Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Nenek by the Surau

Back when I first came to work in Kelantan in 1983, we visited a nenek (grandmother) who lived near a surau in Pasir Mas. This is the surau nearest the roundabout in Pasir Mas-Rantau Panjang-Pasir Mas/Salor bridge. My husband and I went to search for this nenek as she was reputed to be a pious lady whose prayers worked. I was thrilled as I have never met a pious nenek whose prayers worked. We parked our car by the Pasir Mas-Tanah Merah trunk road and walked down to locate her home. We were told she lived by the surau before the roundabout. It was a small surau when I first saw it but we didn't see any good-looking homes which could possibly be her home. We walked all over the village, trying to locate her house. Then we decided to ask the villagers even though we didn't know the nenek's name. We were lucky because the villagers knew her and gave directions to her home. We went back to the main road and started counting our steps to the surau and leftward towards the nenek's home. It was a rather dilapidated wooden house and almost falling apart, with the roof not looking too good. I thought maybe the villagers gave us the wrong house where nobody lived. Anyway, my husband called out and we waited for some human movement. Soon enough the door opened and a nenek peered through to see who was calling at her home. She was probably 90+ but still strong and she could hear us very well. She invited us up to her verandah where we sat to talk to her and the reason for our visit. She knew why we were there even without us telling her! I found that strange. How could she know when we had never met and I have never talked to her? At that point I knew she was indeed a pious lady. And only pious people have this ability of reading other people's minds and intentions. I thought maybe she reared jinns and these jinns eaves-dropped on our conversation prior to meeting her. Anyway, she was working on her own cottage industry, making the traditional small white rice powder drops for facial powder. They are sold in RM2-packs. That's her income. I was thrilled by the little white drops which glistened in the morning sunshine. She made them all the same size and they were perfect - the skills of an elderly's hand. I can never do that right - I would possibly make big and small ones with some imperfect ones. Next time you buy a bottle of white rice powder drops, take a look at the sizes of the drops. They are handmade, drop by drop, by steady hands of the elderly. Anyway, the reason I was there was to have her look at my tummy - I was pregnant with my first child! Why do we visit such nenek? According to the Malay folks, it is best to seek such nenek first to take a look at the pregnant abdomen, and then go to hospital to deliver. Of course in Kelantan, it is better to go with the flow rather than challenge it. Any mak mertua (mother-in-law) will scorn if her menantu (daughter-in-law) decides to break tradition. But I enjoyed the visit to the nenek's humble abode. I still remember the sun's rays shining on some strands of silver hair which were partially covered with a light kain kelubung, and she was talking about the rice drops and how perfect they should be made. She was bent double but she was a polite and cute nenek who will never leave my memory. Her beautiful blue floral baju kurung pendek Kedah top and her floral kain sarong. She must have been a beautiful maiden before.

Solar Energy for Ages

If you remember from childhood days, families depended heavily on solar energy for everything. The sun was valuable to lives then and still is today and will be forever. Only that maybe our parents forgot that they were using solar energy and all they knew was the sunshine that reached them. Maybe.

What do we use solar energy for? If you remember, our mothers used to wake us up early before sunrise. Then they would take our mattresses, blankets and pillows and placed them on the window sill so the sun would shine on them for at least 3 hours before lunch time. They were removed and replaced on the floor before the next sleeping session or siesta. Remember the good afternoon naps? Our mothers were efficient and hardworking. We had the cleanest and puffiest pillows and mattresses - no problem of ticks or dust mites, no problems of asthma and skin allergies. No problem whatsoever. Our homes were free from such infestations. That was yesteryear.

Today, we have forgotten how to make the best use of solar energy except to dry the children's wet school shoes or our cars after a good car wash on a Saturday, or maybe Sunday. Have we forgotten that the sun is an important source of great energy that is left untapped and almost forgotten about its usefulness?

Has anyone given a thought about solar air-conditioning for homes? Why not? Solar energy is not only for heating, it is also good for air-conditioning. How come nobody wants to take it up? We are constantly installing air-conditioning units but that drains electrical energy from the powerhouses (TNB) and natural but depleting reserves. Of course with air-conditioning, electricity bills also triple. Who cares? I do! The University of California at Davis campus experimented on solar air-conditioning for homes in the late 1970s. They built 5 family homes and used solar energy for air-conditioning. That worked very well.

So I am advocating for solar air-conditioning of Malaysian schools, offices, shops and homes. The sun is always there. Why don't we use it? The sun belongs to everyone and it is freely available. Why not use it? Give it a try at least. It might cool your little offices or your TV room, etc. Just give it a try. How many engineers do we have that can take this challenge? This is 55 years post-Merdeka.

So we all have a job to do - to cool Malaysian homes comfortably. That is in repayment for chopping all our trees which kept our homes cool for the last 50 years. I remember as a kid I had to wear thick clothing in the morning and I had to have hot bath at about 11 am because it was so cold. Now I wake up sweating! It is hot and it will remain hot. Why not plant the trees back? They did for schools. But it is the 'big feet' who cleared the big forests who are the culprits. Of course we can all do our part to cool our homes - plant lots of trees and green, green grass. Green our homes, villages, cities and parks.

In the meantime, think about the possibility of solar air-conditioning.