A Stringer's Last Piece: A Centenarian's 102 Years Voyage

Last update: 27/07/2017

By Allias Puteh


Bernama's stringer the late Allias Puteh who passed away at the age of 69 last Tuesday wrote a short piece on centenarian Tok Bok on June 24. Bernama is releasing a feature version of his original story including the assistance Tok Bok and family are hoping for.


BANDAR BAHARU (Bernama) -- She could take care of herself without much assistance from the others, though she is said to be 102 years old now.

That's not all, Siti Zahrah Wahab or fondly referred to as Tok Bok from Kampung Tanjung Belit, Mukim Sidam Kanan, Padang Serai, Kulim lives to tell that her memory is still fine.

?I use a walking stick...my vision is reduced now but I could see clearly from near. During daytime when it is bright I have to use sunglasses to cut the glare,? she said when met by this writer at her home recently.

Tok Bok is the eldest of eight siblings - six males and two males - with only four of them still around.

Though her identification states that she was born in 1925, her family members state that she became 10 years younger because she registered for the document much later in life, something common in those days.

Tok Bok, who still speaks quite clearly, said to the writer she was married twice and has four children in total.


TOK BOK'S LIFE STORY

She first got married at 18 where she had three children, two sons and a daughter. Through her second marriage she had a daughter. Her eldest son born two years after her first marriage is now 82 years old.

Interestingly, both the husbands who passed away long time ago shared the same first name Bakar. Another interesting fact is that since her childhood Tok Bok has been residing in the same village. Her second son and eldest daughter too ended up living in the same village much of their lives.

Tok Bok now lives with her eldest daughter, Zubaidah, 75, a single mother while her second son Yusof , 72, lives at the adjacent house. The youngest, Azizah, 65, lives in another village nearby.

"My eldest son,Yazid, lives in Felda Keratong, Pahang, he has been there since long ago and returns to see me whenever he could.

"I have nine grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and a great-great grandchild," explained Tok Bok to the writer.

Later when Bernama asked Azizah to verify the number of grandchildren, she had no idea but Tok Bok counted them one by one and she was right it is nine. At 102, this is something remarkable.

Meanwhile, Zubaidah who takes care of Tok Bok's food shared her mother now mostly eats rice, vegetables and little fried meat.

"Of late she has not been eating much ulam (herbs) as she suffers stomach discomfort after eating the chili and prawn paste (sambal belacan) accompaniment," said Zubaidah on her mother's diet.

Though she speaks clearly, her hearing has deteriorated and to communicate with her one has to speak louder.

Azizah noted that her mother does not suffer from any medical conditions except nerve pain and pain at lower abdomen. "Maybe because during her younger days she used to work hard including tapping rubber and work at the paddy field," she said adding that during her younger days Tok Bok would use all her strength to pound paddy to make rice for the family's consumption.

According to Zubaidah, Tok Bok takes care of bathing and cleaning herself and walks around the house by herself using her walking stick though the family prefers to guide her as they fear she may trip over.

She still remembers important events in the past, that she passes down to her children, grandchildren and relatives. Among the things that she still recalls is that during the Japanese occupation years she and her friends would flee to a specially built hideout when she there is news of the Japanese soldiers coming.

However, over the last few days Tok Bok has not been feeling well and has been resting most of the time.


TOK BOK AND HER CARETAKER'S PREDICAMENT

However, the biggest problem faced by Tok Bok and her children in their golden years is the lack of financial resources. Zubaidah, despite of her advancing age works as a general worker at a religious school earning RM270 monthly to get on with life.

She also does babysitting work at a teacher's house with Azizah caring for Tok Bok when Zuraidah is out to work. Another of Tok Bok's son, Yusof also lends a helping hand whenever possible.

They receive financial assistance from the Kedah Zakat Department once a year and hope there will be regular assistance to carry on with the vestiges of their life.

Recently Tok Bok received a pair of baju kurung and batik piece for Hari Raya from a local philanthropist and the 2011 Ma'al Hijrah award recipient for the Kulim district, Tan Kim Pheng, also known to the locals as 'Ah Peng'.

Tok Bok and family were very happy that the writer took the trouble to come down and get to know of their well-being and were shocked when Bernama informed them that the writer had passed away.

"Allias was very concerned of Tok Bok's health and the family's welfare. Allias said "baik-baik?"(take care) before leaving," said Azizah on the last words of the writer before leaving the house.

Those keen to help Siti Zahrah and Tok Bok can contact 0174787876 (Zubaidah Bakar).


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SIDE BAR


ALlIAS PUTEH IS NO ACCIDENTAL WRITER

The man who wrote the story on Tok Bok, the late Allias Puteh, 69, had been writing for Bernama since the early 1980s and continued writing full time after he retired from his full time job as a technician with the Public Works Department.

Allias' started as a stringer for Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian even much earlier before joining Bernama.

He had deep passion for writing and was an active stringer providing stories on the happenings around Kulim-Bandar Baharu. Apart from news stories, this writer provided an insight into the lives of the locals living in the surrounding hamlets through his features.

Friends and colleagues, including Kedah bureau Chief Zabidi Ishar and Bernama's Perlis bureau chief Zainal Abdul Jalil remember Allias as a hardworking stringer with deep passion for writing.

During his younger days he was also active in politics and was the Kulim Umno youth vice-chief. He was down to earth and well liked by the locals, including politicians and media colleagues.

Early this year he received a letter of commendation from the district police for a job well done as a stringer and five years ago his contributions were also appreciated by the district's Fire Department.

Allias was admitted to the Kulim Hospital on July 12 for kidney problems and while undergoing treatment there, on the early hours of July 18 he drew his his last breath. He was laid to rest at the At-Taufiq Mosque Muslim Cemetery, Ayer Merah, Kulim.

He leaves behind wife, Asma Zakaria, 72, a retired teacher, and five children, the youngest 26 and the oldest 44, and five grandchildren. Al-Fatihah.

BERNAMA