Thursday, December 18, 2008

Firemen at Malay Circumcision Ritual

Firemen are saviors of emergencies and they have responded to the most bizarre rescue missions or otherwise, but in Malaysia their line of duty extends to new heights.

On a fine December 2008 morning, fire fighters from the Army Fire Services based in Terendak Camp, Malacca found themselves busy with a not-so-common task. They were invited by the villagers in Kampung Pinang A, Malacca to use fire hydrants to shower for 40-odd boys taking part in Sunat or a religious circumcision ritual.

The fire crew arrived in a Mercedes Benz 911(ZA 6326) and began to douse the kids aged between 6 to 12 years old wet before they proceed to a makeshift operating theatre at the back of the village’s surau for their unnerving life changing experience.

Merc Benz 911 or locally known as Mercedes Manjung because of its large nose-like engine compartment was a favorite in Malaysian fire fighting scenes in the 80s until it was phased out by newer ones.
According to village elders, boys would traditionally take a dip at a nearby river or bathe near a well to instill courage themselves.

However, a check with those who have experienced sunat will tell you that cold water wherever the sources are has a calming effect on the male organ before it is surgically mutilated.

Elaborate and expensive berkhatan ceremonies are now a trendy phenomenon and Malay kampung go to their wits to outdo each other. Each claiming to have bigger sunat participants or a more elaborate scheme of things.

Sunat - previously a solemn religious occasion has evolved into a carnival, and not surprisingly, firemen and fire sprinkles are very much part of today’s repertoire.

Unfortunately, the traditional role of Tok Mudim or the village circumcision expert, has all but disappeared with more parents opting for the modern method of circumcision. Tok Mudim are being replaced by medical assistants armed with sterilized tools to perform the rite of passage.

As the ceremony progressed, I witnessed how ZA 6326 found itself stuck in mud because of the weight the pump has to take.
Fortunately, many villagers were around to save the day for the fire truck.

Three days later, another grand circumcision ceremony was held at the nearby Pantai Puteri and firemen from the State Fire Department were enlisted instead.

An overwhelming 200 kids came and the occasion was made more colorful with mothers who brought the beautiful bunga melur telur, a decorative ceremonial flower made from egg shell.

Soon, the parents accompanied their kids on a loud procession with kompangs and silat down the road to a site next the beach.
There, the firemen using hoses from the state’s latest fire fighting vehicle - Mercedes Benz Atego (BKA 8922) begin a 15 minute bathing ritual to prepare the boys for an unforgettable event in their life journey. The circumcision was then held in the Pantai Puteri community hall.

No comments: