Friday, February 15, 2013

Resurgence of the Kampung

At one time villages or the kampungs in Malaysia were famous as places of quietness and serenity, places free from the hustle and bustle of city life, places of recluse and self-indulgence. Then rural development began to change the scene, turning the kampungs into fair grounds for economic resources and opportunities. Rice fields and horticulture were given up in favor of exploiting rubber and palm oil production.The young people moved en masse to the towns and cities leaving the old folks and the very young in the village. to be taken care of by their grand parents for the parents were too busy earning a living or making a fortune in the cities.

We began to see old traditional houses left to rot and land holdings becoming secondary jungles. As we enter into the first decade of the 21st century, more and more traditional houses along the main roads (what more in the rural depth) became vacant and left to the pleasure of white ants since the grannies occupying them had passed away. Sons and daughters of the new era were not interested in going back to the villages to take care of the old properties. Only when the land left by their parents or grannies are packed with fruit-tress such as durians, rambutans, mangoes, mangoestein etc would they go back during fruiting season to get their supply of free fruits, which in the towns and cities would cost them a bundle.

Many have also bought their own houses in the town and city areas where new housing communities are springing up like mushhrooms, The interest in going back to the village slipped even further down their list of priorities.

But as the cost of houses and land in the city area skyrocketed towards the end of the first decade of the 21at century, and also the cost of almost everything including food and fruits, the attention of the ex-emigrants from the villages began to refocus on their places of origin. Tired of what the cities could offer as entertainment with costs rising twice of threee time ( take the cost of cinema tickets for example), they began to go back 'home' for rest and recreation. Many are floored to see the dilapidated remains of their old homes and birthplaces and began seek new place to build a 'summer' home or a 'retirement' home if they had not been able to buy one in town.Even with the rising costs in the villages for building houses and for domestic expenditure, they are much lower than what you have to pay in town.

And so began the rural resurgence - old and young ex-emigrants from the kampungs going back to the kampungs to salvage properties claimed by the jungle or the white ants. On weekends you can see several cars now in the compounds of the dilapidated homes with works being undertaken to repair the old homes or build anew in the same or nearby spot.More interestingly we can see the urbanized old and young people clearing up the compound of the old homes now overgrown with wild elephant grass, thorns and ferns, raking up and burning away the rubbish, using knew and old farming equipment. And while they works, we can see their own offspring sitting in the shade - if the old house is still not for for occupation - with their handphones or I-pads. A very heartening and sobering scene indeed for the old folks who had remained in the village all their life.

The old village forks are happy to see the kampungs coming up alive again, even if only on weekends and during public holidays. But when all the ex-emigrants of the village returned home to their birthplace, who will be left to populate the town and cities? At the rate the cost of housing and landed properties is going up, more ex-village emigrants will certain go back home (balik kampung),leaving the towns and cities to the rich business people....


kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
The resurgence of the kampongs are real. It's not so much a natural progression but prompted by 2 situations:
1. Before, old folks went back following their retirement and stayed and they still do
2. Now the younger set goes back on week-ends to do up the place because of acquired affluence and as you've said they need a weekend retreat. They also need to savor kampong life which they missed when growing up in the city.
(love to see the last pic,it's serene and peaceful)


norzah said...

Thank you Akhi Kaykuala. I agree fully with you though many retirees chose to stay on in the towns and cities, unable to readapt to the kampung life and community.