I was 'among' my 'children' 10,000 of them, young gaharu plants, in a god forsaken place known as Slow Temiang in Mukim Gajah Mati , [ the place was literally littered by dead elephants some 20 years ago,'buthered' by illegal loggers ]bordering between the districts of Kuala Krai and Gua Musang last Saturday and Sunday.After Friday morning clinic and prayer, my brother and I drove our Hilux twin cab to Bentong and stopped at Ah Meng's durian stall to get our 'regular' monthly fill of' Musang King'.
If you are durian cournousiers, but limiting yourselves to just a few 'ulas' of this very premium King of durians [ for it cost soo much: 35 RM per kilo], do not start with 'Musang King' and then further 'dilute' your tastebuds on to the cheaper D24 or the kampong variety . Your durian outing will definitely fall flat .Instead start with the cheaper kampong variety 1st ,then proceed with d24 and finally 'wash up' your taste buds with a few 'ulas' of the King. That would exquisitely give a good taste going up the 'ladder'.Of course if your pockets can afford it forget D24 and the rest, just go for the 'King'. The 'King' is an enduring and addictive habit. I almost always can feel the 'addiction' sensation raking up early in my brain even starting Monday of the 4th week of every calendar month nearing 'gaji time' when I have to make that mandatory 6 hour journey to my 'gaharu' farm in Slow Temiang to give the 'vitamin W' motivation to my workers and replenish their monthly food supply.
Several years ago when the 'King' was just known as durian kunyit by the Malays originally from Tanah Merah,Kelantan, then later planted in Gua Musang and Bukit Gantang/Bukit Berapit of Perak [ my, my, how is that poor Najib fellow going to fare in 'The Erection' this weekend !!?? ], it was still affordable. Durian kunyit was lingering there for years. Then the Chinese took a liking for it. Then the 'Dirty Singaporeans' also liked the taste. Durian Kunyit got rebranded :take away the 'Gua' from the 'Musang' and add 'King' behind it then presto you get a marketable brand:Musang King! Now the ordinary Ahmad, Ali and Ah Kong can no longer afford it . This thing about 'rebranding', leave it to the Chinese. They can even sell their grand mothers as 're-conditioned' virgins ! When D24 sells for 12 Rm per kilo, Musang King will be around 25 to 30. The power of branding and positioning!
Newly' energised' by a belly full of durian we made the slow drive to Slow Temiang via Raub, Padang Tunku,Merapoh and on to Gua Musang . Towns like Bentong, Raub, Kuala Lipis and Gua Musang enriched in the early 70's and still now by the timber and wood related industries. 50 kilometres along the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai trunk road we took a left turn into a laterite off- road build by the' timber people'. After 12 kilometres of winding, hilly and slippery off- road driving ,oftentimes dangerously missing a ravine or two,I reached my 'Shangri La': 50 acres of undulating land ,now all covered by young'gaharus'.
Two days of bliss followed. No handphones. No more tedious, and 'free' hand-phone consultations. No newspapers. No 'rude' bills and letters. No shaving. Our trade off was, sleeping in an 'open' kongsi [ tigers visited my place twice in the last 6 months but probably by now scarred off by the noise of the heavy machineries from the nearby" Ladang Raayat" and "Ladang Acacia" activities ], cool morning bath in the stream that passed by my land, and the biggest , spaciest , private 'restroom' in the world : 50 acres of open space.[ Ladang Raayat and Ladang Acacia and many more' ladangs' sprouting in Gua Musang and Kuala Krai under the guise and 'respectability of Kelantan Government agencies such as KESEDAR, MAIK and Forestry Dept but actually funded ,runned and owned by rich Chinese families from Johore and Singapore etc etc . Last time small time towkeys used gangsters to chase Malay settlers and local pioneers ,now these foreigners used Govt agencies as 'gangsters' to chase the Malays and kampong people, found in their way of massive land grab. Next time when I meet YB Dato' Husam I will give him a piece of my mind ! That would be worth another blog story ! Anak Melayu nak mintak tanah susah ,orang lain suku sakat tak ada problem . PAS and UMNO sama saja!]
We ate what our workers eat: budu, spiced with red hot chilli and a springkling of ikan bilis and omellete with loads of rice for breakfast, maggi goreng for lunch and a repeat of breakfast at dinner. Great stuff ! Dinner by candlelight: powered by 'carbide' .
Over thick black coffee the camarederie between 'kuli' and boss opened up. My two Indonesians addition to the current work force of five people, obviously happy and excited by a couple of hundred ringgit of fresh hard earned currency in their pockets , asked jokingly and loudly their colleague from Yala, known affectionately as Tok Uban, more due to the complete 'whiteness'of his hair rather than actual advance age,as to when they could 'jump' up the train heading toward Golok for a day or two of 'carnal pleasure'. Seriously speaking they can't because non of them have valid passports or visa. "Jump" up because that is how all the "Slows" in Kelantan got their name! Slow Bertam, Slow Mengkuang.Slow Temiang. They used to be small outposts during the Emergency time in the 50's when the only mean of communication between Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu was by train. By road it take no less than 15 slow ferry crossings in Terengganu and Pahang, a minimum of 2 days journey. By air ,only the Mat Salleh DO's, member of the royalties and big shots could afford that. Between Gua Musang and Gemas there were originally, only a few legitimate stations in between, for the rest, would be passengers would have to 'jump up' or 'jump down'as the trains 'slowed down' at designated areas . That in short is the history of Slow Temiang and all the "Slows" in Kelantan.
Tok Uban, one of my 3 workers from Patani and Yala replied that Golok is no longer 'safe' for such activities unless one does not mind getting one's head [ top, bottom, or both ] occasionally blown off or shot at in a random fashion . The shooting and maiming of young Muslim youth in towns like Golok is becoming a too frequent occurance.People get shot going to the mosques ,coming back from the mosque, in the market place, on their way to tap rubber, in the padi fields and almost everywhere under the guise of 'suspected' terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism .[ in the US now if you do not fornicate with people's wives , do not consume alcohol or you pray 5 times a day instead of once a year at Chrismas, you are deviating from the norm. You can be termed as a hard core Islamic fundamentalist.You are a potentially dangerous 'animal'. You will be watched.] All in the name of Islam. Buddhist vigilante groups ,1st encouraged and armed by the Thaksin regime were sprouting every where.
My 3 Thai Muslim workers epitomized the long and arduous suffering of the overwhelming but much neglected Muslims majority for decades. I could still recall during the heyday of YAM Tengku Rithauddeen [ he was Malaysia's Foreign Minister in the 80's ] , Malaysia's relation with Thailand underwent a significant degree of 'coldness' as the Tengku was the direct descendant of the Patani Malay Royal Family. That was the 80's . Now in 2009, I dare say that the Bangkok Central Government has not changed much thanks to the 'increasingly inhumane' escalation of agression from the Thaksin era and despite a recent change of government there does not seem to be any let up on the pressure on the 'governed'. Muslims in the South remained poor, no job opportunities opened to them , very small lee ways in term of personal liberties and the right to dissent and speak up. Always living in fear of death and planned 'disappearances'. My 3 workers have more sad and harrowing anecdotal experiences which they shared with me.
If you are Muslim and educated and vocal, and aware of your rights as citizen in Pattani , you may just 'dissapear' permanently suddenly in the middle of the night without your family members knowing your whereabouts. If you are a village' lebai', have some form of education in the religious ways, and leaders of men in your village, the chances of your 'arranged disapearance' is that much more higher.
Downtown Yala is inundated by daily 'shooting' and sudden death amongst young Muslim men. A definite hazard and risk being young , religious educated and Muslim. Shops and businesses close before 5 pm and you better be home and have all your shutters all closed.
In remote villages and hills, stories abound of Sikorsky helicopters hovering by in the middle of the night and young men of the crack paratroop unit wearing their famous and 'frightful' [ they are known by the locals to be merciless ]black uniform with their ' red scarves' abseilling down on selected villages and barging into Muslim houses and taking healthy young Muslim men away into the dark of the night never to reappear again.
People stop tapping rubber in their smallholdings and packed their bags and crossover to Kelantan to 'cari makan' a mussel here and a mussel there. It is obvious the Central Government in Bangkok has failed. They have failed to look after their people in the South. When things happened they are just interested in pointing their fingers to 'neighbours' who has long watched their fellow brethrens suffer in silence .
As my mother's side,half originate from Champa and Patani, while the other half from the hills of Afganistan, I can fully emphatise with the hardship and suffering of Tok Uban, Mat Deng and Mat Stopa [ Mustapha]. The economic hardship of my Indonesian workers [ Remember I am half Sumatran : my paternal great great great grangfather fought for 2 sultans 150 years ago ] is nothing compared to the turmoil, hardship, danger and frustrations faced by our Pattani brethrens.
That night, as my tired fellow workers slept and snored rather loudly in the 'open kongsi', my eyes and mind remained opened, this time, unlike before, not fearful of the possibility of that 'feline' sharp teeth sinking down into my jugulars, but thinking over and over again about our 'collective guilt' as fellow Muslim citizens of the world , being able to accept and stomach and live with these knowledge that our fellow brothers in Pattani, Mindanao, Chechnya and Palestine have been suffering for decades.
What is OIC [ Oh I See ! ] doing apart from the annual' wine and dine' and mere rhetorics. What are the rich Gulf countries doing with their God given petrodollars overflowing through every orifices ,enriching the 'very people' who, directly and indirectly, are complicit in the slaughtering, maiming and killing of our 'brothers', their wives and their children like 'dogs' in the killing fields all across the globe ???!!!!
[" The Prophet[ pbuh ] once, according to an established Tradition,, told a group of' sahabats' that there would come a time when Muslims would be 'pushed' aside like bubbles by waves in the ocean. They would be of no consequence. One sahabat stood up and asked : What could be wrong with them, are they very few in numbers ? The Prophet replied : No, they are not small in numbers, in fact they were millions and millions of them but they they chose to forget the teachings and the lessons of the Quran and chose to disregard my ways."]
Something to that effect. Allahualam.
I like places like Slow Temiang and meeting 'basic' people like Tok Uban ,Mat Stopa , Mat Deng and Kak Joh. They keep me going back to 'base' and reminded myself how blessed and fortunate we are to be Malaysians. Does not matter that in this new era some clowns amongst us sees fit to advertise a full page in the National Newspaper hailing for' health and longevity' to the 1st lady, the ever ballooning Ringgit Malaysia !. That is a new trend and height in apple polishing . A world class act !!
And by the way, who in hell is going to be that chap who looks after Finance ?? I know it is the PM, stupid, but who is the de facto working Finance Minister. We all will have to wait and see how things unfold.