FOR two plates of mee goreng (fried noodles) and two glasses of water, I spent RM50.
What a hefty price to pay for such a simple meal but it was deep in the jungles of the Unesco World Heritage Site in Mulu, Sarawak, in 2002.
On second thought, the price was justifiable because of the distance and difficulty of transportation.
As the weight factor is a priority, only limited foodstuff could be flown in a small Cessna aircraft and only in fair weather.
Staying at the only resort there was a unique experience.
The building materials of the resort were all sourced from the jungle.
And the mamak-style mee goreng was indeed delicious..
The chef must have used special ‘jungle’ ingredients to turn it into a special dish.
I can still recall way back in the 1960s and 1970s when my lunch of mee rebus cost me 20 sen a plate. The iced syrup was just five sen.
For a change once a week, I took rice with vegetables, small fish and fried eggs for 40 sen.
I had to be thrifty. At that time, I was a journalist in Straits Echo. My basic pay was only RM150 then.
With cost-of-living allowance and transport allowance, my take-home pay was RM180.
No overtime, even when I was asked to cover night assignments.
With my colleagues, we sometimes hopped over to the old Cold Storage outlet in Penang Plaza for dessert after lunch.
The price of an egg custard was only 15 sen. Now it is RM1.50 and very much smaller.
I used to cycle to the former Rex Cinema in Burma Road for a bowl of the famous laksa. The hawker sold it off a tricycle. It was just 15 sen a bowl.
Times have changed. Food is no longer cheap. A bowl of asam laksa in a fancy mall can now cost up to RM18.
With that amount, I could have survived for more than a week in the good old days.
We have to pay for the price of progress. Most affected are our bread and butter issues. They have taken a toll on our families now.
A hawker near our Straits Echo office then could make RM1,200 per month by just selling bubur gandum hitam (black wheat sweet porridge).
The price was 15 sen per bowl and it would be sold out in three hours.
A hawker could survive then and be content with his earnings but now, the majority of us clamour to climb corporate ladders.
Greed begets greed. Back-stabbing becomes the order of the day. Love and compassion are ignored. We become self-centred.
Whatever the circumstances are, be contented in life.
We should be grateful with what we have. Be bold. Be creative. Put your ego aside. Be prepared for the hard times.
For me, I stood my ground in the fight and did not sizzle out in the heat of the battle.
I experienced so many trials and tribulations.
While waiting for my Malaysia Certificate of Education (MCE) examination results when I was 18, I worked as a temporary teacher.
I cycled more than 20km each day to and from the school.
I was paid only RM131.75 a month.
The money was enough to cover the daily expenses for my mum and me. We even rented a Rediffusion radio feed which operated 24/7.
If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear hardship.
This quote from writer Allison Vogel has helped me: “I am stronger because of the hard times, wiser because of my mistakes and happier because I have known sadness.”
> A.R. Amiruddin is a former journalist with The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years. He is listed in the Malaysia Book of Records as the oldest person to celebrate his birthday atop Mt Kinabalu in 2000. He broke his own record in 2001 by climbing up via the Mesilau summit trail. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
Did you find this article insightful?