My childhood hobbies were fishing and rearing fish. My mother acknowledged I was good at fishing fresh water fishes such as ‘ikan haruan, keli and puyu’ at the paddy fields or the small rivers. Other than those fishes, ‘ikan pelaga’ (fighting fish) could be easily caught by using flat open basket (pongkes).
When one noticed bubbles or foam in the water near the bund (batas), quickly scoped it with the ‘pongkes’ and if you were lucky you would find a pair of fighting fish in it. The male is brightly coloured and looked fierce but the female looked tamed and less colourful.
The haruan, keli, puyu (or betuk) and even ‘sepat’ (often caught by using the net or ‘pongkes’) usually ended up on the dinner table but the fighting fish were spared. They were too small or might not suitable for consumption, I guessed.
So I kept the fighting fish in bottles, mind you at that time having an aquarium was out question as my parents were struggling to feed the family of ten. Other than fighting fish, I too kept some ‘ikan sepat’ and ‘puyu’ in bigger bottles.
I loved seeing the graceful movement of the ‘ikan sepat’ while ‘the ‘ikan puyu’ were very tough. They seemed to have ‘nine lives’ like the cat. They could withstand the filthy and dirty water for a long period of time, especially when one was lazy to clean the bottles and change the water.
True, I was mad with fresh water fishes when I was in my primary schooling years. When I entered Form One at a residential school, my hobbies of fishing and rearing fish were ‘cruelly separated’ from me.
I remembered how I placed a bottle of ‘puyu’ fish on a tree top near my house on the last day before I began my maiden voyage far, far away from home, hoping that when I went home during the first term holidays (a space of full three months), the bottle would still intact with the fishes inside.
Sure when I went back, the bottle was nowhere to be seen, and my madness for fishes was diminished and replaced with the determination to do well in my studies. Once in a while with some friends, I went fishing but as the years passed by, I gave up the hobby because I had no heart and courage to be cruel to the animals that were used as the bait.
For example when you went fishing for the ‘ikan haruan’ or ‘toman’, you had to used life bait such as small frogs That unlucky animal was squeezed and hooked in such a way it was still alive and was repeatedly thrown into the water, waiting for the ‘toman’ to pounce upon it.
When you go fishing for the ‘ikan puyu’ or ‘ikan keli’ you had to use life earthworms as the bait. You cut the worms into small pieces before hooking and throwing them into the water.
I acknowledged I could not continue that hobby after hearing a ‘ceramah agama’ (religious sermon) where the ‘ustaz’ (religious teacher) said as Muslims we should not be cruel to animals. Causing pain and torture to innocent creatures should never be tolerated, he said.
He mentioned the story of a traveler who was rewarded ‘jannah’ (heaven) when he helped a dog that was thirsty by using his shoe to bring up water from a well while a woman was thrown to hell because she caged a cat without giving food until it die.
Once, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was on a journey with his friends, they came across a finch with two young ones. When a few people took away the chicks without the prophet’s knowledge, the mother bird fluttered around, beating its wings in grief.
The prophet immediately asked, “Who has distressed her by taking away her young ones? Return them to her at once.”
After hearing the ‘ceramah’ and thinking how cruel I had been to some animals over the years, I opted to abandon my hobbies of fishing and rearing fishes. I acknowledged how wronged I was by keeping those fish in bowls and bottles when I was young and then the aquariums when I became an adult.
Since then, the aquariums at my home were idle for many years until recently after I found four ‘ikan puyu’ in a puddle of water my garden. It was strange to have those fish in that surrounding, so I picked up the fish and back home I cleaned an old aquarium and put the fish inside.
I kept the fish for a week or two but deep inside my heart I knew what I did was wrong. How could I caged those creatures and the same time kept on writing articles about fellow humans suffering from draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA).
If I fight for the freedom of those held by ISA, the same principle should be applied to the animals. My heart says ‘free those innocent creatures’. They were not meant to be prison, but ought to be freed; if not I should end their life quickly so that they could end up on my family dinner table.
So one fine afternoon, I accompanied with my youngest daughter aged four, went to a nearby stream to free the fish. I gave them one by one to my daughter and with a cheery atmosphere and laughter; she threw them into the water. After finishing the job, I felt calm and proud to honour the pledge in my heart not to be cruel to animals.
Regarding the importance to honour ones pledge, there is a Malay proverb that says; ‘kerbau dipegang pada talinya, manusia pada janjinya’ (the buffalo is kept by the rope, human beings are tied to their pledge or promises). So when I read the news how the then Home Minister, Dato’ Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (now retired), belittled the ‘rakyat; saying that they were irresponsible for wanting the prices pledged by the Home Ministry in a contest held by that ministry, I was very surprised and sad.
I was sad because what had befall our country and society when a ministry and people of high position could not be held responsible to their pledge and promises. If those ‘honourable’, ‘respected’ and high profile leaders could not be answerable to their promises, than what could be said about the man on the street.
The Home Ministry is now making a mockery out of itself. This development reflects badly on our public administration, and making the people loosing faith on the government’s arms and machinery. If in simple matters such organizing a contest, a ministry could not held responsible then what could be said in their actions in human rights issues such as detaining the ‘rakyat’ under ISA or OSA?
Are they serious or are they making fun on the ‘rakyat’?