‘I am a kampung boy’

06 Aug 2019 / 20:26 H.

MANY will fondly remember the above quote from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong when he was interviewed recently. In fact, it is not surprising that it resonates with many who appreciated what it was like to be “kampung boys” or girls. This cannot be overstated as reminded by the axiom: one can take a person out of the kampung, but not the kampung out of the person. Similarly, it takes a community (read kampung) to raise a child.

Often such experiences and the events associated with the kampung are not easily erased from the memory because they are so meaningfully rich and can be uniquely once in a lifetime happenings at a very impressionable age. They were naively fun-filled, regardless of company or location and time that took place, at times, shaping one’s thinking if not lifestyles.

All these make the royal “admission” more valued because if the king despite all the stature and privileges accorded by the kingly institution, could still remember his kampung origin, then it is more so for the citizens who have little in comparison. Recall the Kampong Boy series made famous by the wellknown cartoonist, Lat. He brought alive memories shared by many across the board and beyond international borders. It is timeless and for almost all age groups and cultures.

Such is the power of the kampung that resides in our beings. We owe it to the kampung for some “immortal stories” that we cling to as milestones in our life. That is how close kampung can be regardless of status and stature.

That said, sadly the phenomenon seems to be superficially emotional in nature. Many cannot even marshall enough strength to speak up, what more act on behalf of the beloved kampong and its inhabitants. This is especially so when taking into account the reality on the ground. Increasingly we read reports that the kampungs are fast disappearing thanks to never ending “development” that is allowed to invade the once highly regarded abode of the community known for being harmonious, peaceful and balanced; the qualities that give kampungs their character. The word “sejahtera” has been bandied about when the kampung today is anything but “sejahtera”. The devastation of Kampung Kerinchi and Abdullah Hukum is a classic case in point, at the hands of those have a dismal idea of what the two locales stood for in the nation’s heritage. Worse when the name replacing it represents sheer ignorance and arrogance. So are several others. Many more under the radar are now facing a similar tragic destiny. Ultimately, we will see the disappearance of kampungs, including those with high heritage values and prominence locally. Penang seems to be taking the lead, but who cares.

It is not limited to just the physical loss that we mourn for. Equally, if not even more, is the loss of intangibles like values, relationships, co-existence, balance and sustainability, which uplifted the kampungs once, unlike now where they are pitted against the forces of urbanisation. So much so there is an urgent need to campaign to save the kampung and safeguard its valued presence for all time. Otherwise, the overall demise of the kampung can eventually be translated to mean the death of wholesome family values, extending to the community, and then the nation. And it will not stop as observed from what is happening today; disrupting lives in the pursuit of power and dominance. Despite the fact that they have taken root over centuries.‎

A case in point now is the historic Kampung Baru as the central focus. It still was made to suffer the same senseless politics that do not seem to direct those involved to any light at the end of the mentally dark tunnel.

As such, inspired by the frank remark made by the king with all its implications, the above concerns must be taken seriously in its proper context.

Faced with such a highly uncertain future, the issues related to kampung must be more constructively vocalised and engaged to ensure their existence. This means the values associated with the locale must be preserved and enhanced.

The Japanese have embarked on the Satoyama project towards this end, while in Malaysia the Mizan Research Centre at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia has much to offer in the same way. Both can help to reposition the kampung as a vital institution that could bring about the concept of balance and harmony in the drafting the 12th Malaysia Plan. For this we have the king to thank for in opening a window of opportunity to make the kampung relevant once again.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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