In the name Of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
Practise forgiveness, command decency and avoid ignorant people. (Araf 7:199)
CONGRATULATIONS to leaders and people of Melaka after it was declared as a developed state (Melaka Maju) in Malaysia on 20.10.2010. It was claimed the status was not from Melaka itself but was given by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). OECD is an international organization located in Paris.
Of course there are two sides of a coin (praise and criticsm) regarding the new status of Melaka; I rather not discuss them this article but I would like to reflect my nostalgic younger years, living in a ‘kampung’ on the southern outskirts of Melaka town (now a city) in the 1960s and 1970s.
Walking along a dirt path to the Melaka-Muar main road to wait for the school bus, I observed the heavenly scenery when rays of the sun shone between trees. From far away one could have a view of a blue mountain. My mother told me it was ‘Gunung Ledang’ (Mount Ophir), where the legendary Princecess Gunung Ledang was said to reside.
Nowadays from the same spot and time, there would be no way you could see Gunung Ledang. I do not know why, perhaps our scientists and leaders could gave an explanation, the magic that I had seen when I was a youngster has gone. With the haze hovering over Melaka's air space nowadays, not only Gunung Ledang but Bukit Beruang some kilometres away from my home is also ‘invisible’.
During those good old days, boys could not be separated by traditional hobbies such as fishing and catching fish in the ‘longkang’ (drains), canals, rivers and in paddy fields. In front of my house there was a paddy field, at that time villagers cultivated crops once in a year. So for about six months, the fields were left idle, I had a good time ‘harvesting’ fish from it.
Imagine by only using my father’s ‘pongkis’ (a wicker scoop), I could catch many types of fish such as ‘ikan pelaga’ (fighting fish), ‘puyu’ (climbing fish, amabas terstudineus), ‘keli’ (catfish), ‘haruan’ (snakehead) and ‘sepat ronggeng’ (trichogaster trichopterus).
There were plenty of them, you just scooped in the mud water under the grass and you were bound to have a good catch.
Nowadays, the paddy fields in front my house are no more, instead a petrol pump stands there. A concrete drain runs in front of the station and a nearby unused land. Its water was greasy, murky and black. Perhaps not a fish could live in it. Thus I had lost another magic, hopeful it would be only a temporary situation, I pray those in power could do something to restore my ‘lost world’.
A few hundred meters behind my house there was once another big paddy field. When I was nine years old I started to help my family sow, narture and harvest paddy on a patch of land owned by my family.
During harvest seasons, when the water in the fields subsided, one could easily catch fishes such as ‘haruan’ or ‘sepat’. Nowadays looking at the former fields, I feel sad indeed. On the land, now stands a housing estate with rows of shops on its front.
My father’s land was among others own my Malay farmers which were sold and then developed my a government agency portraying that they were protecting Malays' interest, but sadly to say only a few Malays reside and own properties there, thus ‘what was magic’ for me decades ago has vanished.
When I was in secondary school, sometimes during weekends I would cycle to town and one place I frequented was a second-hand book store in Padang Nyiru which was at Jalan Gereja and near the banks of Sungai Melaka. In Padang Nyiru there were about 20MARA stalls and shops, all the businesses there were run by bumiputras.
Nowadays, all the stalls and shops have vanished; instead the area has been turned into a car park while the banks of Sungai Melaka turned into tourists attraction spot including a jetty for visitors to catch boats for cruising along the river. Hence, my magic has gone, who has robbed me of my nostalgic years?
For ‘makan-makan’ (eating), once in a while when my wallet is thick after receiving ‘wang biasiswa’ (scholarship payment), I would go to an open eating area under a few big trees across busy Jalan Kota in front of the great fort A’ Famosa. I would treat myself with satay and a glass of ‘air tebu’ (sugar cane juice) and when I became full, I would happily cycle to the Padang Bandar Hilir or Melaka Club to see football or hockey matches.
‘This magic’ too has gone, nowadays I can only park and sit on my bike under a Melaka tree near the area and watch activities at the fort or the Malay Sultanate palace. On the great Padang Pahlawan now stands Melaka Megamall, dubbed as one of the biggest shopping complexes in Melaka.
When I was in Sixth Form, I and a very close friend of mine named Junaidi had found a new hobby - fishing at the mouth of Sungai Melaka and fishermen’s platforms off the coast of Taman Kota Laksamana dan Tengkera. We would fish at night; normally the catch will be good as we could land a few ‘ikan gelama’, ‘duri’ and ‘sembilang’.
“This magic of mine’ too has gone, paving the way for development, the seaside with its reclamation projects, the biggest being near Klebang and the sea-front has moved about a kilometre away from the original site.
When the Sixth Form examination (HSC) is over, our classmates will organize and made a trip to Pantai (Beach) Tanjung Bidara. During those days, none of us had motorcycles, so we travelled there by public bus, but what a day we had there. Yet nowadays not many people are keen to bathe in the sea off Tanjung Bidara. Why?
Some people are turned away because they are afraid the waters there are polluted as small rivers upstream flow near pig farms in areas such as Paya Mengkuang. A few years it had become a big national issue, but nowadays ‘all is quiet in the front’, perhaps agreement had been reached between the farmers and the authorities concerned. Nevertheless, this ‘magic’ too has gone; our once popular beach has to make way for ‘development’ and ‘in the name of businesses and progress’.
When I first started working some 25 years ago, my office was in Taman Melaka Raya. For lunch, normally I would go to few Malay/Muslims owned stalls in front of what is now Carrefour shopping complex. Nowadays the stalls have vanished; ‘this magic of mine’ too has gone.
What troubles me is why must be Malays ‘greatly getting involved in all those magic – for example once they dominated businesses in Padang Nyiru, now there are none of them; once they own lands on the outskirts on town, now shops and premises built on that land were not theirs and what I am very, very afraid and scared one day I would be chased out of my own land! Nauzubillah (hopefully not)!