Friday, October 26, 2007

VOYAGE 2 - Balik Kampung

Although there nothing much left in Mersing after the demised of my mother but as usual my balik kampung trip has been scheduled for this Raya. In fact we have been doing this family gathering for the past few years quite successfully. This year 10 out of 12 family members came back for the Raya gathering and visiting of our parents graves. Despite its being a simple get together but it has contributed effectively in fostering the brotherhood among us and for our children to get to know each other better. The family house reminds us of our childhoods and growing up together, thus gave a perfect setting for enhancing brotherhood solidarity. Although the old house has been replaced by a modest two story bungalow but the land reminds us of the struggle and hardship that our mother has to go through to win the land through years of court case. Personally I think none of us will be able to withstand the challenge in getting our family home through court case, we would have gave up rather easily from the owner who has gone back on his words on selling the house to us. Of course my mother will not take that nonsense and took her case even up to the Menteri Besar of Johor ……. considering that she was uneducated and won her case …. she was my greatest hero till today. After my father died in 1974 she single handedly became the breadwinner, schooling and feeding us up to university levels. All this sacrifice has made my Mersing trip always a special pilgrimage and fond remembrance of her sacrifice.

Actually my children have always looked forward for the Mersing trip. They need a good kampung and of course Mersing fit the bill well with its good beach, offshore islands and tourism town status. Their favorite CafĂ© is by the Mersing jetty where they sell good western foods ala KLs. Of course there was seafood restaurant by the Mersing beach that sells good cheap seafood dishes. The six of us have a field day ordering all that we wanted and the bill came to only RM 73 …. it’s about the cost per head to buaka puasa in KL hotel.

The trip was made more memorable this year when a group of my former primary school classmates came dropping by. I haven’t seen some of them since 1974 !!!! But when we start talking the childhood days seems to be just a short distance away. The old bonding is still very strong and we are just catching up on lost time, filling in the missing episodes of our life journey. Some of my old friends have been very successful despite their lack of paper qualifications. Sharom who used to spend lots of time at coffee shop talking over nothing is now the Permanent Chairman of UMNO Bahagian Mersing and successful businessman. Man Rabun is now the Chairman of Mersing Bumiputera Contractors Association ( MBCA). Waizman a simple dreamy Island boy from Pulau Aur is now a successful contractor and treasurer of the MBCA. Apandi is now the district education officer. Bidin is still working with JKR, while Karim Dol has retired and opens up his own motor workshop. The great thing is that as much as I am proud of their achievements and friendship they look up to me as one of their most successful friends.. We talked until 2 am before calling it a day ….. and of course the next morning another group of friends came by to catch up with old times. My plan to leave Mersing at 10.00 am was delayed to 1.00 pm due the heavy catching up sessions. Definitely my balik kampung trip this year was made more memorable with the old mates catching up sessions.

Of course in Mersing I also met the two marine officers from Marine Department entrusted to carry out the investigation on the Seagull Express ferry that caught fire offshore Pulau Tioman killing 7 passengers. They were under tremendous pressure to come up with a good investigation report and evading official and politicians who solicits news on the progress of the investigation. I guess prevention is always a more effective means of avoiding a tragedy and if you think safety is expensive then try an accident. The case reminds me of my experience in 1984 as Harbour Master of Perak. The ferry boats that cross Telok Intan to Seberang Perak have never complied fully with safety requirements and overloaded at most the times. When I sent my enforcement officer to check on their non compliance, the officers were threatened by the boat operators and chased away. I responded by sending my armed enforcement officers and pulled both of their boats to Jabatan Laut base. Of course two hours after that all hell broke loose because more then 500 passengers were stranded on each side of the river. I got nasty calls from almost everybody, the public, politicians and other government agencies including my boss from the HQs. They claimed that I was causing hardship to the public and I said I loved the people so much that I would not allow them to sail on un seaworthy and overloaded boats that can capsize in the river any time. After a heavy meeting at the District Officer office the boat operators agreed to complied fully to our requirements and we allowed the operations to resume under supervision. At the same time we charged the boat operators in court for their earlier non compliance. I did regular similar enforcement exercise at Lumut and throughout Perak. Looking back I am happy that during my tenure as Harbour Master of Perak there was no single ferry/ boat incident. I guessed after a while the ferry/boat operators realized that I would not compromised on safety and the best alternative for them is to comply to the safety requirements.

We could not leave Mersing without buying some keropok and ikan masin. I bought my keropok and ikan masin at Hj Puteh stalls at Tanjung with good discount. After all the owner was my school mate. The bonus this time includes RM 160 worth of frozen seafood ( 3 kg of Udang Laut, 3 kg of Sotong & Kerapu ) the good price was compliments from my brother network, since most of this good seafood were either sold to Singaporean or restaurant owner in Mersing. I found out that the frozen seafood was fresher and cheaper then those I used to buy at Labuan and Kota Kinabalu.

As usual while I am away the burglar alarms sounded a few times, but my good neighbors Hj Samsuddin and others were always there to ensure that everything was safe. The special guard we employed to look after our neighborhood throughout the Raya break was effective in ensuring the safety and security of our areas. All and all it was great and nostalgic balik kampung trip for us.


Tom said...


I remember Abang Bidin. His younger sisters were my playmates. As a matter of fact, I think after meeting you in Mersing, he went looking for my brothers, but only managed to find one of them in Kota Tinggi.


jaflam said...

Tom, actually Bidin is my best mates & we are like family. You can always count on him in good times and bad times. It looks like I know some of your brothers after all, is your brother in KT into journalism? We are working on the setting up of Persatuan Kebajikan Anak Mersing in KL. Hope it will be a meeting points for us and venue for carrying out social works for the less fortunate.

Tom said...

Abang Jaf (now that you know who my brothers are..he he he..),

Actually the YB Dr Latiff held one Raya gathering (I attended one 2 years ago) only for anak2 Mersing in KL. The response was great. We all went in full force siap bawak anak beranak lagi. My brothers were excited siap pelok2 ramai kawan2 yang dah lama tak jumpa. I am not sure if such gathering ada this year - kalau I dengar apa-apa I will let you know.

Abang Bidin only managed to meet my (eldest)brother H, as my (3rd)brother A balik kampung(his wife's). And I was told they borak2 sampai 2 am ! My (2nd) brother Y is in KL and he has many Mersing contacts in KL. Among others that I know of are Taib Kuyu (Koy), Apang, Aziz Kassim etc...

The Persatuan sounds great - I know the brotherhood of Mersing is so strong. Good luck!

jaflam said...

Tom, my regards to all your brothers and hope to catch up with them in the near future. When the Association takes off we shall organize a Gathering in KL. TQ and take care

Mat Salo said...

Bang Jaf..

Interesting and poignant story you have of your mother and her tales of sacrifice. She was one gutsy woman!

Quite a noble thing you're doing here Bang.. about setting up an association for the not-so fortunates. BTW, my wife's late granduncle is from Mersing although I myself have not been there..

jaflam said...

MS, like most of us I am sure you will love Mersing. Although it’s in Johor but it’s a melting pot of Johor, Pahang & Terengganu.

I am sure your wife will have some good memories of Mersing ... if she has been there before.

Zabs said...

Salam Jaff,
Kali terakhir ke Mersing pada June lepas dan ada menulis di blog ini>
Sampai sekarang projek itu belum menjadi kenyataan nampaknya.

jaflam said...

Zabs, I saw a dredger working slowly off Tanjung, I guess they were doing the reclamation work. Goodbye to the Kampung Terenggau and hope the project will not be like Pulau Melaka ... amatlah kurang sambutan..

ruby ahmad said...

Hi Jaflam,

Your late mum may not be educated, BUT she definitely was an able and intelligent person to have the guts to do what she did! My respect for such a gutsy lady.

Wow! What a lovely time you had touching base again with old friends. That's the way to go. Friends are a treasure in this world.

jaflam said...

Ruby, yaps she was a gusty lady like you. Always helping and giving ... full of smiles and no regrets!!?!!

I only have friends in this world ... no enemy - b'coz they are also my hai & bye friends.

Zawi said...

Came via Mat Salo's Borneo Blues. Love what you wrote.
Being a regular traveller through Mersing in the early 70's on the way back and forth to Kelantan from Kulai, Johor, I have beautiful memories of Mersing. We often break journey in Mersing before the next onward journey. I recall going to Jason Bay in Mersing once to catch crabs at night. All the way from Kulai! Didn't catch much though. Could have got more of them if I were to buy them from the market with the amount of petrol money we spent. But the fun was worth it.
I guess things have changed much since then. Mersing can't be the same anymore.
I hope to be at your site more often.

jaflam said...

Salam Zawi, thanks for dropping by and is always good to meet new friends especially those who shares fond memories of same place like Mersing.

Catching crap is an art, I too like it but most of the time the crab got away .... too slow. You may have read in the paper recently they found gold at sri pantai beach few km from Mersing town. I just loved that sleepy town with or without gold.