Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away...

My beloved grandma, Puteri Habibah Megat Ibrahim

Pak Abu cast a worried look at the darkening sky and muttered under his breath: "Sheesh, I'm leaving for golf and it's going to rain!" I wisely kept my counsel; antagonising the man would serve no purpose.

Not many people know rain the way we, the older generation of East Coasters, do. What you have here in Klang Valley, spluttering in meagre spurts like cat pee, isn't rain. That's just one poor excuse of a water can spray for one's flowerbed.

Even in the East Coast, it no longer rains the way it used to be 30 or so years ago. Maybe the oft-quoted global warming has something to do with it.

In my childhood, banjir or air bah (both meaning floods) ruled from October to January, the official tengkujuh (monsoon) season.

For a month or so before the monsoon winds blew in, families would be stocking up food, mostly ikan bilis (anchovies), rice, soya sauce and cans of sardine. These would be our staple diet until the season ended.

And when the rain finally arrived, it would pour without mercy for days on end. Rivers and streams would swell, breaking their banks, inundating entire towns and villages.

Rescue operations would be launched for trapped villagers. They would be taken by police boats to balai raya (community halls) and school halls to wait out the ordeal.

All the while, thunder roared and bolts of lightning streaked across the darkened sky, their cacophony adding to the general feeling of gloom.

As roads disappeared under the deluge, perahus and sampans, and the occasional motorboats, became the mode of transport.

Offices and schools would close, with children welcoming the unscheduled, prolonged holidays by frolicking in the rain and rafting down the streets despite the obvious danger.

My grandmother, a committed social worker, would work tirelessly during these trying times, mobilising her Kaum Ibu members to cook and care for the flood victims.

Without fail, my school friends and I would be roped in as well, to collect and distribute old clothes and to carry out a multitude of other tasks.

In the evenings, dead tired from all the running around, we would sit silently together, listening to the monotonous rush of the waters, staring morosely into space and wishing we were somewhere else warmer and drier.

I am glad the devastating floods of yesterday are no more. The suffering and despair deeply etched on the faces of those simple kampung folks broke our young hearts.

No comments: