It was the tiger of Delong that brought me to Dungun
We traveled by a jeep, cramped with all the important possessions you could imagine that fit in a good and humble urban government quarters. Those life-saving vitals included few chickens, kekabu-filled pillows and beds, my father’s Vespa and my mom’s most precious kitchen utensils consisted of rice cooker and frying pans.
I couldn’t remember much on that long and historical journey as those event took almost five thousand moons ago. It was the first outstation trip for me and it was a long one. There was not much detail I could dig from my memory on the trip as I was sleeping all the time, except that we stopped briefly somewhere at Bukit tebuk. Under deep vegetation and dark canopy my entourage rummaged the forest to collect some palas leaves (a palm leaves normally used to make ketupat). Actually I had no idea why we need that palas leaves but it was the only vivid flashback in the whole journey. I was accompanied then by my three very young siblings.
Dungun was a very sleepy town that time. We settled down peacefully along Jalan Tambun not far from that famous Padang Astaka. But my father’s life was not that calm as the place itself. Around those time, my father was quite occupied and actively involved with tracking the wild games around Dungun. Jerangau-Kijal stretch of mainland was deeply covered with pristine primary jungle and those were famous playing grounds for Malayan tigers. Upon reports from villagers of the attack by the tigers, my father and his team would be dispatched by his department and disappeared for many days into the unknown territory, putting up traps and having many nocturnal stake-out on makeshift tree-huts stalking these protected animals. Many stand-offs and also close encounters resulted in some casualties on both parties.
The first photo was a clear evidence from one of those fateful encounters. At the back of the photos was scribbled : 24/6/75, Kg. Delong, Kumpal, Dungun. I was just in my first year in a primary school. My younger brother was the one standing beside me, flaunting his bare belly which looked a bit of the ‘boyeh’ side (cacing kerawit (hookworm) was quite rampant and later diagnosed for that ‘boyehness :). I stood proudly beside my father (the one with cap) but still kept a distance from that lifeless man eater. This photo made into the local tabloid the next day, with me looked so untidy sans the morning bath.
At noon we rushed back but stopped at one particular junction eating the jambu while waiting for a van with big speakers mounted on top announcing new movies premiering at Panggung wayang Fajar near the Sura gate. They will disbursed some movie circulars to the onlookers and we will ran after the van shouting ‘saklar…saklar…saklar’. Those ‘saklar’ were then used to persuade my father to take us to the panggung. Most were Hindi’s movies of which very popular that time (the sad ending Haathi Mere Saathi is one of them).