Monday, June 7, 2010


One thousand people living in a small radius of few kilometers, close to the jungle, where whole community implements the principle of three ‘R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) in their daily lives. Surprising, this is not a new policy that they are learning now like the city dwellers. It’s a way of life for them from ages.
This might seem a story of olden times, but it isn’t. This is what I saw on my recent trip to a real Bidayuh long house in Kuching. The Bidayuh are one of the indigenous tribes of the state of Sarawak in Malaysia and live in longhouses. I spent few hours there and was touched by their simplicity and their enormous respect for nature.
The entire longhouse is a series of houses attached to each other. These houses are built on raised bamboo poles to protect them against predators and from any natural calamities. Each house lies adjacent to the next house and consists of one big room. More than five –six members and is some cases ten members stay in one house. But they are not jostling for space and are all living in perfect harmony. Their houses are built of bamboo. Once the bamboo gets old it is not discarded by the people. It is used as a fuel for cooking.
Cooking is done outside in front of the house. The rice and meat are cooked in bamboo.I have clicked a picture of chicken and rice being cooked in bamboo. The other items are cooked in earthen pots. People here do not visit supermarkets to buy their groceries, but grow their rice, pepper, rubber and palm oil. They pluck fruits and vegetables from the jungle and cook. They make baskets of rattan grown in the jungles. These baskets are used for storage purposes and also to carry anything plucked from the jungles. So there are no plastic covers anywhere. Since the Bidayuh drink water from the flowing river, there are no plastic bottles anywhere. It was amazing for a city –dweller like me to see an entire community practicing these principles so easily.

Large dry leaves are tied and used as brooms to clean their houses. We saw women using large leaves to protect them against heat. They collected fish from the river and had their own chicken farms.

Electricity entered their lives only in early 2000. In the past when they had no power, they utilized the entire daylight to walk to the jungle, collect their daily food, fuel and keep themselves completely occupied. They would relax only after darkness set in. Even today many houses do not have a single fan. It was a hot and humid day when we had gone on our longhouse tour. But they were happily pounding rice, cooking in the hot sun or knitting baskets. They were too busy in their activities to be bothered about the heat.

It was then I realized how quickly we all have adapted to materialistic comforts in life but have forgotten to care for our own environment. Their simple lives taught me and my family the most important lesson of life, to respect our environment.

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