People around the world celebrate World Earth Day on 22 April every year to create an awareness on the importance to preserve our planet, but why it that Malaysia, under the Ministry of Environment and Water, hardly does anything to commemorate the day? Why is Malaysia quiet on raising environmental issues even though we’re part of UNESCO on most agenda with regards to environment?
Reading this novel by Rumi Al Ghazali triggered us to talk about how important nature is to us. There is a lot of environmental education discussed in the book, especially pertaining to marine life. The author stresses the need to never touch any marine life, whether it’s the coral reef or fishes in the sea. The author also discusses the plight of the leatherback turtles at Rantau Abang, and the reason why the spot is gradually being abandoned by the turtles as their nesting site. He also names the types of marine life that could be deadly to humans when touched.
Other aspects mentioned include the wrong perception that man has on sharks being man eaters, and this was explained in detail from the encounter of Soki and Liki in “Stranded on Kapas Island”.
The author, who was a medical doctor and gained his PhD in tourism, emphasises from the get-go the reason behind him writing this book, i.e.: “to stimulate and nurture the spirit of adventure among young readers to explore the unknown and to learn new things by visiting places they have never been to in Malaysia and around the world.”
“Stranded on Kapas Island” is a rare piece of Malaysian literature. It is a travel and adventure fiction, targeted for children and young adults. However, it is also suitable for adult readers. It has a strong educational component along with the possibility to stimulate tourist visits to Kapas Island.
The book is written in simple English, providing an excellent opportunity to enter the global market. It takes glimpses of what it was like living in the early 1970s in Marang, a fishing village on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
The story is about Soki, a boy from the inland who visits his grandparents living near the coast. The author vividly explains the boy’s first encounter with the sea, in terms of excitement and observation of the beach and sea scenery.
The next day, the grandfather takes him on a fishing trip. Unfortunately, he succumbs to seasickness and he willingly agrees to wait on Kapas island while his grandfather goes fishing alone at sea.
Unfortunately, a storm in the middle of the sea causes the grandfather’s boat to capsize, and the boy now finds himself stranded alone on Kapas island.
Soki now starts exploring the bounties of the island and its surrounding seas. He befriends three large animals; a snake, a turtle and a shark, and quickly discovers that he could communicate with them in several ways. All three animals offer their knowledge and wisdom on how to survive on the island, and begin to lead him through a beautiful journey to reunite him with his injured grandfather on Gem Island.
The description of observation and experience on the island reflects the vast knowledge that the author has with regard to the environment, marine life, spirituality, tourism and even medicine. Perhaps being a medical doctor and having a PhD in tourism along with the skill he has in scuba diving and long-distance swimming has allowed the author to describe in detail aspects such as the underwater scene and the names of certain animal life, the marine life quandaries with humans, and even the various aspects of medical ailments suffered by the characters in the story.
Among the strongest aspects of this book are the beautiful illustrations which appears in every chapter. Even though they’re in simple black and white, the illustrations are able to capture the emotion and spirit of the characters in the book.
The language is written using simple words and not too complex, allowing young readers to follow the story very easily. Each chapter is also short and carefully titled. The story is written in such a way that the reader would love to continue reading, filled with intrigue.
There are also many aspects of empathy shown by the characters within the book: Mek taking Soki to the beach for him to experience the encounter with the sea for the first time, Tokki reading the fact that Soki would prefer to stay on the island rather than going out fishing, Nuwa – Leatherback turtle – when she senses that Soki was in distress and required help, offers her eggs to ensure Soki’s survival, Tina – the python – offering shelter and protection for Soki in the cave, and Liki – the shark – who not only rescues Tokki at sea but also provides sardines for him to survive, and looks after Soki when swimming at night and crossing the straits between Kapas Island to Gem island.
The book also provides some useful skills in the aspects of wilderness survival, counselling and medicine. It details how to look for food on the island for survival. It also displays the art of listening to others who are in distress. There are several simple medical signs and symptoms explained about certain ailments suffered by the characters that might also come in handy one day.
In terms of spirituality, the book provides in detail, the meaning of meditation, how to perform it and its benefits. It emphasises the fact that the meditation discussed in the book has nothing to do with religion, but rather the art to be in the present moment.
The book also contains health education to the young readers. Tok emphasises on the importance of not eating too much, as well as the importance of not talking while eating to prevent any incidences of choking. When the boy meets his grandfather again at Gem island, readers are given the opportunity to know the basic observable signs and symptoms for differentiating closed and open fractures and their implications. The book also explains the signs and symptoms of motion sickness, and how it can be handled without having to take any medication. And last but not least, it ends on a lesson about post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms and how to handle it psychologically.
During his academic career, Rumi Al Ghazali produced over 100 publications, including a total of 10 academic books. He received several excellent awards as a researcher from University Malaya, one of which was the “Distinguished Researcher Award” for social science in 2017. He is currently the most cited tourism professor in Malaysia.
“Stranded on Kapas Island” is his first travel fiction novel which was inspired by his own early childhood experiences. His future travel fiction novels will focus on the experiences in iconic travel destinations in Malaysia and around the world.
“Stranded on Kapas Island” is not only written with education in mind to be imparted to children and young adults, but also has a huge potential to help increase tourist visits to iconic tourism destinations in Malaysia, especially Kapas Island.
To purchase “Stranded on Kapas Island”, visit www.merpatijingga.com