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Rustic charm of a kampung

ONE of the endearing traits of Malaysians surely must be the practise of “balik kampung”. This mass migration from urban centres to the suburbs and rural areas usually precede one of the three major cultural and religious celebrations in the country.

Of course, in modern times, one’s kampung isn’t always literally a village anymore. More often than not, balik kampung now means travelling from one urban area to another to be with loved ones to share the festivities.

Nostalgia has a powerful calming effect, even more so for people stressed out by the daily grind and need to “put things in perspective”. Perhaps that was the original appeal when people used to travel back to their hometowns and villages to spend time with familiar faces and places.

Today, for some of us, our kampung is no longer surrounded by miles of rugged scenery and quaint padi fields. Instead, there is an SMI industrial park, a major carriageway and modern shophouses fronting our childhood home.

Even so, there are little reminders here and there that this was the place in which we grew up. There’s that rambutan tree that surprisingly had no kerangga, and that wooden picket fence that we used to toss a ball over. Yep, if we closed our eyes for a moment, we can see it all like it was only yesterday.

But what was it about a rural kampung that made it so much more darn endearing that a house in a modern township? Was it just picturesque scenery or elements of a bygone era, or a rambutan tree, or what? Pondering upon it, guess the answer is childhood memories.

Today’s child is a fortunate and unfortunate lot, depending on your perspective. He is fortunate because he has comfort – air-conditioned home, a computer that does the imagining for him, 40+ channels on the TV, and a host of other cool gadgets that if we said we didn’t enjoy, we’d be lying. Outside his comfortable home, he has a modernised Malaysia at his feet – highways and LRTs, shopping malls, and cineplexes, and instant communication.

So why is he unfortunate? Because of these very comforts. As parents, we don’t want our children to grow up with memories of shooting enemy warplanes over the PC. We don’t want them to remember what’s it like to have air-conditioning and not appreciate a cool breeze on a hot afternoon.

Creating memories for your children

Where else in a modern home can you rub a little rustic charm in than your garden?

Yes, spare the garden from modernisation. Whether you live in neat rows of identical houses, or in a sprawling bungalow that looks the same as any inside, make your garden a testament to your individuality and creativity. Keep it simple yet elaborate enough that your children will find it intriguing and form many pleasant memories there.

We are not telling you to turn your garden into a replica of a traditional village. Far from it. Make it into an outdoor living space using the comforts of nature and your five senses. Make it a place full of love, and happy moments.

For the urban dweller, why not celebrate Hari Raya in your garden for a change? How? Well, set the mood according to the celebration. Hari Raya, as with all other celebrations, is a family affair. The preparations, the build-up to D-Day, having a great time with cousins and uncles and aunts you only see once a year – it is all part of the deal.

Instead of doing it indoors, however, try your garden. Stock up on lots of yellow-flowered plants. Place lots of candles everywhere. Make sure the garden is lit creatively, but don’t flood the area with powerful spotlights. Have adequate wooden tables and seating area that blends well with the surrounding natural landscape. If you have a garden fountain, better still. The idea is to make your garden as it were your living room. Use the grass for carpet, the sky for the ceiling, the breeze for the air-conditioning, and well, good conversation and great fun to replace the TV.

Remember earlier articles where we mentioned the five senses garden? Well, to recap briefly, do up your garden to appease all five of your senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Decorate the garden and put in a fountain for beauty and aural pleasure, have lots of greenery and wooden furniture for touch, put in aromatic candles or fragrant plants for smell, and finally, lay out the feast in the garden for taste.

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