Blessed all along (part 3.2)

This morning I feel happy. Unusually happy. Not the kind of happy you felt when you won something or you passed something. No no not excited, it’s the calm kind of happy. The kind of happy that makes you smile when you are alone and makes you blush when you are surrounded by people. It’s like one of those morning when you go for a morning walk and the sun is just about to stretch its limbs, and the temperature is not too cold, and the road is empty, no cars, no motorcycles, no buses, only serenity. You see lush green trees, you hear birds, and your footsteps. But that’s not exactly what I’m doing, I’m waiting for the washing machine to finish washing my clothes.

*****

UiTM 2001, 1st Semester. I saw people. Lots of people. For the induction week, I was given a bed in Kolej Perindu. “Nanti kita kena pindah kolej lagi yek?” I asked one of my dorm mate. “Ha ah”, someone answered. I grumbled to myself on hearing the answer. The thing was, I brought a lot of stuff courtesy of my mother. “Wa, kamu jangan lupa bawak baju tu ha, jangan lupa berus gigi, berus basuh baju, ambik satu set sudu garfu kat dapur tu, jangan lupa sejadah, jangan lupa baju melayu” and a series of ‘jangan lupa’s’. “Wa, dah besar la ma, tahulah wa nak bawak ape”. “Kamu tu anak mama, mama tak nak kamu tak cukup itu ini kat kolej nanti”.

I waved her goodbye and a bitter realisation hit me. This was the same cycle all over again. Just like when I was in Form 1. I’ve been living away from home for 5 years, and now to add another roughly 3 years. I wanted to go home. But I am her only son. So, that’s a really big hope on my shoulders.

Induction week sucked. Some of the guys who lived nearby went back home and told me that they would only come back when it was all over. Cencurut betul. We had to wake up at 5 am, and then put on a formal attire with ties, black shoes and walked to the Pusat Islam for our Subuh prayer. I didn’t mind waking up early but why oh why did we have to put on our ties, shoes -.- .Then after that we’d rush back, had our rush breakfast, put on our tracksuit and shirt and all that and be prepared for the morning exercise. All who failed to be at the muster point within the given time period would have to walk up Bukit Tonggek. I’m pretty sure those who studied in UiTM Shah Alam are familiar with the name. Sesiapa yang berjalan mendaki bukit tersebut, suka atau tidak akan menonggek juga akhirnya. No matter how fit you were.

Induction week ended. The big exodus to Kolej Jati. Luckily I met 2 of my ex-schoolmates here. One got an uncle who lived in Shah Alam and was willing to help us with the move. Phew. The college management assigned me to a room in the furthest from the entrance at the topmost level, I forgot the block but it was at level 6. No elevator. It was a grueling task. I swore I could have been a camel on that day.

Engineering Induction Night-Stupid event. Upacara tepung tawar la kunun. More of a scream fest. “Hang nak jadi engineer hang tak hisap rokok hang hisap apa??? Hang hisap ni ka??” said a man who looked like a mat fit  while pointing at his crotch. Long story short, I regretted coming to that night. At the end of it all,” Direnjis renjis dipilis, detepungi lah tawar, hai beras kunyit ditabur, di siram si air mawar” sang the seniors while throwing flour and water at us. It was not the last ritual which touched my nerve, it was the narrow interpretation of what an engineer should be like. Oh yeah this one happened when we already moved to Kolej Jati. We attended just so we could collect coupon as a way to make sure that we would be able to stay in college next semester.

Zwigzwigzwigzwig. That’s the fast forward sound. My housemates in Kolej Jati came from various states, and brought various habits. One liked to smoke cigarette after dipping the tip into a bottle of typewriters ink, there were some who were just starting to play around with ganja, lottery numbers, girls. As for me, I told them early on, “You guys don’t bug me, I don’t bug you”. My principles from my secondary school years have made a very strong foundation of who should I be. I was curious I wouldn’t deny that.

Then I heard from someone that there were a bunch of guys who played basketball at the Komplek Sukan UiTM. I was super excited to hear this. One night, after dinner at around 7 and after maghrib, I jogged down the block and jogged all the way from Kolej Jati to the said complex. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the first thing I bought using my PTPTN loan was a leather basketball. Haha budak-budak betul. So with that ball inside my backpack I ran like a mad man. I was deprived off basketball since SPM, till the day I came to UiTM. I wanted to quench the thirst for that awesome sport. When I arrived at the court, I saw a bunch of guys in sports attire chatting nearby. I went to them and introduced myself. “Oh tunggulah, kejap lagi ada lagi yang datang, lepas tu kita boleh la start main”, one guy answered. “Cool”. So I warmed up and that was how I knew of the UiTM basketball team. “Dulu ko main position apa?”. “Center”, I answered. Alrighty! We played and I was giving my all, burning all the excess energy, satisfying my addiction. I was jumping, blocking shots, near the basket was my territory. I am not that tall to be a respectable center, but I could jump higher than most. That was my greatest asset. The hard training that I exerted on myself during my younger years was showing its result. “Besok datang lagi tau”,  said Razif (not really a tall guy but dribbled the ball like there was glue on his hands)  to me after the game. I think he won one competition in Sunway Pyramid a few years after, some competition which required its participants to show their dribbling skills. I read it in the newspaper. Ok back to the story, so I walked back to Kolej Jati. The darkness didn’t scare me, I was thinking of my basketball future here.

*****

The next evening, “Eh engkau??!! Ko Saina kan??” one random guy suddenly approached me while I was practicing some shots. “Ha ah apasal?”. “Ko center kan? Aku dari STAR, Fawwaz”. It was a pleasant surprise to have someone random to recognize you. After a brief introduction, he went on “Weh ko buat sekolah aku menangis dowh. Tapi kesian la kat korang lepas tu tak rehat terus lawan MCKK. Tapi serius sial, aku benci gila kat ko masa tu.” I just smiled. “Semenjak bila ko main basket kat sini?” I asked him. “Baru lagi, itupun member aku bagitau. Eh ko kenal Nik dari MCKK tak?” he asked. “Nik, yang suka shuffle time dribble, jambu jambu sikit tu?”. It was like the gathering of basketball stars of the northern zone haha perasan sikit. Turned out Nik was in the overseas student preparation program in Seksyen 18 and he too came to the complex to play. “Kejap lagi dia datang la”.

*****

So the three of us were selected to be a part of the UiTM junior team, the UiTM Phantasms. The senior team was UiTM Phantoms. The first competition that we entered was the Milo Non-Chinese. We went against teams which consisted of National players, veterans, ex-National players. Like I told you earlier, I am short when it comes to the required height to be a formidable center. But we had no taller or stronger player to take up the role in the junior team. I had to work extra extra hard guarding those 1.9m players. I’m 1.8m tall. I was like a bug buzzing around their faces, waving my hands. One way to picture what I was doing consistently throughout the game was to imagine a man who was trying to fly by flapping his hands all around. Nik and Razif teamed up and formed a formidable pair of excellent dribblers and controllers of the game. I really loved the way Nik would pass the ball around. Dribble dribble dribble, shuffle shuffle, fake, looked to left, ball went to the right. Even I was caught unaware sometimes. The UiTM Phantasms, though high spirited, lost all games. We lacked the physical prowess (height especially).

to be continued….

When it comes to jumping, this guy is my inspiration. Since Saina. He’s 5’10”. That’s really short by NBA standard.

 

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