Illiterate but resilient: Bidayuh widow dreams of someday owning a concrete house in rural Serian

Lauh's wooden house, which was built by her husband before he passed, is surrounded by overgrown vegetation and fruit trees.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Dec 8: A 64-year-old Bidayuh illiterate widow and grandmother, Lauh Tajet, lives alone in an old shabby wooden house in a rural Serian village, Kampung Sg Engkabang B, located along the Serian-Sri Aman Road.

Lauh’s life is that of a typical independent woman in rural Sarawak, trying to make ends meet.

When her husband died in 2001, Lauh knew that she had to survive on her own, despite getting some small measure of help from neighbours and community leaders.

She had to make sure that her family would be taken care of with whatever money she earned by labouring around the village.

Lauh Tajet

Life was a constant struggle, but as soon as her two daughters and her stepson left her to find jobs, it was sheer relief for her.

Lauh said her two daughters only visited her occasionally now, during weekends or festival periods and she had not seen her stepson for a while now.

This writer recently met Lauh at her wooden house, built in the early 90s by her late husband with the help of some villagers.

“This is life in the countryside. This is normal for a village woman like me, living this life to the fullest, and this will be my home till the day I die,” she said with a charming smile.

“Every day, when I wake up and open the door of my house, I embrace the sound of nature that inhabits the surrounding green vegetation,” she added.

Lauh said she hardly thought of the outside world, and listened to her radio and watched television to get the news.

“I don’t understand the gist of it most of the time, and I switch to other channels,” she lamented.

Lauh said she is an independent person and does her farm work alone.

“I will find whatever work is available in the village to earn extra money. Normally, the villager who needs me will inform me earlier, so I have time to prepare,” she explained.

Lauh said she is not a materialistic person, and she is happy with the life that she has now.

“I will buy what I need and save the rest of the money I earn. My daughters did give me some as savings.

“I am sure there are many women, widows, grandmothers like me living alone in Sarawak. This is the only way I know how live my life,” she said.

Lauh added: “If the government and community at large can take notice of us and our life, then it would be good. I don’t ask for a lot because I don’t need much.

“Any form of handout of any kind is welcome as it helps to ease our burden, especially older citizens and people like me.

“I really hope people like me are not a burden to the government or community at large,” she said with a smile.

Lauh revealed that she gets her welfare assistance from the government, and she hoped that they could look into her housing.

“Of course, it is my wish to have a concrete house, but I don’t have enough money to build one.

“The village head in this area has been kindly helping me. I don’t know the details as I am illiterate. We have to wait and see the outcome of my request.

“This is the only property I have, and I love this old wooden house. If there is nothing to be done to help me with my housing, I am okay.

“No matter what, this shabby house is my shelter from the elements. What choice do I have?

“I still welcome my neighbours and a visitor like you,” she said.

Lauh often uses her traditional wood-burning fireplace to cook her meals.

“I believe most people in rural villages are like me. We can survive here, and of course, if there is welfare and assistance to be given to us, we welcome such gestures.

Hailing from a village in Tebedu, Lauh said she thanked the government and the community leaders for helping her all this while.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Lauh said she would exercise her citizen’s duty and right to vote on polling day.

“I will find my way to the polling station at my home village at Tebedu like the previous election. Of course, I know who I am going to vote for, but it is a secret,” she said. — DayakDaily