When I was very young, the family used to live in a felda (a settlement) called Lembah Klau. About an hour’s drive from Raub, I remember sitting in the car that felt like ages to get home. We had to drive on this long, lonely road passing the kampung Ulu Gali first, then Sg Ruan followed by another long drive passing smaller pekans such as Sg Chetang before arriving Felda Lembah Klau itself.
It was said that due to the communist threat in Raub from the 1940’s, it has resulted in the building of the settlements and this include Sg Ruan, Sg Chetang and Sg Klau. Only recently in the 1987 that the Sg Ruan was free from the Malayan Communist Party and thus lifting the curfew imposed.
My dad needed to time the journey from our kampung to go back to our home as sometimes there will be curfew session imposed and rendering the area(s) out of bound from 6pm to 6 am the next day. I remember one day my Atuk (grandfather) came back from one of his Chinese friend’s house in Sg Ruan telling us a few men were shot dead nearby the entrance arch of the pekan by a group of soldiers. Apparently they were communists. I was too young to understand what they were talking about though.
Living in the felda settlement was tough in the 1970’s. Electricity supply only kicks in between 6pm to 6 am. Sometimes there was no water supply. Once a month, there will be some sort of a movie in the padang (main field), mostly western cowboys or some Hindi movies. There was no street lights except at main junctions, and there were not many of those. The public bus only came twice a day. Sometimes only once.
But, life to a 7 year old in a place like that was like in a giant place to explore. The rivers that run through the felda were so crystal clear. The air was fresh and trees looked bigger and greener. We climbed trees, played chase, explored all the nooks and corners of the settlement, caught fishes in the rivers. Even got caught swimming sans clothes by the elders. But, I digress….
Back in the kampung, life was simple. No electricity, no running water. Each evening, my dad would help my grandfather to light up the lampu gas (pendafluor lamps). Mom had to make sure I’d done my long and short business before the evening comes. The reason being is that, the kampung house had no toilet and the nearest river is a good 10 minutes away.
All cooking was done on a special stove using wood gathered from the nearest sawmill. We had two stoves of that kind. The second stove was used to only boil water. Above this second stove, was a special rack where Atuk arranged the cut meat from the huntings he did a few weeks earlier.
Entertainment came in a form of gramophone and a radio transistor that plays only limited channel. Black and white TV was a novelty and only came into our house in the late 1970’s.
You only see the bus once or twice a day and cars or lorries were almost unheard of. You could literally sleep in the middle of the road, turn twice and still no car coming your way. A bus trip to the pekan was 10 cents…
Fast forward many years down the road. A Malaysian, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar had been to the space. There is a total of 137, 219 km of road in Malaysia where from this 111, 377 are paved, electricity coverage in rural housing units covers 93.7% of the population, handphone usage is 200%, meaning almost everyone in Malaysia has at least 2 phones….and so what does these all mean to the average Janes and Joes?
I feel safe when walking from our home to the nearby shops, even at 3 am in the morning. There are ample street lights, police cars, security guards manning the exit way of the taman (housing area). There are no bombs, no war, no pre war disease, no big natural disaster. You can see more Beemers, Mercs and Audis than any other cars on the road. More often than not, 5 Porches occupying the same lane. You see Astro dishes even when driving through the Orang Asli settlement to Cameron Highlands. The airport is world class and so are the highways. Education is free and almost every house has a car.
And how can you forget about the glorious food in Malaysia? You name it, you will get it. You can almost never get hungry in Malaysia, and even with a RM1.00 you can get treatment in the hospital. Malls are packed even during the last so called economic downturn. I had a theory where Malaysians were actually shielded away from the global economic meltdown. When Jusco had its sale, the line went for miles. When Prada or Coach had their sales, the lines went further. Launch a new Tag Heuer watch, the valet will be busy. People speaks about their latest travel with Air Asia or MAS just as much as they talk about their new stock acquisition in the Malaysian bourse. So sophisticated.
Sometimes this tiny nation doesnt even have a name – only known as the country “in between Thailand and Singapore I didnt know there is a country…”. We must not forget the fore fathers and the people who have helped and toil and fought for the country until she reaches to what she is today.
Life is good. Those who thinks that they feel embarrass to be a Malaysian should be reborn in Ethiopia. What a karma, I can tell you that.
Happy 55th Independent Day, Malaysia. You have come a long way. I am proud to be a Malaysian.