By Jagdesh Singh | OPINION |
The leaves ruffled, the large branches swayed, the stark greenery with the sky blue background, the air so pristine that it tasted fresh, and the laughter of children wistfully entwined on the same canvass. For one tiny moment, I was in bliss. And judging from the noise from my family members as they busily went about playing about around their tents and the campfire site, they too were in some similar nirvana.
We had come to this campsite, at the banks of the Kampar River, nestled within an extremely friendly Malay village somewhere in Gopeng, for a planned family vacation. Located in the state of Perak, Gopeng is about 180 km from Kuala Lumpur or 20km from Ipoh.
In times of Covid-19 pandemic, and in times of economic hardship for many, we were thankful that we could afford a simple family holiday for ourselves.
The moment we arrived, the great big smile of Jeevan, owner of the campsite, greeted us and instantly made us right at home. I’ve personally been acquainted with Jeevan over the years as we passed by each other at the SNSM annual Sikh camps (Gurmat Samelan), greeting each other amiably as compatriot sewadars. Incidentally, both of us were of the Chinese-Panjabi mixed parentage, so our very similar looks stood out amongst the typical Panjabis. Jeevan is the nickmake his mum gave him. His real name is Gurnam Singh.
Jeevan had built a helluva reputation as an honest, straightforward and enthusiastic eco-tourism operator in Malaysia over the years. He’s a guide, a teacher, and a coach to hordes of camping enthusiasts who come from far and near.
We felt safe right away as Jeevan explained to us how the weekend was going to go. His charm and knowledge quickly built that trust for newbies like myself to hang on to as we slowly realized what an adventure we were about to embark. Mind you, my family and myself are the typical urban dwellers who spend all our time in the concrete jungles of Kuala Lumpur. We’re of the people that go through daily traffic jams, crowded air-conditioned malls, and our habitats are equally as comfortable.
So, sleeping in small tents which we had to put up ourselves, on the hard surfaces of the grassy floors, was a bit of a pivot from our daily lives. And have I mentioned that our tents were more or less 15 steps away from a river, with cold waters from the Cameron Highlands? Nevertheless, Jeevan made us feel right at home. And I didn’t hear any complaint from family members, a surprise I gladly embraced.
We explored deep into the majestic centuries old caves nearby, hiked on the banking hills to witness the panoramic sunset the same day, and finally experienced white water rafting over the Kampar River rapids. It made me feel like I was in some Steven Spielberg movie with only the soundtrack missing. It was thrilling, to say the least. And at every juncture of this adventure, Jeevan and his wonderful family, worked hard to keep everyone safe and comfortable.
Jeevan and his team guided us through all the thrills, allowing us to experience the awe of nature. At the same time, Jeevan also threw at us some shots of inspiration, enough to wake a person like me up. In all humility, as he nonchalantly chat with me about his passion, his experiences and his spiritual compass, he made me realize that sometimes, people do have a job that they’re completely passionate about and don’t treat it as just work.
Don’t get wrong. Jeevan and his wife are extremely hardworking. Many of the structures at the camp site – the bathrooms, gazebos and eating hall – were built by Jeevan with his own hands. Bit by bit, he built what he had dreamt of, while teaching people of all backgrounds about appreciating nature as they come to his campsite.
“If you do take home something, or just one thing, that you’ve learned from me about Mother Nature, then my job here is done.” Jeevan loudly proclaims to my daughters after explaining to them about the contours and composition of the hill that we were tracking on. My girls nodded in fascination, as my wife and I looked at each other smiling to suppress our shock that they were actually paying attention.
As I observed him running around engaging with his clients, and from the little chat we had over a cup of tea (Panjabis cannot survive without their cha), I came to realize that his biggest contribution to the people staying at his campsite isn’t so much on the new skills he teaches them through experiencing. His biggest contribution is to allow families like mine to finally understand and appreciate how important the great outdoors are to our wellbeing and our existence as humans. We felt at home, because of Jeevan, but also because the great outdoors has naturally always been our home.
Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, far from the cut throat attitude of survivors in the city, far from the politicians and their greed, he had also built a home for his family. They are content. This inspires me. This has made me dream of my retirement sojourn. I have Jeevan, and his campsite the Hideout Geek, to look to as an aspiration to live life fully.
(The Hideout Geek is located in Kampung Jahang, Gopeng. Jeevan can be contacted at +6012-4086462)
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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