Part of my childhood was spent growing up in the kampong in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, memories of which I cherish to this day. Early morning would see me tagging along behind my grandparents as we walk to the padi fields about 1 km inland. Upon arrival I would spend my time on a small hillock over-looking the padi fields as my grandparents worked in the fields. In the early morning the air was fresh and filled with smells of the various plants and weeds in the surrounding area, mixed with the sweet, sourish tangy smell of the thick mud in the padi fields. As the sun rises the grass-hoppers, butterflies and other insects would awake and fill the air with their buss as they weave and turn among the vegetation looking for food. Everyone of them seemed busy, and today I wondered if anyone of them ever called in sick and asked their colleague to bring the food for them.
Meanwhile I would be stationed on the hillock in a small wooden hut with thatched leaves for roof and do my homework and/or my studies. Normally I would just "try" to finish my homework and just forget about revisions. The place had too much distractions. There was a huge mangosteen tree behind the hut, which was great for climbing and when in season had lots of juicy mangosteen. Just beneath the hillock was a clear stream with water coming down from the hills yonder And it was full of fish, tiny prawns and crabs. So a lot of time was spent in the stream trying to catch these critters for lunch or tea. But seven years old that I was, my catch was not even decent enough for a lame duck. And there were ducks too. They came from villages nearby, some several km away. yet they always manage to find their way back.
During harvesting season, the whole valley was golden yellow, and the air was literally fragrant. Rice plants were tall those days (only 1 harvest a year) and a child could get lost between the stalks. So "hide and seek" was a "must" game during this period. Occasionally some slow learner and dim wit, yours truly included, would get hopelessly lost and the entire village would launch a search.
So, that was the life I had in my early years. Lots of open air and fields to run and roam. The land provided the toys and games. We learnt to improvise. No Coleman tents then, so we make little huts out of coconut fronds. We trapped little birds and cook them over our fire, feathers, intestines and everything else included. They tasted so nice. No worries about infections or disease. Cuts and bruises would close and heal within a couple of days.
I miss those days, and when I tell them to my children who are themselves parents today, they wonder what the fuss is all about. Why I go all emotional and dramatic. Isn't better to go around the Malls and Sunway Lagoon. Hmmm....perhaps one day they see what I mean.
So, it was really a pleasure to see parents making the effort to take time off and be with nature and let their children run free, as they are supposed to be. It is events like these which really warm my heart. Yes, no padi fields, but they still have the chance to sleep on the hard ground and feel what its like, to doze off to the sound of crickets and owls and to wake to the stern and no nonsense call of the farm Sargeant-Major, our resident cockerell. And then to help Mum prepare breakfast, and unfortunately the messy clean-up as well.
We are glad, that ULUHATI can convey some of the experiences of yesteryear. Thank you for coming.