BIDAYUH WAY OF LIFE – my story…part 1

It has been an interesting short journey of living in this world from the 40’s till now. Even the true time and day of my birth was not recorded as then no one seemed to care not the minute or of the day… only the season. Thus I was born during the harvesting period resulting in leaving half of the paddy field not harvested. The essence of my story is time did not really matter. Even the birth of a child did not really matter to the Government of the Day too. It was the Brooke era of the Second World War and the Japanese was still around. Luckily the invaders did not bother with our village, even our chickens, pigs and paddy were not taken from us like other places. There maybe other villages which have this luck for I do not check with elders of all BIDAYUH villages. But I do know that our village, Kpg Blimbin was not harassed or bothered.

However there were two occasions as the story goes that the Japanese soldiers wanted to “get our chickens and pigs” but for some strange reasons they never come. On the first occasion they returned upon reaching a muddy patch along the way where there used to be a lot of  water fowls, we called “SIKUKOUK” about two kilometers from the village. On the second occasion, they went back because apparently one of them died of a “Heart Attack” when crossing a river about one kilometer from our village. After that, they never bother our village.

Yet those were the days when we live in poverty compared present terms and conditions but those were the days when we were also be free and independent. There was little or no Government except rumors of “headhunters” would throw the village into a frenzy. Even the word of “JAGA PINYAMUN”(watch out there is a headhunter around) would scare the child into hiding. A warning of  “MA ODI JAK OGGI PINYUMAN” (do not go there maybe a headhunter) would stop a lot boys from venturing into those area. But it was also the days of no theft, rape or other crimes committed. It was the time when we did not need the Police or the Army. All they had was a village Head who would impose any punishment or fines on any offenders in a single session of gathering of the Elders with the witnesses and the aggrieved. Otherwise life is carefree – no formal classes or school too.

Our village consist of  three longhouses and four detached houses – one of them, my mother’s brother who also the Priest and the Village Head at that time and the other my father’s “Bangalo” with BELIAN roofing and materials, the only one with such roofing at the time. Sorry, I could not recollect the exact number of doors in each longhouse but each one had more than five doors definitely. Besides some would be empty, during the non Gawai season as the owners would be staying in six other sub-villages of Kedowon Sojuh, Kedowon Sobah, Mongag/Onai, Kaman, Buta and Koong. Now these sub villages have attained the village status of  Pedaun(KIDOWON SOBAH), Bijuray(MONGAG/ONAI), Kaman and Bijongon (BUTA). Kedowon Sojuh is still a subvillage with a few families now while Koong has been  abandoned after a devastating cholera outbreak killing many residents.

The village came alive during the festivities and communal ceremonies. Then every door would bustling with activities while we, the children would be running around the longhouses, just playing around “hide and seek”. Two of the longhouses were interconnected by the platform facing each other in an East-West position while to the North on the East side the two longhouses were connected with a single Belian post with bamboo railings acting as the Bridge. To the South sat our village Head house made from local materials. My uncle’s house was on the North end of Western longhouse. His was the only house where we had to go down/climb a staircase made from a single Tree trunk, if we were to hide there.

In this old village of Kpg Blimbin, we had our fun of growing up but also a time of grief when babies died one after the other from a diphtheria epidemic. It still sticks in my ears of the high pitch wailing of a mother in the evening to “announce the death of her child”. Those were the days of fear and sorrow. A whole generation would be wiped out. What made it more fearsome was that a bird seldom heard to-day would be heard flying over the village in the evening of such death. We were told that this bird “flies upside down”.

Not long after the death of my elder sister, we moved away from the detached House, never to return without knowing the reason why. Only lately one of cousin explained to me that it was considered “taboo” then to built a house of belian completely without other timber. One told me that our house should not have been built there because it was too close to swampy area. I still remember when we would into the swampy jungle for “hide and seek”. I remember my sister died of fever. We were just playing around the day before still but waking up next morning I asked my mother why they wrapped up my sister in white clothes. I told her it would be too hot and “How can she breathe?” But my mother cried instead.. it was the first death I witnessed first hand my three year old sister…

We moved to a farm hut next to a farm which eventually evolved into the present Kpg Blimbin site. The house I built to keep memories of our life is the fourth but on the same site more or less. It is where I grew up till I went to stay in a boarding at St Peter and Paul, now called St. Stephen in 1957. We went hunting, fishing, or just playing around in the jungle to look for anything eatable. Fish aplenty, I could catch enough for my own meals most of the time. I was not good in using the sling to catch birds or squirrel compared to others but I was pretty good in fishing and also collecting durians during the season. In fact I skipped schools on days during the durian season which is not only fun time but also it brought in good money. I collected and my parents would sell.

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