Friday, July 11, 2008

Moments of My Life - Part 12

I moved into a bigger and more comfortable house in Kampong Nibong Atas. The house was just nice for a small family like mine.

Two weeks later, my wife was finally transferred to Kuala Terengganu, thus ending our commuter marriage. Not very long after that, my long and impatient wait ended. My wife began to have her morning sickness.

We were very happy. Soon we would be a proud father and mother.
She was healthy all throughout her pregnancy and we never missed her periodic check-ups.

On the early morning of 8 February 1984, she began to have her labor pain. That day was also supposed to be her weekly check-up. So, with all the necessary things ready, I brought her to the hospital.

She was immediately warded. I then called both my parents and parents-in-law telling about her condition. I was restless waiting for the birth of our first child. Not knowing what was going on in the maternity ward worsened my anxiety.

At 2.51 pm a beautiful 2.71 kg baby was born. I was so excited when a staff nurse brought the baby out and called for me. She asked me to have a look at the baby. She was a baby girl, an adorably cute little girl. We called her Noorul Diyana – the light of our Din - Islam, our way of life.

Her arrival into the family changed my life a lot. She brought great joy and happiness into our lives. She was everything that a family ever wanted.

With our endless attention and love, she grew up fast. By her fourteenth day, she was already smiling at us. We knew then that one day she was going to be a smart child and would make us all proud of her.

"Dr. Azahar! A telephone call for you."

"Hello! Dr. Azahar speaking".

"Dr. Azahar, Dato' Manan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture is coming to Kuala Berang today. You are invited to come along. He wants to know something about the status of land there. The meeting will be at 2.30 pm at Farmer's Organization Office, Kuala Berang".

It was already 12.50 pm. Dr. Suhaimi was away in Kuala Lumpur. The file searchers and most of my administrative officers had gone out for lunch. I could not find the required file.

I immediately rushed home, had a mouth or two of rice, and very unlike of me, without looking at Noorul Diyana in her batik cradle, I drove straight to Kuala Berang.

My mind was crowded with questions. "What land? Why did he want to know about the land?"

Suddenly I felt my car knocked something hard. The front windshield was broken to pieces. Thinking that a stone had broken my windshield, I stopped the car.

There was pain in my left wrist. I looked back and saw a small crowd was circling around something on the pathway besides the road. Then I heard a voice saying that a boy was knocked down.

A man suddenly came out of nowhere and pulled my hands towards him. "Come on. You have to run. They will kill you!" He took me to his house not very far from the scene of the accident.

More and more people, angry people, were gathering around the victim and my car. This was Ajil, a notorious town where the people were well known to take law into their own hands onto the drivers whenever accidents happened.

Feeling that I was unsafe in his house, he then decided to bring me to Ajil's police station. We had to go through a brush before reaching his parked car.

Reaching the police station, I then realized that I had lost my wallet. The policeman was good enough to trace my movement and he found my wallet in the brush.

I was completely blank when the time came for me to make the police report. I did not have any clue as to what and how it had happened.

Once again the policeman went to the scene of the accident, had a look and came back to me helping me with the report. He practically told me what to write.

At first I was naïve enough to write the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. He then told me not to do so as that would make me look really responsible for the accident. So finally I cooked up a story of what had happened, even to the details like: I was about three metres away, suddenly the boy crossed from left to right. There was no time to brake, so, I hit him.

I was indeed very grateful to that policeman. I was later told that the poor boy was only sixteen. Until now I did not have any idea how on earth the accident happened.

There was no police action taken against me for the accident, but I was told the boy's family did receive some compensation money from my insurance. I knew that no amount of money could replace a son. I felt so sorry for him and his family.

The guilty conscience remained in my mind for a long time. Every time I passed by that site, I would automatically slow down and look at both sides of the road for signs of boys.

Looking back, I realized that I was rushing too much that fateful day. My mother-in-law was also equally surprised to see that I did not hold and play with my daughter that particular day as I would normally have done during other lunch breaks.

My work as a deputy director varied between administrative, social, political and also professional veterinary works. One professional duty that would not vanish from my memory and could not be bought by money was my encounter with Elephas maximas, our majestic elephant.

Dr. Ahmad Suhaimi and I were called in to help in translocating wild elephants from an area somewhere in Jerangau, Dungun to the National Park near Kenyir dam. Each of us spent about a week each in the jungle together with the team from the Department of Wild Life and National Parks.

We administered etorphine (neatly labelled as KO) intramuscularly via a projectile dart to immobilize those mighty creatures. A few milliliters of the wonderful drug would bring down a big bull elephant.

I remember tranquilizing a seventeen-foot bull elephant. As soon as the drug took effect, the bull fell down limp on the ground. We then immediately ran to the elephant and chained one of the legs to a big tree nearby. Having the elephant securely tied, we then administered the antidote, diprenorphine (aptly labelled as OK), via one of the elephant's massive ear vein.

In no time the elephant was awakened from its tranquilized state and it stood up. It was of utmost importance to ensure that the elephant was not lying down for too long. Its sheer mass would cause severe muscular damage and the pooling of blood in the lungs would even drown the big creature.

The next step was the most critical. Using two domesticated elephants (one of them was Lukimala, which is presently at the Malacca Zoo), the newly caught elephant would then be slowly escorted onto a trailer.

Here I was amazed to see how elephants respected their elder. In the case of the bull, the two domestic elephants seemed very reluctant to even come near it, let alone push it, even when it was under the effect of Rompun. This is what they called pecking order.

There was not much problem to move the captured elephant if it was younger than the domesticated animal. In the case of the bull, I even prayed to God to make the animal move. My prayer was answered. It finally moved.

Tears flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks. For I knew that the bull elephant would be safe if it did not put up a struggle. A prolonged struggle for such a wild elephant would exhaust it so much that death was inevitable.

I had seen that happened to a pregnant cow elephant before. The bull elephant was then carried on a trailer to Kenyir dam where a pontoon raft was ready to continue the journey to the National Park. I followed the elephants on the pontoon raft.

Along the way, the bull elephant had to be continuously bathed to prevent it getting overheated. The three-hour journey was a slow and hot one. On and off, I jumped into the eerily black water of the lake trying to cool myself.

Realizing that my two soles might be attracting those huge and hungry tomans, I always made sure that I did not expose my soles too much to those predators' eyes down under by placing my feet on a piece of trailing rope. I even had time to catch a gourami that was swimming in between the oil-drums.

Reaching the land on the National Park side, we immediately released the bull elephant. At first it moved slowly down the pontoon raft onto dry land. As it began making its way into the thick dense jungle, it surprisingly turned back and looked at us and gave a good loud trumpet as if saying thanks and goodbye to us.

I felt so exhilarating after realizing that I had saved the mighty creature. Soon it was out of our sight, probably sniffing its way to its original herd members.

Despite our success translocating some elephants, I was frustrated that we (more so with the Wildlife and National Parks Department of Terengganu) had to lose some just because they were not fully prepared for the operation.

Firstly, they had failed to identify the real food of the elephants and prepare the food in sufficient amount throughout the operation. Merely giving banana stems and a few pails of water just was not adequate for these stressed animals.

I was sure that banana stems were not the elephants' favourite food. I had seen a newly caught elephant devouring mempelas plant and roots of plants (even the tongkat ali plant perhaps) within its trunk's reach.

Secondly, they took too much time between the tranquilizing and the real translocating process. Animals were put under too much stress for too long.

I had a sad experience of trying to treat one highly stressed female. The elephant was in bad shape. As my last resort I gave her dextrose intravenous drips. I knew fully well that a bag or two of dextrose would not do any good to the elephant, but I just had to try.

An American visiting the elephant translocation operation casually remarked to me that even if I were to pour litres of adrenaline intravenously, I would not be able to help the elephant. Though his remark sounded somewhat sarcastic, I totally agreed with him.

The elephant finally died on me. I then decided to do a necropsy on the elephant, an experience that not many of us would have in their entire career. With only a parang to work with, the necropsy took me a few hours to complete.

Luckily it was performed at night. The elephant was carrying a baby. It was sad to see the little cute baby elephant. The intestines were so huge that I thought a child could easily get lost in it!

After the necropsy, everybody rushed in, just like vultures swooping in after a dead wildebeest after the lions had their share, to collect whatever they could make use of.

The most looked after was of course the placenta. Many believed that it was good for restoring their wives\' reproductive health after delivery. Even the tail bristles were also collected. It was said that the hairs were good for treating toothache!

1 comment:

Martin Lee said...

Dato', there were many incidents in the past that some people involved in accidents and knocked down someone in Kampung area and were beaten to death. We were always advised by our elders that if we ever involve in such an accident, especially in kampung area, be it killing a chicken or a duck, it is better to stop only at the nearest police station regardless the person you knocked could have been saved or not. Is that true?