SHE was lying on my lap, little more than a bag of bones, her eyes staring with a haunted look. She could barely speak. As I wiped her brow, she gave me a weak smile and held my hand tightly, a reassurance that she was at last in safe hands.
And she whispered: “Nak makan ayam (I would like to eat some chicken).”
It was enough to make one’s heart break.
The girl was Miksudiar Aluj and I knew her as Ima. And it broke my heart further that I could not give her anything to eat. She was terribly dehydrated and on drips. There was no way she could eat anything.
But my heart felt fulfilled. We saved two girls, who had miraculously survived 46 days in the jungle of Pos Tohoi.
It all started at 8am on Thursday when I was asked to cover a story on the disappearance of the seven orang asli children after a body was found. We arrived at Gua Musang hospital at about 2.30pm.
The relatives of the missing orang asli had identified the remains of the first child as Sasa. It was a sad moment for everybody.
We talked to the father and relatives and got the official statement from Gua Musang OCPD Supt Saiful Bahri Abdullah. He reiterated that the search and rescue operations would be intensified.
Then, the news came. Another body was on its way to the hospital, this time just skeletal remains. The Star Video Team rushed to the police Land Rover bearing the partial remains of the second child.
We took shots of these partial remains that were kept in a sealed box. Seasoned journalists and newsmen were there. And all were speechless. The tragedy was just too much to bear.
Once again, the OCPD said the police were more hopeful of finding the remaining five children.
Yesterday, hopes were higher of finding the children. But no one knew if they would be found alive. We were expecting to visit the sites where they recovered the earlier two bodies.
We arrived at Pos Tohoi and proceeded to Sg Perias where we were shown the place that Sasa was found. As we moved to the next location, the police radio crackled. And the excitement soared.
They had discovered three more children. And two of them were alive!
The media went into a frenzy.
As we drove back down to Pos Tohoi, I could not control my emotions. I saw the girls and they looked like walking sticks.
Mohammed Azam, our executive producer, gave me a hug and said: “Be strong.”
I am a mother. And no mother can stand to see the sight of those children. It was as if I had lost and found my own child.
Our videographer Juliana Fauzi, who was trying her best not to let her emotions show, also broke down.
We were fortunate to have driven up to Gua Musang in Azam’s car and we were taken to Pos Tohoi.
The field officer, Insp Harris, wanted such a vehicle to transport one of the girls back to SM Kuala Betis where an ambulance was waiting to take the girls to Gua Musang hospital.
Azam asked me if I was ready to carry one of the girls on my lap.
Ready? I was eager. I said: “Of course, let’s go.”
She was placed on my lap and the only thing running through my mind was how this girl had survived 46 days in the jungle. She was very weak and could barely speak. She held on tightly to my hand.
It was a 30-minute journey. But it must have been an ordeal for her. She was in pain and kept complaining about the sun and kept saying “saya lapar, saya lapar (I’m hungry)”.
She was on drips and I could not offer her anything to eat. I asked her who the friend found with her was. But she just kept quiet.
I asked her who her parents were. She shook her head and continued to hold on tightly to my hand. I had to reassure her that she was going to be fine.
She asked me for fried chicken, fried rice and egg, and orange. I said: “Adik, you cannot eat all that now as you will have to go to the hospital first.”
At last, we were at the school. They transferred the two girls to the ambulance.
Ima is in hospital now. Hopefully, she will get well and she will be back in school.
Then, I will come back to Pos Tohoi. I have promised to buy her fried chicken, fried rice and egg, and orange. I will keep my promise to Ima.