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Another article from Raja Zarith Idris about floods in Johor
In the eye of the storm
MIND OVER MATTERS BY RAJA ZARITH IDRIS
AS I waved goodbye to everyone at what should have been our last local Red Crescent function on Dec 17, I reminded them: “No SMS please, I am on holiday!” All my children were home for the next two weeks and it would be wonderful to be a complete family again.
Two days later, I received a text message on my mobile phone stating that about 700 villagers had been evacuated to a school hall in the Skudai area of Johor Baru, after their village had been flooded.
By the next day, the number had gone up; there were about over a thousand or more men, women and children at the school hall, some looking stunned and a little bit lost, huddled together in little groups. These were people of little means and they were used to taking orders from the authorities. Go here, go there. They had no choice, they could not question why.
The school hall also echoed with the cries of restless babies. I asked some children what they had been doing since they were taken there the day before. They shrugged. Would they like some toys? They nodded.
I was going to be their benevolent “hero” who would buy up a whole toy store for them until a friend asked me exactly how many children would be getting toys from me. She pointed out that if I were to buy a ball for one little boy, I would have to buy one for all the other little boys who were there, and there were easily 200 of them. And what about the little girls? That was my first lesson in “logistics”, where being generous and being practical are two completely different things.
So, onto the next lot of questions. The women said they had no other clothes apart from what they had worn the day before. The ladies from Mawar (Majlis Wanita Johor) made notes of what would be needed: T-shirts, sarongs, disposable nappies for the babies, undergarments for the women. In fact, many days later, and to dozens of other people, I would sound terribly boring as I repeated that the women would need undergarments and sanitary items.
I was getting a crash course in disaster management In a moment of panic, I sent a text message to MRCS deputy chairman Hisham Hashim, who had been to countries that had experienced both natural disasters and armed conflicts. He replied: “Welcome to the real world of Red Cross/Red Crescent!” No tips on disaster management there.
At the school canteen, clouds of steam from huge cooking pots rose into the damp air, as busy but chatty cooks prepared lunch. The cooks (they too came from the same flooded village) said they would be serving four meals a day for the people who would call the school hall home for the coming weeks. As we chatted, sackloads of rice were being delivered to the “kitchen”. There were cartons of eggs piled up on the floor. This was “disaster management” theory made real. And everyone was working together: the MP, the village headman, the district officer and the volunteers which included a group of Buddhists who were among the first to offer help but who left just as quietly as they had come. I
I had expected to see sadness in this sea of faces, and was surprised that there were many who could still manage a smile. These were hardy people, after all, who were used to a difficult life. They weren’t puny, spoilt, luxury-loving persons like me.
At a mosque that was used to house 200 flood victims, we were invited to have lunch. We ate off paper plates. The food was simple: plain rice, ikan kering, sambal belacan, telur goreng (omelette) and kobis masak lemak (cabbage in coconut milk gravy). I have been to a few sumptuous banquets but this was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.
I met other people in other districts. I listened to variations of the same story: of having lost all that had taken years to save up, and losing everything within minutes of fast rising floodwaters. I heard stories of heroism and survival.
The tragedy of the 2004 tsunami affected us all because of what we could see on TV and in newspapers. The tsunami was a natural disaster of a magnitude and scale the world has not seen before. By comparison, the floods here in Johor may not be considered as catastrophic – with the loss of thousands of lives – but because it happened here, in our own backyard, we cannot but be affected by it. It may appear small in scale but it still involved more than 80,000 people who have had to leave their homes. We surely cannot just look away.
Some remained stoic and said: “Alhamdulillah, our families are safe.” Others were overcome by an uncertain and bleak future. One young mother of four told me that her husband held two jobs so that he could provide for their children. she said: “We are poor. We work hard. But now everything that we’ve worked for is gone. Everything.”
In Batu Pahat, in a community hall that was used to shelter more than 2,000 flood victims, an angry middle-aged man pointed at the villagers and said to me: “You write about this. Why were we so quick to respond to the tsunami when it happened in other countries but we are slower to react when it’s our own people who have lost their homes? Why doesn’t anyone see this as a tragedy and a disaster? There are people who live in towns and cities but they are not rich folk. They are the urban poor. Whenever there are fires or floods, they suffer.”
In a few weeks from now, when there is less news about the floods, and when we’re told that the floodwaters are receding, we will begin to forget about these villagers and townspeople whose lives have been changed forever.
But for those whose houses had been submerged under many feet of muddy water, it is just the beginning. They will have to skimp and save all over again. They will have to work harder than before because what belongings they had accumulated over many years have all gone.
That’s what we should put on our diaries and calendars next month as a little note: it’s just the beginning.
Ini gambar yg aku dapt dari forum.cari
A dose of Humour is good medicine
By RAJA ZARITH IDRIS.
WHEN life becomes unbearably serious, adding a touch of humour into our lives will help to soothe our aching souls. It is true that laughter is the best medicine, even during times when tears seem the only option. That was what I did when faced with grieving friends, the shadow of tears and a plane crash on what was a normal, bright sunny afternoon. I was visiting the widow of a family friend and was looking at photos of his funeral when my second son phoned. His voice a little shaky, he said his plane had crashed during his daily flight training. In the next few minutes, I was calmly phoning my husband, family members and our family doctor, and sending text messages to others. It was only after I had given instructions to staff and had packed my things for a one-night stay at the hospital that I allowed myself to think of my son in a little plane hundreds of feet from the ground and of his instructor’s decision to crash-land. I felt as if I was in a huge metal cocktail shaker and I was not just being shaken but also stirred. My mind was just a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. For a few moments, in the privacy of my home, I became a blabbering idiot. I prayed, not asking Allah for more but thanking Him for protecting my son and his instructor from crashlanding into the nearby pylons, the jagged timber pieces or the many houses that they were flying over. If not for that tiny piece of bamboo grove they saw from the air, and which they aimed for to absorb the impact of their planned crash landing ... the alternatives are too terrible to contemplate. Regardless of what others thought, whether they smirked or sympathised, I chose to think of that crash landing as a miracle. It was perhaps a strange coincidence that just three hours before my son’s call, I had read the following: “... Each has a succession of angels in front and behind, keeping him safe by Allah’s command.” (Surah Ar-Rad, verse 10-11, from The World of The Angels by Sheikh ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Kishk.) Having gone through a difficult time both emotionally and spiritually, the book I brought with me to the hospital was not at all religious in tone, and neither was it an epic novel. I didn’t want to contemplate the meaning of life any more, not if it meant that I would be all choked up with tears again. I chose instead Jeremy Clarkson’s book, And Another Thing – The World According To Clarkson Vol. 2, the second compilation of articles he had written for the Sunday Times of London. I welcomed his irreverence for all things politically correct as, sitting in an armchair in a hospital room in the middle of the night, I tried to calm my nerves. It was comforting (to me, anyway) to know that someone else, although half a world away, has summed up what I feel is wrong with societies globally: we don’t allow ourselves time to rest or relax. If we do take time to have a nap, read a book, or enjoy a cup of coffee, it is often followed later by many hours of guilt. So my thanks go to Clarkson for saying that there’s something seriously wrong when we all have to justify taking lunch breaks and other meals in this the new global 24-hour society. “If we do go out for lunch in Britain, it’s only an excuse to get some work done. And so is dinner, and so, increasingly, is breakfast. In fact, we’re running out of meals over which we can do deals. Soon, people will be buying and selling products over a midnight feast ...” I am also sure more people are realising that the generation gap between children and their parents is growing wider by the day. Take the mobile phone as an example: there are two functions I require from it – to make and receive phone calls, and to send and receive text messages. That’s all. But young people nowadays expect their mobile phones to do everything for them. Again, Clarkson succinctly says it all when he writes: “... In essence, if you buy one of these phones, you are getting a Filofax, a television, a cinema, a portal to the Internet, a computer, a video camera and a photograph album. Great, but is it necessary?” Nevertheless, the mobile phone served its main purpose as far as I am concerned the day that my son called to say his training aircraft had crashed. My family and I have been to the world of “what if” and back. Without letting my son know that it’s a cruel and nasty world out there, I am aware that there are many people who couldn’t have cared less what happened to me. Unlike them, however, I can’t stay emotionally detached when I read of parents whose child had drowned, or of children mourning the deaths of their parents. Every picture of a parent’s weeping face in the newspapers makes me flinch. So, even while I read Clarkson’s book and am giggling in the darkness of my bedroom, it doesn’t mean I care less about everyone and everything that makes this country Negaraku. And, truth be told, I am very proud of the fact that our 19-year-old son is part of our army, even if he does own a mobile phone that does more than let us hear his voice.