I am very proud of my Rao (pronounced ‘Rawo’)( In Malaysia it spelt ‘Rawa’) roots. One morning while having breakfast and casually watching Selamat Pagi Malaysia Show there was an interview in which a gentleman was talking about the Seminar Melayu Rao Malaysia to be held at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Tanjong Malim. I quickly registered and duly attended the Seminar on 25th July 2009. The thing of interest to me as an old boy of STAR was the fact there was a paper on prominent Rao personalities who have contributed to the progress of Malaysia. One of the personalities is none other than our beloved Tun Hamdan bin Sheikh Tahir whose father left Rao to escape the colonial Dutch rulers. Of course Tun’s father was a prominent Roa personality in his capacity as a religious scholar in his own right. Most people consider our late Tun as a Minangkabau personality. In a way that is correct because as one of the paper writers of the Seminar Prof. Dr. Puti Reno Raudha Thaib suggested Rao (as a territory) is part of the Tanah Minangkabau and therefore Rao culture is a sub Minangkabau culture.A Roa man is also a Minangkabau man. Another personality is Tun Ahmad Sarji bin Haji Abdul Hamid. He in fact delivered the keynote address and officially declared open the Seminar speaking partly in Rao dialect. Tun Ahmad Sarji is a son of the late Haji Abdul Hamid Arup who served STAR with distinction as the school steward. I have fond memory of him. He instructed the Red Cross members in drill and coached the School Hockey Team. Not surprising as he was a Perak Hockey Player. Personally he had been very kind to me. Many times Adzmi Abdul Wahab (now Tan Sri) and I would return to school after the term holidays a day or two earlier than we were supposed to We would squat in the hostel and nobody would mind. At night we would go to town with a sense of freedom and abandon and watched movies. One Saturday evening we decided to go for a midnight movie. Pak Hamid saw us waiting for a bus and gave us a lift to town. He asked how we would come back knowing that there would be no bus service after 2 am when movie finished. Pak Hamid volunteered to pick us up after the show and bring us back to school which he did. Where can you find a kinder soul?
At the Seminar I also met Prof. Abdullah Hassan (batch 1961 of course). He is the Dean of the Institut Peradaban Melayu dan Fakulti Bahasa of UPSI the co-sponsor of the Seminar. Prof. Abdullah and I discussed the possibility of his institute conducting research on the Rao practice of “pantang tanah” or “Jojak Tanah”. I have in fact asked the panel of paper writers a question on the origin of this practice and whether the practice is not against aqidah islamiah. With respect none of them gave a satisfactory answer. Prof Abdullah was optimistic that the research can be done by his institute. I may even be invited to participate. I will love that.
I assure you I will be writing, off and on, on Rao matters!
Pic: Dato Tajri & YA Yussuf Ahmad during the OBW2009Ref: