Saturday, August 14, 2010

Air Batu @ Buka Puasa..

It was the writing of fellow Blogger Temuk that triggers my thought to write on this subject. First let me explain the title; in English it would be "Ice @ Iftar during Ramadan".

In the Tropic there is no such thing as a natural ice thus there is no such word in Malay which mean Ice. So when ice was introduced during the colonial era, it was translated as Air Batu which translated as Air [water] and Batu [stone] so it is Water Stone or Stone Water. Thus in Malay Air Batu mean Ice.

In the forties before the coming of electricity and running water folks in the Kampong [village] break their fast during the month of Ramadan by just drinking plain water to go with their food. Ice water was never in their menu until traders in the town start selling ice water. Ice water is where ice cube or broken pieces of ice are place in a glass and plain water is added to it which later became known as Air Batu Kosong or Ice Kosong. So if you happens to be eating at a stall and need to have a plain water with ice, just ask for Ice Kosong and you would get just plain water with ice in it. As years goes by folks in the village soon learn to use ice in the plain water or syrup water and there is where the Air Batu came along and eventually added as a menu at the Buka Puasa. In those days ice is sold in block and for the takeaway it is usually in the size of 1'X 6" X 6”.

It was common for boys to cycle to the town to buy the ice block before the time of breaking of the fast [Buka Puasa]. In our family I would be the one who would cycle and buy the ice block. At the town I would wait as the china man saw the ice block, dump it into a sawdust box and then rap it with old newspaper and tie it with a string. I bought two blocks and tie it to the rack at the back of my bicycle and ride home happy. It was a four-kilometer’s ride and along the way the ice would slowly melted in the tropical heat and drip alongside. By the time I get home one fourth of the ice block would be gone by the melting process. It would be more had I stop to chat with friends along the way. Anyway folks at home would be happy to see me coming back with the two block of ice. My mom would take over the ice and we all wait for the time to Buka Puasa. The first taste of that sweet rose syrup with the ice floating in it made the daily eight kilometer rides worth the while. It does quench your thirst. It is a ritual during Ramadan that I still vividly remember till this day; buying the Air Batu.

Nowadays folks it is a different story altogether, you just walk to the refrigerator and Voila! you would get your glass of cool Air Batu.

On the left is the scene of the happening as sketch by the famous Malaysian cartoonist Lat. The image was taken from Lat's book 'Lots of Lat'

Have a nice day.

18 comments:

Wan Sharif said...

Salam Pak Idrus,
In my kampung Pulau Duyong, about a kilometer from Kuala Trengganu (as crow flies), we only had electricity supply in th 70's. We get our ice supply from KT taking a passenger boat to and fro.. Enterprising young boys used a small wooden cart to peddle the ice.. in 1965 a 6 inches X 8 inches block of ice was sold at 20 cent each.
So when I got into action selling a 6 inches X 6 inches block of ice at 10 cent each, I was ticked off by so many of my enterprising friends that I had to quit..
My first brush in business cartel I would say..
Selamat menjalani ibadah ramadhan.

Jamiel said...

salam Pak Idrus,
Our ice kacang is truly using that ice block..
But that price of is increasing, this is truly effect ice kacang's price

Martin Lee said...

I remember the small lorry that carried the big ice blocks around, all wrapped in saw-dust. The trader would get down from the lorry and pull out a saw, and saw into a size that the ice "kacang" and "cendol" peddlers wanted for their ice fine-cutting machine!

When did our "Ayer" change to "Air", "Nyior" change to "Kelapa" and "Trengganu" become "Terengganu"? And now we have the word "Ais" too!

louis said...

Hi Idrus,

Thanks for your translation at the beginning of your post and your very interesting account of the derivation of Air Batu.

The "ice man" was quite essential in Trinidad too before refrigerators began to be widely used. A favorite treat of my childhood was "snowball" which was like your ais kacang, but much simpler. You took a container to the ice man, he filled it with shaved ice and poured various brightly colored syrups over it. Then you ran home as fast as you could before it melted away.

Buying a block of ice often meant that you were in for a big treat: homemade ice cream made of real fruit churned for what seemed the whole day in a hand-cranked ice cream churn.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pak Idrus, such beautiful essay about the air batu,very touching!! Have a nice day~:)
Evelyn Yong

Temuk said...

Salam Pak Idrus
Thank you for mentioning my blog in your entry. That was a nice write-up, especially for the foreigners to understand better our fasting culture. In the earlier days, people in many parts of Southeast Asia might have the same experience with ice during the fasting month.

I just wonder when and where was ice first introduced to us. Did our local people get their first taste of ice from an ice box or an ice factory?

Ozz said...

I miss "ais kepal"....ice ball with red syrup......sllluurrrpp...

Zaharan Razak said...

... and then there's the talk that drinking iced drink is bah for the health ...

Pak Idrus said...

Wan Sharif, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Yes, in those day the Malay never appreciate folks going into business. Even the parents would advice kids at an early age not to go into business. Some even considered it 'malu' [shy] and it is better to get be a lowly wage earner rather than do business, thus in those days one do not see any Malay except a few who arrived from Sumatra doing business.

I am not at all surprise that you were block to do business your way, you had a good strategies in sell the Ice with different measurement but they were afraid of going out of business, thus those folks start to make things difficult for you to do business. Had you been stronger in your attitude and help from your elders, you would be a very successful businessman now, perhaps a millionaire too.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Jamiel, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting especially on your business in ice.

Business is like that and you have to develop new strategies in order to been successful in business. Do not give up but should continue to do it come what may.

I am glad that you are into business and it shows that like the other races the young Malay too could do well in business.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Martin Lee, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting especially the happening in your area where vendors would sell many other drinks with ice in it. Had it not been for the ice and the ice scraping tools we would not have Ice Kacang, Cendol and the like that is so Malaysian and loved by all.

As for the evolving of words like Kelapa and Nyior and the like words spoken often changes with time. But I still say Nyior when back in Kuantan but in KL it is Kelapa since folks here refer to coconut as Kelapa. Well, as we progress more words would change and as long as we know the meaning of it, I believe we just have to accept it and use it to our advantage like Ais instead of Ice.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Louis, thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting, as well sharing your thought on this wonderful times of our growing up period.

It look like we have many things in common. Every events in the 'ice age' of ours seem to be the same, the Iceman scraping the ice and the Ice Ball with the multicolor of syrup. And of course the running home with that ice-ball before it melted away was as common here as in your hometown Trinidad; indeed a common cultural happening.

Looking back it was such a colorful events of our young lives that I think the present generation missed. Nowadays we still make Ice ball during family BBQ at our homes and the kids really enjoy making their own colorful ice-ball.

Anyway the ABC or Ice Kacang is still available at both the vendors and in the four star hotels. These items has evolved well with times. What would our Cendol and ABC be without the fine snowy ice on it. The coming of ice does changes things.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Anonymous[1:51 PM] Evelyn Yong, thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting. I am glad that you enjoy it and could relate it to your culture.

Well, it is one of those wonderful happening in our young lives. And I believe you have tried the Air Batu Campur [Ice with beans and jelly and multicolor topping] on your visit to this country, perhaps in Penang!

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Temuk, thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting. Well it was your writing the other day that triggers my thought to write this and I should be thankful for that.

We all had our own experiences during the coming of the 'ice age' of ours and I believe it there could be similar happening in the other countries during the Fasting Month. It would really be interesting to know and hope that someone would write about it.

Temuk that is why I blog, I could share my thoughts on things like this with the world with a hope that others would understand and appreciate our culture as well. I hope institution like the Dewan Bahasa would do more on this national heritage of ours.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Ozz, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Yes the Ais Kepal it does remind me of my childhood waiting for the Ais Kepal and walking home enjoying it on the way.

Have a nice day.

Pak Idrus said...

Zaharan Razak, thanks for the visit and sharing your thoughts on the subject of this posting.

Where did those folks get the idea that taking ice cold drink is bad for the health I wonder. I think it just ignorant like believing in the myth and superstition that is common in the rural society.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!

Pak Idrus said...

Anonymous[11:41 PM] Thanks for the visit and the good words on this posting.

Have a nice day.