When I was doing my story (hash tagged #tvssblc) on the Leprosy colony in Sungai Buloh, I interviewed Abdul Rauf, a former inmate who has recovered after a long stay inside.
He now runs a successful nursery business selling plants and turf grass. Except for a few deformed and missing fingers, there is little clue he was a long time sufferer of the contagious and feared disease.
His memory is still sharp and he told me many stories of life in the settlement. He has a great sense of humour and has much fond memories of his extended stay in the colony. A mysterious Chinese man, I befriended earlier, named “Africa”, purportedly one of Rauf’s best friends, led me by motorcycle to Rauf’s home.
When he told me about the various incidents such as royal visits, I asked him about the dreadful May 13 racial riots and whether it impacted them. He said many residents panicked and rumours were rife. The Malays hid at the mosque and surau when there were rumours of Chinese gangsters arriving to attack them. Kepong nearby was notorious for Chinese gangsters. Similarly, Chinese inmates huddled together in the churches and temples. Can’t remember if he mentioned about Indian and Orang Asli patients who also formed cliques.
There were a lot fears and distrust, he said. Finally one wise English doctor asked them. “Let’s be honest. What outsiders are going to risk coming in here??? Normally, people will run when they see lepers!”
Then the lepers starting to hug one another and started asking, “Who have we got as family apart from ourselves?” According to Rauf, their greatest worry was the supply of food and that it may run out with the curfews and disrupted supplies. Then they declared that they will share their food with one another in order to survive together. In recalling their unsubstantiated fears, he suddenly laughed very hard. We hugged and laughed hard together.
What I interviewed him on 28th May 2016 but kept the story for today.
#leprosarium #sungaibuloh #colony #leper #settlement #history #life #sonyalpha #a7r #zeiss #tvssblc #racerelations #may13