CONNECT THE DOTS – Fed by misinformation. In conduct of an internal inquisition. In formation of an inquisitive mind. Like a child beholding a picture book, connecting the printed dots and filling the colours of my fascination with the beloved nation of mine.
In her second entry for this column, Azira connects the dots between coconut trees, race, and religion. Seems like a stretch you say? Well she had help from very imaginative neighbours in her Ampang neighbourhood.
I awoke to the sound of conflict.
It was a Saturday. My parents were having their usual loud discussion downstairs, which through many years of practice have been relegated to the buzzing of bees as far as I’m concerned. As awareness slowly gave way to automatic rationalisation of data, mere sound waves through the foggy smog eventually funnelled out into the topic of the discussion.
As it turned out, my mother was incensed about 2 things that centralised around the theme of “invasion”:
First was the rumoured emergence (based on the hearsay by one neighbour) of three unidentified “Indian” monks praying and chanting “Weyl-weyl” at the foot of a rather old tree near my house, complete with Sanskrit prayers and the cracking of coconuts and the weaving of coconut tree leaves (which she claims, stolen from our now botak coconut trees).
Second thing was the alleged presence of four drunk “Indian hooligans” who frequent the location of said now botak coconut trees to make merry – i.e. get drunk at around 3 – 4 in the morning, causing loads of noise.
My father’s only concern was of alleged four to ten drunk hooligans frequenting said locus in quo and causing brouhaha at 3-4 a.m in the morning. He’s a practical man. He likes his sleep, and he has daughters living with him. Any sane man would be wary.
My mother, now, she likes to take it a step further. She is quite opinionated. And like any atypical conservative Ustazah, she has certain unquestionable opinion on the order of things. She dismissed my gentle sleepy queries with an emotionally charged, “Ira apa tahu, kalau tidur, tidur mati!” which is understandably unhelpful in any way to my comprehension of the problem. When I suggested that those concerned asked the monks for clarification, it was apparently, not an acceptable solution.
To me, it looks like my mother was rather sullen about the fact that someone, (i.e. must be the Indians), had cheerfully helped themselves to my parents’ well tended coconut trees and had not the courtesy to ask us nicely for its young fruits and leaves. It happens quite frequently to the point of annoyance, and I usually feel that the ones who take without asking are outsiders to the neighbourhood.
We have a nice, friendly community here – consisting of majority Muslims, temple-going Hindus and one churchgoing single mother with her two sons. Our Hindu neighbours would always ask us first, and the one odd Christian of Indian ethnicity behind my house is ruled out from the “list of suspects” for obvious reasons.
So, later on we proceeded to attend a neighbour’s open house, since it IS Raya plus this neighbour is my childhood friend too. And I was, as a matter of an annual affair, subjected to discreet glances concerning my attire versus the religious slant of my mother. Ignoring it as I do every year, I was having a fine enough time with girls my age when my ears could not but catch excerpts of exactly what my neighbours thought of rumour number one.
In some ways, I take after my father. I find any allegation of the supposed plans to erect a temple in my neighbourhood (at the foot of the tree where the monks were seen praying) illogical and silly because:
1. It’s a very small road, being a private home/kampung style bungalow lots sort of neighbourhood, traffic would be crazy if any community building is erected there. Especially since the alleged tree being worshipped is placed right beside an Islamic PERNIM building, where orphans or kids with AIDS and HIV would come from time to time. There is barely any room for cars to move simultaneously let alone a place for parking.
2. Our Hindu neighbours have their own mini temples inside the compounds of their homes, it boggles the mind of why would they pray at the foot of the tree monks or no when they already have a pre-existing place of worship inside their homes.
3. There are several temples for worship dotted around Ampang – all within easy reach the residents in my neighbourhood. Everybody drives out to get to any Surau, Masjid, etc. Same applies to other religions including Hindus. Why on earth would, of all places, they pick my neighbourhood for a temple site knowing that it would invite hostility?
4. As if the local authority or constituency(PAS) would allow such a thing. It’s PAS! Gila ka hape?
So you can imagine my cengkerik moment when one of the comments in response to this rumour is “Tak boleh. Oh, makcik tak suka kalau ada orang bina temple India kat kawasan rumah kita. Kalau temple Cina takpa lagi. Temple India sangat keras. Nanti hantu depa datang kang habis kawasan rumah kita.”
My ears singed. I quietly scooped some nasi himpit out from the bowl, while an echo of supporting opinions from the fellow makciks at the open house. I guess that’s why none of the non-Muslims were present in THAT particular open house.
My dear readers, the reason why Hindu temples are vehemently opposed in my neighbourhood is because (a) they steal my parents’ coconut tree its fruits and leaves, (b) nanti kawasan rumah penuh hantu yang “keras.”
It hasn’t occurred to them to actually ask the alleged three Samis/monks on whether or not it is true they’re building a temple. That would be unthinkable, apparently.
I munched quietly on my kuih raya.
I hope they won’t take it out on the poor tree and chop it down.
Note: Further clarification from said source of the above clarified that they temporarily used the old tree area for a single use temporary praying session. There simply wasn’t enough room in their own homes to accommodate the larger than usual crowd so they figured that we wouldn’t mind. I personally don’t. However, I think it may not have been the best idea for them to have included outsiders in their prayer sessions. It’s a decent, safe area and the elders like to keep it that way, completely understandable because Ampang is famous for having high crime rates. As for the drunks, they have been confirmed as outsiders and they littered the locus in quo with used liquor bottles when I surveyed the area, an obvious provocation to the primarily conservative folks living here.
See how things get overblown in Malaysia nowadays? Race is all we see anymore in any matter – be it in a neighbourhood like mine or a national sensation like the Sosilawati case.
LB: Azira Aziz is a self-professed mongrel Malaysian. She hopes to have “Malay” and “non-Malay” relegated as a relic of the past sometime in the future. She is a UiTM graduate currently undergoing training to become a lawyer.