my grandma setting traps in the garden. By evening, she caught a beautiful squirrel. She calmly drowned the poor creature. I cried and asked her why. Her answer, the squirrel ate her coconuts. Certainly, gardening is not for the weakhearted. Now, today, I would love to have squirrels and birds in my garden, I would never resort to killing them. But I remove snails and spray pests with my citronella spray. And remove leaves with cocoons. I suppose I am not as ruthless as my grandmother. But then my garden is not even one tenth of her one acre compound.
Another thing. To grandma, the house was part of the garden, not the other way round. The kitchen extended into the garden, with the lesung kaki housed under a huge shelter at one end and several tunku at another end. The lemang stove area was the centre of the hari raya season. They were people in the garden night and day. I can't remember why. But there were always nieces, helpers, anak angkat and gidzillion of people around.
My grandmother looked after her garden all her life. Even when rheumatism must have caused her so much pain. I feel her close when I am in the garden. Experimenting. Remembering. Loving.