Saturday, November 5, 2016
Tok Batin (拿督巴丁)
Tok Batin was an aboriginal chief lived in a village adjacent to my grandpa’s rubber plantation. His grave was located on a slope of a hill at the back of this aboriginal village. This hill was thought to be a sacred place for the natives and outsiders were totally forbidden to enter its compound. The natives believed that if anyone enters their sacred land and disturbed the resting of their ancestors, the spirits may get angry and cause some natural disasters or even epidemic.
We all know that kids know no boundary. As a kid, my play mates and I used to venture into the aborigine’s holy land especially when we were chasing monitor lizards with our dogs. Since there was a small stream flowing at the foot of the hill, we also went to the aboriginal graveyard to catch edible frogs at night. Most of the time, we were unnoticed by those aborigines but if they ever found that those mischievous kids had trespassed their forbidden land, they would not hesitate to chase us out; or at times we were also being apprehended and sent back to our relatives. Of course, the kids would get another rounds of scolding while as a gesture of apology; the aborigines would be given tobacco, rice, sugar and salt. The intrusion cases were normally solved amicably as we were pretty close to those natives and at times they would bring out some jungle products to sell to us too.
Tok Batin was initially just a long forgotten figure, an incident made him famous around that piece of land. One evening in the 70’s, the villagers rested in front of their house after dinner. Suddenly an old man came from nowhere asking the villagers to give him some water. Naturally, some gave and some just ignored him. During that night, heavy rain started to fall for 3 days. When the rain has finally stopped before the villagers can celebrate themselves, the village suddenly besieged by sudden flash floods. It was said that only those folks who gave the old man water survived.
Afterwards, an old village shaman said that the old man was the manifestation of Tok Batin to remove those unworthy living in the village. Later, a rubber tapper passed by Tok Batin’s grave on route to his durian plantation. It was around 8pm and the rubber tapper were to keep night watch on his durians. The surrounding around the aboriginal graveyard was pitched dark. So it was a norm for night travellers to bring a torchlight along for illumination purposes. As the man was walking past Tok Batin’s grave, he saw an old man standing in the centre of his path at a distance away. He immediately used his torchlight to shine at the figure and the old man immediately disappeared. As soon as he diverted the torchlight, the figure of old man reappeared. The poor man got the shock of his life and he immediately turn his back and ran as fast as he could to his home. As I heard, this man was sick for one whole week.
I passed through Tok Batin’s grave many times following my uncle to his durian plantation. The last time I saw, the grave was already engulfed by a huge banyan tree. This added a sense of eeriness for passers-by. The villagers believed that this banyan tree was ‘keramat’ or ‘holy’ as the tree has given a second life to Tok Keramat because his soul has possessed this tree and continued to watch over his beloved villagers.
Once a villager who was not superstitious tried to chop down the banyan tree but as soon as his axe struck the tree roots, bloodlike saps rushed out accompanied with cries as if someone was in pain. The villager panicked and immediately returned to his house. He was said to fall sick on that night and died a few years later.
Later, another villager hired a bulldozer wanting to topple the banyan tree but the bulldozer died off once it approached the banyan tree. After a few tries, the villager gave up and left the tree alone. Since the sighting of a huge tall white figure were quite often, local Chinese community built a small shrine to pacify the spirit and called it ‘Datuk Batin’. Before I left the piece of rubber plantation, many people still went to Datuk Batin to pay their respect while asking for lucky numbers. I am not quite sure if the Datuk Batin is still around today though.