River shares its bounty with Nenek Tina

Nazir Sufari

THE day is overcast but that will not stop Nenek Tina from going out to hunt for fish and shellfish in Sungai Danga, Johor Baru.

Her real name is Tina Tom, but everyone calls her Nenek. She catches crabs, fish, lokan, kijing, and prawns in the river for a living.

Nenek Tina, in her 60s, is a member of the Seletar tribe, one of the 18 Orang Asli ethnic groups in Malaysia. The Orang Seletar are considered a part of the Orang Laut natives of the Straits of Johor which separate Singapore from Peninsular Malaysia.

Nenek Tina hunts for seafood on the river banks or in a boat. She is usually accompanied by her daughter and grandchildren. Sometimes she and her grandson rows a boat to the mangroves in the river that flows past her village. Even though she needs a motorboat engine that she cannot afford, she refuses to ask for help from others.

If she is lucky, she earns RM50 to RM80 a day but sometimes she earns less. She shares the takings with her daughter who helps her.

The grandmother took over the care of the family, including seven orphaned grandchildren, after her husband fell ill and was unable to work.

She has seven children, three of whom have died.

She lives in the village of Kampung Orang Asli Bakar Batu in Perling, Johor. 

It has been a hard life for this grandmother, who looks older than her years.

Four weeks ago, she lost her beloved dog who was swimming with her grandchildren in Sungai Danga. A crocodile had grabbed the dog, leaving the children to quickly climb out of the water to safety.

The Orang Seletar are finding it hard to adapt to progress and development taking place in Iskandar Malaysia. Their children face an uncertain future.

In the 1960s, the Orang Asli Affairs Department placed the tribe permanently in villages set up specially for them. – November 30, 2021.

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