Monday, 26 March 2012

The Temuans' Land

The calm waters of Sungai Selangor.

A trip to Frasers Hill can be a great experience for travelers. Tourists en route there often stop by the sleepy town of Kuala Kubu Bharu for some good Hailam food. Traditional Hailam noodles and Yoot Loy coffee shop’s homemade Kaya on toast are just some of the specialties the town has to offer to the adventurous and hungry.
To get to Frasers, you’d have to pass the great Sungai Selangor dam. It has become an attraction on its own, and the beauty and the breeze makes it easy to see why.
It would’ve been more beautiful if not for the story behind its making.

The large body of water covers what used to be part of the Orang Asli (that is, the Temuans) home. Judging by the size of the lake, it could’ve been home to hundreds of households, and a huge number of flora and fauna. Like so much of the world’s pristine land, it was altered to meet the needs of the urbanizing lifestyle.
We hear so much about “Going Green” in the media these days. Advertisements, documentaries and government movements scream “Save the environment!” Many of these campaigns have been initiated by the higher authorities throughout the decade.
Water flowing into the resevoir in the Sungai Selangor dam. 

Well, in 2002, a big chunk of greenery and the precious ancestral home of the Temuans was flooded to be made into a dam.
I had the privilege of joining the Chern family, who lent a hand to the 'Portraits of Perseverance' project on their visit to the Temuan community. Despite much of their land having been bulldozered over, the village was still very green and the air was just refreshing. Playing host was Antares, a resident of Kampung Pertak. A brilliant storyteller and guide, he took us us to Sungai Pertak, where the villagers’ lives are centred.
The river was just a few minutes away from the houses. We walked on a mud trail made by several pairs of feet making their way back and forth daily, treading carefully so we don’t slip and fall. To say the understated, Sungai Pertak was gorgeous.
A few village girls walked past us, hair wet and looking fresh from a dip in the river. A Temuan mother was washing some clothes, while her little girl waded in the waters.  Antares hopped on the rocks to get to a spot where the river gushed. He sat himself in between the rocks and indulged in a natural back massage by the swift waters. 

I admired the clear water and the backdrop of tall trees. Mysterious sounds from the forest – what were they, birds? Insects? – interrupted the singing river.

Antares sitting by the crystal clear river.

“This beautiful scenery is merely a fraction of the old village,” I reminded myself.
Our host and “ceremonial guardian of the Magick river”, Antares, said that there used to be more trees, and it was greener back then. Walking back to his home from the river, we stopped to look at a big, empty grassfield.
“There used to be a big tree around here many years ago.” He said, pointing at an empty field nearby his house. “They used to call it the Fairy Tree.”  Grinning with what looked like reminiscent pride, Antares said, “People from around the world would come here and say, ‘Hey, that looks like a tree for fairies!’ “

I’d like to think that children were playing by the Fairy Tree. Maybe they spent their day, sitting on its large roots, beneath the shelter of its leaves, playing with imaginary fairies.

It’s a shame no child can do that now.
As we sat on the verandah of Antares' home, I couldn't help but realize how peaceful the village was  -- a few trees scattered here and there around the houses, the calming trail that led to the river, a lush green environment with clean air. Immersed in surrounding nature, one could hardly imagine the chaos in the environment, just outside the village.
Mrs. Chern smiled, "If one were to sit here when the sun sets, in the evening, it is beautiful.”
The future of this beautiful land may look bleak. But for the present, any one who visits Antares should just enjoy the natural beauty as she suggested.

by Junmey

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