KU-kruu-kuu … the sound of our alarm clock when I was a little boy living a stone’s throw from the now busy Rock Road Third Mile roundabout and flyover.
Not cock-a-doodle-doo, the way English language nursery rhyme would describe the crowing of the rooster.
The unsophisticated noise of the vrooming cars on the carriageways and the griping and throttling of motorcycles, intermingling with the houses, delivering newspapers, have long replaced the crowing of the rooster as alarm clock in many parts of Kuching.
My generation is fortunate.
In the neighbourhood, there were many father roosters wearing huge ‘red flowers’ on their heads and their loud passionate crowing would ensure the whole of the Third Mile wake up at 5am. Our body clocks were set to wake up before the first sunray scaled the horizon – even until today.
The ‘broilers’ dominate the chicken population by probably 99 per cent. Indeed, more than 60 billion broiler chickens were raised and slaughtered for their meat worldwide. The broiler chickens have a short life of about 42 days before the male chickens grow their red flower-like crowns and too young to start their hearty crowings.
Fortunately, schoolchildren still learn that roosters crow before the break of dawn and they wear handsome crowns in books.
Chickens have had a long history with humankind.
Archeological sites around the world have discovered ancient bone samples of domesticated chicken. It appears that China has the longest history in domesticating chicken as carbon dating and DNA sequencing of the ancient avian bone samples found in archeological sites in northern China had shown chickens were domesticated 10,500 years ago.
It is no wonder China has substantial legends, folklores and writings about chickens and the rooster was included in the 12 Zodiac animal signs (shengxiao) in the Chinese astrology, elaborated during the Zhou Dynasty 3,000 ago.
The dates of origins for Chinese astrology and Zodiac animal signs are still hotly debated, but according to popular Chinese folklores, the roosters had long before them, started to play the important role of waking up the humankind with their crowing.
The very old folklore had it that long long ago, Grand Emperor Yu Hwang had decided to choose animals to contest for the 12 Zodiac animal signs. The horse was in the list of contestants but the rooster was not. The rooster king was disappointed and he asked the horse king how and why he was chosen.
The horse king replied: “It is our nature to work hard. In times of peace, we plough the farms. During war times, we bring the generals to battle and charge at the enemies. We have done a lot for our country and humankind. We are loved.
“What is your strength? Make good use of it to serve the people. You will be loved too, and you will impress the Grand Emperor and be chosen as a contestant for a place to be the 12 Zodiac animals,” the horse king advised.
The rooster king knew his strength is his good voice and his instinct to spot the rising of the sun. He immediately ordered all the roosters to wake up early, and use their distinctive voice to crow aloud at dawn, to wake up the human folks. Rain or shine, summer or fall, the roosters carried out their duty before dawn everyday, and the people loved them.
Grand Emperor Yu Hwang was impressed. He summoned the rooster king to his palace, placed a red flower on his head and bestowed him the title of Si Chen (the director of dawn) and included the rooster as a Zodiac animal. From then on, the roosters wear their red crowns and crow ever louder everyday before dawn – without fail.
Therefore, the rooster has the most significant virtues of being trustworthy, timeous in actions and inspiring. It also symbolises the emancipation from darkness and embracing the glow of hope.
Indeed, the roosters are inspiring. Probably the most popular Chinese proverb related to a rooster is Wen Ji Qi Wu (get up to dance when the rooster crows).
Not dancing really. The proverb was notated during the Jin Dynasty, 1700 years ago. It was written to illustrate the early days of two good young men – ZuTi and Liu Kun.
Deciding that they should not waste their youthful energy and time, the two good friends would wake up at the first crow of the rooster, to practise martial arts and use of swords.
They joined the army and were remarkable young generals, renowned for safeguarding their country and defeated the invaders.
The proverb is used to inspire and motivate us to stand up and work for what we have hoped for timeously.
The same inspiration can also be drawn from the old folk tale of The Little Red Hen.
It started when the little red hen found some seeds and decided to plant them. The little red hen asked her friends – a dog, a cat and a duck: “Who will help me plant the seeds?”
“Not I,” barked the dog.
“Not I,” purred the cat.
“Not I,” quacked the duck.
“Then I will,” said the little red hen.
So the little red hen planted the seeds all by herself.
Later, and in each process, she asked the same friends to help cut the wheat, carry the wheat to the mill, grind the wheat into flour, carry the heavy sack of flour back to the farm and bake the bread.
She received the same replies from her friends and she worked on her own, with determination – if not me, then who?
After she had baked the bread, her friends all wanted to help to eat. The story teaches us the virtues of work ethics and personal initiatives.
This is the Year of the Rooster – are you inspired already?
The 14th General Election is coming timeously. It is time for all Malaysians to wake up to herald a new dawn to save the country by sending some roosters home to roost. Closer to our heart is our Fairland Sarawak and it is a work-in-progress.
Sarawak is a Promised Land. We are promised that Sarawak is and will always cherish and safeguard our proud diversity, multi-racial and multi-religious identity in a secular state.
We envisage Sarawak will have English for medium of instructions in schools.
We are assured there will be greater autonomy.
There are undertakings on devolution of powers.
There are pledges to honour the Malaysia Agreements.
Sarawak swore not to be a passive bystander but an active participant in the use and developing of our natural resources.
Sarawak vowed to safeguard our territory and bring greater development to rural Sarawak. But all Sarawakians must work for these promises in unity. All Sarawakians must get up and dance to the dawn of hopes.
If not we Sarawakians, then who?