02 March 2016

The mat rempit is a truly Malaysian being. It’s a term that garners strong reactions and media portrayals of the rempit stereotype only deepens their controversy. What is it like to be on the other side of the story? We find out from a self-proclaimed rempit.

The term mat rempit is one that is fraught with negative connotations. Wikipedia describes it as “an individual who participates in illegal street racing”, usually involving underbone motorcycles, colloquially known as kapcai, or scooter. What we fail to understand is that the mat rempit, as painted by the media, is very different from the ones who actually live the true blue mat rempit lifestyle.

To dig deeper, we speak to Adi (not his real name), who shared about the life he had as as rempit. A reformed criminal, Adi tells us: a rempit and a criminal on a bike are two different things. Adi was a boy who grew up in flats with parents who had below average incomes. Adi explains further that he does not blame his parents for his actions later in life. He only blames himself.

The main reason why he details the conditions he grew up in was to highlight that the only available mode of transport for the family was a kapcai, thus he learnt how to ride the bike early on. He explains further that growing up, he didn’t have toys like other kids to play with but he enjoyed riding the kapcai around his housing area everyday. People called him a rempit for his love of riding motorcycles. He enjoyed the freedom felt at high speeds where he could forget the hardships of his life.

But what is the true meaning of rempit? Adi explains that a rempit is one who loves riding motorcycles because of the pleasure derived from the experience, rather than for the functional purpose of getting from point A to point B. He elaborates that his difficult financial situations introduced him to a motorcycle, but he grew to love them over time. He learnt everything there was to learn about motorcycles; he even worked part-time at a workshop to gain more experience about bikes.

Adi says, “I was a free spirit who merely enjoyed riding like how others enjoy playing football.” The moment his life changed for the worst was when he succumbed to peer pressure. He blames himself for being weak and unable to resist the bad influence surrounding him. He admits that the adrenaline produced from performing illegal activities had its appeal, but he realised that such a life was not one worth living as it granted him no peace or sustenance. The years went by and his peers either changed their ways or were arrested by the police. As his circle dwindled, he decided it was time to escape from this life.

Moving on wasn’t easy. He had to move out from his community and distance himself from all the negative influences in his life. As he did not have a higher learning degree or any professional qualification, he struggled to find a stable job that paid the bills. He continued to work in a workshop, knowing that he was good at it due to his love for motorcycles.

Today, Adi is the proud owner of his own workshop in Kepong and continues to work on motorcycles everyday. He also helps kids and young adults who wish to learn the art of motorcycles. He hopes his guidance will help them realise that being a rempit is not as it is portrayed by the media. Being a rempit is much more peaceful and calm – it’s the freedom provided by the open road when you are alone with your thoughts on a motorcycle. He enjoys riding after work around the area and states, “Riding a motorcycle still feels the same as it did 10 years ago. I love it and that has never changed.”

By Syafeeq Zaki
Photos by Syafeeq Zaki