Life in the kampong in the early sixties were tough. There were only three people in the kampong who worked in government service. Cikgu Arif, taught at the kampung school.. My uncle Pak Hid was a RISDA officer. RISDA is the Rubber smallholders deveopment authority. Pak Wahid rode a BSA motorbike with the number JA 4084. I could still remember the registration number because it was the only motorbike in the village. It was my first exposure at close range to a mechanised beast..
The other government employee was an office assistant or Peon, whose job was more of a dispatch and filing assistant. Imagine a salary of ninety Ringgit and yet he was better of then most kampong folk. it was widespread poverty.
There was limited employment opportunities. So the school leavers either became farmers or the kampong thugs.
My brother left school at 15 and then continued his further education. . I think my brother was a spoilt brat. No, He was alright, just that being the first son in a male chauvinistic society, he was pampered. He finished his Lower Certificate of Education. For LCE certificate holders, the equivalent of the PMR, it was either the police, the army or navy.
I knew of two influential cousins of my mother who were in the Police Force. Pak Masri was a smart, handsome well built , with the gait, the look and style of Jins Samsudin of Bukit Kepong fame. He was the guy who told me “belajar rajin, kalau mahu pandu kereta, kalau tidak, naik basikal cabuk“. His son Jamil ended up as my senior in the Malay College.
The other uncle was a high ranking police officer whose name was Pak Hisham, the guy I was named after. I however prefer the Javanese or European version of the name, Esham.
I think mother was adamant that it was only the police that my brother could apply for and he got it.
It must be like sending a son oversea.There could be a kenduri or thanksgiving before the trip to Kuala Lumpur.
The trip to KL was arduous. It was my brother, emak, Nek Endek and yours truly in a chartered taxi.
It was the ferry at Muar, then continuing the old trunk road to Malacca and Seremban. Going through the Mantin Gap was like the going thrugh the Khyber Pass in the aircond-less taxi.
We spent the night at Jalan Gullimard of Bukit Persekutuan, a very prestiguous address even now. It was the resident of a senior police officer, my Pak Hisham, the son of nek endek Maimunah, my mother’s favourite aunt. She was short thus the name pendek.
I remember the bungalow amidst the tropical setting. Beautiful. I remember his many teenage sons who were monkeying around. In the morning, my brother had a grand send off.
So that was the beginning of Abang’s working life. What choice did he have?
He was also the first amongst the siblings to be in government employment. My Abah refused to be in government or makan gaji. Neither was my grand father or great grandfather. They were proud landowners. Economically the land cannot sustain the fourth generation.
My brother was a good son. Even during his recruit training he saved and tried to send money to Mak.
One day, she received a registered post. The letter from abang said ‘disertakan wang 40 ringgit untuk emak” but the money was no not to be found. Some family must have had a big satay meal. I suspected it was the postman.
I could see how frustrated Emak and abang was. That was his first pay packet.