When I grow up, I want to be a rempit…


Written on 10/10/2006 12:05:00 am by sikapitan

From the rear-view mirror, I could see clusters of spotlights raining down on my car as I was cruising sedately along the highway. There was a slight buzzing sound in the distance, but it was being drown out by my juicy stereo belting out Tender by Blur. Slowly, and just like being attacked by killer wasps, the buzzing got louder, until the rising crescendo overtook even my maxed-out speakers. Suddenly they were right by my side, a bunch of mat rempits in black tees streaking past at speeds above 100 km/h, with some not even bothering to wear helmets. They were weaving in and out of traffic, doing wheelies and Superman. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no…it’s Mat Rempit!

I’ve read that rempit means illegal racer. I laughed at this definition as the term rempit no longer denotes one particular activity, but describes an entire lifestyle. That is why it is wrong to say all motorcyclists are rempits, and vice-versa. Heck, you can still be a rempit even if you don’t own a bike! I mean, wearing an oversized Fred Perry striped polo, tight jeans, canvas shoes and black cap automatically makes you a rempit to some people, even if you drive a red-hot VW Golf GTi. It encompasses the type of music you listen to, the type of movie you watch, even the type of girls you hang out with. It’s about the attitude, something like hip-hop.

They used to be the marginalized group in the bustling metropolis known as Kuala Lumpur. Mat rempits are often associated with various social ills, and no amount of wheelies can redeem them in the eyes of right-minded members of our society. They still are, and sometimes their actions in public reaffirm all those negative perceptions we have of them. Yet, times have never been better for the Mat Rempits.

It started with the abolishment of road tax for bikes below 150cc and reduction of tax for other bikes. It means that more and more people can afford to start with motorbikes, and while the intention is noble (it helps combat rising fuel costs and eased the burden of smaller income earners), it also encourage younger people to pick up bikes when they are still in high school. Is it any wonder then that in my neighborhood, in the midst of sprawling Subang Jaya, there are kids racing without helmets in the middle of the night, just as if I was in Kampung Medan or Pasir Mas? The rise in the cost of petrol further strengthens the case for owning a bike.

Then, this year’s surprise box-office hit is a Malay movie that glorifies the devil-may-care attitude of this group. Unsurprisingly, it is titled Remp-it. Suddenly, it is cool to be Mat Rempits, despite the lame effort at the end of the movie to show that Mat Rempits would meet untimely deaths. Looking at the antics of the Rempits in the middle of Kuala Lumpur every weekend, one would think that serious measures would be implemented to stop them.

Yet, just recently, they were deemed“assets of the nation”. Pity those who drive around in cars then, for surely, if there is a case to be made for social clubs and racing privileges, those in cars deserve as much as Mat Rempits. Now, the fine for not wearing helmets has been reduced to RM30. Life is certainly looking rosy for the Mat Rempits.

If you have been to developed countries in the West (or Japan), you would notice that there is very few motorcyclists on the road. Is it something we should ponder as we head towards developed-nation status that the number of motorcyclist in Malaysia is increasing instead?

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