Monday, February 17

Look out for the silver lining

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IT may be raining all day, sometimes heavily, at times intermittently, but the sun does manage to peep shyly through the clouds in between the rains. Then notice the silver lining, literally.

We are in the middle of the landas, just in case you didn’t know. It’s a time when clothes are damp, a nightmare for the housewives. It’s a time of frustration for the fishermen because the sea is rough. But it’s a blessing for the fish, which need time to breed and multiply without interference in order to perpetuate their respective species – for the benefit of the fishermen, ironically.

For the farmers, this is the time for rest; it’s too wet to work in the fields.

Both fishermen and farmers are not idle during this period, though. There are nets to mend, boats or houses to repair. For the womenfolk, there is no end to the house chores – husband to please, children to control, baskets to make or clothes to sew or stitch.

Travelling during the landas is dangerous. The roads are damaged by the floods, the rivers overflow their banks. Talking about big floods, you only have to see the impact on our people in the Peninsula, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu, to understand what and how flooding can do to humans, properties and the environment. Over here we also have evacuees from the inundated areas but the situation is not as serious as it was in the West. Touch wood. All the same our thoughts are with all of them. Things will go back to normal soon. Always remember that every cloud has a silver lining.

Landas during our time

We have had the landas since time immemorial. I have gone through it for many years. From the perspective of the children, especially the boys, in my village, the landas was not bad. We youngsters actually enjoyed the rain; time for fun really.

We boys looked forward to school being closed during the landas so that we could do what pleased us most. It was the time to trap fish by means of a trap called bubu or buba.

This is a contraption made of bamboo slits with an inner cone with sharp spikes (ijap) so that the fish could go in but couldn’t get out.

At night, we fixed horizontal sticks in the flooded part of the jungle or a stream in as many spots as possible. The bait of earthworms had been tied to each stick and from time to time during the night we picked up each stick to see if there was any fish. We called this tajur keli, the target: catfish.

During the day, we would look for wild durians and other jungle fruits like pekang, telu kejira and tanjan. We built a hut in the jungle as our headquarters.

While other boys were fishing or hunting, someone must boil the rice. Invariably, the job was mine. When in a hut in the jungle alone, at night, your imagination can run wild –  evil spirits all around ready to gobble you up but you must be brave and trust in God. The shrill voices of the cicadas and the myriads of other insects and birds can be frightening too. It’s when the voices of the gibbons are heard that you know it is about daybreak and that you have survived the night.

We brought home fish or fruit that we did not finish eating in the jungle for our parents and siblings, and the sissies – boys who did not participate in our activity.

During the day we climbed trees. Two or three of us were there holding tightly onto the branches, one of the group had been detailed off to chop through the trunk. Great flying sensation as the tree fell! We would choose a tree that would likely fall onto a thick bush or cluster of ferns (demam) as ideal. The landing would be soft.

It was such a hilarious experience that we tried higher and higher trees. That was an almost fatal move. One day, we tried a pedada tree. Pedada grows well on the riverbanks, so the tree fell into the river. One of us, Bita Saba, almost drowned when he had difficulty getting out of the water because of the thick branches.

When the village elders found out about this particular adventure, the felling of trees by the riverbanks was banned.

That was the end of our pranks. Back to school and everyday life, not so full of fun any more.

There was no fear of the future, no real problems then in the absence of news about events happening outside our little world. No newspapers to read, no radio to listen to, no TV to watch. WhatsApp had not been invented. Fish nets were the only nets we ‘surfed’.

And so, back to the present day.

On the economic front, our common fear comes from news about the dampness of the national economy. Economists predict that we are going through rough weather and none of them have come up with ideas when all the major problems will come to an end. The gibbons have not cried out at dawn.

These are challenging times indeed. But we shall overcome the major problems if we stick together. Psychologically, we must believe in the future of

the country. And that matters most.

Talking about holding on to that belief, take the opinion of my boss, Tun Jugah, for a guide or ‘petua’ while life is in danger. He had said, “Shut one eye; if you can still see the tip of your nose, everything would be fine in the end.” A superstition, perhaps, but in the circumstances where life is at stake, anything to give assurance of survival would

do in addition to the Lord’s Prayer.

For instance, many years ago, I was accompanying the Minister to Kapit via Sibu. Flying in the venerable DC3 Dakota plane, the pilot told everybody to fasten their seat belts and refrain from smoking as we were flying through a storm cloud. The pilot explained in the calmest of voices that this was like driving on a rough road in order to reduce the impact of bumps – nothing to worry about.

I was sitting next to my boss, he, apparently, enjoying the flight but I was frankly scared. He knew it and he nudged me, saying, “Anak, ulih meda tungkul idong dek?” I nodded.

That’s one way of telling how safe or otherwise a journey would end. I don’t know how we would handle the GST in April by this means. Be optimistic, I suppose, and hope for the best.

Perhaps, singing the popular song of the 1950s called ‘Pretend’ will help too: “pretend you’re happy when you’re  blue. It isn’t difficult to do …”?

Better, behave like we boys used to do: spending time in the jungle and forgetting about what’s going on in the outside world.

Or best of all, be as optimistic as I am.

Together, we shall weather the incoming storm of economic difficulties, remembering that there is a silver lining in the clouds and as long as we can see the tip of the nose, we will be all right.

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