It would not be safe to take them to the fast flowing Baling River and with the water quite coffee-colored after a heavy downpour the previous night. So the stream was suggested. It was a marvelous suggestion as we found the place extraordinarily peaceful, tempting and delightful for the children as well as anybody who have been in the maddening cities for sometimes. The cool, light forested corner with gentle flowing mountain stream dashing against pebbles and sand that have barricaded one piece of its bank is indeed a good respite for the juniors and seniors alike. Not likely to impress anybody with descriptions however flowery and imaginative it may be, what excellent way is to take a look at the photos accompanying. I am assured you will be tempted to seek similar corners if possible. I came home with a basketful of polished eroded pebbles fit for the fish aquariums too among other things.
It is fortunate that such corners of serenity are still available
The young brother and his sister having the best time frolicking in the mountain stream. Notice the pebbles strown on the side.
It was not the delightful spot that really struck me so much, but the peripheral activities just close by which invariably I perceived escaped the attention of many including those who came regularly to share the splendor that was there.
Remember Shahnon Ahmad and you will of course linked him to one of his great novels namely ‘Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan’ translated it meant “No Harvest but A Torn” It was to be my close apprehension of Lahuma.
Today perhaps I came face to face with ‘Lahuma’. The elderly person tending to his small plot of land was busy moving around doing the necessaries, aided by his wife and relatives. His plot of hill padi was ready for harvesting and he had to reap them as fast as possible. Already, just as Lahuma had dreaded, the small tiny birds have come in groves, chirping away and their resonance echoed in the quite afternoon sun. Any man would panic. Our man Pak Daud by name was in no rush but tended as calmly as possible.
I quote abstracts from the novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan:
“Lahuma dijemput menghadapi ILAHI”
“Hidup mesti diteruskan. Tugas Lahuma perlu dipikul oleh Jeha dan anak-anaknya. Mereka tidak harus mati kelaparan, sawah padi perlu menguning. Hujan lebat, banjir besar dan kedatangan ketam serta burung tiak yang menjahanamkan padi perlu ditentang.
Berbekalkan doa dan usaha, mereka tekad – tiada apa yang dapat menghalang perjalanan hidup ini”
I knew Pak Daud was as cautious as possible. He had ascertained the birds ‘burung tiak’ were eliminated as far as possible. But these little creatures can come in squadrons and make light works of the rice stalks. Pak Daud held a pair of the small creatures in his hand, cursing them for continuing to invade his plot although he has taken the necessary steps. So these were the tiny crop destroyers. Just like the grasshoppers, ‘burung tiak’ are just as vociferous. He offered the little creatures if I cared to keep them. They are small. The one he held was the size of Pak Daud’s thumb but in numbers they are disastrous. Still the crabs have not been taken into account yet.
He and his family went about harvesting the crop in the traditional ways and hopefully pray that all would go well. In their moments of exuberance, they ascertained that they would reap a gainful harvest; thankful that they had worked hard. Unlike Lahuma, Pak Daud was still the core member of his family. I looked at him, a man who must have crossed seventy years plus, maybe nearing eighty but still agile, strong and focused at making the best of his toils. No not many would be that exemplary as shown by many hillside plots in the neighborhood left vacant, unattended and overgrown with ‘lalang’ and bushes.
They had built a frail hut on the plot of land, temporarily giving them shelter day or night if necessary. Perhaps the main tarmac road, supply of electricity and closeness to the neighbors and the ‘cherok’ added to give some comfort and security. Lahuma and Jeha of Banggol Derdap in the district of Sik, no more than an hour drive from this village, had no such luxuries forty years ago when Shahnon wrote his novel.
I am thankful that either ordained or by chance I had the opportunity to come across a live situation much discussed by Shahnon Ahmad in his epic novel, read, discussed even crucified at secondary, college and tertiary levels. That it has been made into a film ‘Rice People’ produced in Cambodia in 1994, directed and co-written by Rithy Panh speaks highly of the intrinsic value of the peasants and their livelihood. (The film premiered in the main competition at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was submitted to the 67th Academy Award, the first time a Cambodian film had been submitted as a possible nominee for Best Foreign Language Film) See https//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_People
I have read ‘Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan’ before; imagined the hardship and landscape as described by Shahnon but sincerely have not seen its true self. Today I did even though at a neighboring kampong site and thankful for understanding all that are worth. Maybe the children’s thrill and frolicking in the mountain stream put off what would have been a much deeper recollection of time past when hardship knocked on most peoples’ doors irrespective where they were.
3 December 2008
"Lahuma tending to his small plot of 'hill padi' which has taken six months to give him the substance"
Notice the special traditional instrument used to reap the rice stalk. This is the 'ketam padi'
He is a happy man. Thankful that his hard work has given him the wealth of hard toiling and the richness of the earth
Tiny tots but the plague of the farmers especially when they come in squadrons