Blessed all along (part 2.2)

Life in Gopeng was fun. After school, if I didn’t plan anything with my schoolmates, I would spend the time climbing from tree to tree. I’d be extra brave come the rambutan or the cashew season. No matter how small the branch was, I’d try my best to tiptoe like an acrobat on a tight rope, carefully to reach that glorious yellow or reddish fruits. When there was nothing else to do, I’d simply grab a machete and started clearing the bushes around my grandfather’s house or I’d grab a scraper and started sweeping all the dry leaves. The house was built close to a buried tin mine, so most of the earth around the house was sandy and white in colour. When I cleared the leaves, it would look like someone just rolled out a very big white mattress. It was a very very beautiful sight indeed. I got the pictures of it in one of my albums in KL.

My mother on seeing me doing all those kampung jobs, would reminisce of the time when her father was still alive and how he was a very hardworking man providing for the family, keeping the house tidied up, planting all those trees and a very silent person and a gentleman. Sometimes she’d make a jug of lemonades and brought out one of the coffee tables and we’d sit underneath the trees, enjoying the breeze, the fruits, and simply taking in the moment as it passed through our lungs, our hearts and our minds.

A year passed by, already I’ve been representing the school in various activities, handball, rounders, religious competitions (tilawah and storytelling!) and I’ve built some wonderful bonds. We’d visit each other during the raya time, chatting as if there was an endless streams of issues ranging from puppy love, x-men, our ambitions, our dreams, what our girlfriends would be like, there was nothing else to worry about.

Standard 6, 1995. I was appointed as one of the prefects. Cool, we had to wear blue blazers. At that time I went to school using a bicycle, with the small basket in front of the handles. Most of the students used that type of bicycle, so we can put our bags in the said basket. Oh my God, I’m literally laughing whilst typing this. Wearing blazers plus riding bicycles with black shoes. Talk about fashion sense!

UPSR was around the corner. I was quite weak in Mathematics. So my mother sent me to a tuition class. The tutor was an old Malay lady, Puan Azizah (a very old and nostalgic name don’t you think?) whose English was awesome. She loved to cook and she’d give out some kuihs or meals at the end of every tuition. A very strict and a loving person. In front of her I was not afraid to reveal what I was weak at. I owed a lot to her. Because of what she taught me, I managed to get all A’s and not afraid of Mathematics anymore.

On the day the result came out, 4 out of 6 of the X-Boys managed to get all A’s. We were overjoyed and felt a bit of pity for the the other 2. We could only comfort them with meaningless words. I forgot what event was going on on that day but I remember vividly that there was a stage already set up and the 4 of us requested to perform a song. It was Untukmu! The KRU’s version! Almost fell out of my chair laughing there. Truth be told, we embarrassed the frogs and its kin, luckily it didn’t rain. My father gave me RM200 as a gift.The world was ours!

*****

When the end of year school holiday started, I would cycle to school everyday, just to check if there was any letters for me. I mean it, literally every day.”Nanti adalah tu offer nak masuk asrama penuh, jangan tinggal sembahyang, doa banyak-banyak”, my mother comforted me. “Pak cik Mokhtar, surat untuk saya ada ke?” my usual line. “Entohle, tengokla dalam office tu”, the school gardener’s typical answer. He was probably bored of it already.

Then one fateful day, just before I could utter the same question, he said, “Hah tu ada surat tu, besor sampulnye”. My heart was palpitating like mad. I ran into the office, grabbed the letter, thanked Pak Cik Mokhtar and sped home. “Ma, wa dapat surat ma!” I yelled just when I arrived at the gates. She opened it. “Sekolah Menengah Sains Pokok Sena, tak pernah dengar pun. Nanti mama call kawan mama kat kementerian”. I read the contents of the mail over and over again. “Tarikh pendaftaran: 7 Januari 1996”. About one and a half to two months to go. I couldn’t remember exactly how long it was till that date . But I was excited and proud. Sekolah Berasrama Penuh. Elite club for the selected.That was the notion that came to my mind.

 

To be continued…

When I was in Gopeng, KRU was really really really big. All the girls wanted them, and the boys well we wanted to be them.

fun fact: Kampung KRU is in Gopeng and one of the X-Boys is closely related to them. ^_^

Blessed all along (part 2.1)

On the morning that my mother wanted to enroll me in SRK Gopeng, I felt uneasy. “Another induction process, urghhh”, I hesitated. But my mother pulled my hand. My sister was already waiting. We walked to the school. It wasn’t that far. When I was in Kuala Lumpur, my sister and I walked a much further distance. Initially in KL, my mother paid for one of the school vans to pick us up. But, I got into a lot of fights with the older boys. I was not sure why the bullying trend didn’t get much attention those days. These older students would either shove you for no reason or simply would grab the food in your hand. I got my songkok thrown around on one of those occasions. I was quite tall for my age. I didn’t choose to back down. I would simply pounce on them until somebody stopped the fight. I knew I had only me. My mother was too busy with her school stuffs.  Eventually the news got to her, as one of the parents of the older boys came to my house. The older boy was crying saying I hit him. My mother knew me. She just absorbed whatever they were saying. “Kamu jalan kaki je la wa lepas ni”, she said afterwards. I just nodded.

Ohh where were we? Oh yeah first day in SRK Gopeng. The headmaster was a well known public figure. He’s a Dato’ now. Dato’ Siva Subramaniam. My mother recognized him and told me that he was one of the big guns in Cuepacs at that time. Again, I just nodded.

The tallest structure in that school were and still are the flagpoles. There is no double storey building at all. Not one. It was quite pleasant for me because I didn’t feel confined and in fact it was a welcoming sight. The gardens were well taken care of. The students didn’t seem like the hostile type. After a brief introduction with the headmaster, one of the teachers asked me my last exam result. “Ohh bagus ni, kami letak anak kamu dalam kelas yang pertama lah, 5 Pilihan”. My mother’s face was beaming after hearing such statement. “Kamu belajar betul-betul, mama kena pergi kerja. Balik karang kamu tahu jalan kan?” she asked. “Wa tahu, jangan riso le”. “Jangan di tinggal adik kamu tu”, and with that she left.

Immediately, when I entered the class, some of the boys approached me. Curious apparently.

In just one day, I felt welcomed. We talked as if we had known each other for so long. They were interested in my stories from KL and Cameron and I was interested in learning the local ways, the dialect, the interesting stuffs, the pastime activities. There was only one thing I didn’t tell them. I didn’t tell them because my mother told me not to. I looked at it as a must-keep-secret secret until I was about 17 years old when something happened and changed my perspective on the said secret. I’ll probably write down about what has happened but no promises 😛 .

So there was I, blending in nicely and I even formed a group based on one of the most popular cartoon series at that time, the X-Men! We called ourselves the X-Boys. HAHA kinda lame and dorky when I look at it now. Every now and then, while waiting for the teacher for the next subject to come in, we would write the names of the X-Men heroes on small little pieces of paper, crumpled them, put them in a box and passed the box around our tables. So for that day, whoever got whatever name that was written on the paper that he picked would be that character. There were Beast, Cyclops, Gambit, Cable, Colossus, and Wolverine. I loved Gambit so much. I still do actually. I was quite excited when I knew Gambit would be introduced in the X-Men, The Origins: Wolverine movie. Although he was only in the frame for like 15-20 mins, but to see your childhood hero materialized in a movie played by real people and doing one of his cool moves with his cards was like “SQUEALLL”!! Haha. My favourite line of his from the cartoon series: “The name is Gambit, remember it”, and then tebabo!!!!!! his cards exploded.

Man talking about my childhood hero has taken me away from the mood that I was supposed to be in to write this chronicles. I guess this is another “to be continued…

Blessed all along (part 2)

from part 1…

As a few weeks went by, the students around the school would refer to me as ‘that budak kl’. People’s expectation were quite high. “Awak dulu main bola mesti wakil Wilayah kan?” the school’s football coach said to me when I spoke to him about my background. “Taklah..”before I could finish my sentence, he declared to the school’s team,”Ok kita nasib baik dapat seorang player wakil Wilayah tahun ni, tapi training mesti kena kuat lagi, sebab nanti main di tanah rendah nanti, cuaca lagi panas, takut kamu tak tahan”. With that, the team was dismissed. Some of the local boys began whispering around about me, “Besok, kita tengok budak ni tahan tak kena takik”. My ego was challenged, bring it on. “I’ll show you what this budak kl can do”, my ego answered.

Day 2, training session. I played my favourite position, the leftback. The coach was impressed, he wanted me to be in the first 11, some of the boys who planned to ‘takik’ me were taken aback by my resistance. “These calves are made of steel”, I thought to myself, stroking mr.Ego like Dr.Evil from Austin Powers stroking his cat. I was looking forward to joining the school’s team in the coming tournament, when my mother wanted to move to Gopeng. “Takde sape nak jaga rumah Opah, Wa”, she said to me. I stayed silent. Just when I was about to mix in the new environment, she wanted to move again. On the last day, I went for a walk at the garden near the school with my sister and one of my best friends there. I was not sure what my mother was looking for. I didn’t know the meaning of serenity, I didn’t know what kind of problems that adults had to deal with. I didn’t understand. I was feeling rebellious. I forgot what we were talking about whilst walking around the garden, but I knew suddenly a bunch of orang asli kids came out of nowhere and teased my sister, she cried and something inside me exploded. I ran towards one and wrestled him to the ground. I was punching around his face, his body when suddenly a big pair of arms pulled me away. “Hey jangan gaduh!” a man with an Indian accent shouted and shooed all the orang asli kids away. “Kamu tak baik pukul orang”, he advised me. “Diorang kacau adik saya”, I retorted. Then I cried. I didn’t hear what else he was saying as I was trying to gain control in between sobs. Trying to maintain the big brother that my sister always saw me as.

The day to move to Gopeng came. I loved that place. There were cashew trees, rambutan trees, bamboo trees, coconut trees, guava trees. You just name the fruit, my late grandfather probably planted them somewhere around the vicinity of the old house. It’s a typical double storey kampung house with a lot of trees around the house, a chicken coop, cats, endless tall tales from uncles, who were always making promises to take us kids to the river to fish, or to take us to the mountains to enjoy the freshest of water available in Gopeng but rarely did they stay true to their words. But it did ignite a little hope in my heart no matter how many times we were lied to.

A place where my mother spent most of her childhood, and her youth. A place she first learned of life and of love.

to be continued…

When I was about 9 years old, my mother copied the lyrics for this song and gave it to me. One of the first adult English songs that I learned. The other earlier one was Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven.

Blessed all along (part 1)

My friends and I were about to go out for a cendol session on a hot day. I was washing my feet and my sandals because they were covered with sands and dusts from a construction site nearby when one of them suddenly blurted,” You are perfect la bro”. I looked at him and tried to figure out what made him said that. I then acted as if I just shrugged off the statement and started the engine. The problem with me is, I don’t take statements, more like I can’t take statements just as that. My mind would continue churning, analyzing the whats, whys, hows, ifs, buts of these statements which were directed at me.

I’m not perfect.

I make do with what I have. His statement drove my mind to past memories which I treasure so much because I used to hate them but as I get older I saw the chain that these events were leading to, I was touched by its mysterious beauty.

Everybody should have a few vivid moments embedded in their memories of their life as a really small kid. I have a lot. One of the most memorable was when I asked my father the permission to live with my mother. I was 5 years old. It was Aidilfitri and I had just returned from visiting her in Gopeng (her hometown), I was sitting at the back of the car and looking at the envelope containing the duit raya she gave me. We were on the way to Taiping. I still remember when I asked the question, my father was silent. When we arrived at home, he asked me about what I said earlier. I was firm with my answer. I’m not sure how did a small kid come up with such a decision and such a resolve. My younger sister was living with my mother, probably that was it. The moment was so clear it was as if it happened yesterday. And so it happened.Amongst the things I dragged into the car was a small brownish lunch box with pictures of little animals. I was happy and oblivious to what my father was feeling. All I knew was I would be with my mother and sister.

So there we were on a bus to Bandar Tun Razak. I was eager to see our house. “Ma, tu sebut dia NO ESS-MOKING kan?” I pointed at the No Smoking sign. “Sebutan dia bersambung la – No Semoking”, my mother answered. Ohh…”Naik bas 123 kalau dari Pudu, nak berhenti tekan loceng”, she continued.

Life in Kuala Lumpur was way different than what I had experienced in Taiping. I’ve made plentiful of friends with whom I’d go catching spiders at the huge Chinese graveyeard near to the Ramly Burger factory, swimming at the swimming complex and sometimes in the small creeks flowing into the Permaisuri Lake! We played soccer or police and thief in the evening. Life was all about that- School in the morning, Religious School in the afternoon, and boys-will-be-boys fun in the evening. In school, I was having a blast, I loved the choir, I played tennis, played soccer, found myself a bunch of really close friends and thankfully for my mother’s strict guidance, doing quite good in class too.

We stayed there until I was 10 then my mother wanted a ‘change of wind’ as she called it and we moved to Cameron Highland. The first few weeks after leaving my friends in Kuala Lumpur, I would cry every night because I missed alot. I couldn’t see why she wanted to move to Cameron Highland other then she loved the place so damn much.

In Cameron Highland, my mother enrolled me in Sekolah Kebangsaan Tanah Rata, just a stone throw from where she would be teaching, Sekolah Menengah Tanah Rata. The secondary students there were driving their own cars as most of them were sons and daughters of the vegetable tycoons in Cameron Highland. In my school, there were loads of orang asli and I was amazed by the tenacity and the willingness of the teachers there. “Awak punya BI bagus, jadi saya nak awak baca satu perenggan dari buku ni depan kelas tiap hari”, my class teacher said to me. I just agreed. “These shoes are blue in colour…”I was reading when suddenly she interrupted,”Haa dengar tu, shorts ye, maknanya seluar pendek”. “Bukanla cikgu, kasut, shoes”, I corrected her. She laughed and the whole class laughed and I laughed.

One of my best friends there was a son of a tea leaves picker. He would get up at 4.30 in the morning, prepare the stove to boil water and wait for the water to boil before using it for bathing, every day. It struck a chord because I was living in a comfortable apartment in Brinchang with the hot water only a turn of the faucet away. At that time, my mother gave me RM1 per day as meal allowance, it was a lot. So I would usually buy something for the both of us. The food in the canteen was horrible, cold and tasteless but it was the only option we had. I missed the 50cent curry noodle in the canteen in SKBTR, Kuala Lumpur. My friend had no problem gobbling them up. I used to observe how he managed to finish those horrible food. He appreciated whatever came his way. Slowly I learned of his views and his reasoning.

To be continued

 

Careless Imagination

Earlier this year, I read a book on how to explore your mind power, how to relate the most irrelevant of things to the issues/problems you are dealing with. The content of the book itself was not typed in a uniformly sized fonts. You read big fonts, small fonts, bigsmall, smig, bimall, bgmall you get the idea. The most valuable knowledge or revelation that I learnt from the book was on how not to restrict your imagination. There was no specific text stating that, but it was the gist of most of the theories suggested.

Keep your mind opened, allow all possibilities.

The only downside to this new finding is, I’m too lenient in controlling what I could imagine. Take note though, what I would deem as bad for me might not be in the eyes of others, vice versa.

So what is that downside? I read a text and my mind would start querying, “Is this text meant for me? Does the writer know what I feel? Am I a part of whatever that sentence is trying to convey? Wait, does that sign mean something?” .It’s a temporarily sweet but worrying state of mind. Sweet if it was sweet and directed at you. Worrying because of the sweetness you experienced made you reluctant to let it go if it wasn’t for you.

Imagination. Drawn on an untouchable canvas, see-able and understandable only to the owner of the imagining minds. The brush will keep on moving until you’ve gained enough will to stop it yourself.

I grew up listening to this song. The first time was when I was 11. Never failed to take me away to beautiful places.

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When you are not sure what to do

Do the right thing.

My colleague and I were talking about aircraft accidents. He, a far more experienced guy once marshalled a helicopter to take off which then crashed a few minutes later. He seemed relax, but one could never hide the tone of sadness and I could understand that. If I were in his place, I would not be so sure of working near the aircraft again. He listened to the pilot’s final scream on the radio and he assured me that such a scream stays with you till the day you die. A futile effort of trying to stay alive in a doomed vessel.

One of the reasons I hate watching the Aircrash Investigation show is because of the portrayal of the last few minutes of the lives of the people involved. I still watch the show, but the fear, the anguish, the grief that grip the heart are so intense, that I sometimes find myself gritting whenever the faces of the actors/actresses came into view.

I’ve listened to a few blackboxes, or voice recorders that gave me the chill to the bone. My hands were trembling. The imagination that you are so helpless in a doomed aircraft is so traumatizing. Death is certain but the period in between is what made dying in an air crash so scary irregardless of the cause of the crash, either technical or human factor.

I therefore hope and implore to those in the aircraft maintenance industry, know your job. You’re the last line of defense. If you don’t know, ask. No question is considered as stupid in the aviation world. We don’t need MacGyvers.

When you are not sure what to do, do the right thing.

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That big body of water

That big body of water,

So blue and so calm,

That separates passion and ambition,

Like a rose removed from the mouth of a Parisian,

That divides dreams and wants,

Like the world turning, running away from the sun,

That intimidates those who fly above,

“I dare not look down”, says even the dove,

That swallows the unlucky souls,

Whilst it sees the world ages and grows old,

Thank you for being there,

For I have learnt of longing, of loving and of losing,

That big body of water,

A glimmering mattress of wonder.

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