Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year 2013

The Historical Japanese Finds at Palekbang

After we found the remains of the old Palekbang train stop, we ventured to another nearby place near the train bridge. There was a vehicle parked close to a shed just before the bridge. A muddy road formed an underpass for the train bridge. We stopped by the parked vehicle and didn't go onto the muddy track as it would mean a different adventure altogether and we weren't in the right gear for muddy track adventure in the monsoon rain.

Affandi got down to talk to the people at the shed. He discussed for some time while I remained in the car and took photos in heavy rain. Then Affandi emerged and a guy with helmet followed him. They were talking and another man appeared from the underpass, approaching Affandi and the other man. Affandi knew the man who came on the motorcycle (bike). He was the son of Affandi's father's friend who lived in our neighbourhood. The man on the bike greeted Affandi and Affandi asked him whether he worked there on the project.

The project is a historical one, so says the banner at the underpass, just next to a massive brick structure from bygone era. Then the 2 men drove away on the bike through the underpass and to the other side of the train bridge. Affandi then entered the car. I asked him what happened. I asked him whom he talked to. He said the one on the bike who came to pick up the other man, was his friend and they knew each other. The man worked on the project. I asked Affandi "What project?" Affandi said there is an on-going project and pointed to the banner at the underpass. Affandi said right in front of us, the big round brick structure was a Japanese well, left over from the war. He said the Japanese were known to throw humans down this well. I was nauseated when I heard this. I asked him whether these people he talked to knew about the recent discovery of the train tunnel. Affandi said yes. The newly discovered train tunnel is a historical find of the last war. I asked him if we could go and visit that train tunnel. Affandi said it may not be safe in the heavy rain. So we decided to head back to Kota Bharu and stopped over for early lunch at TESCO Kota Bharu. Affandi had laksa Penang and I had nasi goreng kampung (a bit salty). We shared a small cup of hot Milo.

A Dato's 4WD at the train bridge in Palekbang.
A Japanese well from WWII in Palekbang. The banner tells of the on-going historical project.
A nearby shed with some farm animals - itek nila and a beruk.
The train bridge can be seen at left edge of the pic.
A white beef cattle and its fresh cow dung.


Palekbang is Palek-bae in the Kelantanese accent. Palekbang is a small town huddled among expansive paddy fields which are flooded in December, the monsoon season. We visited Palekbang today in heavy downpour. It was scary!

Palekbang once had a small train stop, the most famous during its hey day. Trains stopped here to let down passengers who then took a boat service or ferry across Sg Kelantan to Kota Bharu river bank. The town that docked the boats or ferries for the river crossing service is Penambang.

Palekbang train stop has been abandoned since the more recent one was opened at Wakaf Bharu. When I came to live in Kelantan in May 1969 (after the 13 May incidences), Palekbang was often heard but I had never visited it until today, 43 years later. Palekbang train stop is in ruins today. There are a few columns left standing by the rail track. There is a shed among the jungle thickets where the signpost says 517.75. This means the Palekbang train stop is 517.75 km from where? Gemas? 

From Palekbang the train continues on to Wakaf Bharu, a modern train stop that has shifted from the old site to the more recent site, both sites lay side by side at Wakaf Bharu. Now the new station faces the old station. The new station has a ticket counter, prayer place, toilets, a restaurant and limited seats.

From Palekbang and approaching the Tumpat roundabout.
Follow the signboard to Palekbang
There is a Klinik Kesihatan signboard at the turn-in junction but I didn't see the clinic.
The road ends here in Palekbang. A small post office signpost says POS Palekbang on the left.
Approaching the road end and Palekbang signpost.
The railway track is straight ahead where the road ends.
Initial view of the railway track at Palekbang.
This is not the train stop, which is to the left (not shown in this pic).
Thailand is at left, and Tumpat is at right.
The signboard warns of danger but we took the small road to the old Palekbang train stop after discussing with the man at the Palekbang signpost. He said it was ok. It was not ok since it was raining and the flood water was rising. We went down the tiny road but had to turn back after reaching the old Palekbang train stop. It was scary because the flood water here rose very fast!! We had to reverse for 500m and then quickly make a 3-point turn and exit that tiny road.
Police station at Palekbang at the end of the road, right across from the Palekbang signpost.
Initial view of Palekbang old train stop. A few columns and a shed can be seen.
Dilapidated columns of Palekbang old train stop.
A narrow foot path leads up to the railway track and columns.
Railway shed at the 517.75 km mark.
An old railway quarters still stands in the village nearby. The area is flooded.

In my research on the early Malay doctors, Dr Ali Othman Merican (Dr AO Merican) and his family including his 2 sons, Dr Carleel Merican and Dr Ezanee Merican, had used the Palekbang train stop, continuing their journey from Penang to Thailand, and from Thailand to Palekbang, then crossing Sg Kelantan before arriving in Kota Bharu by river boat service.
Dr AO Merican migrated to Kelantan which started the Merican clan in Kelantan. In 1927, Kota Bharu was still largely underdeveloped and had only one row of brick buildings. Road transportation was inadequate as bridges were few and there were many river crossings which depended on bamboo rafts which were maneuvered by long bamboo poles and pulled by ropes using manual labour from men who stood at the river banks and on the rafts. Only the railway was adequately developed, linking Palekbang in Tumpat and Kuala Krai in Kelantan to the Federated Malay States. Annual floods occurred towards the end of the year and continued into the New Year, for a few months before they finally subsided. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.
Ezanee Merican was brought to Kelantan once his mother had completed confinement when he was 40 days old. The train journey from Penang via Thailand to Palekbang in Kelantan took two days. A river boat service on Sungai Kelantan took passengers across from Palekbang to Kota Bharu. The boat service ceased when the Sultan Yahya Petra bridge was built linking Wakaf Bharu (nearby to Palekbang) to Kota Bharu. - From Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.

Da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Pablo Picasso

I watched the Da Vinci Conspiracy on ASTRO History Channel on TV earlier tonight. I read quite a bit about Da Vinci when I was a teenager in secondary school. I was interested in his mechanical drawings. I was not interested in his Mona Lisa painting at all - it didn't attract me as it did many art historians in the past and today. Da Vinci also drew a lot of human musculoskeletal diagrams - these were useful for me as a student.

Later I came to know about Michaelangelo and Pablo Picasso. Michaelangelo's paintings were mentioned to me by my elder sister, Sharifah. She read and knew more about him than I did. It was sufficient for me to know that Michaelangelo painted life-like human figures that occupied ceilings and high walls.

Pablo Picasso to me was someone linked to abstract painting. As a teenager, I tried to understand his paintings but failed to. I couldn't connect with his paintings. Even as a young adult, I could not understand his paintings.

Coming back to Da Vinci, his 2-year hiatus from 1476 to 1478, seems to me he went to learn something else apart from painting. I think he went to learn religion and returned with more paintings of divine scenes, including Virgin Mary, before and after she had her child. Art historians and curators say Da Vinci was the greatest man with the greatest impact on man. I don't think so this is true. The man with the greatest impact on human civilisation is still Prophet Muhammad SAW. No man can ever surpass him, not even Da Vinci or any of the European painters.

Da Vinci drew mechanical drawings of machines. Prophet Muhammad SAW taught the Quran and the Sunah. Of the two, machines are the basis of today's development. How humans should live and abide by rules that let man live in peace were taught by Islam, the divine religion taught by Prophet Muhammad SAW. What art historians and curators failed to say and point out clearly is that Da Vinci showed the technicalities of inventions used in today's war machines. The same with Alfred Nobel with gunpowder and explosives. These men provided knowledge of destructive war machines. On the contrary, Prophet Muhammad SAW taught just the reverse - how to live in peace, and without material greed, hardly destructive war weapons.

Every time the TV airs a program of some invention by the West, it is inevitably connected to exploration and war. The message I get is aggression of the West through inventions of sophisticated war weapons. I think it is high time that the West opens its eyes and learns to look at how to live in peace. Technological advances are great but we don't need war anywhere on this globe, not when innocent women and children are killed, and homes, schools and buildings are destroyed indiscriminately. Nobody should die and nothing should be destroyed. That's my message, human to human. I'm not talking to heartless machines or wired robots. I'm talking real.

I don't think we should use technology to invent objects for destructive purposes. I think it is better to use technology for useful purposes. Man versus machine, which should we support? I think we should support all efforts and inventions that teach us how to live peacefully. Da Vinci maybe creative and intelligent by standards of the West, but nobody has said that he learned or improved on methods already present in the books of the Golden Era of Islam. Where are those books today? Medieval Europe lived in the Dark Ages. Renaissance (French for rebirth) occurred in Europe with people like Da Vinci learning from other scholars and then extending that knowledge to Europe. Did Da Vinci learn from the great Muslim scholars? Did he operate corpses alone or with an aid who knew where to make incisions and what to excise? Did he go to learn from the Muslim surgeons and then decide to do his own surgical explorations? Wasn't he just reproducing the drawings of the Muslim scholars before him? The theory that claims Da Vinci had a divine visitation from "bright lights" of extra-terrestrial beings in spaceships - I think I would like to trash that. Let's just accept that Da Vinci disappeared and went to learn from the Muslim surgeons and engineers for 2 years and returned rejuvenated or enlightened with the knowledge that the Muslim surgeons and engineers taught him. Then he started researching whatever he had learned. That's Renaissance.

Technical Note - Wikipedia & Wikimedia Commons Image Guidelines

This is the Wikipedia & Wikimedia Commons Image Guidelines. It is good for amateur photographers.