Saturday, 10 April 2010

The Recent Flood in Tongod

"Even the dogs need savin' when the flood comes"

I've been writing just literature for quite a while and I guess to be true to the purpose of this blog, I should share with my fellow readers the happening in Tongod. Last January, we were hit by the worst flood incident in 19 years... So, here's some pics for you guys to see...

This is the picture before it all went bad... at this time it has been alternately raining and drizzling  non-stop for 3 days

Early in the morning, the house on the background were submerged at the end of the day.

The light blue house on the other end of the bridge is my house. Lucky we got to this side earlier, or else, we could've stranded for few days.

Students were evacuated from the hostel to the higher ground

"The river's a monster...."

"Extreme water polo. Anyone?" Yes, you got it right, that's the top of the goal post

"Not my kind of car wash"

 Two days after the flood...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Are You Still Playing Your Flute


Are you still playing your flute?
When there is hardly time for our love
I am feeling guilty
To be longing for your song
The melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo
Uncovered by the breath of an artist
Composed by his fingers
Blown by the wind
To the depth of my heart

Are you still playing your flute?
In the village so quiet and deserted
Amidst the sick rice field
While here it has become a luxury
To spend time watching the rain
Gazing at the evening rays
Collecting dew drops
Or enjoying the fragrance of flowers
Are you still playing your flute?
The more it disturbs my conscience
to be thinking of you
in the hazard of you
my younger brothers unemployed and desperate
my people disunited by politics
my friend slaughtered mercilessly
this world is too old and bleeding

Is this the end of our love
time is forcing us, as artists
to live outside ourselves

translated by Zurinah Hassan

The way I read it, this is a love poem, or at least a 'semi-romantic' poem. It's told from a first person POV, where the persona, a grown up 'girl', finding herself reminiscing bout her 'old-flame' or rather a long-lost lover. She recounted the way her lover played flute in their village. However, she's not merely recounting the romance in the past but actually wondering whether her love are still playing flute, now that they're all grown up. She mentioned her feeling of guilt for missing the beautiful melody of his bamboo flute. She later questioned or rather keep on wondering he's still playing the flute now, since the village is now underpopulated and the paddy field is in very poor condition. She mentioned that nowadays, it is a luxury to be able to spend time relaxing and savouring the  beauty of the nature. In the final stanza, she repeats the same question, and this time around she admits that she couldnt help but feel that it is wrong for her to be thinking of their love at this time of hardship. The hardship is portrayed here as young men are now jobless, people are fighting over politics and countries are facing wars.


Okay, let's face it, I'm still a novice in decripting themes and messages out of a poem. In doing so, I refuse to depend on any of the literature revision books that are widely avaiable nowadays. Thus, mine would be vastly different that what you have read elsewhere. The first theme for me here is LOVE HURTS or maybe we can put it as LOVE IS COMPLICATED. Hahaha... I'm laughing at myself as I'm writing this because it's getting quite personal. Frankly speaking, this might not be the most apparent theme, but I still can't help but to highlight it here. Let me justify. Firstly, eventhough the tone and mood of the poem is not really romantic, part of the wordings suggest otherwise;

"longing for your song"
"depth of my heart"
"fragrance of flowers"
"thinking of you"

... these are the phrases that no matter how you read them, would still ooze of love and strongly signify romance. But as I say, it's not just simply about LOVE, but the suffering that one has to endure because of love. To say it in brief... if the persona, did not fell in love with the flute-player during her younger days, she would not have suffered the dilemma and guilt that she's facing right now. Does it make sense?

Another theme that I can see here is a little bit more serious. This poem can actually be related to the rough time that we are facing now. Eventhough I'm quite positive that this poem was written decades ago, the struggling and difficulties are something quite universal.  So, it brings up this premise: When we're young and in love, we don't really realize (or we choose not to realize) the realities/hardship that we face. As we got older, all of these difficulties become apparent.


'sick' paddy field


too old and bleeding
sun setting

 For this poem, I managed to find the original version in Malay. I personally felt that the Malay version is more romantic and full of emotion. Okay, I'd like to raise up a question to fellow teachers who are reading this: Would you incorporate the usage of this Malay version into your literature lesson? Why? and if you're gonna use it, how?

I am actually raising this issue because, I did ask the officer during a Lit course: "Can I use the Malay version in my lesson". Briefly, the answer that I got is "You can use them, but you are actually not recommended to do so, and if you still want to use it, please be careful. And remember, we're focusing on the small 'l' not the big 'L'".

I didn't really got the chance to argue my case during that time, so I guess I should do it here. Okay, first let me explain about the big fuss with small and big L. Basically, small 'l' means understanding and enjoying the literature components while Big 'L' would means teaching all the literary elements explicitly and in details. It's kinda ironic for me to hear the speaker says that if I were to use the Malay version, it would've mean that I was focusing more on the Big 'L'. I think maybe he just couldn't put himself in the shoes of us who are teaching in the Rurals. I wasn't trying to use the Malay version to highlight the usage of metaphore or symbolism in the poem. What I really wanted to do is use it as a 'firestarter'. To ignite my students' interest towards the poem. There's a lot of repetition in the poem, thus, if I introduce the first stanza of the poem in Malay and just keep the rest in English (in pre-reading or while reading exercise), I think my students would be more interested rather than me shoving the fully English version. There's a lot other way to use it as well. For example in a while reading or post reading exercise, we can use the Malay version to help our students getting a better understanding of certain mood and tones that certain words give towards the poem. Well, it's just my opinion, what say you? So, here's the Malay version, try to dive into the sea of emotion while you read it....


Masihkah kau bermain seruling
walau waktu telah terlewat untuk kita bercinta
aku semakin terasa bersalah
melayani godaan irama
lagu yang tersimpan pada lorong halus buluh
dikeluarkan oleh nafas seniman
diukir oleh bibir
diatur oleh jari
dilayangkan oleh alun angin
menolak ke dasar rasa.

Masihkah kau bermain seruling
ketika kampung semakin sunyi
sawah telah uzur
waktu jadi terlalu mahal
untuk memerhatikan hujan turun
merenung jalur senja
mengutip manik embun
menghidu harum bunga.

Masihkah kau bermain seruling
ketika aku terasa mata bersalah
untuk melayani rasa rindu padamu
di kota yang semakin kusut dan tenat
adik-adikku menganggur dan sakit jiwa
bangsaku dipecahkan oleh politik
saudara diserang bom-bom ganas
dunia sudah terlalu tua dan parah.
Di sinilah berakhirnya percintaan kita
kerana zaman sedang menuntut para seniman
hidup di luar dirinya.
Zurinah Hassan