Monday, January 26, 2004

Winds of Change in Kelate

Just got back from Kelantan. We took the Air Asia flight to Kota Bharu from KLIA and it was Rahil's first trip on a plane. She was really great and didn't let out a peep. There were two other babies on the plane and they were crying their hearts out. Fortunately, my dad had warned me beforehand. As the plane goes up and down there are changes in the air pressure, which can prove to be quite painful on the sensitive ears of babies and sometimes even for us adults. Sucking something helps and so we took a milk bottle along. While making the milk we were a bit late and we nearly missed the flight. We were among the last passengers on the plane (fortunately there was another couple with their kid or it would have been really embarrassing). My parents were really happy to see Rahil. She was cranky for a while (I guess babies get stressed when they are taken to an unfamiliar environment). However, she soon settled down and was happily smiling to everyone and making funny noices.
Kelantan and Kota Bharu in particular have changed a lot. The first thing you will notice when you get to Kota Bharu (by flight) is the brand new sparkling airport. It really changes the image of Kelantan as a backward state. Many might complain that it’s a waste of money in a place that is known as the poorest state but as they say, the first impression is the last. There are more cars on the road and traffic jams are quite common now. They even have a brand new shopping complex - Billion and a 5-Star Hotel - the Renaissance hotel. I also noticed a lot of big houses coming up. A family friend told us that most of them were being built by successful businessman and government servants coming back from the big city – KL, to retire in their home state. One of things I used to hate about Kota Bharu was the water. Just imagine brushing your teeth in the morning and then realize that you had been washing your mouth with foul smelling, teh tarik colored water. Now, they finally have clean water coming out of the tap. The state government’s effort to promote the use of tudung – head scarves - among muslim women seems to be working. I noticed that many ladies (family friends) who used to go with their hair uncovered were now wearing the tudung.
Of course there were still some ugly images too Kampung - village - women going to work as part time maids, or selling pisang goreng - fried banana fritters - while their useless husbands lived off them. Kids wandering aimlessly or blasting off on bikes without helmets. More single and neglected mothers. And worst of all, the widespread belief in Bomohs - witch doctors - and other practices that I consider “shirik", even among the educated elite. My father noted that in many cases, people would rather take a family member who was ill, to a bomoh than to the hospital. They would consider going to a doctor as the last resort when everything else failed. Women would spend their hard earned money to buy some charm so that their husband would not fall for some younger girl. Stories of black magic were so common. All this happens in a place that claims to be the most Islamic state in Malaysia. That was really sad. I guess that some of these problems would be a lot more harder to change than getting women to wear the tudung which is more visible.

Anyway, life goes on and I was nice to be with my parents and most of all my mum's tasty cooking.


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