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A SIMPLE LIFE: Mingling with longhouse folk offers a perspective of Sarawak that those in the peninsula would do well to appreciate
IT was good to escape the heat of Kuala Lumpur last weekend. And except for the small embarrassment experienced during the journey to Kuching when the back of my seat suddenly collapsed during the take-off and climb of the MAS A330, the flight on Friday afternoon was pleasant enough. But, of course, it was after I had moved into another seat that was unoccupied and serviceable.
KL had not actually simmered with any extraordinary temperatures in the last few weeks, though. It was just that the discomforting feeling caused by the 28/4 demonstration and its consequences had yet to go away, much as I tried to put it at the back of my mind.
Apparently and understandably, many of the participants in this demonstration are now not recognisable, with some pretending they were not even there despite their photographs being published in the media soon after the riots. I suppose that speaks enough of their understanding and commitment to whatever was their cause in the first place.
And then there was the burger-selling stunt by those opposed to the demonstration in front of the organiser's house followed by the butt-wiggling antics of some military veterans. Many other veterans and I find the acts of the latter distasteful and indecent. Luckily, this was the work of a very small group of ex-soldiers.
Eventually settling down in the fairly comfortable Theatre Hotel in Sri Aman the same night of arrival in Sarawak brought the real relief I had wanted. My sleep was to be sound despite the noise from some traffic on the road in front of the hotel.
The next morning came with a pleasant and interesting walk in the Pasar Tamu located just behind the hotel. A wide variety of local produce was spread out on the ground of the tamu by the vendors, many of whom I suspect come from nearby longhouses outside the town.
Some of the produce I failed to identify let alone name, making the sojourn even more interesting for I had to keep asking again and again, "nama utai tuk?" (what is this thing?) and to listen each time to what the vendor had to explain in return.
Most of the vendors were women and they appeared happy and contented enough. I do not think whatever happened in the nation's capital or anywhere else mattered much to them.
Theirs was to focus on their own pursuits and lives uncorrupted by the calling and machinations of others from outside their realm, a spirit that was infectious and therapeutic enough. It even got me to buy a few kilogrammes of hill rice from one of them. Maybe some of our politicians from the peninsula should try this therapy.
It was a different setting altogether in the official event I went to after that. This was to be in a clean and attractive longhouse but built on the ground. And although there was nothing of the usual "nekek wai" (do come up) greeting from the inhabitants for there were no steps up the house, the welcome by the folks was still very warm.
It was even more so when the local member of parliament and the main guest, the deputy Senate speaker, arrived to the sound of gongs beaten and traditionally attired maidens ushering them in to witness a lady doing the welcoming ngajat dance.
When the ceremony ended, the crowd, which was made up of the inhabitants of the longhouse and from the other longhouses nearby, quickly settled down to the floor of the common veranda to listen to the speeches. The whole scene and atmosphere was simple, heart-warming and joyful to observe and to experience even if it was for just an afternoon.
My seat on the return flight on Sunday was good. So were my spirits. The expansive green landscape and people of Sarawak have again not failed to calm and soothe. The wish is that the rapid development presently happening in the state will not take away too much of what is now already there.
Let them be to their ways and at their own pace. However, do go there to visit and to taste the magic if one has not done so.