Wednesday, February 16, 2005

An Imagination

I have always imagined that I can attract tourists to the kampong (village) where I was born and where I grew up as a small boy. Its a pleasant traditional riverine Malay village as far as I can remember, with the wide not so fast flowing Pahang River running through it, and further inland small lakes where oxbow lakes used to be formed, and further up inland there were padi fields. In between are small orchards and rubber small holdings. And Malay houses scattered all over the village, these houses on stilts so that they are about 5 feet off the ground to prevent, I suppose, wild animals from reaching to the occupants and also probably when flood starts there is time for the occupiers to pack up and go away to safer higher grounds. In fact that was the idea I suppose as most houses got small dugout canoes under them, with the paddles ready in them.

In those days there were only footpaths between those Malay houses in the village, they forming a sort of network communication channel between the people in the village. Metalled surface roads then was almost unheard of, and these were only present in towns (which the nearest may be as far away as 20 km away down river), neither were electricity or piped water available. Telephone was too far away from anybody’s mind. Thus traveling about was either by walking, (or the richer ones by bicycles) or by boats on the Pahang River, and the Pahang River also form a source of fish for protein (and much as hate to say, it also was where the toilets were). Then the river was wide, quite deep (probably about 10 feet deep on an average), water clearer and fish was aplenty. And everyone was happy, they had everything they wanted for a decent living. Some have buffaloes as domestic animals, most kept chicken for the meat and eggs and some even had ducks. Most have their own padi field where they plant and harvest padi every year, the crop being planted annually, so there is always the annual harvest before the flood season in December. They were self sufficient in almost everything. Of course they had to buy salts and sugar, and these are readily available in the Chinese shops a couple of km away.
What do they do in their spare time or as cultural interest?. I would say not much really. But then in order to survive they had to do everything themselves. Some made fishing nets and cast nets, some made fishing implementation equipment for catching river and other fresh water fish, while others occupy their time according to the time of the year. The young men probably learnt self defence, the bersilat, the younger ones probably play marbles and top or just swim in the Pahang River. Almost everyone knew how to swim in the Pahang River and they all knew which part of the river are the safest to swim in. And tops are made by the local craftsman, in the village. And other handicrafts were aplenty. They made things out of coconut shelf, coconut leaves, coconut husks, and they may even play with the leaves that drop off from coconut and areca nut trees. In fact toys were self made, and toys like those of today were almost unknown.
How did they dress? Very decent I must say. Bear in mind that they were and are still Muslims so they cover themselves as best they could. Not like today of course where the women try to cover almost everything but those women in those days also covered themselves well, modest but not extreme. And men? They like to wear sarong and/or flared knee length shorts. It was the fashion in those days.

Now what do I imagine today, basing on my above related write up. Well I imagine today that I can attract foreign tourist to my village by showing these tourists what we had then, and how we (you call us the natives) Malays used to live in the village. Its a live reality show of how people can live in a self sufficient way by doing almost everything themselves, with very little input from outside. But of course we have to take care of the tourists and at the same time the tourists also must have some fun out of their visits. Why I can imagine that I can attract tourists? Well its because the village has now been provided with modern amenities but still in a stage of minimum usage of these amenities that have been provided. The tourists will actually share these facilities and probably will be able to impart some knowledge (and share experience) on how these amenities can be used to make everyday life in a rural area pleasant. In a way a sort of "Home Stay" concept but manage in a way where it benefits both the local and the tourists involved.

The village now has go tarred road. In fact it has a network of tarred road. Tourists can teach the local how to use such facilities, say by using bicycles to cycle around the village as a recreation. Not that they do not know about it now but its just that its better if these are reintroduced by people from outside. These roads are also very pleasant to travel slowly on in the evening or morning or even daytime, by small capacity motorcycles, watching nature living in a natural surroundings, safe from the towns heavy traffic. In fact the village is so natural that it has all the natural wild birds there and many jungle trees among its midst. It has got varieties of insects, and for insect watchers its a heaven.

With the arrival of the tourists, the water of the Pahang River can be fully utilised, we can use water-jet propelled boats when traveling about in the River. Normal outboard motor boats may not be practical as the river water may be a bit shallow at certain time of the year, and also quite fast flowing at other time of the year, and sometime with logs floating about. With strict safety standards, I am in the opinion that it is quite safe to speed boat about in the river. Probably to add local touch to the scenery, tourist would be encouraged to go boating by dugout canoes, but with caution. If someone does not knowhow to control the dugout canoe properly with a hand held paddle, the boat may even turn around in an awkward position or may even capsize. So caution must be in the air all the time - like safety float jacket to be worn always, and knowledge of keeping afloat in the water of a fast flowing river must be the basic for allowing anyone to go in such dugout canoe boating.

I suppose for a tourist even watching buffaloes waddling about in the mud to cool themselves is of interest. Of course don’t mind the smell of mud and the buffaloes (and buffaloe dungs). And probably seeing how buffaloes are looked after by their owners, dragged by the nose about and so on. Even the making the ring for a buffalo nose is an art by itself. Probably the art is now long forgotten and gone.

The village is very quiet at night. Everything come to a standstill. But the night noise can be fascinating. The evening cicada noise, the birds trying to find places to sleep, and later on owl shouting in the dark, and a certain night bird calling in low tone on the footpath. I don’t really know what these night birds do but if you hear the "burung tukang" at night you can be really fascinated. At least I was and still is. "Tukang" means tradesman or a carpenter, they make such noise as if some one is knocking or working on some wood or something. And the fireflies, they are always there as far as I can remember. But to see them you have to be very quiet in the dark. And on full moon night, the scenery can be very beautiful, though can be eerie. You see the outlines of a lot of things, trees and shrubs, and because the light is very dim, you can imagine seeing a lot of things - even ghosts. And the eyes of animals, they really shine in the dark.

But of course there are a lot of challenges before my wild imagination can take off. There must be a list of what the products are, bearing in mind that tourists will need to spend a lot of money even on coming. Then on how these products are to be marketed. There must be a marketing force. Once the products attracts the customers, which in this case are the tourists, the customers must be made pleased to come, pleased to stay, pleased to come back again (and pleased to spread the words around). And while at site the customers must be made satisfied and all their need fulfilled, bearing in mind that the customers are probably from another environment (at least most of them). And the products must be sustained in quality, and safe for use. Those are some of the biggest challenges.

Its nice to imagine all these. Its nice to see whether what I imagine can be turned into reality. Or will my imagination just remain an imagination within my life time and if so will someone pick up the idea, improve on it and attempt to implement it.

To Shout Back

Friday, February 04, 2005

Young Old

They say that old people tends to talk about the past and young about the future. Old folks have gone through a journey whereas the young may just be starting on a journey. You can hardly tell who is the wiser; the old have the experience but the young are more focussed towards their intentions for the future. Circumstances are different, environment changes and civilisation moves in a direction led by time. And no one can stop time. So the old will stick with old ideas and old practices and the young learns from the old but with the changes around them now they will interpret the experience of the old into their own future planning, the action that they may take may now be different from what the old have taken earlier.

There is always the debate between generations, and in certain society the gap widens because of the debate. Understanding of each other's functions diverse and in some society will lead to the rule of the jungle, the stronger ruling the weak and in most cases the weak being the elderly. Sad situation really but that is the fact of life. When you are young, which once you are, you are looked up to but having passed a certain age you are now considered old and so you give away so that the young will come forward. Unrealisingly you are actually vacating a seat of power which if not managed properly you become the victim.

OK, it sounds very frustrating in some society to the old but it really depends on the relationship between those with age differences. Sometimes its the old who do not understand the young, the old being more patient, at least in most cases, and the young being more impatient with getting things done and in the end one will be pointing fingers at each other, one accusing the other of not actually understanding the situation before one takes action. Sound familiar isn't it.

Age cannot be reversed, the young will grow old and the old older and die - its the rule of nature. Its only the question of how fast the young becoming old and how fast the old grows older and die. But again, the old may grow old physically but do their mental beings grow old as well? That is a difficult conclusion to make, the old may be slow to react to situations, but are they really that slow in the thinking efforts? Do the young really act that fast, or if fast do they take the correct action when reacting to an action or a demand? Its a debate without end.

A difficult area in certain society is the relationship between sexes in that society. The old though physically old but has young mind and then trying to prove that he/she is still young. When relationships develop in such a situation, it becomes difficult to manage. As they say "the desire is there but the flesh is weak". Maybe that is appropriate for men but does it apply to women? I have no answer. And of course the young wants to grow fast, to reproduce fast and so in some cases the relationship can be quite complicated. If the relationship occurs within the age group then I suppose it will not be too difficult to manage other than if these happened in different strata of society. In those days it was really difficult to manage but nowadays its easier as the strata become less and less, and some have even merged.

One area which is still a problem as I see it is on the management of the very old and the very young, especially those sickly ones. In the old days there were such things as parental love and piety or filial duties but in these days of economics runaways, piety and filial duty have gone to the dogs. Why do I say so? When a baby is borne, the baby will be looked after by a maid minder as both parents be working. So the baby grows up into a child of the minder. And when in school the child just becomes one of he children of society, so he/she grows into the society in the environment where he/she goes to school, and so on to the University and then to the working life. The process goes on. Now what about the old? Well the old then become a burden to the child like the child then a burden to the parents earlier. So now the child will have to send the parents to some minders, and the easiest will be Nursing Homes or in the old days these are called Old Folks Home where he/she pays minders like then when the parents pay minders. So the process goes on. When will this stop? I do not know the answer.

Actually by observation, I see pitiful scenes when people grow old and when children move out to lead their own lives. Some people build big houses to cater for he whole family to live in but in the end the parents become just the ones living souls in the house. And most rooms will not be occupied and if they have upstairs, then the upstairs will not be occupied. Of course the children may come back home off and on, say during festival, but only for a few days and after that its an empty house again. Not many realise the situation as I mentioned. In the Malay society for which I am part of, its always nice to have a big house where you can use when all come back for the festival or during a marriage ceremony or when death occurs in the family. But how often does this happen. Festival only come once or twice a year, wedding depending on the number of children the family have and death only come once to a person. All in all those big houses may not be that useful really if one were to think seriously about it. And if you have a house with staircases its worse still, old people may not like to climb those staircases. So they will just spend most of their time downstairs, or they may spend all their time downstairs, the upstairs remaining empty.

Its is nice if one can grow old gracefully. But to grow old gracefully one must have economic strength and be able to control that economic strength. If one does not have the economic strength its so difficult to grow old gracefully. When you have no money no one will love you, old or young. Worse still if you are old, you will find it difficult to earn money, you may not even find employment. The old have longer time to recover and they may find it not easy to find employment to pay for their living. But will children share what they earn with the parents? Its difficult to say, depending again on their sense of piety or filial sense. But when they, the children, themselves barely earn enough to upkeep their family, the first to be neglected will be the old parents if the old parents are not economically strong. But again how many parents are economically strong really, unless they invested wisely when young or have big savings, or on a pensionable scheme. In the Western countries, the Government takes care of its old citizen (Senior Citizens they call them), in a way, but in the countries in the East such social benefit is almost nonexistent.

Growing old is inevitable. Being old is inevitable as well. Managing the old is something that are not taught in school. Somehow getting old and being old have more downs than up. You are "old", you have gray hair (some thinning and some may not have hair at all), you may have arthritis, your teeth drop off, you wrinkle, you have aches and pain all over, and worst of all you may fall ill. You spent more of your time nursing yourself rather than being productive, to yourself and to society, of course with a few exceptions. And when you are ill your recovery period is very long. In places where hospital or medical facilities are inadequate then you suffer. And if medical facilities are available then you also suffer, economically. As you have to pay for all these facilities usage. In all areas you loose. Where are you really when you are old? Just waiting to die? That is a defeatist attitude, which old folks must avoid.

A young man says to me one day sometime back "Age is just a number". He may be right, he was a young man. And as the number increases then they rename you 'old', whether its just a number or not.

Age is inevitable, just resign to it but manage it with all the intelligence and experience that an old man has. Be happy and pray to God that all will end up well. After all there is always another day coming, and you do not even know when your last day is.

Where are you today? Well if someone calls you "Adik" (Younger brother/sister), or someone calls you "Abang/Kakak" (older brother/sister) or "Uncle/Auntie" or 'Atuk/Nenek" (Grandpa/Grandma) you know where you are.

To Shout Back