Where once reserved for royals, modernising the songket means weaving it into the everyday fabric of Malaysian life. As a child, ...
You can’t stop the rain, but you can make a living out of it.
Atop of a sacred mountain sits a man with long white hair wrapped around with a scarf, and on his wrists and neck, some talismans made out of vines and tiger fangs...if this is your depiction of how a bomoh hujan should look like, then Pak Lah is here to give you a reality check.
Even the term "bomoh hujan" is inappropriate; weather consultant is the preferred term to describe Pak Lah’s career.
Pak Lah (real name Abdullah) has been providing weather consultation services to events (everything from international golf tournaments to the biggest music festivals you’ve attended) since 1998 .
“I started off being a weather consultant for TV commercial shoots, then I moved on to movie shoots (Pak Lah even had to be an extra dancing in a movie featuring Maya Karin) and later on my services was requested for events - word of mouth got me here.”
His services is globally requested; after trading a few introductory lines, he shows me an SMS from a customer overseas - Scotland to be precise. As if that was not impressive enough, he explains “I don’t even have to be there. Besides, I don’t speak English well” echoed by a modest chuckle.
Such a bizarre personality, I thought. It’s like I’m imagining him to life.
But truly, how does one begin a career as a weather consultant?
To the uninitiated, a weather consultant is the modern-day term for pawang hujan - a specialist who is able to manipulate rain. However, Pak Lah explains that he does not make the rain stop, but stall the rain or redirect it to another area. “I cannot stop the rain, the rain itself is a form of rezeki. The trees, the birds…they all need rain. I pray and ask God that make the rain pour not unto us, but around us. That’s all I do, pray and zikir; your faith must be impenetrable”
I asked him if he attended a course to become a weather consultant, he replied with confidence and logic that smashed my perception of how to be a weather-wizard. “Ilmu sikit je, anugerah yang banyak” Pak Lah answered nonchalantly. In essence, the knowledge part is just minor, but he believes in using the gift that is bestowed upon him. “Everybody has a gift (anugerah)…it’s just a matter of using it” - that phrase hit me like an existential punch. I further asked about his beginnings as a rain man.
“I was a tukang urut ( a practitioner of naturapathy ) at first - treating patients with fertility problems to diabetes to mending nerves - you name it. Then someone asked me “Pak Lah, can you help clear the rain for an event?”
Undoubtedly he replied “Sure.”
The pulse of Pak Lah’s whole life comes down to faith. It was more apparent when his son, Faisal joined us at the mamak place - an auditor by profession, now dwelling more in the weather consulting “industry”. “The first few instances, I was in awe myself. Of course, I prayed but started off young and unconfident, I was quite shaky at first. But as I said prayers, I saw the sky became clear by the minute. God is great,” Faisal explains before he makes some calls to event organisers - they have quite a few lined up for December.
“It’s a shame not many people want to explore this type of work. Young people these days aim for academic qualifications, but still find it hard to make a living. As for me, on most days it’s raining, especially in this Monsoon season. There’s work for me, that’s my rezeki, and I’m grateful to Allah.”
Pak Lah asked me if I wanted to be a weather consultant he can show me the ropes - dumbfounded, I quickly avoided the topic and asked him to show me his “chamber of secrets”.
As we made our way to the flat block behind, Pak Lah was greeted by everyone - a Chinese uncle introduced Pak Lah to his granddaughter, some random youngsters that he addresses as friends - he is quite the man around town. He stopped by a small grocery store and asked for a pack of Gudang Garam - I offered to pay but the Bangladeshi shopkeeper declined my money. “Pak Lah doesn't have to pay for cigarettes,” dude said in a cool manner. Noted, I kept my money and followed Pak Lah up the stairs and into a flat unit.
Again, my impression of a mystical setting which will make this article more engaging was out the window.
A topless Malay teenage boy lies comfortably on a mattress replying messages on his smartphone as another boy heads out - this is Pak Lah’s treatment room. Well, at least not at the moment. “I usually take time off in December to concentrate on weather consulting - so these kids just come and hang out here” as he explains the types of healing massages that he offers. He shares stories of treating patients - but nothing compared to his own case; a testament of pure knowledge and skill.
Fresh off a motorcycle accident which resulted in broken bones (his shinbone, forearm and chin respectively) , Pak Lah’s leg was in a cast a week ago after being discharged from the hospital. The doctor told him that it will probably take a long time before the damages heal properly. Borderline strong faith or just stark mad, I can’t really express it rightfully - but Pak Lah took matters into his own hands. He tore off the cast and treated himself - and on the third day, he was walking again. As my jaw dropped half way, Pak Lah took a puff of the free-of-charge kretek, and laughed heartily.
We headed down to the mamak join to meet his personal assistant, a neat looking middle-aged fellow by the name of Shafie. Shafie slowly creeps into the conversation - somewhat shy and egoistic, he eases in after we share a few laughs. He manages the business side - which means handling clients’ expectations; and in this line of work it’s really hard to show tangible results.
“There’s not a chart or an app to show how it works…..it God’s work, you know? At one major event I was panicking (which you shouldn’t be during praying) it started to rain and the client was on my neck. I called Pak Lah and told him it was raining. Pak Lah just laughed, so I felt a bit at ease” Shafie recalls one of the days that things just didn’t go right for the team. “If it rains, thank God. If it doesn’t rain, thank God” Pak Lah reminded us all. “If it’s meant to rain, then there’s nothing I can do it about it. The earth needs rain. I give back my clients’ money if it rains. But most of my clients understand - a little bit of rain is acceptable,”
But on a good day, Pak Lah is celebrated even amongst top international CEO’s. At a major golf tournament that stretched for 4 days during the haze a few month prior, the sky blessed distinguished guests with the perfect golfing weather - the official sponsors couldn't hide their amazement of Pak Lah’s services.
Selfies with Pak Lah were a must and of course some jokes were thrown around - not exactly insensitive, but probably a bad impression of what a weather consultant should act like.
Pak Lah remembers a top ranked mat salleh executive threw a line - “Pak Lah, you coconut bomoh?” Disappointed by how the media has depicted the image of a weather consultant (after the appearance of the comical MH370 bomoh in the news), Pak Lah kept his cool and replied - “I’m sorry, I’m not coconut bomoh. I’m a weather consultant”
Apologising and later on praising Pak Lah after 4 days of clear, sunny skies - the mentioned expatriate shouted ecstatically “Pak Lah! You are fantastic! Pak Lah is fantastic!”
Pak Lah bowed down and brought his shoulders forward as his palms came together in praying form. He replies humbly “I’m sorry, I am not fantastic. Allah is fantastic.”
by Smek Almohdzar
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