Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Met Hang Tuah!

The last time I went back in time, I met Wong Fei Hung, the legendary Chinese kung fu master extraordinaire.

Last night, because it was raining and I could do nothing, I decided to go back in time to meet Hang Tuah - once, Bolehland's national hero who had inspired many bravery awards, legends, stories, plays and movies about the man.

There has never been a Bolehland hero more widely revered and loved than Hang Tuah.

Strangely, he seems to have suddenly fallen off the radar in recent years and hardly heard of or mentioned in awe anymore.

Some say that that is because there is some research out there that showed that Hang Tuah was not a Malay as had largely been taught in the schools and believed by many, but a Chinese.

Others, like a certain professor emeritus, say that Hang Tuah was just a myth. Maybe they are right. Or maybe, Hang Tuah was indeed a Malay. Or a Chinese. I don't know.

So, you can take my meeting with the man anyway you want. You are not wrong. And I am not necessarily right. It was just a meeting back in time.

Maybe the Hang Tuah I met was not the Hang Tuah Bolehlanders once revered. Because, like they say, there are many universes out there and the Hang Tuah I met was not the selfsame Hang Tuah

Anway, Hang Tuah, the diplomatic warrior that he was, told me not to talk about race.

I nevertheless asked him if he knew what racism or discrimination by ethnicity meant.

At that question, he looked at me like he had seen a ghost or like I had gone out of my mind.

Not to embarrass anyone further, especially myself, I asked instead if it was true that he had fought for seven days with Hang Jebat before defeating him.

He asked if I was familiar with the wuxia tradition. I said I had heard a little of it.

He said that in the wuxia tales, heroes fought each other sometimes for hundreds of rounds without anyone gaining the advantage over the other, or getting injured. And sometimes they even fought for days!

He said that in real life, if you fought hard with someone for even one hour, even if no one got hurt, you would have had died from the physical exhaustion itself!

I smiled at his humility.

Then I asked him how he eventually defeated Hang Jebat.

He said that he did not really defeat Jebat as much as Hang Jebat allowed himself to be defeated.

Hang Jebat, Hang Tuah revealed, was the more skillful martial artist - in fact, the most skillful of the four legendary warriors.

But Hang Jebat, being the gentleman warrior he was, and a true and honourable friend, decided to turn his back instead of continuing with the fight. That was how Hang Tuah eventually got the upper hand.

I told him that Bolehlanders used to hold him the greatest national hero and one respected and revered by all.

Hang Tuah instead, told me that the real hero should be his comrade Hang Jebat.

Hang Tuah merely saw himself as a strict enforcer, one whose unthinking loyalty had caused the death of his greatest friend and fellow warrior brother.

In fact, he told me that he felt ashamed and defeated.

I said 谢谢 and took my leave of the legend.

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