Kuali Hitam

Warisan Zurinah Hassan


 A short story is always about issues of society
that is usually important to mankind. There are so many problems around us that
can be written as a descriptive article or in creative genres. To make it a
short story a writer created a fictional story (or even a true story). A story has
characters and interactions of characters (mostly through conversations or
dialogues and monologues) . What happened to them and the sequence of events is
known as the plot
Recently I wrote a short story
to speak on environmental crisis. It was about the cry for a  healthy ecosystem, the concern of my people over
the conservation of green forest and natural heritage. My   country’s  independence and  transformation into an industrialised economy  had resulted in denuded hill slopes, polluted
rivers and contaminated air especially in urbans centres. Water quality is
declining alarmingly owing to sewage, animal waste, siltation and even heavy
metal emanating from improper factory waste disposal.
I began the story with a
murder of a lumber tycoon,   unfolded by his daughter, whom  I named Dayang Suhana, The injustice and evil
deed of money the loggers was revealed through her nanny,  a daughter of a headman who had risked his
life in the struggle to preserve their forest.  The story had been submitted for a competition
and not allowed to be published in full before the result. Below is an excerpt
of the short story.

 On weekends that I am not away on official
duty, I will travel one hundred kilometres to be with nani. After three weeks
of not seing her I received a message from nani asking if I could come to see
her. When I arrived at  her brother’s house,
he told me  nani is resting in her room.
I walked to her room. From outside I could hear her coughing.  She saw me and smiled “Come in little Ana” .  I smiled the best that I could to conceal my
surprise and sadness at seeing her in that condition.  She signalled to me to close the door tight.

After hugging and kissing I
pull a chair close to the bed.  She soon
get serious and to the business as to why she wanted to see me this weekend.
“After a series of tests they confirm that I have tuberculosis” Nani said.
“Tubercolusis? Don’t believe it . The country has been declared clear of the
disease”. I said. “No it is back again. Several people had been attacked .Be
careful dear, when you eat outside. Do chose your stall carefully. Many stalls
are employing foreign helps who could cough deadly germs into your plates”.  

. “Don’t worry Nani, this
disease is treatable. Just take your medicines. Please nani don’t give up.
Please cheer up. I won’t be happy if you are not happy”. I said as I stroke her
hair and massaged her scalp carefully. I reached for a comb and combed her

“Little Ana, please listen.
Nani  said seriously. “I am feeling too
weak to go on. I am feeling weaker each day. You know that I used to live in
the jungle. The forest was our  live.   One day a group of people came to see my
father who was the headman. They showed papers that they had obtained permit
from the government to cut down our trees. My father and his men drove them
away. They told us to think about it as they would definitely come back.”. , 

Nani spoke weakly, “I could
remember how our people gathered in my house that night. They swore to remain united
to protect  our home ground.  They will fight anyone who come to cut their
trees. Cut the tree over my dead body. I heard my uncle said. He was my
father’s younger brother, and the deputy headman”.

“They came back the following
week in ln larger numbers.  One of them was
a handsome young man who did most of the talking.  He talked softly telling the people   that they
would be rich if  they just allow some
trees to be felled.  My father would not
give an inch. He was brave and strong because his men had sworn to stand firm by
his side” .

“But he was wrong, soon there
was a rift in the group. Some  began to
believe in what the man said. And that broke my father’s heart. He said he
would fight even if he had to do it alone. My father refused  to sign any  papers and that gave much problem to the
company who could not commence their operation without my father’s signature of
approval.  Then one day my father disappeared
in the jungle. The tragedy for our family was a joy for the loggers. The next
headman signed all the necessary papers and the disaster began. Immediately the
 logging  company turned up with large bulldozers,
lorries and excavators and began to cut down the forest. They had no respect  for the villagers or the  village council.  They built bridges   over
the river and  contaminated  our source of drinking water” .

 “At that time I already had
four children aging from two to ten, only the eldest was a girl. One day my
three boys were down with fever  and  diarrhoea. I learnt it was typhoid. There was
an epidemic which had killed many and I lost all my boys in less than a month.
I cried day and night. My spirit died with them and. I did not want to get back
on  my two feet again. My relatives and
neighbours  tried hard  to console me.  They made me think of my surviving ten year
old daughter. She  looked strong and and more
beautiful each day”.

“So life had to go on with me,
my husband and our beloved young girl. 
She gave me the reason to live until one evening she was missing. We
searched everywhere. It was a horror to find her where she was, stiff and naked
with legs in mud and blood. We immediately knew what had happened. What
happened to her had happened to many girls in the forest. They were raped by
the workers of the logging company. With her death, I lost all reason for
living. I did not know and did not care about my husband. A few months later
they brought the news that he was run over by a timber lorry. I had no more
tears to cry and I did not know and did not  care whether I was still breathing”.

Good sisters and brothers took
care of me for nearly ten years to get me back to life and felt the breath of
our  polluted air.  Since then I 
recalled what happened clearly. What happened to my children had happened
to many children in other territories. Even what happened to my father had
happened to other headmen of other tribes who refused to sign agreements with
the logging companies. I  could remember
clearly the face of the gentleman who came to talk to my people. He was the
devil that broke up many tribes into rivalling factions, so that the timber
company could make money from our trees. He made way for all  the greedy men  to 
flock in to our forest that had once been our live. I have watched him
with my cousin and we both hate him. We had watched and hated him from the very
start . I have lost my children. So was my  cousin. Together we sworn that we would kill
the evil man if we have the chance to do so”.

“  I lived in bitterness until I took the job as
your nani. I grew to love you and you brought joy back into my life. But I soon
find out that the man and the poison of our life and the man I had sworn to
kill was none other than your father. One day my cousin visited me in your
house. He soon realized who your father was.  My cousin knew that I did not have the courage
and the heart to do commit a murder.  He
plotted the murder quietly. He came to the house several time until that
horrible night.”

Nani had spoken more than
enough. She broke into a terrible cough. I could not help her because I too was
feeling sick and started to tremble.

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