This species of the tree has shot into prominence after the Perak State Assembly, under speaker V.Sivakumar, who met under the angsana or in Tamil thoongu muunji maram on March 3. There are many comments being dished out as to whether the sitting, in this case it was standing (no chairs) was legitimate or not. For me it is simple, it is not the place that is important but what took place there.
The speaker Sivakumar is great. I am told he is a lawyer. More than that nothing is known about him. Perhaps, those knowing him would care to comment so to know what type of a person he is.
Anyway coming to the rain tree. My childhood days were spend in Ipoh, to be specific Fryer Road, Class XI units, railway quarters which are now no more there. Now this Fryer Road is where the administrative buildings of KTM, Keretapi Tanah Melayu, or in my time Malayan Railways, stands. This same road had the Pillaiar Temple but during my last visit to Ipoh, I saw 2 temples there, one new and the other old. I thought the old building was the Pillaiar temple I knew. Fryer road led on to Jelf Road and it ends in Connolly Road, which incidentally branches off to Sungei Pari Road, Buntong and so forth.
From my house in Fryer Road I had to walk up to Jalan Sanders, which was on a slightly raised ground. and this is where were the quarters (Class IX,VII) housing the clerks, Station Masters, Booking, Parcel and Goods clerks stood. In Jalan Sanders was the Railway field, and it is hard to convince people that cricket and hockey was played there, at lease when I was a kid.
Along Jalan Sanders the rain trees grew in abundance giving wonderful shade to all the occupants of the class IX quarters and also those who were spectators of the games mentioned earlier and of course football. Division III football games of the Ipoh league were also played there.
If my memory serves me right, these rain trees were huge and the roots running above ground were excellent places to have a seat to watch the games. These trees were old, very old, and I don’t remember they rotting away or branches falling off.
Now “thoongu munchi maram” literally translated would mean sleepy head tree. It is more clear in Tamil alluding to “sleepy face”. Of course I wonder why they were referred to as such, they were huge and solid, so much so they were guardians of the people even though sleeping.
Now, to the place where this rain tree is given prominence, the road was known as Douglas road, and originally there were 4 Railway bungalows housing Railway officers. They were taken over by the state government, during the time of Datuk Shariff, the then General Manager of Railways, and I think the State Secretariat is part of the Railway land before. The British who were in the Railways planted rain trees, go to Gemas, Kuala Lumpur, Prai, and even smaller stations they had rain trees everywhere. Was this on purpose or it was just there I don’t know.
What is exiting is a sleepy head tree may have the key to a new era of awakening of the people who, especially the Perakians, who having voted their representatives find the representatives have no place to go, and the rain tree gives them refuge.