Q & A: With development comes change. Discuss with reference to Removal in Pasir Panjang by K S Maniam.
For Malaysian Form 6 students.
Q: With development comes change. Discuss with reference to Removal in Pasir Panjang by K S Maniam.
After Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the country went through a wave of development and urbanisation in an effort to rid the nation of poverty and to make the general public’s lives easier. Removal in Pasir Panjang by K S Maniam depicts the changes of Pasir Panjang and its people as development sets in, proving that with development comes changes to some extent.
First and foremost, development brings change to the environment. In Removal of Pasir Panjang by K S Maniam, development comes to Pasir Panjang in the form of roads and housing estates. Road on one hand allow people to travel to places far away in a shorter timespan, as someone comments “We can go to Kuala Lumpur on this road.” However, roads bring traffic, and traffic accidents occur. Leng Leng, an orphan boy on the streets lived a carefree life dependent on others’ goodwill before there were roads. On the day the road was opened, Leng Leng fell victim to development by getting knocked down by a car. As Ah Seng commented on Ramasamy, the town official who suggested paving the road, “He brought death to this town. And dust.” As for the housing estates near the jetty, its construction causes air pollution, as Ah Seng is said to be “clearing out the clay” in his throat every day. Besides roads and housing estates, the environment is also affected by the growing amount of rubbish due to an increasing population, which clogs the rivers and is heaped by the roadside. The landscape of Pasir Panjang may have changed for the better, but it brings may negative effects to the environment as well.
That aside, in Removal in Pasir Panjang, development indirectly changes the attitude of people in Pasir Panjang. As roads increase the mortality rate due to traffic accidents, parents fear for their children’s safety and prohibit them from going the shops. Society has been taken over by fear, and this fear has robbed them of their freedom as well. The new housing estate by the jetty also shows a change in behaviour of people. The housing estate is occupied by Chinese residents only. Mrs Tan, one of the residents, mistakes Nathan for a bottle man because he is an Indian, showing the racial prejudice and stereotyping that prevail in post-independence Malaysia. Mrs Tan even laughs at the fact that he is a teacher, refusing to believe that he can teach effectively. Besides this, when Nathan gets attacked by gangsters, the residents of the housing estate do not help him, and some even laugh at him. His Malay friend, Yahya also stands by and does not help him even when Nathan asks him to. This shows how cold society becomes towards each other after development. People are more self-centred and do not care so much about others. This scene is also a striking parallel to Leng Leng’s death in the early days of development where people rushed to his side after he was run over. Development has drastically changed the attitudes of people for the worse, becoming prejudiced, self-centred and woeful.
One thing that has not changed despite the development in Pasir Panjang is the comradeship the people share. This is evident among Nathan’s students, who get along well regardless of race, like the friendship between Hashim and Li Hwa. The friendship of Nathan and Yahya also shows comradeship in Malaysia’s multicultural society, going from strangers at the jetty to putting his trust in Nathan, Yahya tells him about his family problems even if Nathan is not interested. He also warns Nathan not to go to the housing estate knowing that the residents are prejudiced, and helps him out when police suspect he is a burglar, showing that he does look out for Nathan. The school clerk, Cheng, is also a good friend of Nathan, forgoing the “Mr” when addressing him. When Nathan gets beaten up by gangsters, he tends to his wounds in hospital.
Another point of note is that with development comes crime, another significant change to the community of Pasir Panjang in the story. Gangsterism becomes more rampant, as Nathan falls victim to them and gets beaten up. Hock Guan also mentions that are many gangsters in this small town when visiting Nathan at the hospital. There is also an anecdote about murder told by Yahya, where a young couple is killed at the jetty. This fuels the suspicion among each other, which leads to Nathan getting suspected for being a burglar by police, indicating that there may have been burglaries in the housing estate.
In conclusion, with development the world around us changes, and so de the attitudes of people. Development also means that some people get richer, which leads to a higher crime rate. However, friendship, which takes a long time to solidify, does not change with development. On the contrary new friendships can bloom while old friendships stay strong.