Saturday, December 22, 2012

A New Clerk On The House

     In my previous posting, I wrote about attending an interview as a clerk towards the end of 1976 and the following year I was appointed as a clerk at Sekolah Menengah Datuk Bentara Luar, Batu Pahat or in English, Datuk Bentara Luar Secondary School (SDBL).

     January thirteenth saw me riding Dad's scooter Vespa JC2551 to SDBL at Lim Poon road, Batu Pahat.  Prior to that, I had made a preliminary inquiry of the location of the school with Romli a few days before.  It was around fifteen minutes after eight o'clock in the morning as I ascended the slope towards the office and politely knocked on the door.  A pleasant lady looked up from her desk and beckoned to me to enter, smiling sweetly, cheering me up.  This lady whom I met the other day, was the senior clerk, Miss Siti Rosmah bte Hj Tahir.
Datuk Bentara Luar Secondary School, Batu Pahat
     Cik Rosmah instructed me to start work.  The first task that I needed to do was typing the pay-sheet where all the particulars about the salaries of the school staff had been drafted on the typewriter. There were no computers at all at that school and perhaps also in the whole of Malaysia at that time.  I was at home with the typewriter but typing numbers was a great challenge that made unhappy because the keys on the typewriter were very high up and furthest from my tired fingers as I had to knock on every button fiercely to ensure that the number appeared clearly.  Furthermore, I couldn't afford to make mistakes.  I couldn't imagine what would happen if I missed one '0' when typing the salary of a teacher who was entitled to get $800.00 per month.  However, I had no choice but to do it, since this was what I applied for, didn't I?

     Madam Siti Rosmah always introduced me to every teacher who walked into the office.  "Let me introduced Borhanudin, the new clerk..."  And the male teachers would offer their hands as a gesture of welcome, which I quickly took happily, eager to be accepted as a member of the school community.

     I could remember the exact number, but there were many teachers at SDBL.  There were Malays, Chinese and Indians a majority of which were the Malays.  I could still remember a few names such as Paiman Hussein, Mashudan Kamar, Kadir Bawok, Yusof Abdul Rahman, Rubaie Sulaiman, Mahadhir (an Indian Muslim) and Chan.

     At a corner was the office boy named Rahim.  He had a nasty look, just like the look of a rogue.  His hair was a little bit long and curly that seemed to cling to his scalp nastily.  He never smiled.  One look at him made me resented him.  I made up my mind not to go near him.

     During lunch break, walked a Laboratory Attendant by the name of Senin into the office.  He said he had been instructed to bring me to a 'Ustaz' religious teacher's house as I would be staying with him (the Ustaz) while I worked at SDBL and be paying part of the house rent to him.  The house was not far from the school.

     At four o'clock, I 'went back' to the house that I rented with the Ustaz.  The word 'went back' didn't seem right because I still hadn't felt that I belonged to that house or it was my home.  I had an easy chat with him.  He told me that he lived there with another teacher who still hadn't come back from his kampung.  When I moved in, the number of tenants increased to become three people.

     "Actually, I didn't want to accept you in the house, but En Arif (the school Headmaster) asked me to take you."  That was one sentences articulated by Ustaz that stunned me and made me unhappy.  However, I did not voice my desolation, but kept deep within myself.

     "You can use ... (the name of the other teacher that I had forgotten) bed,"  Ustaz said.

     "Thanks," I replied, but I was adamant not to use his bed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lost and Found

     In my posting under the title 'Form Six (Part 2)', I wrote about that year's end-of-year school holidays was my last school holidays at the private school.  I did not go back to that school the next year and I did not meet any of my friends in the Englismh class except one, after so many years.  Coincidentally he was married to a female colleague of mine when we were at a high learning institution.

     During the fasting month in 1976, I received a letter from the Civil Service Department requesting me to go for an interview as a clerk at Dato' Palembang Primary School, Bukit Baru, Malacca.  The interview would be held on the second last day of the fasting month starting from 8.00 am. to 4.00 pm.  I went for the interview on that date starting the journey at around 7.00 am with my cousin Romly on his father's scooter, Vespa BAA 1390.
Datuk Palembang National School, then it wasn't this beaut...

     The next day, I ferried Kak Long on my father's scooter, Vespa to the same school as she had to undergo the same interivew.  After the interview, we rode our scooter from the school towards the junction where we would turn towards Muar.  Whether there was no signboard or I just couldn't see one that showed the way to Muar, I stopped at a junction and tried to think of the way to Muar.  On my left was a hill on which there were a lot of chinese graveyards (I didn't realize that it was 'Bukit China'), on my left were rows of buildings and in front were the same.  I decided to go straight and soon saw Banda Hilir in front of me.  Surely, this was not the right path, so I turned right (I couldn't turn back as the road was a one-way street).  After a few turns, we came to the same junction that we met after we left the school.  I started to get worried.  I dared not turn right, or else the road might bring me farther away from home.  I tried to gamble my chance, so I went straight for the second time.

     Once again I reached the same junction and one again I stopped.  My sister who sensed my anxiety, asked me whether we had lost our way which I replied yes.

     "That is Bukit China. Muar must be that way to the left," she said.

     My God, how silly I was!  Surely we had to go left.  Why didn't I think about it before?  Thanks to my sister.  She's an angel.

     Thus, that was how I found my way home.  I had shown my stupidity by not asking her opinion but fortunately had accepted hers when she offered it.  Moral of the story: do not underestimate a lady, she might be your saviour.
Kak Long with her husband on her wedding day...
      At the beginning of January the following year, I got a letter offering me a job as a clerk at Datuk Bentara Luar Secondary School in Batu Pahat.  When I accepted the offer, the problem that I faced at form six in Akademik Daya was solved.  Thus my new life began.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My School Days (Part Three)

(This third and last part of "I Still Remember"that appeared on SMK Tengku Mahkota's school magazine saw me putting pen to paper about a small problem that soon developed into a big crisis.  However, every cloud has a silver lining.  What did I do to solve the problem.  Just enjoy reading ...)

One night, my father asked me to get ready.  “I’m going to send you to Mak Ngah Besah’s house.  Her daughter, Ros will help you in Arithmetics.”  I quickly got ready an exercise book and some writing materials.  Out we went, in the dark cool night, to Mak Ngah Besah’s house not far from our home.

Kak Ros was a nice lady. She tried hard to make me understand the lessons but in vain.  The strange new environment, my shyness and my inhibitance prevented me from gaining any new knowledge during the first part of my tuition periods.  However, I did not make a lot of progress.  I still couldn’t remember how to solve problem questions, although I had started to get interested in shapes.  Although I read aloud repeatedly every day, it was still very hard to remember the multiplication tables.
Kak Ros (left) who gave me personal tuition on Arithmetics.  This picture was taken this year (2011)

Those were the problems I faced in my attempt to learn Arithmetics and Mathematics while in primary school.  When I enrolled in High School Muar for my secondary education, my problems did not seem to disappear.  I still failed my monthly tests and exams.  To make the matter worse, another subject accompanied Mathematics.  Now, there were two very difficult subjects to learn; Mathematics and Science.  The problem continued until I was in form three.

Mr Chiam Tah Meng, my Form Three Mathematics teacher at High School Muar
Every day and night, my parents prayed to God so that I could be relieved of my problems.  Probably their prayers were answered because suddenly I had a nice surprise.  All of a sudden, I passed the February test in form three.  This reward made me feel very happy.  I valued the change so much that the answer sheet found its way into my wallet and stayed there for a few months until it became so soiled. The transformation boosted up my courage.  I needed to be well versed in the subject that I had begun to like.  Looking around for help, somebody told me that there was a tuition class held at Lorong Serkam once a week.  My spirit rose, I registered for the class to get some guidance.  The lessons seemed to be easy this time.  The tutor’s explanation was crystal clear.  I could understand almost every topic taught.  Bursting with enthusiasm, I tried to do every exercise I could find based on the topics that I had learnt.  At school, when Mr Chiam Tah Meng gave me some exercises, I did every one enthusiastically.  I made a correction to every mistake.  In addition,  I did a lot of other sums that he did not give in the text book, then compared my answers with those in the answer key at the back page.  I did the sums again and again whenever I got wrong answers, until I arrived at the correct answer. 

After that, mathematics seemed to become easier and easier until I was rewarded with credit five for it in the Lower Certificate of Education.   (Lower Certificate of Education was the exam that students in form three had to pass so that they could continue their studies in form four.  If not, they had to ‘retain’, that is they had to study in form three again and sit for the same examination at the end of that year.  Worse came  to worst, they had to enroll in a private school and study in form three again before sitting for LCE at the end of the year.)

            Looking back, now I realize that not all things that looked difficult initially, is indeed difficult.  It may seem so at first, but as we grow more matured, our intelligence do help us a lot.  As a friend says, “Things are difficult to you if you do not know them, but once you do, everything is easy.”

My School Days (Part Two)

(The article below is the second excerpt of "I Still Remember"that appeared on SMK Tengku Mahkota's school magazine.  I regret that Part Two appears first before Part One.  Enjoy reading maa...)

     Part One of 'My School Days' was my first experience attending school in Standard One.  In the second part of the article, I related about the first problem that I encountered as a Standard One fearful school boy at Primary Ismail School Two. Muar in the sixties.

            That was the first day of school.  During that time, there were no nurseries or ‘Tadika’ or ‘Taski’ or Tadika Perpaduan’; therefore, we only started learning alphabets and numbers in Standard One.  One interesting thing was, we learned everything in English except Bahasa Malaysia (at that time it was called ‘National Language’), totally contrast to what my brother and sister did at the Malay school.  We learnt to say “Please teacher may I go out?” and so on.

            At school, everything went well until I started to get a wrong answer for my arithmetic sums.  Disappointed to see a cross made by the teacher on the page, I slashed the wrong answer with my pencil, again and again, making a black patch on it. 

After that, things seemed to go wrong with mathematics.  I found it difficult to understand the lessons taught.  The teacher seemed to go very fast with their lessons but timidity got the better of me; I did not have the courage to ask any questions.  I squirmed every time the Math teacher came.  I hated every homework given by him, felt very relieved whenever he was absent, hoped he would be absent again the next day.  And then, when I saw that he came the next day, I felt so disappointed I could have killed myself.

There was one day when Mr Gurnam Singh, the Headmaster himself came to our class.  He instructed all of us to stand up and recite the multiplication table.  The whole class recited in chorus.  Slowly he moved towards me and stopped in front of me.  Being a small boy, my eye level was only at his huge stomach.  I dared not look up as I was nervous.  My palms started to be clammy, my limbs were numb, cool sweat trickled down my spine.  Why he didn’t he walk off?  Why did he stop in front of me?  And stood right there?  A string of questions raced in my mind.  I had to relieve myself of my sufferings.  I had to see why he stood in front of me for ages.  Slowly I looked up at his face.  Wah! Blood drained away from my face.  My heart beat very fastHe was looking down at me!  Frowning!  He looked serious!  He was looking at my lips, to see whether I was reciting the correct table.  I stammered.  I couldn’t remember whether I was reciting the correct table or not.  My mind was blank.  Then he walked away.  I heaved a sigh of relief.  My God!  What an experience.
Could this be the Mr Gurnam Singh that I was telling the readers?  I'm not sure (he looks so young) as I found this picture on the internet.  Besides, it seems to me that all singhs look alike.  Sorry about that.  To Mr Singh, if you happen to read this article, I have always respected you and still do.

The problem changed from bad to worse.  As I could not pass mathematics in every every test, I began to hate the subject.  I envied my friends who always got good grades in every test and exam.  The marks in their report cards were always written in blue while those in mine were stained with red. 
I remember a friend of mine who faced the same problem.  He was so eager to present to his parents a report card where the marks were written beautifully in blue.  On one test, he happened to be absent for Math.  He thought that he would pass all the test without the subject that he hated.  Lo and behold! Suddenly he failed another subject.  How frustrated he was!  To make himself happy, he rubbed off the red mark and changed it with a blue one.  His father didn't find out the fraud, but his class teacher did.  The rest is history.

     How can I make myself pass my tests? I began to lose hope, did not know what to do.  I left it to destiny to decide.  

My School Days (Part One)

(The article below is an excerpt of an article which I wrote that appeared on SPEKTRUM 24th Edition, 2010, a magazine produced by SMK Tengku Mahkota Muar.  Immediately I made up my mind to post this piece of writing on this blog since it would save me some effort in updating it.  The item, bearing the same title "I Still Remember" made up of almost 1800 words.  Although it only filled one page of the magazine, I think it is too long to be posted on this site which, for that reason, I decided to break it up into a few parts.  The one below is, of course, Part One.  Enjoy reading.)

            In the sixties, some schools used the Malay language as a medium of instruction while others used English.  National schools such as ‘Sekolah Kebangsaan Bakri Batu 5’ used the Malay language; which means at that school, every subject was taught in Malay except the English language.  On the other hand, at ‘Sekolah Ismail Dua’, every subject was taught in English apart from Bahasa Malaysia and ‘Agama Islam’.
This is not Sek. Keb. Bakri Batu 5 in the 60s, but there was a resemblance

Being the third child in the family, I had an elder sister and an elder brother, both of them studied at a ‘Sekolah Kebangsaan’ (Dad referred to it as a ‘Malay school’) half a mile away from our home.  They walked to and from school each day with a lot of their friends.  Since they learnt everything except the English Language in Malay, I used to hear my elder brother reading loudly at home.  I thought to myself, when the time came for me to go to school, I would also be like him, reciting printed words at the top of my voice.

I still remember that day when I was lying in my father’s lap (I was quite small at that time) one late afternoon.  My mother was at the kitchen preparing dinner for the family.  Though still very young, I was already able to talk and understand some dialogues around me.

            “Do you want to go to a Malay school or an English school?” Dad asked me.

            I didn’t understand what he meant.  Since English school was mentioned last, straight away I answered “English!” without thinking.

            Consequently, Dad registered me at an English school when I was seven.  He took me to Ismail School Two in town (now Sekolah Ismail Dua) on his Vespa scooter and left me at the mercy of the teachers.  The class teacher (after that I learnt her name was Mrs. Chong) brought me to a classroom, “Standard One Suloh” where about forty boys were sitting behind oversized desks.  Mrs. Chong made me sit on a chair.  I looked around the classroom and saw two of my cousins also sitting in the same room.  We waved at each other, relieved to find someone whom we knew.

            Then there was a loud rang.  It was recess time.  Mrs. Chong made us line up two by two.  “Small boys in front, big boys behind”, she barked.  When she was satisfied with the line, we marched towards the canteen. 

On the way to the canteen, we passed two blocks of classroom buildings.  When we got near the canteen, sweet aroma met my nostrils, making me hungry.  Probably other boys in the group also felt the same.  I saw a lot of big boys; Malays, Chinese and Indians busy buying food and drinks.  Looking around, I saw piles and piles of food on a long and high counter, as high as my chin.  There were fried bananas, curry puffs, “kuih bom”, fried noodles, rambutans and a lot of other foods which I could not remember.   Apart from fried noodles, the kuihs cost five cents per piece.  In case some of the readers do not understand “kuih bom”, it was a kind of cake made from banana mixed with flour and shaped into a small ball, as big as a boy’s fist.  Nowadays, this type of ‘kuih’ is only as big as a child’s fist; more or less thirty sen per piece. 
A school premis in the 60s. 

I approached a big pan on which a mountain of fried bananas were placed and took one.  Actually, one piece of banana was sliced at one end.  Then another sliced banana was attached to it, dipped in flour mixture and fried.  The price was five cents.  Dad gave me ten cents that morning.  After eating the warm, soft and sweet fried banana, I drank a plastic glass of cool sweet drink, also costing me five cents.
            When it was time to go home, once more we were made to line up two by two.  Outside the school gate, I saw Dad waiting for me on his scooter.  Ahh, soon I would be home!   

Becoming A Form Six Student (Part Two)

The Private School where I registered as a form six student offered two medium of form six; Malay and English classes.  I decided to enroll in the English class as I had started with English since Standard One.

This dilapidated building could be once the private school where I enrolled as a student.

     Everything went well at first.  I enjoyed the lessons given by young and energetic teachers.  But it didn't shine until evening.  One day, a teacher was absent.  Then another one.  Then, another.  Later, we found out that these younger teachers were university students teaching part-time during their semester break.  They quit from teaching as they had to go back to campus for a new semester, deserting us like stray chickens.  We had to wait for another bunch of teachers to lead us the way to university.
This is another one.

     Time dragged slowly.  We waited for weeks, then months, for new teachers to come, but in vain.  We were left far behind in our lessons by the Malay class.  Eventually, the Headmaster came to see us.  We knew he had come to offer us a solution to our problem.

     "Students, the school is not able to find teachers for the English class.  It's already September.  You are free to make a choice.  If you join the Malay class, we won't charge you any fee until the end of the year.  If you want to choose another school, we can't stop you."  After that statement, the Headmaster left.  We were stunned and quiet for a few seconds, sad and at the same time, angry.

     Reluctantly, I entered the Malay class, worried as I, with a few other students from the English class was left far behind in our lessons, apart from having to familiarise ourselves with malay terms that we would find in our lessons.  Life had to continue.  As a student, I couldn't concentrate on the lessons.  I didn't quite remember the results of my End-of-year examination.  I wanted to get out of that place and my prayers were answered.  Hence, the end-of-year school holidays was the last school holiday for me at the school as I did not come back the next year.  How would my Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan examination be?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kenang Daku Dalam Doamu (Forget Me Not)

    (I met this draft when I was browsing the dashboard.  I feel it's a waste of effort if I did not post it.  So, here it is.  I did not edit it again.  May be I will, some day)

     When I was small, I could not listen to the radio as my Dad's only antique radio was out of order.  However, that did not prevent me from listening to songs as most of my neighbours possessed a radio each.  Since at that time most of them owned transistor radios which when the volume was raised to maximum was very loud.  The sound reached my eager ears.  Through their radios I learned to listen to songs.  But I was brought up in the country where all of the villagers were malays, therefore the radio which was called 'Radio Malaysia' only broadcast malay songs.  One of the songs that I used to hear was 'Kenang Daku Dalam Doamu' (Forget Me Not).  In this song, the singer pleads to his beloved who has gone for good, not to forget him.  I didn't pay much attention to this song when it was aired on radio, but one day, after hearing it being sung by a cousin, it brought back sweet memories to me.  It reminded me of the good time when I was a kid.

               *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *      
      Dad's house where I was staying was situated along Jalan Bakri, the road leading to Johor Bahru, the capital of Johore State in Malaysia.  On its left was Mak Andak's (my auntie) house, on the left Mak Usu's (also my auntie; my mother's younger sister) house.   Behind Dad's house was Mak Itam's (another auntie; my mother's elder sister) house.  Since Mak Itam's house was about 150 metres behind Dad's, there was ample space for us small boys and girls to do our activities.  Another place that sometimes we gathered to do our activities was on the left of Mak Itam's house.