Perceptions Unplugged

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A day with Mr. Perumal Srinivasan

Lavendar garden
Lavendar garden

We had a four days vacation to Malaysia recently. It was a short trip but a much awaited and required break for my husband.

Didn’t I look forward to the trip? Well, to be honest – not really.Why? This is because I am basically a very lazy person who prefers to be within the comfort zone at home rather than exploring new places(I am stupid, but can’t help). Among all the manufacturing defects within me , this attitude of ‘I am going to stay at home’ is something which has always bothered my friends and family.

Anyway, coming to the trip, our halt in Malaysia was Cameron Highlands, a small hill station flourished with natural beauty.It took us almost five hours’ bus journey to reach Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur.Thank God, I took pills to avoid feeling nausea(this is another reason why I don’t like travelling).We planned to spend one and a half day there.It was raining heavily when our bus stopped in the Highlands.The weather was cold yet comfortable, a good change from the constant hot and humid climate we experienced in Singapore.

There were many tourist spots in Cameron Highlands.But we had limited time in our hands.So, we decided to book a cab the next day and visit few selective places.Our cab driver,Mr. Perumal Srinivasan, was a Malaysian probably in his mid fifties and dressed in a bright yellow shirt.My husband (who can gel with anyone easily) initiated a chat with him in between our stops in Rose Garden, the beautiful Cameron Lavender Garden, Strawberry Garden and the famous BOH Tea Estate.

Mr. Perumal Srinivasan (on the right)
Mr. Perumal Srinivasan (on the right)

‘Where are you originally from?’my husband asked Mr. Perumal.

‘My forefathers had roots back in Tamil Nadu, India whereas I am born and brought up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I came to Cameron Highlands way back in 1980s and gradually bought a cab to earn a living,’ he replied.

He shared with us few interesting facts about the local culture and his life revolving the highlands.I found them more fascinating than sightseeing.This was something I couldn’t have come through by merely visiting few tourist spots. That is why I am writing less about the places to visit in the Highlands and stressing on him.

Strawberry farm
Strawberry farm

He told ,’The area was first discovered by William Cameron, a British surveyor in the government service.He stumbled upon this ‘fine plateau shut in by lofty mountains during a survey expedition of the mountain range for map-making of the Perak/Pahang Border.It remain untouched until the 1920s, when the narrow path leading up to the mountain was widened and improved.Eventually the mountain took the shape of a hill station, now popularly known as CAMERON HIGHLANDS. ‘

BOH Tea Garden
BOH Tea Garden

Mr.Perumal talked about the days when British government brought many workers from Tamil Nadu to work in the then established BOH Tea Garden. Women, working in the tea garden, had expertise in plucking the delicate tea plant shoots. It boosted various other local employment. But in course of time, the workers were replaced with modern machineries in order to save time and make more money. It resulted in a sharp decline of jobs amongst the local people.At present, the occupation of the local population was mostly farming.Strawberry cultivation , which was suitable in this cool environment , was one of the major source of income for the localite. Though the majority of the population was Muslim, but Tamil culture too slowly spread in the highlands and made it’s way through several walks of life including the educational institutions, temples, festivals & food habits.

Rose garden
In the middle of rose garden

Everything in the Highlands was beautiful except one element- it rained almost continuously. Climate changed it’s behaviour in a strange pattern- sunshine , cloud and rain.And it continued like this all over the day and throughout the year. I seriously felt tired with this constant mood swings of nature within just one and a half day. Our Mr.Perumal had no complaints though. He rather said,’See the temperature down in Kuala Lampur, the heat and humidity is unbearable.Moreover, whenever I visit Tamil Nadu, I can’t sleep at night. The heatwave is terrible.Cameron Highlands is a heaven compared to these places.’

‘When did you last visit India?’ I asked him.

‘Two years back. During a family function.’

‘What do you do to spend free time here? Do you watch movies?’

‘No, there is no movie theatre in this area. It is not allowed due to the Muslim influence. However, people can watch movies in internet.Whenever I want to take a vacation ,then I go to Bali or Thailand with my family.’

‘Does your family live with you here?’ my husband inquired.

‘My wife is here. I have 3 kids – 2 sons and 1 daughter. All of them are in Kuala Lumpur at present. Sons are working in private companies whereas my daughter is studying fine arts.’

‘Don’t you feel bored staying in this small place year after year, with limited means of entertainment and kids away from home?’ I couldn’t help asking him this question.

‘Why ? Not at all. I work throughout the day.Me and my wife have a lot of friends here whom we meet regularly and spend good time together. Not having a big shopping mall or movie theatres doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy life.’

Really. I mean holidaying was a different thing altogether.If someone demanded me to spend my entire life there, then I think I might not be able to sustain. No doubt ,the place was beautiful. But it also had a solitary factor that would have driven me crazy after a certain point of time.

Nevertheless , one thing was clear. Mr. Perumal Srinivasan was certainly happy, content and grateful with whatever he had achieved in his life. He didn’t grumble over any big or small issues.

And here I am who is never satisfied no matter how much I shop for branded clothes and bags, dine in good restaurants, go for expensive holidays and live in comfortable house.My list of needs never seem to meet.

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