by Raja Ali Haji (1808-1873)
English translation © Bin Gregory Productions
This is the gurindam of the sixth issue:
Seek you a companion
Who can be for you a medicine …
“Take the parang beneath the stairs
Use the whetstone on an edge grown dull.
That faith be kept safe in prayer
Prostrate daily five times in full.”
Gardening in the tropics is a constant battle against the jungle. Being properly armed means carrying a machete. From Brazil to the Congo to the island of Borneo, farmers wield some form of long, sturdy knife for slashing and hacking back the relentless encroaching green. The Malaysian machete is the parang.
“As large as papaya, as small as keranji,
Break a branch and the fruit falls down
A face so lovely with manners so ugly
Is like rain falling murky and brown”
Growing papaya, or betik, from seed is easy enough – sow them on loose soil straight from the fruit and they’ll come up without trouble. The tough part is figuring out if your tree is a boy or a girl…