I posted the following comment in the facebook album of my cousin nephew Nasir Razak on 9th of June
Tq nasir for capturing the moments. a few pics evoked that special feelings, your tok aki has always been special and inspirational, yr dad was my special cousin @ the malay college, kluang station was the station that launched me to the world, i.e i took the first train to Kuala kangsar, 23 jalan ahmad khan is another one that is special which served as my night stop before traveling back to kk.
The Tok Aki I was referring to was Haji Salim Said, the younger brother of my late father Salam Said. He was my special uncle. You know that you may have a dozen uncles or a dozen brothers or sisters, but there will always be one that is close to your heart. One that is extra special. In the case of Chek Salim, as I addressed him, he was not only extra special, he was inspirational.
At a time when the kampong I was brought up in was in darkness he was the light that attracted me, the kalkatu. I was referring to the state of education and economy of the kampong. At a time my abah and emak was attending sekolah dewasa to learn the A,B,C he was already reading Shakesphere and other great literatures. He was already a headmaster when I was scrounging the old cabinet in my Nyai’s, my paternal granny, house and these coverless, brownish books were my archeological findings. They were all Greek to me and I said to myself I must be able to understand all these.
During the Holidays, I would be longing to be invited to be with my cousins in Kluang. There were already 6 boys in the household and I would be the additional head that will share the Mak Ning’s ikan belanak, or ikan selar kuning goring that acompany the sawi, kobis or taugeh masak air.
I, the kampong boy, held my first badminton racquet, I saw my first bullet casing, I saw a house full of books and other boys gadgets while doing my sabbatical in Kluang. Taza my cousin, although about the same age as me was a bookworm so I was closer to Ajak his elder brother. We would be exploring the British Military Camp in Kluang where the school was located. The adventure of looking at soldiers in parade and going to the firing range to look for spent bullet casing were exciting for this kampong boy. I learned my first lesson in metallurgy in Klunag, extracting the tin from the spent casing from Ajak who later became a King Scout.
I guessed I develop my hunger for reading seeing a house full of books rather than useless paraphernalia and glassware, in Kluang.
Prodded by Chek Salim Taza , ajak and I would be talking about the kind of cars we wanted to have. For someone like me, it was unimaginable that I would be driving a car, when abah’s worldly possession then was a rickety bicycle. And we talked. Taza said he would be driving a car that was so quiet that no one would ever notice him coming. Chek Salim was driving the FIAT 600. Imagine a family of 8 cramped into a Fiat 600!!
As expected Taza was the first to go to The Malay College. It was the Fiat 600 that took them to Kuala Kangsar. My Emak accompanied them. When they got back, emak and chek salim said to me ” Sekolah Anak Raja, cantik, semua ada. Kau mesti pergi Sekolah Kuala Kangsar” . That was the inspiration that got me cracking.
When I became one of the top 3 students in Batu Pahat, Chek Salim drove to Bagan to give me a present of two ringgit in an impromptu ceremony witnessed by Li and man and Lina my younger cousins. Hasnah my cousin also received the two ringgit for the excellent LCE result. Two months later i was in The Malay College and Hasnah was in Sekolah Kolam Air, which later became Sekolah Sri Putri. Ajak and Taza were the receiving party in Kuala Kangsar.
During the Sports and Speech Day in 1973, I was so happy because Chek Salim came to visit us. That was special as I had never had any visitor in my entire life in The Malay College,. I remembered we had durians at the little hotel next to the oldest rubber tree in Malaya. It was me, ajak, taza and cek Salim.
I also learned this lesson from this special man. He never retired. He became a fairly successful Class C contractor. He was a thinking man. His mind was always inquisitive. In the last few years however his memory was only on Random Access. So there were times when he would be calling me to ask about the Nisan for the grave of his late parents Hj Said and Hajah Marseh. I did the repairs but he kept forgetting.
On one occasion, when I was shopping at the open market the few man at the meat stall unexpectedly asked me ” kau anak cikgu Salim ye?”
These were elderly man in their 70s. They explained that they were his students 60+ years ago. I was moved. I drove to Kluang to pay my respect to this great teacher.
I wrote this while driving to Kluang to pay my respect to this great man. He passed away today at a ripe old age of 92. Alfatihah.