I WAS born at the Gombak Orang Asli Hospital in 1971. Raised in Cameron Highlands before returning to Gombak in 2002.
THE FOREST is my home, growing up in Cameron Highlands, but it’s now more of a suburb. It wasn’t back then.
MY UPBRINGING was modest. A trip to the nearest town was hard. Three hours through the forest one-way, and another three hours to get back. Just to get basic necessities. That was my childhood.
IN 2002, I returned here to Gombak, a much different world. We, the Semai have one of the largest indigenous populations in Malaysia, though I’m not sure of the exact numbers.
MY move to Gombak was not with reasons. I had to take the place of my late father, and our ancestral home is here. He passed away in 2003. Since then, I’ve lived here with my wife and five daughters who also go to school here. She is a housewife while I do not have any permanent job. I make a living off the forest, and sometimes I take part in community activities.
ALTHOUGH I was raised in a remote part of Cameron Highlands, even back then our elders spoke of the necessity to move to Kuala Lumpur, because everything is there. For us living in the interior, just the mention of Kuala Lumpur will get us excited, imaging how different life would be in the big city.
NOW in 2016, it is a challenging time for my people, the Semai. Very challenging. The economy is bad, the weather even worse. So, we just have to be patient in facing these challenges. Especially for those living in Kuala Lumpur. There are many of us here. I have many nephews and nieces working here. But when the time comes, I believe they will return to their ancestral land. This is part of our journey. We have to get out, explore, gain experiences. From the experiences, we will mature.
WHEN we talk about the current times, we have to follow good examples. It is true Kuala Lumpur is modern and equipped with the best infrastructure. However, our people aren’t used to all this. In the forest, we know it well. But the forest here is not the same with the 'forest' in Kuala Lumpur. That is what some fail to understand. That is why they get so engrossed with what is in Kuala Lumpur.
WE can see the effects of living in a city like Kuala Lumpur. Usually, those from the village who come to Kuala Lumpur to work, their behaviour changes. And the longer they stay, the more they change.
MY late grandmother advised me before, time is gold. Time waits for no man. She said when waking up in the morning, we have to wake up early. That should be practiced, but in Kuala Lumpur, it is not evident. The work culture is different. We, in the village usually work from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. Then we would spend time back home. A very different way of life.
FOR example in Kuala Lumpur, if I want to be at a place by 8 in the morning but due to the traffic jam, I fail. Therefore, I have to come out much earlier. This affects my routine. Life in Kuala Lumpur is indeed challenging. In every way. For me, this is not my life. I prefer to live here in the forest.
IF I could offer you one word of advice, I would tell you to appreciate the forest. It is the source of life. Without forest, there is no oxygen. Without the forest, there is no life. The forest has many important roles. If we destroy the forest, I do not know what will happen.