Simple pleasures
Star Two, Wednesday April 29, 2009
Simple pleasures

The golden years can be filled with adventure and escapades too.

THOUGH born and raised in a village, I spent most of my adult life in the city. I longed to return to the simplicity of life in the countryside after I retired from my hectic professional practice 15 years ago.

An opportunity came up in the late 1990s when I volunteered to take over the running of a rubber/oil palm plantation in Pagoh, Johor.

The plantation was solely managed, for over 20 years, by my second brother who lived in Muar, about 30km away. He was getting on in age and as his youngest brother and one of the co-owners, I felt obliged to take over the running of the plantation from him.

I replanted the plantation with oil palm eight years ago. Three years later when the palms began to bear fruit, I engaged a contractor to harvest and maintain the plantation.

I drive to the plantation once a fortnight to oversee the harvesting and sale of the oil palm fruits to an oil palm fruits collector. It is a simple undertaking, and I look forward to the two-hour drive from my home in Petaling Jaya to the tranquil surroundings of Pagoh.

Once in Pagoh, the hustle and bustle of city living seems so far away. It is a place where I can relive the peace and serenity of my carefree childhood days.

I grew up on the farm and took great delight in farming as a kid. The pleasure of farming comes from seeing a tiny seedling grow into a towering tree with enormous trunks and fruits.

Now in my golden years, farming is a recreation. The earth always returns with interest, whatever it has received.

I derive enormous pleasure in spending two or three days fortnightly in the plantation. At one with nature, I spend most of my waking hours in solitude. I walk around the plantation to check on the progress of the harvesting of oil palm fruits by the workers and ensure that all harvested fruits are picked up and taken away by the fruits collector to be taken to the palm oil mill.

While strolling in the plantation, I often look for ripening bananas and papayas from plants left behind by the fruit farmers who had planted them when the oil palm trees were young.

During the durian and rambutan seasons, the neighbouring farmers whom I have befriended would give me plentiful supplies for a pittance. And I would be just too happy to share them with family members, friends, relatives and neighbours.

For breakfast I have bread, honey, coffee and fruits in my cabin in the estate. For lunch, I often go to a nearby warung (stall) to taste the local Malay food and chit-chat with the owner. For dinner, I have my home-cooked meal in the cabin, if I am not in Muar.

There isn’t a single pub or entertainment outlet in Pagoh. If I am in the plantation, I would listen to some of my favourite oldies in the evening. After dinner, I would continue listening to the oldies or read a book. I am pleased that I have the opportunity to unwind and do almost nothing.

Whenever I am in Pagoh, I love to go to my hometown, Muar. Though the old house where I lived are long gone, the town’s park, Tanjong Emas, located along the Muar River estuary, is still an attraction to me.
I find pleasure in strolling along the picturesque esplanade in Tanjong Emas overlooking the river and watching the magnificent sunset over the Straits of Malacca.

When twilight has enveloped the town, I would head for Dham Chia Kuey (Greedy Eating Street) where I can savour local delights such as otak-otak and fried oyster omelette.

After my short visit to Muar, I would return to “solitary confinement” in my cabin in the plantation. Often, I lay awake in the quiet of the night, reflecting on my life.

My thoughts often fly back to my childhood days in the kampung where I played freely among the rubber and coconut trees.

This fortnightly escapade to the oil palm plantation provides me with great satisfaction and has added a new dimension of richness to my life.

The cabin in the estate has become a symbol of refuge and rejuvenation for me. And I hope I can indulge in such simple pleasures for as long as possible in my twilight years.


The enchanted sunset at Tanjung Emas in Muar 2008