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Friday April 6, 2012

Foolproof facts about April

There are jokes and pranks aplenty when April comes around. But some jokes – and jokers – are quite unpalatable. And April can be a start of good things, too.

IT was April 1. April Fool’s Day - and my umpteenth anniversary in The Star. Call me a fool but yes, I did start my working career on that fateful (fate-fool?) day.

But then again, it seems like a very apt day to start anything.

After all, April 1 was new year’s day – until Pope Gregory came along and changed things. You see, the whole world celebrated new year around this time.

Even the Italians of Pisa just celebrated their new year on March 25, a week before All-Fools Day.

You may question the leanings of the people of Pisa, but hey, they have the right to celebrate the new year twice in a year (would that make them twice as old as the rest of us?).

And for Christians, March 25 is the Feast of Annunciation when archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would give birth to the saviour.

Of course, the Myanmars, the Laotians, the Thais, the Sikhs and the Tamils will be celebrating the new year on (or about) April 13 while the Telegus did so on March 23.

Seems like a good time to start something, doesn’t it?

According to legend, the followers of Pope Gregory who wanted Jan 1 as new year’s day were met with resistance.

Those who opposed the new date and continued celebrating in March and April were derided as fools. And thus, April Fools.

How the pranks came about is another story. But they did come about and many have since been played.

The Star has had its share of pranks. The one I remember was when there was a story about a comet coming close to Earth.

Readers were told they could view it from open fields. All they needed were dark glasses or those X-ray films.

So, there they were – thousands of them – in Dataran Merdeka (it was Selangor Padang then) and the Esplanade padang in Penang, looking up to the sky through X-ray films. No comet.

When the truth was told, we guys in The Star did not dare walk the streets. We could have been beaten up!

This year, there have been some crazy ones.

The Sun of London got its readers to go from flicking the pages to licking them. Yes, it claimed it would taste like nuts. And some nuts must have licked those pages.

The paper also sold a story about Arsenal coming out with a perfume that would smell of the Emirates (the stadium, not the middle east). Even the newspaper knew that that joke stank.

The Daily Mail came out with a story about help from the skies for cars that break down in jams. This guy in a jet suit, it seems, would come flying to your aid. It really flies in the face of logic.

And there was a polar bear that somehow found its way to an island off Scotland, only to disappear just as quickly.

In Nepal, there was a bomb hoax.

And in the United States, three people hit a RM2bil jackpot.

For their sake, I hope it was not an April Fool’s joke.

At home, there was a rumour that Datuk Shahrir Samad, the Johor MP, had decided to join his brother Khalid, in PAS. Shahrir laughed it off.

Then, this guy started a tale about Jennifer Lopez coming to KL for a gig. Not hip. It was a lie.

And then came the biggest joke of all.

This guy, it seems, claimed the orang asli are not the indigenous people of Malaysia. No kidding!

And what’s worse. He’s an orang asli himself and also a hotshot at the Department of Orang Asli Develop-ment.

He may not consider himself indigenous, but his statement sure was disingenuous – and foolhardy.

According to a report in a news portal, he told a Suhakam land inquiry hearing that the orang asli are just aboriginals – and not indigenous people.

That accolade, he said, was reserved for the Malays.

Never mind that the United Nations doesn’t make a distinction between terms like natives, aboriginals and hill tribes. All are considered indigenous people.

And what did the dictionary have to say?

The free dictionary says indigenous people are those living and occurring naturally in an area or environment. Or natives. Or aboriginals.

Which would make the orang asli the indigenous people of our country, by far.

After all, they are said to have walked to the peninsula more than 10,000 years ago, long, long before the coming of the early Hindu and Buddhist empires and the later Malay kingdoms.

I know little of the orang asli, having just met them while en route to Grik and again during the Hulu Selangor by-elections.

The guy in Hulu Selangor may have saved our lives.

He came shouting down to a river, signalling us to get out. We did.

Minutes later, a dam upsteam released its waters and the river swelled.

We were safe and sound. And the shouting guy started smiling.

They all seem to be a happy people, always smiling and contented with their lot in life.

And it wouldn’t do to take away what little they have, even if it’s just their position as the original people of this land. I do hope the guy in the orang asli department wasn’t serious.

But serious things do happen on April 1.

After all, wasn’t that the day when Aung San Suu Kyi declared that she had won the Myanmar polls?

Happy New Year to the Myanmars.

> The writer is off to celebrate another important date – his wedding anniversary – and of course, there’s the new year on April 13. April is indeed a fun month!

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