What goes around will have to come around

October 4, 2014

This morning a group of harvesters came to see me and asked whether I could help them by giving them work.

One of them lamented, it was increasingly difficult to make ends met as the freakish weather had resulted in less fruit this season. Since harvesters are paid by tonnage. When there is less fruit. They have to contend with taking home less.

I told these harvesters when fruit was plentiful. Some of you staged a Pearl Harbor strike demanding higher pay. Some of you even boasted to me then. There is so much fruit all over the place…why should we harvest your fruit when others are willing to pay us more.

Now that there is no fruit around except for the trees on my lands – you all come to me….

Get off my land!

———————————————————————————————-

‘Most people are by nature short term and transactional. They never seem to be able to see the bigger scheme of things. Neither do they have the capacity to imagine the wider ramifications of their acts and omissions.

I find these people quite perplexing as they seem to behave as if there is only today and the whole idea of tomorrow doesn’t even exist at all – but I reckon, if these people can only reflect deeply about the whole idea of tomorrow and how their acts and omissions are not so different from throwing a pebble in to pond that ripples out. Then maybe they will be less short term and transactional.

As what goes around….most certainly comes around.

Should one decide to stop and simply sit along the five foot way somewhere along the old British road that runs the length of Beruas to Taiping in the district of Matang and larut in Malaysia. It’s not unusual to see Tamil boys touching the earth and bringing their hands to their lips as they turn the corner that opens up to a hill. Neither is it strange to see Malay rubber tappers muttering protection verses as they emerge from the thicket near the hill. Even less unusual is to hear mothers or wife’s berating their wayward children and husbands with the peculiar stricture that is unique to the region and exist no where else along the length of breadth of the Malaysian peninsula – ‘if you don’t finish your homework….or stop spending all your money on gambling and drink…he will come for you.’

During the ghost month, it’s not unusual at all for farmers to toss sweets or light a joss stick at the foot of the hill where he’s said to live…..The Devil that is. Yes, in Kampung it is a ridiculous notion to suggest the Devil wears Prada. As everyone here knows only too well, he drives a Toyota land cruiser.

Since simple kampung folk believe he brings them both the twin heads of benevolence and malevolence – social protocol dictates the Devil should never be reminded he his a malevolent creature from that other world. Instead everyone is content to pretend he is just like one of them…..another farmer like all other farmers.

In the full moon, menstruating virgins are forewarned never to take the short cut that cuts thru the Western reaches of the Devils land. And should they be callous enough to do so – they should always draw blood by bitting their lips, if they don’t want him to appear in their dreams.

Kampung legend has it. The devil was once a simple farmer who came to these parts to turn the wheel of life from a city far down south. The wawa boy as he was known to all. Wore a baseball cap, carried a hello kitty backpack and lived in a little hut on the hill. For most of the time, he kept mostly to himself. And on those rare occasions when he did come down to the village to stock up on sundries. The children would gather around him as he distributed reed flutes he had fashioned from his own hand that mimicked the call of wild birds. He loved the birds and trees. Village girls would steal looks at the boy. As he had a boyish charm. For most the days, he could be seen planting row after row of palms in his small veggie patch.

One day a greedy landowner approached the boy to buy his lands. The boy declined and this enraged the landowner. On one moonless night gangsters were sent to frighten the boy. Some said, they went too far. Others would insist since they were all drunk. The boy was accidentally killed. Rumor has it, his body was quartered and thrown into the marsh lands.

But since the boy so loved the trees and birds with all his heart and soul. The earth spirit mourned a river. When the bus from that other world came to collect the boys spirit to take him to the other side. It couldn’t get up the hill….as it was inundated by rivers of tears that made it too slippery to ascend. Eventually the bus driver from that other unmentionable world felt so exasperated he decided to cross the boys name out from the passenger list and even told the trees and birds who so loved him.

‘Alamak! All your crying has made it impossible for my bus to get up this hill. Do as you wish with the boy lah…..I surrender! Give up! Only don’t tell the gate keeper of the otherworld that I have not tried my best or been diligent about my work in the world of the living….I will come for him another day.’

That night when the frustrated bus driver from the other world had said these words and promptly driven off in his jalopy – the devil was hiding behind a palm on the hill and had overheard him. He knew then the trees and birds had conspired to cheat the great book keeper of heaven and earth and that very same night he claimed the dead boy as his worldly form.

It is not implausible for simple folk to believe this fairy tale account of how the boy had died only to be reborn as the Devil. As since superstition, mythology and folklore plays a preponderant role in shaping everyday beliefs and even reality in the kampung – what else could supply a believable explanation of what would come to past.

On the tenth day following the death of the boy when the ‘Lam Hong’ was expected to blow westwards, it blew from the opposite direction. A bad omen. That was the fateful day. The day the evil wind blew from that other direction….from that other world….when another man who all the villagers had seen, yet never ever seen before appeared suddenly in their midst.

Though the man’s features resembled in some faint manner the countenance of the boy, gone were his boyish innocent smile. This other man was older, perhaps fifteen…twenty or more years….it’s hard to say with the devil, as since time has no dominion over him it is always very hard to tell….his features were stern, hard and implacable like granite. He wore a bush jacket like the great landowners of lore who the elders of the village remembered as the man in their youth who once fought the communist during the heady plantation wars in Malaya. This other man had neither the boy’s clumsy mannerism nor his prediliction to smile readily. This other man’s demeanor suggested in every sense, he was not a man to be trifled with or taken lightly. When his resolve was tested one night by a band of reckless brigands, their lorries were found mysteriously burnt to a charred cinder with a sign, ‘this is what happens to thieves!’ A few days after that incident. The leader of the gang who had once murdered the boy was found dead with his head ripped from his body in a nearby estate. The death was so grisly, the coroner classified it as ‘unnatural death’ and concluded he must have been attacked by a very large unknown wild animal.

In the following months a series of strange misfortunes befell the village. The greedy landowner one and only love – his pride and joy. The apple of his eye. His only daughter had eloped with Devil. Some said he had looked deeply into her eyes one evening in the way only the Devil can and in that one moment time had stood so very still and when he had said to her ‘come!’ She followed obediently like a string puppet turning her back on her family. For months the Devil taunted the greedy landowner, till he was reduced to a nervous wreck. In the ensuing months, the health of the greedy owner deteriorated till eventually he was taken to the other side by the bus from that unmentionable other world. And his lands passed on to his daughter who eventually ceded it to the Devil.

Other landowners and businessmen allied with the greedy landowner all came to a similar ignominious end. For years the Devil’s reign of terror pervaded the valley. Till one day he became the largest landowner in the district. Even today when the moon is full. The sound of a bus struggling in vain to climb the hill along with the flowery abuse of an exasperated driver can be heard filtering down to the nearby village from time to time.

As for the boy he was never seen again. Only the stern man who wears the bush jacket and smokes the briar pipe who all fear and revere now lives in a large mansion on the hill.’

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