mardi, juin 20, 2006

The Pioneers - Felda Lurah Bilut

Lurah Bilut. 1958.A small settlement on the fringe of the deep and dense jungle of Pahang.

This FELDA documentary caught my eye some years ago. The feature was on its first ever settlement in the country. Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak’s pet project on rural development. An economic experiment.No more, no less. Or did the future of rural development lie in this one settlement?

It is today, a showcase for the pioneering spirit of the times. The pride and joy of the FELDA project as many of its original settlers have turned millionaires. Who could have seen how far FELDA was to have ventured? Even in its inception, it was not clear where the project would land itself. This was not a project that would manifest itself within a specific number of years. It was not measured by physical scales...whether it was the tallest, highest or biggest there was.Its success was measured by the enduring spirit of pioneers, belief and sweat. Such was the visionary powers of these two leaders.

Why did this particular documentary catch my eye?

I remembered vaguely that my late grandfather used to teach in Lurah Bilut in the 1960s. We used to laugh over stories how the whole family including 8 children all of school going age had to ‘meredah hutan’ to reach the settlement. And how in love my grandmother must have been to have followed him into such wilderness.

I immediately asked my mother after watching the documentary about the story behind the move to Lurah Bilut. It turned out that grandfather was the first ever headmaster for the school which opened in 1961.She related stories of how he took on the Minister of Education at the time, demanding for chairs and tables before the school starts.

I then remembered other little things about grandfather, gently hinting at the nature of the man, rather ahead of the times, eccentric, yet staunchly committed to the appearance of the conservative scholar. Rather like Sherlock Holmes, the epitome of an Englishman, yet forgiven for his discretions like cocaine addiction and overbearing superior complex[Holme's I mean!}.

Unique, nevertheless.

To be continued...

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