Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Didalam Lembah Kehidupan

I read this book when I was in primary school. Many times over, I must admit and it never fails to set me thinking about life during those days.

At the very least.

And most likely I would read it 'dengan mata berkaca.' Don't get me wrong, I don't think I cried. Haha, I would not like to admit it, I guess, but I would admit that tears did fall down my cheek on many of the short stories written by the late Hamka.

Or at least, I would sigh (a very heavy sigh) at the sad ending of each and every one of the stories.

Last Ramadhan, while on my extended Raya leaves, with nothing much to do other than answering emails and making phone calls, I decided to go through the book all over again; story by story, and page by page, line by line, word by word.

And I ended up again, after 40 years, with tears falling down my cheek.

And very depressed! In a very good way.

Actually I felt sad but relieved after reading them - after all these years.

Aah, Prof Hamka, he is a (master) story teller, and he certainly knew how to prick our conscience. 

Actually, you are talking about short stories here, about 12 altogether and being short stories, he didn't much time to develop the character and build up the story line. Sometimes, it may seems a bit superficial, but actually it is not. It is a fast-paced story line - it can only be expected as you would need to tell stories that span a generation or two and finished it in less than 10 pages.

Who am I to question the master of the 'Malay' story teller, anyway?

Anak Tinggal, Anak Dapat, Anak yang Hilang - even by the title you would know it would be a tearjerker. Bonda Kandung and Isteri Yang Tua would take you to sacrifice of the weaker sex. In fact, most if all would have women element in the story and the hard lives they led during those times.

Honestly, at times, I would question the wisdom and the reasoning of the characters in the story. At times, it seems illogical. But that's the beauty of them all. I guess we are reading stories of nearly a century ago, and I can't imagine lives during those era, other than what I can read from Hamka's novel (and those of other prominent Minang author like Marah Rusli et al).

Call it fate, call it a twist of fate, call it anything in fact, but while it may seems unreal today, it was too real in the last century. And we can only be thankful for the life we are leading, irrespective of the shortcomings - perceived or real, and I am sure I had many.

I believe this short story is one book that should be in every home and library and should be read by every youngster and internet-era kids in this country. Then one would know the struggle of our fore-fathers in the previous century.

I had thought that I had seen all, and that at this age, at times, my conscience is numb. It really would take a lot for tear to fall, but it didn't take long whenever I read Hamka's novel.

"Keburukan orang yang telah meninggal itu terkubur bersama jasadnya, dan segala kebaikan tergambar kembali diangan-angan orang yang hidup, tak sebuah juga yang dapat dilupakan."

- Isteri yang Tua

Had I not read this book during my innocence days, I would think that life in the olden days was only about death. Life, in this book, was not about living, for every story would contain death, many times over!

"Sebab itu harus lah diingat oleh dua orang yang bertemu, bahawa pertemuan itu mempunyai warna perak, yang terbentang disebelah Timur dipagi hari. Dan perpisahan adalah berwarna merah, terbentang disebelah barat di senjakala. Warna perak diwaktu fajar, adalah lambang pertemuan yang indah. Warna merah disenjakala adalah lambang perpisahan yang gundah, warna air mata daripada darah!"

- Anak yang Hilang

The stories in Didalam Lembah Kehidupan
1. Pasar Malam
2. Encik Uteh
3. Penjual Ais Lilin
4. Anak Tinggal
5. Bonda Kandung
6. Gadis Basanai
7. Isteri Yang Tua
8. Anak Yang Hilang
9. Malam Sekaten (Bulan Sabit dan Kayu Palang)
10. Anak Dapat
11. Cinta dan Darah
12. Disuruh Meminta Ampun 

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