A few old-timers still take the trouble to flatten it open, fill it with tobacco, roll it into a cigarette, light it and puff away. It is the nipah cigarette I am talking about.
As for me I use to puff it, but minus the tobacco, when I was in the primary school. Lucky for me, it did not form a habit. It stopped just like that.
Rahim, my former staff in MVK Bukit Tengah and now in DVS Pulau Pinang, I think is still puffing away rokok pucuk.
Do you know how nipah cigarette is processed?
First the Nipah shoot (pucuk nipah) is collected. The five to six feet spear like shoot is cut at its bottom, usually by using a sharp parang. My late brother, in his prime years, was a famous nipah shoot collector. He single-handedly could fill up a boat with the shoot in a short time.
The shoots are then carried to a landing place on the river bank. My mother and a few other operators then take out the young unopened nipah leaves from the spear (mmatik pucuk) by means of a knife.
The young leaves (comprising of both male and female leaves) are then bundled and ready to be brought home for the next process.
I was always given the chore of pushing all the left-over out into the river so as not to clog the area.
In the house, my mother separate the male and female leaves and then separate (siat)
the part that is later to form the cigarette from the slippery and shiny waste.
The cigarette wrapper is then placed under direct sunlight to dry. Care must be taken to ensure that they are properly dry. Rain water will cause them to turn red and useless.
I remember carrying them into shade everytime it was going to rain. Spoilt ones I exchanged them with freshly baked bread in Kg Banggol (the bakery was no more there now).
When dried, we have to count them two by two. The total is divided by two as the original leaf is made up of male and female leaves.
The counted dried leaves are then tied together and ready to be collected by the towkays.