My teachers’ hall of fame

June 26, 2011

There are good teachers, there are inspirational teachers and there are great teachers. There are bad teachers too, teachers who kill your interests, teachers who demotivate and shred your self-esteem to pieces, and teachers who discriminate. The bad apples true to my nature are often forgiven although not forgotten.

There are teachers who mislead but this a subject on a different thread.

My early taste of discrimination happened during the competition for selection to go to boarding school. I could still remember I had the highest score 100, 100, 100 and 90 for Bahasa Melayu, Science, Mathematics and English. Yet I was left out of the selection and instead my classmate was chosen. He was not  that smart and I suspected he was chosen because of his father who was a teacher in the school.

He did not succeed  to go to a boarding school. He ended up as a laboratory assistant.

There was a tinge of frustration but I guess I was also  not that ready to leave the kampung and God had better things in store for me.

Instead of STAR or SDAR, two boarding schools for kampung children, abah enrolled me for Remove Class at Sekolah Menengah Semerah. .

Sekolah Menengah Semerah was a real kampung school. Batu Pahat is 20 km away. But presto unlike now it had the Malay stream and the English stream. Abah had it all planned that I should go to an English stream.

Here in the kampung school, who would imagine that I would have the two greatest teachers I would ever had. Tahir Talib and Andrew Thor

Tahir was weird and a misfit by kampung standard. Words were around that he was an atheist, that he had no religion. His father was a district officer of Batu Pahat. An urbanite in a kampung setting he exuded this aloofness, class and style that many were not familiar with.

I managed to locate Tahir many years after that. We became fairly close having something in common. I call him a taliban. Not because his fathers name was TALIB, but because We have a common interests in studying the scriptures. Tahir  became an expert of the Quran and his command of the language and his systematic approach made him a useful reference.

On a few occasions he tested me just like the school days and I passed.

Teaching English to a class of 12 year old whose only vocabulary were “yes, no, alright and good morning” must be daunting. To make it worse a majority had Javanese as the first language. But Tahir did it systematically and religiously complete with grammar and diction.

Repeat after me, A P P L E, aepel

A P P L E, eppal heavy in Javanese intonation, and Tahir would repeat aepel not eppal.

After 2 years of Tahir’s tutelage, I became so proficient in the language that I could easily beat Yong Yee YEN who went through 7 years of English primary. It must be frustrating for Yee Yen.

The Kampong boy found a new window to the world, the English language. I became so passionate about reading that the small school library became a favourite haunt.

Without realising, that interests in reading paid its dividends. It was easy for me to top the class.

Andrew Thor was my class teacher in Form 1. If there were to be an award for The SIFU with capital letters Andrew would win it hands down.

How would you categorize a trainer who told his prodigy ” son. this gymnasium, this place and me is not good enough for you, go find another trainer, another gymnasium  and challenge yourself”

Andrew did that to me. One day after the final term result was out he called me up and said ” Esham, this school and this place is not good enough for you. I suggest you apply for a transfer to a town school”

I did. Well, I told abah and abah agreed.

For that I am eternally grateful to Andrew Thor.

And Tahir, I say, you are the greatest English teacher in the world.

And instead of SDAR and STAR God had it all planned for me to go to the Malay College.


My Uncle, My Inspiration – A great teacher is one that inspires

June 19, 2010

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.

Sabar, adakah pengertian dan penghayatan sabar didalam konteks Melayu itu betul?

March 6, 2010

Cacat bahasa cacat bangsa. Begitu berat sekali tanggungjawab ahli bahasa menentukan dan mencerminkan jiwa bangsa.

Bahasa Melayu punya polisi terbuka khususnya didalam penerimaan Bahasa Arab dan Inggeris . Diantara keduanya kerana kaitan rapat dengan agama, istilah Arab  punya kesan mendalam kepada jiwa dan raga Melayu. Malangnya kerana budaya inteleknya tidak sedinamik budaya Inggeris, banyak istilah yang disalahguna, salah tafsir, salah erti, cacat  dan membawa kesan mendalam keatas DNA, perangai, budaya, politik Melayu.

Tiada kecacatan yang seburuk pengunaan perkataan SABAR didalam Bahasa Melayu.

Menurut Kamus Dewan, sabar bermaksud kita betah menahan penderitaan (kesakitan, kesusahan dan lain-lain), tidak lekas marah atau putus asa, tidak terburu-buru serta tenang.

Bait-bait indah dalam lirik lagu Sifat Mahmudah nyanyian Hijjaz  menggambarkan maksud sabar MELAYU: “ Redha sifat hati yang suci, ujian yang tiba rasa gembira, atau tiada apa terasa, kerana menerima anugerah Tuhannya. Sifat sabar sedikit berbeza, ujian yang menimpa sakit dirasa, tapi dapat ditahan perasaannya, hanya bermain di dalam sahaja, di luar tidak nampak terang nyata.“

Sebagai surah lazim, sejak di sekolah rendah Melayu diprogram dengan sikap sabar ALASR seperti di takrifkan Kamus DEWAN. Akibatnya Melayu sanggup tertindas, Melayu sanggup dipinggir, Melayu sanggup diruntuhkan hak, Melayu tidak melawan, Melayu jadi malas,  kerana kononnya sabar mengharapkan kemenangan sekurang-kurangnya di akhirat. Musuh-musuh Melayu yang berstrategik faham mengeksploitasinya.

Adakah ini sebenarnya SABAR yang dikehendakki agama? Adakah sikap fatalistik  yang sinonim dengan Melayu yang dicerminkan olih SABAR dikehendaki olih Allah didalam surah AL asr? Semestinya tidak kerana kecacatan itu datangnya dari kita, segala yang baik itu datangnya dari Allah.

Sabar yang mendatangkan kemenangan itu bukan yang dikehendaki KAMUS DEWAN.  Kecacatan Kamus Dewan adalah mencedok takrifan SABAR dari Kamus Inggeris  sebagai PATIENCE. SABAR bukan Patience!! Sila liha nota persendirian saya seperti berikut”

The Malay language translates SABAR as PATIENCE. It is a literal Malay English translation which makes the understanding of the word ASABR as mentioned numerous times in the QURAN misplaced.

Patience is rather restrictive. PATIENCE is defined as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay eg. to have patience with a slow learner. When used in the context of work it means quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence eg. to work with patience.

PATIENCE is further defined in terms of its quality. The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

Asabar bukan PATIENCE. Patience is tolerance, the suppression of annoyance and anger . Patience is emotion containing anger, desire, want, in steady preserverance.

Quran didalam  Ayat 3:146 mendfinisikan SABAR atau ASABR dengan penuh lengkap.

3:146 How many of the Prophets fought (in Allah’s way), and with them [fought] large bands of godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah’s way, nor did they weaken [in will] nor give in. And Allah loves [hubb] those who are firm and steadfast. [as-sabreen.

SABAR adalah Tegas didalam perlaksanaan, Teguh didalam matlamat dan pegangan, Tegar hati dan fikiran, Tahan cabaran fizikal dan mental didalam menegakan yang BENAR dan memerangi yang SALAH. Bukankah kefahaman dan pengunaan SABAR didalam Bahasa dan Masyarakat Melayu konteks harian itu SALAH?

Sabar adalh sabar yang dikehendaki AlQuran. Sekiranya DNA dan kecacatan Melayu mahu dibenteras satu inisiatif  strategik mencari kecacatan KAMUS DEWAN perlu dibuat segera bermula dengan perkataan SABAR. ( mungkin dikuti dengan TAQWA)

750000 Malaysian Professionals Overseas -Malaysian Employers Federation Survey

January 27, 2010

750,000 Malaysian working overseas.

That is good news. It is good news that professionals are well represented. In this context , as professionals they are engaged in one of the learned professions and  they are characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. They also live on this axiom that they will earn as much money and serve whoever that pay them well and treat them professionally.

A growing number of The new age Malaysian professionals have no qualm serving anywhere in the world, if the return  commensurate with the discomfort, discrimination, loneliness, of the new country. I am happy to see a growing numbers are Malays and other non-chinese. . This has been accelerated due to the fact that Malaysian Engineering degrees are getting recognition in Europe and the US.

In UAE there are 2000+ Malaysian Expatriates. There are thousands  In Saudi, South Africa, Sudan, Turkmenistan, PakisTAN, KelanTAN,  CHINA. My team was in Shanghai and the guy they met was a young  Malay chap. If you ask them the main reason they left TEchnip, Petronas, TNB, or any Malaysian company  , etc. etc, the simple answer  is the pay is just TOO good. many consider themselves citizens of the world. I would encourage  Malaysian to migrate and see the world. I personally have contemplated acquiring an EU citizenship. So what?

Admittedly there are people who migrated due to frustrations, and those who find living conditions in South Africa, Auistralia, London as livable   and many other reasons . Naturally  this is being exploited to the fullest by the DAP, MCA, GERAKAN, to their advantage. Do you buy this ? we can buy some, but not rod, line and sinker.

I never take pride that t KL is the cheapest city in the world.  Pay people decent and competitive wages, a big percentage will scramble back. Not all, but the TRUE  professionals will.

lessons from the vegetation in the DUBAI desert

January 22, 2010

It rained today. The grid was chockerblock. I did not complain

If you are seated at Chinoz KLCC on a rainy day in June or JUly, you are likely to see young Arabs playing in the puddle and fascinated  by the rain. They are not unlike the curious beings who have never seen snows.

How blessed we are because of the rain. I never complain of the rain. I love it when it rains. Correction. I love it when it rains in Kuala Lumpur. I would be cursing if it rains in the dreadful month of December in London. Combine the London rain with the Northern wind, you have to be careful with your earlobes. It gets brittle.

Those emiratis must be admiring how green Kuala Lumpur is. Would you imagine being a tree in the desert  of Dubai. You are pampered with whatever you need to make you grow but the scorching heat and the loose shifting sand make you feel as if it is perpetually Ramadan. You could see and sense how each tree and of course its caretaker struggles  to establish its roots, to get its first shoot and to survive the 50degrees summer heat.

Here we are in Petaling jaya, an idiot has grafted a ring around the stem of this beautiful tree. I have been cursing every time I see the leaves falling and the tree struggling to get its nutrients down  to the roots.

I love the rain trees. Maybe because of  my affection for the BIGTREE. Not just that, the rain tree is so majestic and dome shaped canopy  makes it more regal. I planted one at my newly restored ancestral home. It was already 15 ft tall with a girth of 12 inch. It has been more then a year since the RM 1k tree was planted and now it is taking shape. I have been impatiently waiting for it to flourish to its full glory.

I like the PULAI too and so is the BUNGO. It has been a long wait. I therefore cannot understand why trees are being chopped down for no apparent reasons.

For those who dislike trees and dislike the dry leaves which my mother considers as rubbish, may be a few weeks in Dubai will make them appreciate the bounty they have been blessed with.

Rain rain, come again. Do you know why frogs like rains? Perfect time and ambiance for mating.

Azhari Hussin, Nordin Mat Top, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

January 13, 2010

Azhari was a friend. Nordin was a colleague. No, not again.Umar Farouk Abdul Mutalib a  fellow UCL alumnus?

I do not have anything to do with the acts they were profiled to have done.jihadis are they really?   But are they real jihadis or pure victims of the grand design? I do not condone the bombing of innocent civilians. I have not been to Afghanistan. I have not been to Mindanao. I have no association with Patani or Yala or Kosovos or Chechniya.

Azhari was a classmate at the Malay College. This was the school for Kings and the King of Schools. It was me and him competing for the top spot. When there was this competition for the Australian Scholarship he was selected. I was devastated .  I knew academically I  was better. He was a sportsman though, and I was a “kaki bangku” by choice.  The last time I met him was in the 80s when we were both lecturing at the University of Technology.

That brings me to Nordin Mat TOP. I was a lecturer at the University of Technology. Nordin Mat Top was also a lecturer of the University. That was the end of the commonality. He was sporting a goatie, I was a clean shaven secular. We never crossed path except for sharing the same faculty roll.

And now this Farouk character. He has just graduated from UCL, that Godless University I revere. Oh no, he was also a mechanical engineering alumnus.

Those are the similarities. It ends there. period.I need to clarify.

It is important to recognize that these institutions are the finest on the land. These institutions are not the places where radicalism is being nurtured. The Malay College is the Best School in Malaysia, training the finest young men of Malaysia. Azhari must have been indoctrinated when he was in Reading. I had this strange feeling that he was a reluctant fugitive.

University Technology malaysia is the best engineering school in Malaysia. It is not Chechnya, nor is it pattani, so radicalism is the least expected in peace land, Malaysia. Nordin must have been too carried away with the Grand idea of the Grand Caliphate.

UCL is the Godless University. It is a University that does not suppress and discriminate. It is the last place or the last University to breed dissatisfaction. This is the 4th Best University in the World. You cannot blame the institution.

Is it me that they are targeting? Is this bon vivant, secular, clean shaven anglophile, they are after? I hope Umar farouk was the last. Will he?

I do not think so because the World order needs Azhari, nordin and Umar. There are now designer jihadis and they are recruited, facilitated and created by both sides of the divides.

The Passing of the greatest Malay Massuer, the Greatest Massuer in the World

January 6, 2010

I have done spas and massages all over the world. On the principle that your body and your health is your greatest asset I have no qualms pampering myself. As with high performance cars, that needs servicing calibration and realignment, body rejuvenation by massaging is my equivalent of calibration, realignment, charging and servicing.

I have experienced the mauling of the punjabi masseur in Bangalore who thought I was her capati dough. I have been pampered by the secret of Marrakech beyond the Hamam. There were those who were more interested in  trading the extra services. The Thais would think you were a contortionist. The Swedes would trample on you.  I have had Malay male  masseur who claimed to be the restorer of your libido.

Not a single one of them come near to the standard, the satisfaction and the professionalism of my PAK SU.

Yesterday when I called his number it was Mak Su who answered. I was dumbfounded. He succumbed to his short illness on the 17th of Dec 2009. The last time I called him was a few days before his demise. He was still hospitalised.

Pak Su was different. His style was different. His understanding of a man’s anatomy was amazing. A massage to him is the whole body massage, the nooks and corners of every accessible muscle.

In his deep Kelantanese accent he would be describing each part of the anatomy. At any difficult spot he would mumble a few mantras, spit his saliva to his palms and presto the pains disappear. In between it would be gossip times, about his other clients and I knew I was also in his Pancaindera gossip column.Not that I mind.

I was introduced to him by Pok Ya my senior at the Malay College.  Off we went to his rented squatter hut. I changed into a sarong and rested my head on this blackened pillow, not unlike the one on board the Marang boat. Filthy in the most extreme form.

It was a Wow massage. The post servicing road test was amazing. I was able to take corners, the power was enhanced and you get better mileage. Satisfied client.

To avoid the filthy pillow, subsequent massages were done in the comfort of my home. My driver would fetch him and send him back. He would stay for dinner or lunch. He liked my two MEKs otherwise he would not touch the food he said.

Adam became close with him. At the prodding of his big brother he would be accompany TOK SU and kept asking” Jangan lupa urut Batin tok Su”

He would be using this special oil which he said was made of aged submerged wood in rivers where river creatures position themselves to catch their prey or sunning themselves. So your instrument will be as stiff and strong as this submerged wood and  creatures will be drawn to it so he claimed. I think it worked.

I asked him if any one of his sons has taken up the skill. Unfortunately none was interested.

I am going to miss him very much.