Chapter 3 – Ibu Rumah
A typical Malay traditional house that I learned during my architectural study must always have the poise and grandeur of ‘Ibu Rumah’. This significant element was also reflected to my home.
The Ibu Rumah of my home began right from the front main entrance door with the size, I estimate, was 15ft x 12ft almost a square shape. This part, it actually contradicted with the theory that I learned, of which it is supposed to be an ‘anjung’ or a semi private area for any traditional house acts as a transition area before entering the Ibu Rumah.
We don’t have any ‘anjung’.
The space then lead to a bigger main area of approximately 27ft x 30ft. Big, huh? And believe it or not, there was only one ceiling fan at the center of this huge space back then. I remember, I used to directly headed to the area upon a tired long walk in the afternoon hot sun for returning home from school and reciting Quran, took my afternoon nap under the fan with just my undies.
One rule by Mok, all of her grandchildren under her care must take afternoon nap on daily basis! It’s for resting according to her. So it was not only me… there were few nos of us … “selonggok bawah kipas!”. Sometimes, with one’s head at somebody’s foot.
One cousin whom always had the longest sleep was Rafiyuddin.
After our nap, we love so much if Mok fed all of us under the fan if not at the legendary bright orange concrete staircase. Our favorite was rice mixed with tomato ketchup and soya sauce coupled with soya sauce scrambled egg. My cousin Safrul, would not trade with anything else for this simple gourmet. Don’t know if he still have the love for soya sauce scramble egg now…
Both of these squares spaces of Ibu Rumah were linked and divided into 5 areas with designated function. There were a formal living area, formal dining area, family / tv area, multipurpose area and also an area separated from the multipurpose area by a checkered wooden divider fronting the formal living with the most frequently changed look almost like a chameleon making it as my favorite area of all.
Sometimes, Mok placed two of one seater sofa guarding a huge flower bouquet there. At another time, Mok would convert it to an ‘audio’ area by putting a radio. Also it could be a display area for her shining antique copper gadgets such as big pots, small pots, iron, trays, candle holder and whatnot. If Mok feels to just dress it up with only a nice carpet and few cushions, it then would look that way.
Whatever way Mok did it, it was always looked good with the checkered wooden divider as the backdrop full of Mok’s little display items, example from the many types are China-Japan ceramic saucers and glasses, copper mascara container from Mecca and souvenirs from weddings.
What makes this chameleon like area more makes sense was it’s strategic location. It was at the heart of the home and being a focal point for anyone entering the home from it’s main entrance, as they walked pass through the formal living area.
The formal living area on the other hand, I consider it as Mok’s show-off show room. Well, her showing off was not to other people but her own-self for satisfaction. It’s the area where Mok would place the best furniture set with the finest upholstery cover usually matched the curtains complete with knitted or embroidered chair-back and small cushions. The coffee table must always be complemented with a pretty cover and changed of flower bouquets. So were the corners of living area, must always be beautify with flower bouquets or any displays. Ash-trays must always be emptied and cleaned up. It was really a nice-neat space, well lit-up and airy caused by the crossed ventilation.
The only thing…, we can’t really spend our time at the formal living. It was supposed to be Mok’s ‘show room’!… not a play area for a mess by her many grandchildren…. But we don’t really care, there were plenty of other spaces in the home. If not, the home compound is big enough for our runs!
Mok serves the multipurpose area as an ironing space and for telephone. The telephone was so logical that Mok locate it so near to her bedroom so that she was able to monitor who used the phone even if when she was sleeping. Oh dear, Mok has beautiful daughters – my aunties and also growing up grandchildren who just love to hang on the phone!
I don’t really know why the ironing table was placed there though. I guess… because there was a socket at that spot?
But somehow, it worked well. It was not far from my mami’s sewing area that she had to commute from her sewing machine to press the cloth during her sewing. And at night, despite the ironing table was placed at the multipurpose area, there was no need to switch light on for ironing. The light from family or tv area where we usually spend awake time at night the most would be enough.
Mok usually did the ironing at nights. Again, Mok was the one ironing the school uniforms for her grandchildren staying with her, under her care. Mok would neatly placed all the ironed uniforms including our socks and handkerchief according to each of the grandchildren for the ease of us in the morning! Very particular and I really thank Mok, not only for all her does for me but the great example she had portrayed. I must have got the gene from her when it comes to being neat and proper.
We were considered as best dressed kids to school in our kampong with cleaned, ironed uniforms every day. Wonderful.
My home, seemed so modest……… but was a very practical and so beautiful in it’s own way. The home itself, the events that took placed in it be a sweet or a sour one, the way things were done in it… had been a canvas to my childhood life. It was painted so well that I now develop to be the person whom loves herself so much.