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Aren't we a kurang ajar lot?

Haresh Says as published in The Malay Mail today.

A picture of Sungai Kelantan courtesy of Pakmat Fahmy.
Respect. That was one word my late father used to harp on every single day.

“Go say hello to your aunt” or “make sure you use the word ji (a sign of respect in Punjabi) when addressing an elderly relative”.

He used to often say: “You will be respected if you respect others”.

Eager to eat burrito, I was shopping for ingredients at a grocer near the embassy row along Jalan Ampang over the weekend when I noticed an elderly woman greeting a child.

The child, perhaps about six-years-old, pulled a long face instead.

The boy’s parents felt nothing wrong with that and went on to say the kid was “tired” and “shy”.

Five minutes later, he was seen running, shouting at the top of his lungs and even thrust several grapes into his mouth. Not so tired and shy after all.

I thought opening a door for a lady or allowing them to step out or into an elevator was being “respectful”. I have instead been ridiculed for being a “pak guard” and was even accused of trying to hit on someone.

It has not stopped me from opening doors for the fairer sex — young or old, attractive or otherwise.

We have seen, over and over again, how politicians use gutter language when trying to justify a point.

If we cannot seem to respect a fellow human being, what more historical ruins dating as far back as the eighth century and a river that was once the source of food and water for people living along its banks.

Over the weekend, it emerged that Bujang Valley in Kedah was “secretly destroyed” by land developers.

Bujang Valley consists of more than 50 ancient temples and ruins, believed to be some 2,000 years old. It showed the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism and documents early civilisation in Southeast Asia.

The book Bujang Valley and Early Civilisations in Southeast Asia published in 2011 revealed evidence of human settlement that predates earlier finds and ritual platforms that seems to differ from other structures in the region.

Astonishing indeed.

Following the uproar, the Kedah government instructed the developer to stop work on the site on Monday while the Culture and Tourism Ministry said it can invoke the National Heritage Act 2005 to save the ancient temple.

Then there’s Sungai Kelantan. Pakmat Fahmy, a man with many interesting tales to tell, uploaded a picture of the murky river on Facebook.

He said it was only yellow during the monsoon in the past but now, it is yellow all year long.

“I remember in the late 1970s, when fast-speed boats were the in-thing in Kota Baru. The river then was dark blue to dark green depending on the time of the year,” said Pakmat.

Pakmat blamed “unbridled logging” for the murky waters.

MCA central committee member Loh Seng Kok had in a statement in October demanded an explanation from the Kelantan government over environmental issues in the state.

Loh said: “Logging is believed to have contributed to the sedimentation of Sungai Kelantan which further aggravated farmers.”

Development is important but there needs to be balance. It must not be done at the expense of heritage and nature.

Instead, we have turned into a kurang ajar (disrespectful) lot and pay scant respect to everything and everyone around us.

If only people realised a little bit of respect could go a long way.

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