Tuesday, April 26, 2005On Sunday, channel-surfing brought me to TV3's "Nona" where a couple of young ladies who latah were talking about their experiences. It was an eye-opener for me because hitherto, I always thought only old people got afflicted by this latah syndrome. I have been entertained many times by matrons of Merang and elsewhere who split our sides with their antics during latah.
I also thought that only Malays latah. Again, I was wrong. I surfed and learnt that latah is also prevalent in China where it was called "koro". The Eskimo also latah. They called it "piblokto" while the Ainu of Japan called it "imu".
Apparently, latah is not regarded as a mental illness, at least not in Malaysia. There is no stigma attached to this affliction. People who latah are a source of amusement. No weddings or kacau dodol sessions are complete without at least one latah person to add to the merriment. Once poked, the latah person will act or speak as suggested. In fact, the latah person needs not even be poked by anyone. He or she can start his or her antics once startled. It was said that a similar situation happened in the part of Johor where there are many parit.
A straight-forward man married rather late to a younger lady who is latah. They were on the way home after visiting the girl's mother. When crossing a small bridge over the parit (actually more of a canal than a drain), the lady was startled by a large green lizard who fell from one of the overhanging coconut trees. All at once the lady screamed out repeatedly that a part of her anatomy fell. The husband, the straight-forward man that he is, and getting used to marital bliss wasted no time in jumping into the canal, purportedly to retrieve his wife's missing part.