I was talking with some students today and the subject somehow or rather turned to kampongs. I can't remember now what brought us to talk about kampongs, or villages. They asked me where was my 'kampong and I said proudly, "Malacca,of course." There were a few enthusiastic answers from them - "I'm from Malacca too!" "Me too," and so on. That brought us to the subject of being from a kampong - in my days one of the first question we'd ask a newcomer would be, "Where is your kampong?" Which is equivalent to asking a person where he is from.
Today I think if you were to ask that question, the person would turn at us and stare almost insulted, "I'm not from a kampong!" I think that somehow that feeling of being from a kampong has been chiselled away by modernity and the urban life. More and more people today are born and bred in cities whereas in the past, in the 60s and 70s, it would have been a perfectly safe question to ask. My students nevertheless understand me when I say my kampong is Malacca. Not that you come from a village - Malacca is as modern and as urban as any city, though micro in size, and calmer in attitude.
Whatever we may say though about living in cities, many Malaysians still enjoy to "balik kampong". Literally it means going back to the village and come holiday time, there'll be thousands of cars on the road - all bound for that 'kampong'. The strange thing is that at one time the ones who actually do have a kampong are the Malays. Today everyone it seems have to 'balik kampong', notwithstanding he or she has a kampong or not. The idea of going home is the most important one - going home to one's parents, to the heart and soul of the person. When we lose our kampong, we lose our heart and soul - that very thing that moves us and makes us who we are.
My kampong, Banda Kaba, in the heart of Malacca Town, is not really a kampong. When I was growing up it probably was - but we still had piped water and electricity. There were fruit trees (mainly mangoes because nothing else would grow in that acidic soil) and lots of trees around our houses. Our parents even grew our own vegetables, though not very successfully.
So where is your kampong? Or do you belong to one of those people who no longer have a kampong?