For a state that is named after `silver', there is certainly no silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over the political landscape in Perak. Well... not for the Pakatan Rakyat anyway. The PR state government in Perak has not managed to reach its first anniversary before being done in by their own people.
The whole turmoil is not over yet but perhaps, for a start, the lesson that the PR government can learn from this sordid episode is : `What you can do to me, I can do onto to you, three times over!'. In their excitement of getting a BN assemblyman to (temporarily) switch camps, they forgot to watch over their own backyard and let three of their own frogs to escape.
To me, these types of politicians are the worst. They are spineless, without principles and betray the trust of the citizens who voted them into office. If you want to switch parties or go independent, then you should resign, stand for re-election and let your constituents decide whether you are worth your spit.
Ok.... enough on policitics. The recent happenings in Perak has got me into a recall mode for any interesting stories that I have experienced relating to the state. Unfortunately, I don't think I can remember any. I have a few friends from Ipoh and some distant relatives living in other districts of Perak but I have not spent any significant time in the state to recall any event worth writing about.
I do however, remember the first time I traveled to Perak. It was around the late 1980's and I was accompanying a friend who was getting married to a girl from Pantai Remis. At that time, I've never even heard of Pantai Remis, apparently a small town in the district of Lumut. The groom, whose name is Mohd Tahir, was a very close colleague working in the same department at my first place of employment. I was into the second year of my job, still a bachelor and was already driving a car. Hence, I was much relied upon to be part of the `rombongan pengantin lelaki', the bridegroom's entourage, so to speak. It was my first participation in a friend's wedding and later on over the years, I continued to accompany many other friends who got married to their sweethearts from all over Johor and other states as well.
Tahir hails from a kampung in Parit Sulong, somewhere in the district of Batu Pahat in Johor. The day before the wedding, I drove up from Johor Bahru to his house with three other colleagues in tow. The plan was for us to gather in Parit Sulong and set-off for Perak after maghrib prayers. We would travel throughout the night and hopefully arrive at the bride's home by daybreak. The nikah ceremony was scheduled in the afternoon, after zohor prayers.
When I first heard of the plan, I thought we were cutting it a bit close. We were traveling in a large group that included senior citizens and children, over a very long distance. The only completed section of the North-South Expressway at that time was the Air Keroh-Kuala Lumpur stretch. From KL onwards, we had to rely on the old roads. Add to this, only the groom knew the way to Pantai Remis. The furthest I had traveled out of Johor at that time was up to Kuala Lumpur. If anything were to happen along the way, it would've caused a delay to the wedding ceremony.
It would have been more comfortable if the groom's entourage could arrive one day earlier but you must remember that the situation was a bit different those days. We were not that well-to-do. The groom had to hire a van to transport his family. The few cars that came along were courtesy of relatives and close friends. An extra day would have meant additional hotel expenses or, at the very least, another day imposed on the bride's family for temporary accomodation. And so it was that night... a convoy of cars and van departed from Parit Sulong in Johor heading towards Pantai Remis in Perak.
I cannot actually recall how many cars were in the convoy that night. Exact details of the route has also now escaped my memory. What I do remember was that I was assigned the tail position. Being the youngest (and presumably the fittest) driver and driving the newest car, it was thought that I should be the last vehicle so that if anything were to happen to those other cars in-between, I would be able to spot them. The groom was in the lead car driven by his brother.
Driving at night is never easy. It did not help that the other three guys in my car couldn't drive. Two of them only had motorbike licenses while the third friend was still taking his driving lessons. While the other cars could switch drivers when we took rest stops, I was the sole driver at the tail of the convoy for the whole of the journey. I'm shaking my head now... thinking of how I actually managed to do it.
It was tough. I particularly remember the struggle I went through trying to keep my eyes open while driving the Tanjung Malim to Slim River stretch of the old Federal Route 1. This stretch had been upgraded and was one of the earlier tolled sections that was handed over to PLUS as part of the highway concession. The road surface was good and the route was fairly straight at most parts. This meant that the driving became monotonous and therefore did not help in keeping a lonely driver awake. My three passengers were already far away in dreamland. I actually dozed off at the wheel a few times... those micro-seconds of shut-eye before being jolted awake when the car crept onto the road shoulder. Scary...
I contemplated on stopping on the roadside for a quick snooze but being the last car, I was afraid of falling too far behind and then losing the trail altogether. Then, I'd be lost in the unknowns of Perak, for sure. No mobile phones those days to call and check where you are.
By the grace of Allah, I managed to somehow reach our next scheduled rest stop somewhere in Ipoh. A glass of Nescafe and a cold headwash brought me back to life. The whole convoy proceeded to Pantai Remis and we safely reached the bride's home at around daybreak. The whole journey, inclusive of rest stops, took about 10 hours.
The groom's entourage was provided with a house, presumably belonging to a relative of the bride, as a place to rest; what we call `rumah bersanggah' in Malay. While the groom's family were busy preparing themselves for the nikah ceremony to come, I managed to steal a few hours of much-needed sleep.
The nikah ceremony went smoothly and my friend Tahir left bachelor life for good. A few years later, Tahir repaid the deed by being there for my own wedding ceremony. As years passed, I left my original place of employment to work elsewhere. Tahir remained loyal to the organisation to this day. At one point, we lost touch of each other while I traveled the many places throughout my career path. But our friendship was renewed two years ago when I was posted back to my hometown of Johor Bahru. And by a twist of fate, Tahir's eldest daughter has enrolled into the same Middle East university as my eldest son.
From that very first night journey to Perak all those years ago, I continue to make many more drives all over Peninsular Malaysia. Most of these are after dark. I am and have been most comfortable driving long distances at night.