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Found in KL: Playin’ With Da Peepz

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Merdeka nostalgia 2009 – chi too flying a kite. Photo by Fahmi Fadzil

On the last Sunday of each month at 5PM starting from September 2009, the people have decided to come out and play at the Dataran Merdeka. ‘Main Dengan Rakyat’ is an attempt to reclaim public spaces by playing a traditional (or not very traditional) permainan rakyat (people’s game) just because it is our patriotic duty to preserve our cultural heritage.

Co-ordinated by chi too, it takes those of us with old pre-internet bones back to our primary school padang where games such as kejar-kejar, kite flying, konda kondi, rounders, bola chop, bola sepak, lari dalam guni, or even scrabble are played to pass time. Except this time, we’re revisiting it on a national scale. New contributor, The Nutty Giraffe, speaks to our upstairs neighbour at MERAH on his latest project.

It’s cool to be a pendatang these days. We are all pendatang. Are you a pendatang?

Yes… I am a pendatang halal.

Who is the rakyat? Whose rakyat?

What the fuck!%#^!%^(*$!! What a stupid question! We are all the rakyat (the people) la. Don’t expect me to get metaphorical and shit!

chi too at the age of 28

You organised an impromptu kite flying activity over at Dataran over Merdeka(independence day) this year. How was the response?

Well, we were more kite running than we were flying… no wind la. There were 12 of us and there were 3 kites to share between us. I expected 10, so 12 was a very good number for me. But honestly, we were really just hanging out more than we were flying kites and it was fun. That was when I realised we don’t use our available public spaces enough. You’d be surprised at how pleasant an afternoon in Dataran Merdeka can be… this led me to vomit ‘Main Dengan Rakyat‘ from my bowels.

Tell us a bit more about Main Dengan Rakyat.

Main Dengan Rakyat… literally translated as ‘fucking… I mean playing with the nation’ is a monthly event where we gather in Dataran Merdeka at 5PM every last sunday of the month and play a traditional primary school padang group game. It is in a way, an effort to reclaim public spaces. It is also an excuse to have a picnic.

American cousins Darnell ‘Woof Woof’ Too Deshaw and Jack Gregory Too

What’s missing in our public spaces today?

It’s sad but Malaysia lacks a park life… Public spaces to most people are shopping complexes. If we want to play football, badminton, or ping pong, we pay for private spaces. If you ever walk along Bukit Bintang, its nothing but malls, if you wanna take a break for a while, your only options are cafes. There are no parks or benches under trees where you can chill. And even if there are parks, they are all in locations where it seems like its strictly ‘recreational’… you have to go to taman tasik, taman titiwangsa, bukit kiara… somehow you can’t just casually walk into a park just to chill… going to a park requires effort.

And given our obsession with eradicating gejala sosial (social vices)… there are so many by rules that prohibits chilling out in parks… god, if you can’t lepak (hang out) in parks, what the hell would one do in a park.I remember being in New York last year and was extremely envious of how there are parks everywhere smack right in the city. Heck, you can even get that in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos…

Have we ever had a shared a public sphere in Kuala Lumpur? If so, what was it in the past?

I remember my parents bringing me to the Tunku Abdul Rahman park (what was then fondly known as Tong-Ku park, in Chinese it literally means ‘mushroom park’ due to its name, and the mushroom shaped shelters there) next to Stadium Negara. That park is unfortunately a parking lot now.

Mid 80’s retro fun in Mimaland park with uncle wai keen, cousin cheng ee,
indian cousin shammah, mother wai choo, chi too, sister yuen too

Why is Dataran Merdeka chosen as the project site?

It is a symbolic gesture to reclaim our kemerdekaan (independence). Also because it is walking distance from that arts institution that I shall not name but am more than willing to milk the benefits off.

Are you hoping to engage with tourists as well in this project?

Well, its up to the participants, MDR is not something that I do. I am merely co-ordinating this event. Though I don’t think we will shun tourists, and if anyone would like to pick up a foreigner or two, it would be at their own pleasure. But then again, thanks for suggesting this… I might just.

chi too’s bourgeois past time – tending his orchard on facebook’s farmville in 2009

What are the traditional or not so traditional games we all shared when we were kids?

My favourite one back then was ‘bola chop‘ in which the goal of the game is to pick up a tennis ball and throw it real hard at someone, and at the same time, avoid being thrown at. Other games i can think of… badminton over the house gate, kejar-kejar (chasing), konda-kondi, galah panjang,  rounders, main bola gol selipar, etc.

So what kind of games are in store for the next few months?

Our first session would be ‘Main Kejar-Kejar Bersama Rakyat‘ (Chasing Around with the People). I think the plan now is that we will decide what to play next at the end of every session… but I can totally imagine us playing anak ayam there.

How is this relevant to the facebook and twitter generation a.k.a. the youths of today? They don’t grow up with these games. Is this mere nostalgia for those of us of the pre-internet era? How can we get today’s youth interested?

I really like banoffee pie. Can someone bring banoffee pie to ‘Main Dengan Rakyat’?

Click here to join ‘Main Dengan Rakyat’ facebook group.



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