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Friday, 22 May 2009

Whispers from the Past.

The Life and Times of Dato Mokhtar Sir Mahmood.

Travelling down the memory lane




Travelling down the memory lane
is not all black 'n white.
Travelling down the memory lane
is not all lacking light.

Travelling down the memory lane
is not eye filled with tears.
Travelling down the memory lane
brings fresh and soothing air.

Travelling down the memory lane
is college, fun and friend.
Travelling down the memory lane
is full of curves and bends.

Travelling down the memory lane
is a test of time and mind
Travelling down the memory lane
is a joy of it's kind.


Poet: Spandan Bhattacharyya


A grand old man remembers.

Today, I am paying a tribute to a friend. Perhaps a peep into his life can bring back those almost forgotten stories that may have flavoured our own lives. As soon as I can get some photographs of those fading years, I shall upload them.

Over the past 2 years, my wife and I became close friends with a distinguished Malay gentleman. His name is Dato Mokhtar. He is the youngest son of Dato Sir Mahmud bin Mat- the first chief minister of Pahang. He is now 79 years old. He was born in January 1930 in Sitiawan when his father was the ADO in Sitiawan. As I said, his father was Dato Sir Mahmud bin Mat (1894-1971), the first Chief Minister of Pahang. The story of Dato Sir Mahmud bin Mat has been written as a book by one of his sons.

Dato Mokhtar, qualified as an accountant. He studied in Australia thereby being among the few Pahang Malays (in the 50's) to study abroad. Like most sons of Pahang aristocrats or prominent families, he studied in MCKK- the English school for Malays, aka The Eton of Malaya.

During university holidays he took up driving cabs to get around Australia. He still goes there regularly, retracing his footsteps. They say, certain phases in our lives are indelibly etched in our memory.

Sitiawan in those days, was a sub district under the charge of the English DO residing in Grik. At the time, a district was divided up into sub districts and each sub district was put under the charge of an ADO. The ADO was therefore, a de facto DO in his sub district.

Mokhtar carries the bearings of a regal person. With each white hair combed in place, it reinforces the rimrod-ness and very proper bearings of the man. Always immaculately attired with a watchful eye over what he eats.

In his younger days, he was a bon vivant living life to the fullest. He enjoyed the good things in life. Good food and good company. He could play the guitar and had an above average skill in palmistry which he employed to good use in reading the palms of the fairer sex. Indeed, his exploits at palmistry got a mention in the University's publication alerting students to keep a look out for him.

Over our many, tête-à-tête I have been fortunate to travel back into time. We are brought back to the times when 1 sen could buy you 4 eggs and a salary of 900 Malayan Dollars in the 1930s was a princely sum. It was a time when a chicken cost 15 sen.

You travel back into time when he was carried or dukung over to the mosque in Kangar Perlis. He was maybe 4 or 5 years old but liked to go over and pray at the nearby mosque. He would either be dukung by his minder or his older brother.

You listen in amazement at the tale of the English DO of Grik- one Barkley wearing a sarong and donning a head dress or semutar ( like the Kelantanese do) riding on the back of a water buffalo to office. That must have been quite a sight. An English John Wayne riding a water buffalo.

The same Barkley was lord over the DO's mansion covering 13 acres with scores of dormitories/barracks where he housed young Malay girls. Or dare I say- gave refuge to poor Malay girls? Curiously the Malays of Perak thought nothing of this. We can only speculate what this Barkley did to his young charges. He gave them proper care and places to stay and would marry them off one by one to salaried staff of the district office. By doing that, he ensured those young Malay girls obtained a secured future. Probably he was moved by purely humanitarian motives.

When the father became the DO in Grik succeeding Barkley, an older boy of around 12/13 came with his grandfather and stayed a few days at his house. He would recall this elder young boy wasn't his brother. The older boy appeared a quiet person.

He remembered the boy was en route to MCKK and had a plain baju Melayu. The proper attire of any Malay boy going to MCKK then was a full baju Melayu complete with kain samping. He recalls his own mother would order clothing material and other personal items from Messrs Laidlaw or Robinsons and then proceeded to dress up the older boy. The older boy who stayed a few days en route to MCKK was Abdul Razak bin Hussein. He would later become Malaysia's second prime Minister and the father to the current prime minister.

We are brought back into time to Pekan where the well to do and aristocrats had slaves to do their biddings. We are not sure whether debt slavery reached such a level as it did in Perak.

I am equally amazed at his exploits in his younger days. Being the youngest son of a distinguished family, he was able to live out his adventure days. Often he would travel alone all the way to Pekan to Peramu. Peramu used to be the landing point of those who traveled by bus or motorised vehicles from where they would take ferries or water boats to continue to go to Pekan proper. From Peramu he would waddle his way through kamunting trees where tigers still roamed at that time and huge snakes still slither among the opaque bushes.

The only warning from his liberal minded parents was not to bathe in the rivers. But that certainly did not stop him from going fishing in dug out canoes and employing what ever tricks he could master to catch as many fishes he could. For example, grated coconut would be fried and mixed with belacan to serve as bait for Udang Galah.

We are brought back into time, when Sungai Pahang in Pekan was full of Ikan Kelabau and a type of river Mullet known as Ikan Jumpoi. Sadly, we can never see these fishes any more.

He is old by Malay standards. For a Malay, to reach 63 years of age is an achievement. God grants the person a bonus. The average age of the followers of Muhammad is 63 years. He is almost 80. Alhamdulillah. Praise be to Allah.

Except for his slowed steps, Dato Mokhtar remains sprightly. He has a superb memory. He is able to regal you with tales of old Kuantan, MCKK and of the many personal adventures he has had abroad. He is a trained chartered accountant. He studied in Australia. Among his friends were the late Dato Jaafar Hussin and, Hanafiah Raslan.

He still drives to KL alone. Most of the times he makes a day trip. Stopping at one or two places for prayers and to ease himself. He has a penchant for the good things in life. He drives a Honda Prelude.

He has proven to be a very shrewd business person, invested his money in buying property when they were cheap. He has land in almost all the notable islands in Malaysia. In Pulau Perhentian, Tioman, Langkawi and so forth. He owns land along the finest beaches in Kuantan. The hotel, Swiss Garden sits on land he sold the hotel operators a long time ago. The land just beside Swiss Garden is still his.

Walk over to this property, one immediately realises that Dato Mokhtar has been practising ecological conservation long before the term going green became fashionable. He is fastidious when it comes to preserving trees and on his land, woe betide anyone who inadvertently cut down any trees there.

I consider it my singular fortune to be able to share with my readers about the life of this extraordinary man.

I shall begin with some stories he shared with me recently.

The man.

In appearance, Dato Mokhtar is a tall man. Slim and very particular over his dietary habits. Earlier photographs showed his flowing white mane which served as a regal crown. That must have made many a female heart flutter. He speaks very good English and displays the mannerisms of English country gentleman. In his younger days, he led a colourful life. He has travelled around the world. He is also an accomplished musician.

He undertook a serious study of palmistry. At his Australian university, this speciality got him into trouble with the university authorities. You see, his gift at palmistry, he says with a twinkle in his eyes, allowed his to caress the palms of the fairer sex. It was no fault of his, he maintains. Female students would come up to him and ask him to decipher the lines on their palms. Ever the gentleman and of course not wanting to waste the opportunity, he would dutifully read the lines of his female counterparts. He spent many hours doing that.

His reputation as reader of palm soon reached the ears of university officials. He was called up to give explanation as to his true intentions. The authorities were not convinced and thereafter, labelled him a Casanova plying his trade on unsuspecting female students.

To be continued..

5 comments:

Tok Senek 22 May 2009 at 17:56  

You are indeed lucky to be acquainted with a living history such as Dato Mokhtar

VersedAnggerik 22 May 2009 at 20:41  

I second U on your opinion of this distinguished gentleman.

I had the pleasure of doing some legal documentations for his company when he was a partner at M.C. Properties about 8 years ago.

He is very articulate and straight to the point with what he wants.

Fi-sha 22 May 2009 at 20:43  

Dear Datuk Sak

Thank you for sharing this with us. I wish we have more young malay men like Dato Mokhtar today. This world would be a better place.

It makes me think - perhaps our education system was better during his days, turning boys into fine, smart gentlemen.

My salam to the Grand Gentleman, Sir.

Anonymous,  24 May 2009 at 02:23  

Dear Dato Sak,

Thank you for the fine article. Pls tell him that the MCOBA Secretariat HQ would like to get in touch with him.

best regards
D.Zin
(zindahari@mcoba.org}
Asst.Hon.Sec.(Special Functions)
MCOBA Secretariat HQ

GUiKP 24 May 2009 at 18:50  

What a find!, Dato Sak. Fascinating story. Reminds me of one of my juniors at Uni, a son of a very distinguished Tan Sri. I was with him one night when he did "Palmistry" to a mixed Malay-Chinese girl, now a director with one of the top Fortune 500 companies based in Malaysia. Both are ICAEW qualified. Is Palmistry the Posh People's little game, I wonder?

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