Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is Sociability compared to Saving Babies? - a trip with (retired) Dr. Dad

I was having my coffee in the morning when my father broke the silence, "Do you wanna follow me to Kuala Pilah (my father's hometown in the neighbouring state of Negri Sembilan)?" I paused, I looked to the ceiling, I look at my auntie, I checked my watch, I glanced at my brother, then finally I figured, what the heck... "Sure. What time do you wanna leave?"

The following pictures are some that I manage to snap during our trip.

We had brunch at the Nilai rest area, just one of many rest areas that dot the
North South highway which stretches along the entire west coast of Peninsular
Malaysia. My dad frequents this particular one because it is famous for its
Negri Sembilan dishes, which is of course my father's favourite food. There he is
wandering up and down the aisle looking for food and snacks to buy. As it turned
out, this was gonna be an entirely culinary trip. Food-hunting with father.
This is what my father loves. This stall is called 'Masakan Minang' (Minang dishes).
The 'Minang' people are not actually indigenous to this area but are immigrants from the
island of Sumatra, Indonesia, hundreds of years ago. They sailed over the narrow
Straits of Malacca and brought over their food, their traditions and way of life -
In particular the Adat Perpatih, which is a maternal-centric tradition centralising
considerable power, inheritance rights and patronage to the women folk. In fact,
your mother has to be a Minang for your lineage to continue as a Minang. I am
not a Minang because my mother isn't one. She is from the northern state of Perak.
While checking out the Petai (that green strip of fruit hanging over my dad), my
father suddenly made a remark, "My stepmother forbade me from eating the Petai
because it would make my urine smell." It is true. The nut can be quite bitter
but now he loves them. It is suppose to have medicinal properties. 
This is another nut version known as Kerdas. Just like the Petai it can be eaten
raw or cooked. It is even worse than the Petai in terms of its smell. I bought a very
small bag and put them in the rear passenger seat. The odour was too strong that at the
next stop I bunged the stuff into the boot of the car.
We also purchased some corn, duck eggs and Gula Melaka, which is hardened
sugar syrup made from the sap of the flower bud of a coconut tree. My dad refused
to purchase from an earlier stall because they mixed it with normal refined sugar. They
even tried to convince my father that it was necessary to solidify the Gula Melaka.
My father looked at me in a silent comment, "Yeaaah, riiiight...
Do they think I was born yesterday?" 
Coming into the small hamlet of Kuala Pilah we were suddenly assaulted by
a pouring torrential storm. As you can see, my windscreen wipers were in
freak-mode to keep the screen clear for me to see amidst all the rain.
We didn't stop in Kuala Pilah itself, which is basically a one-horse-town. As
we exited the town I saw a beautiful yellow-beige house on top of a hill. It had such
a dominant and all-seeing view from its heights that I asked my father whose house it was. My
father replied that it used to be the house of the estate manager. Ah, yes. I forgot. This
area once hosted the largest rubber estate in the whole world. No doubt, the occupant at
that time was some hard-nosed tough-talking Glaswegian or some other Scotsman.
About five minutes out of town we arrived in the small village of Kubang Rusa -
Pelangai. "Here...Here! Here!" My father  frantically gestured. So this is the main
objective of the trip. It seems that my father absolutely adores the grilled chicken,
duck, catfish and beef as well as an itsy bitsy bird that we call Puyuh. We bought them
all except for the duck. 
While my father was examining the dead and burnt fish, poultry and cow, I wandered  down
the road a little and saw a small cemetery on a hillock. Happily, my father wanted to
rest for awhile and we sat at a coffee house across the road. 
I took leave of my father and wandered through the old stone graveheads. This one
was buried in 1955. But it is quite clear that some of the graves are much older, with
many slowly sinking into the gentle embrace of the Earth.
In this grave sanctum were buried three children, perhaps no more than
little babes...
In fact it suddenly dawned on me that many of the graves were all tiny ones. A reminder
of just how high the mortality rate was for infants in the old days before modern medical
care became readily available in this locality and throughout rural Malaysia.
Which brings me to an interesting facet of today's journey. Through out the trip, my father would point out to a government clinic, saying something like, "This was just a dispensary. I built the clinic here, and now they even have a full-time dentist." Or later nearer to town, he would comment on a large district hospital, "I chose the location for this hospital, because the previous one was too narrow and small." In fact throughout the entire country, my father's invisible hand is evident in many, many dispensaries, district clinics, dental clinics, nurses training colleges, maternity homes and general hospitals all through the 13 states. He was once the director general of MinHealth, you see. It makes me think how he helped lower the mortality rate among infants in my country. And because of that, there are hardly any new baby graves in the cemetery of Kubang Rusa-Pelangai. My father has come along way from the poor little kampung boy living in the small village of Juasih, Kuala Pilah.

People sometimes complain that my father is unapproachable and has limited social vocabulary. Even I complain sometimes... But I must admit this - what is sociability compared to saving babies?    

Hope you had a wonderful Sunday, sunshine. I did.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way


Anonymous said...

Wonderful road trip and story. And incredible achievements by your father. I agree - sociability is nothing compared to saving babies. You must be very proud.

Milky Tea said...

Sociability is the grease that oils human interaction, hehehe. But at 78, I think my father has done enough to warrant saying, "When some one mentions sociability, I reach for my work record..." Hehehe. Thank u for dropping by.


The Tea Drinker said...

awesome dad. and made awesome sons too!