Lurah Bilut. 1958.A small settlement on the fringe of the deep and dense jungle of Pahang.
This FELDA documentary caught my eye some years ago. The feature was on its first ever settlement in the country. Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak’s pet project on rural development. An economic experiment.No more, no less. Or did the future of rural development lie in this one settlement?
It is today, a showcase for the pioneering spirit of the times. The pride and joy of the FELDA project as many of its original settlers have turned millionaires. Who could have seen how far FELDA was to have ventured? Even in its inception, it was not clear where the project would land itself. This was not a project that would manifest itself within a specific number of years. It was not measured by physical scales...whether it was the tallest, highest or biggest there was.Its success was measured by the enduring spirit of pioneers, belief and sweat. Such was the visionary powers of these two leaders.
Why did this particular documentary catch my eye?
I remembered vaguely that my late grandfather used to teach in Lurah Bilut in the 1960s. We used to laugh over stories how the whole family including 8 children all of school going age had to ‘meredah hutan’ to reach the settlement. And how in love my grandmother must have been to have followed him into such wilderness.
I immediately asked my mother after watching the documentary about the story behind the move to Lurah Bilut. It turned out that grandfather was the first ever headmaster for the school which opened in 1961.She related stories of how he took on the Minister of Education at the time, demanding for chairs and tables before the school starts.
I then remembered other little things about grandfather, gently hinting at the nature of the man, rather ahead of the times, eccentric, yet staunchly committed to the appearance of the conservative scholar. Rather like Sherlock Holmes, the epitome of an Englishman, yet forgiven for his discretions like cocaine addiction and overbearing superior complex[Holme's I mean!}.
Mr Kofi Annan, I agree with you whole-heartedly.I loved your article, and felt the same yearning for worldwide fairplay on a level playing pitch...unlikely though it may be. A world where it doesn't matter whether you are poor or rich...where talent and teamwork make the difference. Perhaps the secret of the World Cup phenomenon lies in the fact that it is something you yearn for, it only comes once every four years. As if humanity needed to wash away all the bigotry and dirt with a dose of good old fashioned sportsmanship.
As I sit here admiring Spain's grit and determined attack on Tunisia...the game is still on, I marvel at the way the World Cup continues to be a sort of home coming for me.Though Rudi teases me relentlessly about the real reason I love the World Cup and the England team so much when I just scan through the English Premier League, the fact is I feel closest to my late Dad during this time. We used to stay up late night and debate on the outcome, him being such an ardent fan of Argentina and me of Brazil at the time made for heated father and daughter predictions. But then, we watched great tennis and badminton matches with almost the same passion.Today, Dad and I would have been formidable contenders for all trivia contest as he would be spot on on most of the difficult questions on football.
It is no wonder that Rudi and I share the same enthusiastic passion for this festival of sorts. Rudi was after all a footballer and a striker at that. Part of our family outings included picnics while cheering him on the field. Still he frowns when his six month pregnant wife stays up to the wee hours of the morning to watch a game or two. He hates the England side...and couldn't understand why I was so upset when Rooney was first injured. I argued that the World Cup this year needed the likes of Rooney, Torres and Critiano Ronaldo as the days of Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane come to a close...albeit to an illustrious career in football.
This year, Iman takes part in this cyclic tradition as she cheers on her favorite team, Italy. While Italy is not doing too well at this stage, Iman is a true fan of the Italian League and can rattle of teams and players in the way I rattled about Pahang players when I was twelve. The other day, we argued about how Uruguay was pronounced and I was so overwhelmed by the thoughts of Dad. How reminiscent. Dad and I had the same little discussion so many World Cups ago...and I stood corrected. And here I was, telling my daughter not to take this on with me...for her grandfather had put me in my place...there were still many lessons in this world that I could learn from him no matter how far I've journeyed. He was so right. 4 years gone, and I am still learning from him.
Perhaps this year, his Argentine side would thriumph.