Saturday, 16 April 2011

Fatimah's Kampung

(Source: The Asian Journal of Humanities)
If you ever need to teach your children that even bad things happen to good, honest people, then this is a book you should get.

I don't mean to sound so negative. I actually would do the same for my children, especially if see them overdosed on simple tales of good versus evil, black versus white, and so on, because you and I both know the world is grey and grey comes in so many shades... Wait, wait... Before you think I'm suggesting that should we raise our children to become a bunch of cynical, disillusioned zombies without a speck of hope in their heart, I think I better start again.

If you ever need to teach your children about the realities of development, urbanisation and their impact on the lives of ordinary people, then this is a book you should get. In fact, this is what the author and former geography lecturer, Iain Buchanan, had in mind when he wrote Fatimah's Kampung.

Fatimah lives in Kampung Hidayah, a village that is sitting on a very prime land. But we won't see that until later. First we will be taken for a tour around the peaceful kampung, populated by very friendly people who, like many other kampung people, take good care of each other. Close by is a small forest where a tiger, Pak Belang, lives, and therein other beautiful flora and fauna as well, plus a beautiful mausoleum where a very respected man named Bismillah Wali is buried.

The first half of book reads like a good guide to life in a kampung. Friendly neighbours, wooden houses, grandma telling stories; all of which reminds me of my parents' kampung, and even though my maternal grandparents lived in a semi-urban housing project, they lived next to a kampung and I used to ride my grandfather's black Raleigh bicycle through it. I've never lived in a kampung but I have lived near them enough to know a thing or two about the kampung life. I say this because I'm totally blown away the details that Buchanan had capture in his paintings throughout this book. They will make you (if you are like me, a hardened city dweller) want to pack your bags and go for a holiday in a kampung.

The next half is when reality sets in. Developers are salivating over Kampung Hidayah and the last person to stand in their way is a member of the Royalty, the Sultan. Buchanan is bold in having this character in this story because Tuanku and particularly his grandson, are instrumental in bringing about the impending doom change that awaited Kampung Hidayah. I really hope that this book will not end up in the hands of some narrow-minded reader who would bellow that this book has committed lèse majesté by suggesting that the Royalties are in cahoots with greedy developers. And actually I should be more worried about when my children ask, "Abah, why the new Sultan and the developers want to tear down the houses of these poor kampung people? Why are they forced to live in flats? Where are their children going to play? Where, Abah, where?"

I could, and I should, try my best to answer these questions because after all that is the purpose of this book. But if my brain is overstressed by work or other worries, I would tell them in very gentle way to, "Go ask your mother."


ieka said...

reading between the lines.. so, when is the 'abah' tittle is going to be yours? ;)

reading on the lines, nice book it seems.. where can i get it? :D

reading out of the lines, said you and your family (i mean your wife) want to visit us .. how soon will it be? :)

r.o.l. said...

There's no need to 'read between the lines', ieka, it's a as obvious as the sky on a clear day. As for me being promoted to Abah, only Allah knows for now. I got my copy from Kinokuniya, and it's a tad pricey, but not over RM100. I just love the artwork so I don't mind the price. Insya-Allah, will call you first before we come to bother you, Abang Khai and Humairah :-)

nahmy said...

lets the game of squeezing the brain begins...

r.o.l. said...

Salam, nahmy,

Thanks for the visit :-) Squeezing that brain but not too hard, we only have one of it, no spare :-D

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