Thursday January 3, 2008


This is for David, who had a difficult but meaningful New Year’s. And as usual, all disclaimers (mine!) as follows.

It was incredibly distracting, the young man covered in green paint in the nude sitting in the chair in front of him. He was not completely nude, thank goodness, no. He covered his important bits with the tempurung, a coconut shell.Inspector Jamal’s tea was getting cold but he found it impossible to take the report down.

“Let me get this right,” he said. “You’re protesting about the state of democracy in Malaysia.”

The young man, Amir was his name, nodded vigorously. “We are the proverbial frog underneath the coconut shell! I represent the frog! Your arrest highlights my point exactly! By denying me my right to speak, I become the frog, never escaping the tempurung.”

Sergeant Izwan stood up. “There’s a difference between rights and culture! It is not the right thing to do, standing in public and scaring everyone!”

Amir stood up, the coconut shell protecting his privates moved precariously. Inspector Jamal half-expected the tempurung to fall off and was grateful that it stayed in place.

“It’s people like you who cause the country to stagnate with your old-fashioned ways. All this talk about culture at the expense of human rights,” Amir shouted.

Sergeant Izwan’s eyes widened before shouting back. “It’s people like you who undermine the very nature of Malaysian society. You undermine the cause of our forefathers!”

Inspector Jamal watched the exchange heat up and sighed as spittle from both his Sergeant and the young man fell into his tea. It was time to intervene.

“Sergeant, stand down,” Inspector Jamal said gloomily. “Culture is about embracing change. We’re not the same people we were 400 years ago. And you, young man,” he said with a steely glare to Amir. “Buy a yellow t-shirt next time.”

(289 words)

Cultural notes:
Katak bawah tempurung – Literally, “a frog underneath a coconut shell”. It is a Malay proverb that speaks about ignorance. The little frog thinks the entire world is made up of the coconut and is unaware there’s a greater world out there.
Yellow t-shirt – The colour of the t-shirts worn by protestors by Bersih, a pro-democracy rally recently held in KL.

Creative Commons License
Tanjong Ole Series by Adlina is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Malaysia License.

Posted 1/3/2008 at 2:36 AM


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