We dance, make merry and do good for the country

  • Letters
  • Thursday, 16 Jan 2020

BEING of advanced age and working as a journalist, I know a lot of people – some personally, others as subjects in my writings.

So when recently I told a former Pakatan Harapan (Pakatan) minister that he had sacked a friend of mine from a university board for disagreeing with his action, he asked: “Siapa ya, Datuk?” (Who was he?).

My reply was: “Umur saya 72 tahun, jadi ramailah sahabat.” (I am 72 years old and, therefore, I have many friends.)

My assumption is, since he signed the letter, he should know.

One of the persons that I knew who left a deep impression on me was a contemporary of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra.

He was an interesting person – friendly, humble and highly honourable.

He was a Malay and, therefore, compulsorily, a Muslim. And, like Tunku, was a gentleman.

As was common with Malays of the professional class at the time, he was also a happy and jolly fellow. He drank and danced. Tunku himself was a great dancer.

This Johor-born gentleman was also a hard-working, trustworthy and scrupulous public servant.

He was entrusted with running some of the biggest and most important government agencies and businesses.

Sadly, some of these institutions were run to the ground by the corrupt and inept people who took over in the later years. These were people who showed off their piety like peacocks exhibiting their feathers.

At least two of these agencies are being rehabilitated by the Pakatan government to the tune of billions of ringgit.

In those “jahiliyyah” days, drinking, gambling (mostly for fun), attending horse-races, dancing with the Kelantan “joget” girls and ogling nude dancer Rose Chan were common.

What was uncommon was corruption, drug addiction, indiscipline and laziness. The civil servants were dedicated and the law-enforcement officers were trustworthy.

Most senior civil servants and politicians English-educated and some were Anglophiles. Many had English women as wives.

Recently, in a conversation with the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, we talked about those good old days when it was all right for Malay men and women to dance, make merry and be gay.

No, not gay as we know today. Today, gay refers to a person with homosexual orientation. Those days, being gay was having fun and being jolly.

We were recalling the more open-minded and less judgmental era when men freely danced on the “pentas joget” at fun fairs with the sexily-dressed joget girls.

Women were dolled up in tight “batik kebaya”, their hair curled, eyes lined with “celak” and lips with “gincu”.

Dr Mahathir even wrote an article for the Singapore Straits Times titled “Ronggeng is Popular”. It was published on Jan 9,1949. He was then studying medicine in Singapore.

He wrote: “It seems that despite the popularity of Western dances and the large number of cabarets, the seemingly crude Malay dance, the joget or ronggeng, still holds its own among the Malays.

“In almost every amusement park in Malaya, the regular beating of the gong and gendang (drums) of the ronggeng parties draws large crowds of spectators and customers.

“On an open and usually crudely constructed stage, the musicians and the dancing girls await their customers. Dancing is carried out in full view of the visitors to the park.”

This story and more like it are contained in the compilation of Dr Mahathir’s early works entitled “Dr Mahathir Mohamad – The Writer – Early Years 1947-1972”. It was published by Berita Publishing.

Incidentally, Dr Mahathir is also a fine dancer.

I had my gay (happy) time too. Until the late 1980s, joget was an integral part of dinner parties. After dinner, the emcee would almost always invite the host and his wife or partner to take to the floor for a joget.

Home Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is a great “zapin” dancer.

Some blamed the sudden end of this happy, open and unpretentious era to the "penerapan nilai-nilai Islam" campaign.

I had my fair share of joget and a roaring time doing the “Kungfu Fighting” dance at the Tropicana Night Club in Jalan Ipoh with friends from Bernama.

Today, all these are a great no-no. Sacrilegious even. A big haram.

These days, people are seemingly more religious. They show their piety by dressing up like Middle-eastern people and other "Islamic" trappings.

One well-known politician, in appealing for the return of his impounded passport, told the High Court that he had gone to Mecca for the Umrah for 30 consecutive years.

His passport was impounded because he was facing 47 corruption charges involving his “charity foundation”.

Another, who is also being tried for corruption, is known for his “sumpah laknat”.

Let me take the bull by the horns and ask my dear readers: Who is a better man – one who swears by the Quran and steals billions from the people, or a man who drinks, gets drunk and cheats nobody (except perhaps himself)?

Of course, it’s best if you don’t swear regularly at the mosque because you don’t have to, go to Mecca regularly because you want to be closer to Allah, don’t drink because it’s haram and don’t commit corruption because it’s wrong.

The floor is yours!


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