NB: This article was originally published in my column on The Malaysian Insider.

These are busy and exciting times. I have less than two days to pack for a two-week adventure in a land full of charm and mystique. Besides the usual necessities — toothbrush, clothes, Blackberry (Heaven forbid I forget that) — I will also be stuffing my luggage with bottles and bottles of… shampoo.

Now, I am not particularly fastidious about hair care, but I have heard that where I’m headed, there is a great need for a very special kind of shampoo. You see, in this land not so far away, I have heard that people are suffering from a chronic attack of a noxious condition known simply as “white hair”.

As far as my research has revealed, this plague, colloquially called pek moh, began to manifest exactly 30 years ago. In the beginning it appeared harmless enough, innocently revealing only streaks of silver.

But soon, without anyone realising, it began to burrow itself deep into the earth, spreading its white roots over every inch of fertile soil. Over the years, as the land and its people showed symptoms of progressive “whitening”, so did its grip tighten and its actions emboldened.

Very soon, it became evident that nothing would be spared, not even the lush tropical forest for which this land is famous. The ancient spirits of the forest were helplessly driven away as trees were felled, ignominiously sacrificed as a source of nutrient for this debilitating disease.

Not unlike cancer, this malignant pathogen displays traits of uncontrolled growth, greedily invading and intruding upon every resource that it can scour, living or otherwise. Such is the nature of its hegemony that it will continue to infest until eventually it will lay waste to a land once proud and green.

White hair or pek moh is not only a ruthless pathogen, it is also a master of deception. In order to beguile its victims, it releases endorphins to create short-term pleasure and a false sense of prosperity while it continues to plunder the land and flaunt a lifestyle of debauchery.

In fact, stories now abound of its plan to secure the future of its genetic legacy. Through an elaborate gestation process, during which all other rival chromosomes were eliminated, it has now spawned progeny that have in turn infected the land and continued its callous tradition of unscrupulous pillaging of natural resources. Not a single inch of soil in this land is safe so long as any trace of this carcinogenic pathogen remains.

But there have been attempts at finding a cure. A famous effort was made by a legendary expert from Switzerland. He was a green warrior, a defender of nature and sworn protector of the jungle and its inhabitants.

He had lived in this land for many years, assimilating himself with the nomadic way of his chosen tribe. Finally, infuriated over the plundering of his adopted land and provoked by the ravaging of his adopted sisters, the nomadic women, he rose up to challenge the formidable might of pek moh and its retinue of sycophantic viruses.

Alas, this warrior was but one and his antibodies were no match to the poisonous germs. He has since been silenced, never to be heard of again. He remains today a martyr in the war against the scourge known as white hair.

However, pek moh’s strength is not absolute, for nothing in nature is so. Though at times seemingly indomitable, it is compelled to renew its powers in a periodic phenomenon that occurs every four to five years.

Such a phenomenon, I have come to learn, is about to take place a fortnight from now. It is an event that enjoins the entire land, uniting and in some cases dividing its inhabitants. It is an event that puts the fate of the land in the hands of its people, and failure to respond will result in a more severe bout of the plague.

However, caution must now abound, for it is precisely at this time that pek moh’s devious methods are intensified, as it will do everything within its power to maintain its iron grip. Even as I prepare myself to face such a menace, I am ever cautious of the sheer power of its incumbency.

Yet I am also quietly hopeful. I believe the era of the white scourge is nearing its end, because as toxic and contagious as pek moh’s infectious virus may be, it is no match to the collective antibodies of the people. But the key word is collective. The ailing people have long been divided, and the task to unite them requires much assistance.

There is no magical vaccine, but recently, a special anti-white hair formula has been developed and packaged into a shampoo bottle. This 2-in-1 serum is designed not only to cull the white roots, but also to ensure that the disease remains in remission.

If enough people apply this shampoo over the coming fortnight, there is every possibility that white hair will begin to shed and be replaced by a new coat of healthy locks.

A brighter future beckons for this great land and its people. But there is yet much work to do if our friends are to be saved. Meanwhile, I think I need an extra bag.