June 28, 2012

"Curry Rice" in Sibu

In the 1960's and  early 70's Sibu was in some kind of political turmoil so to speak. The Chinese Communist Organisation had gone underground and gunshots were often heard....this frightened many people of Sibu. In fact when curfew was em-placed most  people were terrified.

What were those days like?

If I remember correctly....

"Don't listen to rumours" became the catch phrase of the day...Of course there were lots of stories...from the Government side..and from the people's side. The newspapers published the views of the day..and rumours spread...The Rascom (The Rajang Security Command) was set up to fight a psychological war against the communists besides maintaining peace and security.  AND We were told NOT to listen to rumours.

"Are you not scared to eat curry rice?"  What a strange question but it was a real situation. We were "threatened" by statements from certain quarters "ai ya..don't say this...you afraid of eating curry rice or not?" Alright..to eat curry rice in those  days meant that we would go to prison..and eat the prison food which was mainly curry and rice...hence the term of the time "curry rice"...It was true not many people in those days really liked the spicy curry and rice. It was "rumoured" that the spice came from India and would harm the intestines of the Chinese. And the rice used was all full of beetles and had become sour.. But we actually never met any prisoner coming out to tell us the TRUTH. Indeed as children we were as terrified as our adults!!

"Free stay at Hotel"....people were arrested and re-arrested. Some notorious gangsters were even "buang " or thrown away to another district. Police and soldiers were every where. the Swimming Pool in Bukit Lima was full of white soldiers sunbathing around. We dared not look at them when we were taken there for swimming lessons. Soldiers and police walked along the streets of Sibu..and we the civilians were scared. It was like another world altogether. We were petrified of people in uniforms as a result for years. At one time I saw some police at a traffic light which was GREEN. I stepped on my brakes and my children had to get me going shouting GREEN GREEN at my ears..I have not lost that fear from the curfew days. Hence another interesting term also cropped up..." Free Hotel"...which referred to the Sibu prison...As an extra note in Sibu today  a drunk man may come home from a night's stay at a police station...and he would sheepishly tell his wife..."I had a free hotel stay last night..." that explains a lot..

Sibu Prison (PHoto by Borneo Tip)
Photo from Google

"Missing children". Many parents were worried about the behaviour of their children in those days. Mothers often screamed at their children. Fathers would even beat up their children in public!! These were tell tale signs of frustration. Many kids were locked up in their homes...Luckily their wooden houses were not burnt down. But in spite of all the cautious steps these parents took many "escaped" into the jungle and  alas not many survived to tell their tales. Their parents mourned their disappearance until today. It is like a shroud hanging over them and they will bring this "uncertainty" to their graves. But perhaps these children had their ideals to live for. It is something many cannot understand..even today. I am glad that my cousins and I were all too young then to make the choice of either to go underground or to wait at tables in the coffee shops. Besides my mother did not have to lock my siblings and I up. But I did wonder then and even now why were there no school counsellors then?

"Eat the Bullet". But then whatever worries parents had  theirs could not be compared to the worries some teachers and headmasters had...Very often teachers and headmasters were threatened by night messages from some quarters "Bite  or eat the Bullet"..a paper message with a bullet wrapped in it could be sent to a Head master...and that was meant as a death threat. One of the local headmasters suffered so much that he actually had to hide for sometime. But he died an early death because his heart could not hold it any more. ..he was such a brilliant scholar. If only he had left some documents behind.He was doing his best to teach his students well...

"I don't know"...It was the safest thing to say. And every one was cautioned to say that whenever a stranger asked questions. .In those days...most adults would just cycle and do their daily work. If asked about anything they would just say..."I don't know"...I think those were the years when rural and urban school teachers also did not teach very much..they just read from the books for fear if they said more they would be arrested. When the students asked them questions they often answered "I don't know."  There were "ears" every where.

"Interrupted education and crashed dreams"...The interrupted years of education then led to repercussions of course which only anthropologists and sociologists would fathom.Many of my cousins had only Form Two education and no certificates in their life. Some had wanted to be nurses but never qualified. So they married young and of course some had terrible marriages while others prospered beyond any one's imagination.  A generation has passed on and we can only sigh..and many would just say..WHAT TO DO? that's the politics of the day. We had sacrifical lambs..we had heroes...and we had the bad guys of course. Perhaps that was the "I don't know generation"....now we are in the "Generation Why?" Times have really changed.

"Be like the lalang"...I like the moral lesson given by one pastor from those days..."Be like the lalang..let yourself be trampled..cut...burnt...but your roots would still be strong..and grow again...Do not allow any one  kill your spirit ... continue to believe in the truth..never sell your soul for pieces of silver. God is omnipresent. He is there if you look for Him...." He passed away some time ago..surrounded by  lots of books which he read and re-read in his elderly years.

40 years later people have forgotten many events and stories....and times have changed...but are there still hidden dangers which may threaten the delicate milieu of our new society?

Whenever I cook curry and rice...I would smile that knowing smile...If I had been born slightly earlier and had been in a rural Chinese school ..I might have be arrested too for asking WHY?

Why?......must I eat the apple? (Adam)
Why did the apple fall? (Newton)
Apple. Why not? (Steve Jobs)


Anonymous said...

I have never been to the prison, but I can imagine that the curry rice there can never be as nice as the one you posted. It must be something that we used to feed the cats or dogs.

Most people are not afraid of the curry rice, but the abuse by the police inside the detention cell. We used to say to become the sabao (sand bag) of the police. In fact, it just happened in Sibu where a 15 year old boy was accused of stealing an iphone and he became a sand bag. I cannot imagine how this could still happen in the modern day. It simply said that the police in general has serious problem of violating the human rights.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I can imagine how bad food can be..but then I was once told that many secondary schools provided food "worst than the prison's". That rumour floated around in the 1980's.

Police have been known to use brutality to get the truth out of the felons/accused. All these accusations have to be investigated..any one taking action?

Ann said...
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Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann said...

which prison serve such yummy food? The photographer made it up. I know first hand, once, all the late teens and early 20s people were rounded up in Sibu from Lanang Road. My uncle too. He said the food can not be eaten, food of grit,

P/s I used to live next door to the prision at the padang.

Students are pampered and make up stories.

BTW, I met a most interesting person yesterday. His grand dad came to be the one and only resident for the whole of sarawak from England. married a malay woman. I told the great grand daughter, while the dad was alive, she better talk to him and record all his stories. He worked as a senior gvt servant and lived in the govet quarter opposite Dr Xavier.

She didn't think she could write, I would be very interested if I live in Kuching.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes..you did live next door to the Prison in Sibu...I think she should write HIS stories...I wish I am in Kuching..Took any pictures of them?

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