The Tale From Krubong City (Written in 2007)
— a tribute to my late father, Haji Ahmad Md Sab.
Born in a beautiful countryside of Malacca that has now turned into an industrial park, I have seen the pros and cons of developments. It had brought about substantial impacts on economics and social conditions of the community. It had changed values and ways of thinking. The impacts were indeed significant. These had in one way or another motivated me to stay put in the academia, hoping to inspire children of today who would be leaders of tomorrow to believe on the needs for a socially and economically balanced development.
As I recently drove across the Malacca river on the Ayer Keroh / Sungai Udang bypass, my mind was drifted into the reminiscence of the past. Although the drive took only a minute or so, the memory spanned the life time. Gone were places where we used to trap limbat fish (a type of catfish) in lukah or lampam (carp) with fishing nets.
I missed the golden coloured padi field when it was close to harvest, the singing of pipit, the beautiful sight of bangau flying over the field and the brownish colour of puchong picking foods on the ground. I can vividly remember how we expertly ran on a very narrow path that separated the plot of padi. I remembered very well when we requested the teachers to cancel all co-curriculum activities when the padi planting season came. I was once scolded by a teacher for being the negotiater. We succeeded anyway.
Nothing was more beautiful than the view of full rainbow with hills in the background, greenish padi field on the horizon with silhouettes of people bending down, working hard to earn a living. Aah, such a beautiful memory…
Most of our parents had more than a job, a laborer or rubber taper in the morning and rice farmer in the afternoon. Like others, very early in the morning, my father cycled on the red soil-gravel road to the rubber estate. He came back at noon, cleaned up, had his lunch and offered his noon prayer before taking his regular afternoon siesta. Later in the evening, he would go to the padi field, working on the crop that would be our staple food for the year. Since we worked on other people’s land, the harvest had to be split with the land-owner. Sometimes we made enough, sometimes we didn’t.
At times, my father took me or one of my brothers to catch fish in the river or swamp using fishing net known as jala. Believe it or not, we had jala’s of various sizes, a smaller one for me, larger ones for my father and elder brothers. He made them himself at night after teaching us reciting the Qur’an.
Many of the families had some buffalos. These herds were sent to the river in the morning for grazing in the swampy areas stretching about five miles along the river. At about two or three in the afternoon, we converged at some meeting place near the river discussing about whatever interesting. By four the buffalos were normally somewhere nearby our meeting point. If everything were as they supposed to be, we would start swimming, or playing whatever game appealed us that day. Otherwise, we had to search for the buffalos. On some bad days, we had to walk more than five miles searching at all possible grazing spots for the buffalos. On really bad days, we reached home after sunset.
We used to play soccer by the river with buffalos grazing nearby, some distance away from the padi field. I remember how difficult it was to be a goalkeeper since not only must he dive for the ball to avoid defeat but also diving into the water to catch the ball, less it would be carried away by the flowing stream. We used to race the goalkeeper to prove who among us was the best swimmer. What wonderful days they were. It has always been nostalgically fresh in my memory.
We caught and sold fish and grasshoppers. Sometimes we worked in rubber processing factories during school holiday. We were in fact very entrepreneurial in mind, driven by the fact that we were poor and in need of some spending money. We were also very handy in building whatever needed. We made our own kites and spinning tops. We cut bamboo into goal-posts. We even built small hut by the river and atop putat tree to provide shelter from rain and sun.
As I once told my children, the most adrenaline generating activities of all was the breaking of hornets’ nest. It was the naughty or perhaps crazy side of us. We used to hit the nest by throwing sticks or shooting pebbles directly at it with a self-made sling. We would then stretched our muscle and run the fastest we could. We were in fact running for our life for all of us knew how painful the sting of hornets would be. We ran on the embankment along the river with flocks of hornets chasing behind. Only about one mile away did the hornets normally gave up the chase. We would then huddle together, celebrating the success, praising each other for the escape. The joys glittered in our eyes and everybody went home with satisfaction, with something to brag about. Occasionally, we would hear the cry of pain from the unlucky boy trailing behind. For those who have not experienced the sting of a hornet, you just have to believe, it was really painful. We would then looked for papaya leaves and spread the juice from the stem right on the painful spot, normally somewhere near the forehead to temporarily reduce the pain. The poor boy then marched home in fear of his scolding father for doing such a silly thing that we enjoyed immensely.
It was all history…
The lack of efficient drainage had caused annual flood and draught, which had challenged the patience of us, villagers. After few years, we all gave up. Several years later, the padi field was converted to water catchment lake, surrounded by barbed wires. The swamps where we used to catch variety of fish had been converted into landfill sites for municipal waste from Majlis Perbandaran Melaka Bandaraya Bersejarah. Hutan gelam Padang Siapong, Lubuk Mat Kasim and the likes are all history by now. The rubber estate is now the home of Stadium Hang Jebat where the football clubs are playing for the national league. It is also crowded with factories and housing estates conveniently named as Krubong Industrial Park, Taman Krubong Indah, Taman Krubong Jaya, Taman Sri Krubong etc. I had never imagined that the place I grew up now has a number of traffic lights!!!
Never did I regret for having to grow up as a poor Kampung Boy. I am forever grateful for the chance given by God to rise from the bottom of social stratum to the middle class I belong today. All credits goes to my parents for being steadfast in providing us with the opportunity for education although the environment was discouraging and the milieu looked impossible. We were in fact very lucky though we had very little money, all ten of us went to secondary school. That was not a normal practice, at least from where we came from. Out of ten, nine made it to institution of higher learning. Four of us studied overseas. The eldest had sacrificed her opportunity for tertiary education even though she had good grades in MCE (Malaysian Certificate of Education). She went to work instead of university.
My late father had always inspired me to strive for success. A man of few words, he had taught me many things. He had made me believed the saying that I often repeat to others “either you say you can or you can’t, you are right.” A man of determination, he had indeed worked very hard to create the path for success for me and my siblings. May Allah showers His mercy upon him. Ameen. I have always admired and loved my father, but, similar to him, I am also a man of few words when it comes to expressing feelings.
Dr. AA – written in 2007, more than 2 years since my father left the world…