Wake of the Flood

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Kampong Tales

By Yusuf Martin

White bleached skulls of deceased water buffalo mocking call ‘You’ll be sorry’ to the morning anglers who, dragging their Japanese slippered feet through the sandy Malim Nawar desert, in search of easily caught tilapia, ignore the warnings in their quest for sustenance.

In that half-light, in the faint glow of the kampong morning, as the kingfisher eerily eyes his breakfast, my dear wife returns from her father’s increasingly busy kopi shop.  She brings back green, banana leaf-wrapped cones of nasi lemak, and clear plastic bags of muddied teh tarik.  With the spring in her step of one who has just partaken of news as well as her morning meal, she comes a-telling tales of deluges, utmost woes and infinite disasters. 

Gently, unhurriedly, her tale she did tell.  It was a tale of nature and man, bound in perpetual conflict, jousting and jostling, each trying to outdo the other until one would tire, and submit – three falls or a knockout.

Amidst the very same portentous cracks of thunder and flashes of severe lightning that left our area drier than the proverbial desiccated coconut, a landslide, so we were informed, had hit our new Tesco superstore, at Taman Kampar Perdana (that is Kampar to you and I). 

Kampong busy body tattle tellers, and those who repeat the already repeated pretending to know just what it is they are repeating had told my dear wife that the previous evening, at our new Tesco, in Kampar, there had been the aforementioned disaster. 

On hearing this news, shivers immediately went down my perspiring spine.  I considered the full impact of the reports – the unfortunate loss of jars of breakfast marmalade and the floating away of pats of slightly salted butter, dampened ginger nut biscuits and bags of Earl Grey Tea bobbing up and down to the rhythm of waves caused by scrabbling evacuees.  Enraged, and more than a little saddened, I vowed to investigate, kicked life into the old jeep and sped off- slowly.

Having driven the few sun drenched miles to Tesco, I discovered, in the harsh reality of a heat-stroking day, that there had been no landslide.  Nevertheless, it did seem that, after heavy rains in that hilly area, galleons of teh tarik coloured water had invaded the Tesco store aisles, leaving them, customers and assorted small furry vermin, swimming in the murky water.  It seems that produce was a-spoiling as shoppers, a foot deep in water, hurried to evacuate to the muddying surrounding car parks, and leave while they still had national cars to leave in. 

My brother in law, reporter Raju to the kampong, had been in the store at the very moment when heavy rains struck.  Luckily, he had the presence of mind to hightail it out of there, start his car and escape just as the floodwaters deepened enough to cause disaster, while others, no doubt thinking themselves budding Spielbergs, tarried to take video footage of the flooding, with their hand phones, posting it to Youtube.

Tesco was indeed flooded, as one mamak shop worker informed me. ‘Hujan’  he said, “it was the heavy rains coming off the nearby mountain range”, that deluged Tesco, sweeping water down from the nearby shop-lot houses, situated just above Tesco further along the main road to Kampar, and nearly opposite the historical Green Ridge area.

There was a unique irony in the fact that while Tesco, Kampar and its surrounds were evidently hammered by torrents of rain, our quite inconsequential kampong, nestling amidst the water buffalo mining pools, had nary one drop of sky squeezed water. Rain, in its infinite wisdom, tends to follow the Titiwangsa range of mountains, and appears a little timid to disturb the tranquillity of our lands of cloven-hoofed lumberers and makeshift rural lakes, so while my garden continued to thirst, Tesco drank deeply.

After the flood, it was as if rampant rurality was re-staking its lapsed claim on threatening urbanity, perhaps thinking that Kellogg’s cornflakes and pre-packaged, frozen, roti- canai paratha had no place north of Rawang, or indeed South of Butterworth.

Brash mankind, ever thrusting into fresh territories, shovelled the mud, swept and pumped the improvised teh tarik and once more proved himself master of all he surveys.  In reality, it was but a skirmish in the battle concerning the war over global warming.  Man will inevitably be the loser, even if, in his own mind, he is the champion over naked nature in this continual war.  Man forgets that he and the planet are one, if the planet loses, so does he.

So, as the earnest sounding gentleman spoke of rains and waters, I sadly watched as two enterprising and energetic workers swept misplaced mud and dreadful debris out of the store, adding more dirt to the already mud covered vehicular waiting area.