Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Rare Taste of the old Village-style Hospitality.

A fully commercialized village in Langkawi (a resort) - Bolton Village

After living in and around the city of KL for more than three decades, village life migght become a strange and an intolerable stretch of boredom to some. My kids used to ask me what did I do for fun and games in the village when I was young. There was no telephone, no computer, no video games and no color TV. The few times that i took them back to the village, they stayed in the house and couldn't wait for the next day to go back to the city.

Mowing the grass in my village of birth.

Well they are on their own now and I'm free to go wherever I want with the wife. We've bought a small double-storey semi-detached house some years back in Seremban (our home State) and had never really got to stay in it. The few times that we visited it, the neighbors were pretty much like those in KL- friendly but keeping pretty much to themselves. Every time I visited the house there was a lot of heavy work waiting for me - cutting away the wild weeds, elephant grass and crazy creepers that like to wrap up the fence and turn it into a green wolly mass. The neighbors smiled when they saw me. asked me when I'd be moving in, and gave a blank look when I said that I had no plan to do so yet. Only Hj. Aiman, my neighbor accross the road had visited us and we their house for a cup of coffee.

Senawang, the area where our house is located has grown so much as one of the industrial and commercial satellite towns of Seremban. My neighbors are mostly people who work in Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere and come to stay in Senawang over the weekend. More seemed to have moved in recently and many houses have been renovated, But a few had been rented away. Just two blocks away on the same side of the road, a house had been rented by a group of foreign factory workers who made it a habit to have a karaoke session from lunch time to late at night on full blast. To make things worse, the singing was always offkey and in a foreign language. Hj Aiman had complained but to no avail.

The neighbors in Taman Alamanda, Senawang, are like those in Kl also, very urban though friendly, easy with their smiles and greetings ( except for those with huge cars and golden gates), but keeping pretty much to themselves. But just two weekends ago, my wife and me visited our house to do some clearing work and stayed there from morning till evening. We suddenly realised that our next door neighbor included a middleaged lady with a little boy, obviously her grandson. They boy came and talked to me in the usual prattle that you interpret more from the expression on his face rather than from the unintelligible sound he produces. He was very friendly and I gave him some chocolates. Soon the lady came out and joined us in a very village style conversation which quenched our thirst for such a neighborly interaction.

WE stopped work at about 12.30 am to go out and buy some lunch. But what do you know. The lady came out again with a bowl of rice and another with prawns cooked in our favorite "masak lemak chili api" style, The kindness really floored us for we have long forgotten such an act of neighborliness which we enjoyed only when we were kids in the village. We thoroughly enjoyed the food which really was a lot and then sat down to think of how to reciprocate in the proper way. My wife being more urban than me, thought of giving her some cash when we return the bowls. To me the act was more than what money can buy. So I switched on the old thinking cap, imagining what my grandma would do many years ago to reciprocate such a neighborly act.

Reliving old memories in the village.

The right way was to return the bowls later full of our own cooking or goodies.. Since we don't cook anything in the house though we have all the facilities, I asked my wife to go out and buy something to fill up the two bowls. She did and the neighbors were very happy with what my wife gave them.

That was indeed a reminder of the neighborly act in years gone by. I never thought that it could be revived. Not always, but when it was as done by our next door neighbor, i felt so nostalgic of the good old life in the village. The sad part is that it doesn't happen anymore even when we go back to the village, for urban values have caught on. Only one Makcik that I know used to bring us a very sweet tasting "tapai" (fermented glutinous rice) when we returned home to the village but she seemed more pleased when we reciprocated her kindness with cold cash, a further testimony to the fact that urban values have dominated all aspects of life in the village.


abdulhalimshah said...

That reminds me of Gulick's "Kinship in Malay Peasent Society in Jelebu" which aptly describes the matrilineal system in N9 and the social system defined by the kinship, the rights and obligations of each family member. We always miss the good old days, especially the values of a village society where relationships are not mere functional but more personal. Thus the simple act of exchanging 'lauk pauk' and ' kueh mueh' especially during the month of Ramadhan was a common act of good neighbourliness. But today we get our goodies at the Pasar Ramadhan and more often than not goes down the drain because we bought more than we could eat. The simple life of the village is now just a thing of the past and our future generations will not experience such values anymore. And we the older generation will just tell our grandchildren who could not fathom the nostalgic memories of a dying past.

norzah said...

So true and sad, Akhi. What bothers me more is that even the old folks in the villagebdo not any longer espouse the old values. They have become just as impersonal as the yonger ones, meeting their neighbours more in the coffee shops rather in each other's home. They don't invite people they meet to the house anymore for a cup of coffee or tea since they themselves go to the coffeeshop to have their fill.

Al-Manar said...

Having returned to a village life I have begun to hate the thought of returning to the city again. Luckily I have no longer any reason to do so. So alhamdulillah - happy is a life in a village by the sea.

norzah said...

Your're luccky to have returned to your village of birth
after having your fill of city life, and found a worthwhile mission to make you stay on in a village
that's so close to the sea, {akcik Al-Manar. It is most difficult to find that mission and reeorganize your life again around it. I'm going to give it a try anyway, inspired by your example.