#CBF16: Of Basketry and Babai

Rattan hand-woven baskets made by Babai

It was Christmas 2014 when my mother finally decided to go through the attic in Babai’s house. She’d enlisted me to help and before I knew it, I was holding the ladder steady while she climbed up to the attic.

Among the many treasures she discovered were these rattan hand-woven baskets Babai made. We were pleasantly surprised to find them in fairly good condition despite the fact that they must’ve been left up in the attic since he passed away 7 years ago.

Most of my grandparents passed when I was very young and Babai, my mother’s father, was my sole grandparent for many years and because of that, he was the closest grandparent to me.

I didn’t know that much about him and it was only several years before he died that my late uncle revealed that Babai was a champion poet among the villages in the area. I remember thinking then Oh, that’s where our creative streak comes from. 

I have memories of Babai membalas pantun (sing song reply in poetry form) with other village folk but didn’t realise that he was considered as one of the best. That night when we found out his status as a champion poet, he was singing in poetry form with a friend and I assumed then that it was merely a hobby.

“He was very sharp and quick with his rhymes in his younger days”, said my uncle.

Oh, I thought and looked over at Babai as he sat in his chair with a plate of sticky rice balanced on his lap, exchanging rhymes with his friend while waving his hand in the air to emphasise his point.

Though he suffered a stroke when he was younger which left the right side of his body semi-paralysed, Babai still managed to keep busy by weaving rattan baskets. Most of the baskets were used daily while some were given away. As far as I knew, none were sold. In fact, he was also one of the last in the village that possessed the skills and knowledge to do this. I remember asking my mother several months ago if there was anyone in the village who could teach me to basket weave and she told me that Babai was likely the last to know how. That knowledge made me regret not asking him to teach me while he was still alive.

So, when several of his baskets were unearthed from the attic, some of them not quite finished, I asked my mother if I could keep one. I chose a small basket or reked, and it hangs on the wall of the corridor that leads from my bedroom to the main living area of the house. Every time I walk along that corridor, I look at it and remember Babai as he sat on a small wooden stool, on the patio of his house in the village, weaving the rattan strips, creating cherished objects.


cherished-badge16This post is written for the Cherished Blogfest 2016



20 thoughts on “#CBF16: Of Basketry and Babai

  1. Really good and poignant. I’m sure your Babai’s creative talent has taken up a home in you, and he would be so pleased that his basket hangs in a prominent place in your home. Thanks for sharing your memories of him and your cherished object!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Glenn. The other cherished objects I had in mind before somehow never felt like the right thing to write about. This one did and the words (and memories) just flowed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love those baskets! It really is a pity that the skill wasn’t passed on as I know how good you are with your crafts. And just like him, you are good with your words too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know M! I will find a way to learn how to do it though, we need a basket weaver in the family! 😀 Yep, I guess the passion for words comes from my Babai. It was nice to have found that out about him 🙂


  3. I agree with Melissa above – you’re very good with words. This was a wonderful story about your Babai. It’s amazing how many talents our parents and grandparents have that we don’t realize or appreciate until later in life. I can see why you cherish your Babai’s basket so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ellen! I agree, we never really quite know what our parents and grandparents have a passion for. We tend only to see them as that roles but before that, they were individuals with passions they pursued! It’s wonderful to have a piece of my Babai’s handiwork somewhere close 🙂


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