Born to be wild

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By N. RAMA LO­HAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

BEAST mas­ter, eco evan­ge­list, green fin­gers ... take your pick. Chuan Ah Kau can be recog­nised for any one of these en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly roles. The 73-year-old PJ-ite is also a pho­tog­ra­pher with a keen eye for wildlife. And con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, a trip to the Belum-Te­men­gor isn’t even nec­es­sary.

Why, he finds his wildlife so close to an ur­ban hub like Petaling Jaya, scour­ing the Ta­man Rimba Kiara for a va­ri­ety of an­i­mals. On his Face­book page is a dra­matic im­age of a black co­bra and mon­i­tor lizard (on op­po­site banks of a drain) about to face-off.

“It’s my na­ture of lov­ing na­ture,” he said, pro­vid­ing a quotable quote right off the bat. The sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian was born in Taip­ing, Perak, where the pas­times of the day for young ones in­cluded kite fight­ing (kite lines were soaked in a con­coc­tion of glue and bro­ken glass to slice a com­peti­tor’s line), catch­ing haruan fish in ponds and swim­ming in rivers. “I learnt how to swim in a river,” Chuan proudly re­vealed.

His miner dad had five chil­dren and a wife to feed, and with RM6 for daily wages, there was lit­tle lux­ury in the Chuan house­hold. Pos­ses­sion of a bi­cy­cle was con­sid­ered a state­ment in his neigh­bour­hood even. “We played with cows and buf­faloes, and got very ex­cited when mo­bile cin­e­mas spon­sored by Oval­tine and Planta (mar­garine) came to our vil­lage,” he said, paint­ing a quaint im­age of a sim­pler time.

Once he moved to the Klang Val­ley and be­gan work­ing in a tyre plant, it was not un­com­mon for him and his friends to drive to Kuantan to re­live their youth.

“While I was work­ing, I asked to be sent for the OBS (Out­ward Bound School) course. My friends thought I was crazy to sub­ject my­self to 25 days of tor­ture, but I loved it, and earned a cert with merit.”

Chuan was taught the art of sur­vival by caus­ing min­i­mum dis­rup­tion to the en­vi­ron­ment, a life’s les­son he has car­ried with him to this day.

The pho­tog­ra­phy bug bit rather late in life. In fact, it was upon his friend’s in­sis­tence that he picked up a Pana­sonic Lu­mix for RM650 from Cash Con­vert­ers.

“I be­came a birder (bird watcher) and have been en­joy­ing go­ing to Rimba.” Chuan heads there nearly ev­ery day, and says the best time to catch the an­i­mals in ac­tion is in the late morn­ing. He says that one needn’t even go to Rimba for their wildlife kicks; “It’s amaz­ing what you can see by just walk­ing in the neigh­bour­hood.”

He sub­scribes to the phi­los­o­phy of grow­ing his own pro­duce, hav­ing grown brin­jal, lady’s fin­ger, pineap­ple and a va­ri­ety of other fruits and veg­eta­bles.

The re­tiree is also a mu­si­cian of an Elvis per­sua­sion. “I have a num­ber of videos on YouTube where I per­form Elvis songs. I’ve even sung at func­tions, like gath­er­ings at my old school (Hua Lian High School).”

And as if his sense of hu­man­ity and cul­ture, and tal­ent don’t al­ready tip the scale, he also sings Tamil songs. “M. Karathu (for­mer Perak, Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan and Kinta In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion foot­ball coach) was my neigh­bour, so I was ex­posed to all these things. In fact, he also en­cour­aged me to play foot­ball.”

The world could do with more peo­ple like Chuan – they are the true as­sets to us all.

is a weekly col­umn which in­tro­duces Malaysia-based ev­ery­day folk, do­ing what they love. If you have any per­son to rec­om­mend, e-mail us at star2@thes­tar. com.my.

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