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Floods: Being patient like the Kelantanese

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. 


The Declining Day (Al-'Asr) 1. By the declining day, 2. Lo! Man is in a state of loss, 3. Save those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance. 

IGNORING warnings not to visit the East Coast states by a relative who was staying there, I took my family to Kelantan for a holiday in December.

We entered Kelantan via the East-West Highway from Butterworth; all was smooth during the journey except for the drizzle for almost the entire journey until we passed Tanah Merah, a small town about 100 kilometers south of Kota Bharu. 

The Tanah Merah-Machang road was choked with vehicles on both sides; about half an hour after ‘inching’ our car forward, only then did we realize that a stretch of the road was under repair. 

The authorities had removed the tarmac surface, unfortunately, the rainy season had put them into difficulty in giving the road a new surface; thus vehicles had to move on an uneven road marred with many pot holes. 

Yes, I was advised not to go to the East Coast states during this monsoon season, but I ignored it and now am already in Kelantan, so what should I do?*

I remember a Malay proverb ‘masuk kandang kambing mengembek, masuk kandang harimau mengaum’ – which I thought was equivalent to the English phrase – when in Rome just do what the Romans do; so why not I just follow the good traits of the Kelantanese, for example, some of them seemed very ‘patient’ and ‘cool’ in facing difficulties resulting from the floods. 

After the ‘crawl-like situation’ which lasted more than one hour, we reached Pulai Chondong on our way to Kota Bharu. The traffic was smooth but I realize we were already in flood-prone areas. 

We could see in some low areas along the road submerged in waters. But surprisingly some boys were playing in the water while some men were seen casting their nets to catch fish. Well to me who was not used to facing floods, the Kelantanese was ‘cool’ in facing such a situation. 

We moved on until we reached Wakaf Che Yeh, a small commercial area about 10 kilometers south of Kota Bharu. Normally during our stay in Kota Bharu, we would rent a room at a homestay some distance from the commercial area but during the recent vacation, we found out that the house was submerged in water. 

Well, it was not our luck; I tried a few other homestays and inns and at last, we were ushered into a room on level three of a building of the commercial center. A ‘mischievous thought’ ran through my mind – if the floodwater came, we would be safe as we were in a high place! 

That evening it rained cats and dogs. But as we were hungry we had to go out to look for food. We went down and walk along the sidewalk of the building, ran into the rain, and then took refugee under canopies erected by ‘pasar malam’ (night market) traders in the area. 

We kept on walking until we could go no more; the rain was pouring heavily and then came strong winds; the canopies were shaking and about to be uprooted. We then ran for our dear lives and took shelter under a building nearby but I saw the traders were not shaken in facing such a situation; they seemed ‘cool’; some just held on to the pillars of their tents while others embraced their goods such as ‘tudung’ from being blown by the strong winds. 

Walking along the sidewalk of the building, we realized we would not be able to go to some ‘gerai’ (food court) which was a distance away in the open. The rain was pouring heavily, and as we were too hungry we went to a 24 hour retail shop; bought a few cups of instant mee; poured hot water unto them and then had a ‘fast dinner’ while standing! 

We waited for the rain to stop and fortunately the rain subsided at about 10 pm. We went back to the ‘pasar malam’ area; the traders seemed unfazed by the earlier events. I thought after the heavy rain, they would ‘bungkus’ (pack up) their goods and go home as I normally witnessed ‘pasar malam’ scenes in my home state; but here I witnessed an ‘unique trait’- Kelantanese were patience in facing hardship in earning a living.

The ‘pasar malam’ was much alive after the heavy rain; customers kept on coming while the traders were seen putting up more goods on display tables and hanging clothes under their canopies. 

A few traders asked by the writer said they would carry out their businesses even if the weather was ‘bad’ as it was only their only way to earn an income. They said as floods were almost a yearly phenomena in their areas, they were used to the difficulties during that period. 

They seemed calm in facing tribulations and as an outsider, I admired this good trait of the Kelantan people. If the traders have positive minds not to give up in doing their businesses, perhaps those in other industries such as fishing and farming too might have a very high level of the patient in facing difficulties during hard times.

Just imagine fishermen not going out to sea during this monsoon season; so how would they go about coping with life without fixed incomes; perhaps they could do part-time jobs but how much could they earn from these activities? 

The farmers too have to cope with the difficulties of life when their crops are destroyed or damaged by floodwater. On the road to Kota Bharu, I witnessed vast areas of paddy fields submerged in waters. There were also areas planted with palm oil and rubber trees that were flooded. 

And what about the life of small men on the street such as the trishaw rider, shoe repairers, and small stall retailers? When floods hit their areas, they might be without an income for days. So how were they going to survive? 

Reflecting on the difficulties in the life of those caught in these floods made me realize to treasure the pleasures of life I have been endowed with by Allah SWT all this while. If the people of Kelantan could still put ‘happy faces’ when faced with this tribulation; could we do the same when we had the same fate? 

The relative who had earlier warned us not to go for a holiday in the East Coast upon hearing that we were already in Kota Bharu, advised us to leave Kelantan as soon as possible because the floods were getting worse by each day. 

This time we submitted to his advice and in no time we were packing our bags and heading home via the main road to Kuala Krai-Gua Musang-Kuala Lipis-Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. 

We started the journey at around 11.00 am and only reached Kuala Lumpur at 1.00 am and Melaka at 3.00 am the next day. Why did it take such long hours for that journey? 

It was because the road was packed with vehicles heading south because another main road leading south out of Kelantan via Terengganu was cut off because of the rising floodwaters in Setiu and its surroundings. 

And another reason was that a section of the Kuala Krai-Gua Musang main road near Kuala Krai town was also flooded, but it was not that deep so vehicles could still move on but a very slow phase. 

At this section of the road, we experienced ‘a bumper to bumper’ situation; we had ‘to practice patience’ while ‘inching’ our car for about two hours. Well ‘that patience’ was only an ant bite compared to what was faced and experienced by the people in the East Coast states, especially in Kelantan!

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