I used to criticize the older men in my village for congregating at the coffee-shop in the morning and evening, enjoying a slow cup of coffee or tea and talking away. How could they do that when their wives, children (both married and unmarried), and grandchildren were waiting for them to bring something home for breakfast or afternoon snacks.They were certainly selfish and only interested in satiating their own gullets.
As I joined the group of senior citizens and pay frequent visits to the village, stopping by the coffee-shop in the morning or evening, I began to understand why that is the most satisfying stop for the older folks. Including some young ones too, of course.It is there that they find companionship ( no, no females there), good coffee or tea and roti canai, roti kawin, roti telur, nasi lemak etc, a good no-hold-barred discussion on current gossips and news (both national, state or local), an unlimited opportunity for airing their own views and sentiments, and getting a quick honest-to-goodness and often humorous, response.
They discussed the political, economic and socio-cultural conditions of the country today, as if they were in Parliament, without the vitriolic exchanges and threatening gestures. There were more exchanges of spirited humor than crossing political sentiments like they were flashing swords.There was more laughter than serious altercations.
"It's interesting that the young girls of today, especially the actresses, like to marry older men. We also have a chancelah if you have money," was what I heard one day."Money is all that they cared for."
"Even if you had a lot of money, Jongang ( Yong Ang), I don't think they'll go for you."
"Why, Kulup.You think I not handsome ah? I makan jamu you know. Young girls love strong men."
I wouldn't want to capture the other comments thrown at the two, lest this entry assumes the nature of pornography. The discussion and debate on the subject ran for well over half an hour. Then somone came up with a new topic.
" Hey, the rate for electricity and the price of petrol are going to go up again! But the price of rubber is not going up."
" They should use our rubber for manufacturing condoms. Probably then the price will go up for there is a great demand for the stuff," came a quick and naughty reply from a young man.
" Why use that stuff at all? There are many other ways of stopping pregnancy without taking away the fun from making it happen," came another view.
" You don't want the price of rubber to go up?"
" Of course I do but I don't want the thing to come down prematurely because of the wrapping."
" Does that happen to you?" And the whole coffee-shop shook and echoed with laughter.
No wonder. The coffee-shop also served as a substitute for a blue-film type of discussion and conversation. Where else could the senior citizens in the village go for that kind of entertainment? There are no bars, discoes or m - parlours. They maybe old but still very verile.More importantly, many of them had spent their younger days in the towns and cities.
Are our villages ready to reabsorb the senior citizens who have dedicated their younger days to the service of the nation or work in the towns and cities for a living? What facilities exist to allow them to spend their time usefully, meet their friends, and talk "on a more sophisticated level" than the genuine village old-timers? Most of the young men and women too have now emigrated to the towns and cities. What's obvious is that they are not interested in coming back to the village to stay after their 'fortune hunting" is done. So the villages all over the country continue to loose the young and also the older men (and women). The villages are being depleted of their population while the towns and cities become overcrowded.
Has any of our leaders thought of this and reflect on what's going to happen to the villages? You can see so many houses being left to rot for people do not want to come back accept for short vacation. UMNO's strength used to lie on the support of the village population. Can the party count on that now since the villages are rapidly loosing their people? And when they return to the village to cast their votes, they often carry their urban sentiments and frustrations.
As for the towns and cities, the population is increasing by the day. The urban population is sophisticated, self-opinionated, daring, materialistic, and very worldly. Can a party developed along a more rural and traditional values satisfy the need of the new urbanized population? Visit the coffee-shops in the villages and listen to the everyday conversation of the senior folks. The government could learn much more than listening to the debate in Parliament.