An old friend of mine likes to tell the story of Hang Nadim, the young boy who saved ancient Singapore or Temasek from the attack of shoals of todakor swordfish.The SejarahMelayu or Malay Annals recorded how he suggested that a pagar or fence made of banana tree trunks be placed on the beach. The effort was successful as the swordfishes' snouts were trapped by the barricade of banana stems and thus the lives of many ancient kiasus were saved.
According to legend, TanjongPagarwas the actual location where now huge container ships berth and unberth in what is now the world's busiest port.
Also according to legend, the boy's contribution earned him great respect as well as envy in the royal court. This made several individuals fear the possibility that Hang Nadimmight threaten their influence. In the end, they convinced the ruler SriMaharaja to execute the boy, and the poor fellow was thrown into the sea.
Which goes to show that it doesn't always pay to be such a smarty pants.
Recently, I received an email which suggested that the legendary Melaka warrior Hang Tuahwas actually Chinese and that Hang* can only be a Chinese surname. This supposedly was because the name of the Chinese princess sent as a bride for the Sultan of Melaka by the Emperor of the Middle Kingdom was Hang Li Po. Pure coincidence, I think. The sender very conveniently forgot the story of Hang Nadim which took place much earlier elsewhere.
Which makes one wonder, even if the allegation was indeed true, why do we bother about such an inconsequential thang**, particularly at this time, missing the wood for the trees etc., when there are other important issues at hand.
* Hang (pronounced "Hung") for the uninitiated, I suppose as in William Hung, of theAmerican Idol fame.
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