09 December 2014

Selamat Tinggal


NOQTAH hitam o 9.12.2014

At lunch time today the wife of my very old friend of sixty years passed away at a hospital in Subang Jaya. This is indeed a dark spot in our life. She, named Hasmah Sulaiman, and  Salmah Sulaiman, my good wife (watch their names) were  like  twins.  
 
Suddenly gone are the days and evenings we had meals out, and occasions we shared meals at home accompanied with gay time and laughter.

Waktu sembahyang dan tanah perkuburan sebelum waktu zohor esok akan menandakan detik perceraian kami di bumi ini.Yang ada pada kami cuma titisan air mata disertai doa semoga rohnya berada diantara yang dikasihiNYA. Lfatihah.

Prayers and AlFatihah will always be our way of remembering this very dear  old lady, a dear sister more than a friend.

________________________ 
 
 
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09 November 2014

Hatinya baik (Good heart) - ( Part 5 ) - The novelist


 
My dear Cikgu Ali

Here was one person I consider myself very fortunate to have come to know for twenty years with high degree of respect. He was a gentleman , very sincere and one who spoke his mind. Above all he was a very loving and caring father.   Sadly, he passed away on 3rd November leaving behind his wife and 15 well-raised children. He was Cikgu Ali Jusoh, a retired headmaster and an extraordinary novelist. (AlFatihah for him)


 
Mother and 14 children
(15th not in the picture)   

 Arwah Cikgu Ali wrote more than twenty Malay novels. Of all the many awards he received for his works, Alor Miang topped the list, for which he was honoured  with the coveted Sako 3, a prestigious national literary award named after Ishak Haji Muhammad, or better known by his pen name Pak Sako.
 

 
Hadiah Sako

However, personally, I know how he felt about his latest over-540-page Orang Orang Perang, published just weeks before his demise. The pleasure of having completed the book was tremendous.


 
Orang Orang Perang (last piublished)
 
It was a couple of weeks ago Pakcik, on his request, drove him on a sentimental journey along the upstream section of Terengganu River, where a number of historical events took place. Among others we visited Cheng Ho Memorial, an old building constructed in honour of the legendry Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho, a Muslim. The theme of his last book was based on the life of this historical figure.

And it seems like yesterday when, while driving in town, his voice came through the phone with excitement.  A few copies of his latest book had reached him. I was to drop by for my copy before being high-jacked by others
_______________ 
 
To avoid making this a long posting I may, one of these days, post a note on why I believe he judged his last book, Orang Orang Perang, to be his best achievement; and I will write why Alor Miang is not just an award winning novel for him but one book very personal to me.
________________

Arwah Ali Jusoh often expressed his enthusiasm in training young novelists, several of whom owe him success. To my mind he was a born writer, not needing tertiary education to be what he was. I cannot help believing that characters in his novels were of real people and so were the events and environments. He often told me how he made trips up a hill, into a jungle or down a river to study the environments. He was adamant that one should not imagine the feeling of being in jungle at night without experiencing it, camping overnight if necessary. One should feel the serenity, the rustle of leaves, the buzzing of mosquitoes, the sight of the moon, or the lack of it, among the leaves.   

It hurt me deeply, during the last year of his illness, to see a novelist of his calibre sitting idle with plenty of time on hand, sadly unable to use his fingers. What he could compose in his mind could not be translated without the use of his fingers holding a pen or striking the type-writer keys. Recitation was never an option for him.

___________________________________

 
How did I get to know this wonderful person?

Way back in 1994, a good 20 years ago, it was my ‘hijrah’ with Makcik from KL to KT to start a new phase of life. A couple of months after settling down Pakcik decided to start my voluntary tuition for the needy children. My small tuition Almanar building was about to be built but I could not wait to start. My first thought was to begin with a small number of Standard 5 children. For that purpose I drove to the nearest primary school, about 3 km away. At the school office I requested to see the headmaster, whoever that might be. It turned out to be Arwah Ali Jusoh whom I had never mat or heard of.

Without being asked for the reason of my visit I was ushered into the HM’s office. With a smile he gestured me to a chair and he sat himself in one.  I told him briefly the reason for seeing him; to request for a small group of Std 5 children, stressing my preference for those from needy families. That person must have studied me and understood what I wished.

That was the beginning of my 20-year friendship with that headmaster. When I subsequently knew of his writing skill I began to have dreams of being a writer as well. Finally, I completed a two-sheet type-written essay (that was my pre-laptop era!) and proudly handed it to him one day. Soon after that he dropped by the house. Pakcik knew He had read my master piece and was about to give me his comments, nothing short of high praise, I anticipated.

Then came the bomb-shell. “Haji, tulislah saja dalam Bahasa Inggeris. ( addressing me – Haji you are better off writing in English.) he began. Then, while placing on the table my two-sheet work, which was now full of lines , scribbles and circles in RED ink, he went on (in Malay), “ This is not the Malay way of writing. It is English. Even your Malay spellings are all wrong, Zaaba’s era!” The man was no-nonsense. We understood each other well enough. What a blow to my ego that was!

He had plainly told me the truth. Thence, I ceased to dream of becoming a novelist.
 
 
With his Alor Miang


 


Trying hard to scribble his initials on
  my copy of Orang Orang Perang


That was Ali Jusoh. My prayers go with him.


_____________________
  

 

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25 October 2014

Miracles of Al-Quran ( Pt 3 ) – Maurice Bucaille.


( 1 Muharram 1436 ) 

Quran and Science

It is befitting to start another year of Hijriah with another posting on the Miracles of Al-Quran.

About 30 years ago I purchased in London a book by Maurice Bucaille, a French medical doctor and a member of French Society of Egyptology.  I was amazed by its astounding contents. Sadly, I can no longer find this prized copy on my bookshelf.  Somehow, a new copy, purchased later, does not satisfy my love for the first copy which had flicked through on so many occasions.


 Maurice Bucaille

Bucaille ( born in 1920 and passed away in 1998 ), a medical specialist, practiced medicine from 1945–82. He had great interest in identifying words from the bible and Quran and interpreting them against his medical practice. He, then, found it necessary to learn Arabic in order to understand what Al Quran had to say. Many aspects in the Quran relate to deep understanding of science and he could not rely on pure translation.  In order to be able to read Quran in its original text, he devoted himself to the learning of Arabic language at the ripe age of fifty.    

His deep involvement in the preservation of Egyptian mummies brought him closer to the Arab world. In 1973, Bucaille was appointed family physician to king Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Another of his patients at the time included members of the family of then President of Egypt, was Anwar Sadat.

Thereafter, he made a serious beginning by trying to reconcile proven scientific truths with religious axioms. Finally he was convinced that of all the sacred books, Al Quran was the only one which had remained sacrosanct and free from all additions, alterations and interpolations, and, consequently it still retained the purity to guide mankind in all ages, places and in every conceivable crisis.   

He was convinced of the exact specific scientific details mentioned in AlQuran and such details were absent in in other scriptures. He realised that those details, could never have been understood during Prophet Muhammad’s era. The various stages in the process of pregnancy have all along been described in great details in Al Quran but the absence of scientific knowledge did not make it possible for proper interpretation and understanding. Being a specialist in that field he found Al Quran very specific in its description on processes involved in pregnancy. What is described with so much detail could never be understood 1400 years ago. This fact alone is enough proof of the authenticity of Quran against any other sacred books.

On the basis of the great wonders he discovered in Al Quran, Maurice Bucaille adopted Islam.

As a result of these studies, he wrote his famous book "QURAN, BIBLE AND SCIENCE" in 1976, which caused a furore in high academic circles - particularly in the Christian world.


What is the origin of man 
&  The bible the Quran and science
 
After a deeper study of Islam and the Quran, he has authored another book titled, "THE ORIGIN OF MAN". He was invited to give Extension Lectures in academic institutions. By virtue of his unprejudiced and realistic approach to Quranic thought, and by virtue of his unprejudiced and realistic discussion and his research work, Dr. Bucaille has converted a number of high ranking scholars to agree with him and to subscribe to his view that the Quran is a Divine Book, not authored by any human being, and was truly revealed by the Almighty God to His Last Prophet, Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him.

______________________________

It is never my preference to make an unnecessarily long posting. Insya Allah, I will have another posting on Professor Maurice Bucaille’s amazing finding on the death of Pharoah and his mummy as specified in Al Quran, but absent in other religious books.

 

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14 October 2014

Mission Impossible


 Could  Rome be built in one day?
 
To-date, the largest orphanage centre in the state, Perkaya., which have its own school, have started sending pupils to Almanar on a weekly basis ,a very unsatisfactory frequency. Two groups are ferried in in their own bus every Saturday morning . I am hoping the new programme for next year will increase the frequency. I have, thus far, concentrated on teaching English, leaving other subjects to begin in January.

 I was greatly surprised last week when their representative requested Pakcik’s assistance to spend one Saturday morning with their Form 3 children who would begin their PT3 ( to replace the PMR) examination , which began yesterday with half a million candidates. The children were in need of help in mathematics. Preparing children of unknown level of knowledge in half a day for an important examination was a tall order; a mission impossible. But I knew better than to decline. I would, at least, have an opportunity to assess the children’s competency in that subject before they turn up to be tutored as Form 4 pupils early next year.

           
Bus from PERKAYA
 
 
As planned a busload of children arrived at Almanar before nine last Saturday. Buses from Perkaya have always been very punctual despite their one-hour journey to to Almanar. So, by nine last Saturday morning,  27 children ( 6 girls and 21 boys) were seated quietly in four rows in my class. I was conscious that all the 27 pairs of eyes watching me belonged to children without fathers. It was a sobering thought and I felt grateful to be in that unusual and enviable position.

After the initial few words of welcome, making sure that they would only address me as a simple Pakcik or Pakcik Hassan, we began with Al Fatihah for their fathers and the rest.

The ensuing three hours was tiring, selecting appropriate parts ans examples.  At least I know now the level of their competency; which is low in my estimation. They would not make an A grade today, but, Isha Allah, a few would in two years’ time. Rome was not built in one day.

 

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08 October 2014

End of the Tunnel ( Pt. 26 ) - Ooh, Pakcik!?



Had it not been for you

 

I parked my car and walked into the shop holding an old novel to be photo-stated . A young lady sporting a light blue Malay dress and a matching scarf was looking at a photostat copy which had just been handed to her by a shop assistant.  It looked to me like a form, perhaps a completed application form.

 

Conscious of my standing beside her she looked up only to find Pakcik’s face looking straight at her. Instead of shifting her eyes away a surprise look of recognition broke in her face. Almost instantaneously she opened her mouth to give a soft cry;  “ Ooh, Pakcik Hassan … !?” , then followed with “ Lamanya tak jumpa ! ( I’ve not seen you for so long !).

 
Her feature began to look familiar, and that word “Pakcik” told me who she should be, one of ex Almanar children. I was quick to change my surprise to a gentle rebuke , “ I am not surprised if you do not recognise me. You have not bothered to contact me after all this while.”    

 
That was a good line which prompted her to be defensive, “ Tak kan lupa Pakcik! Kalau tidak kerana Pakcik ajar saya Bahasa Inggeris mana saya dapat masuk UIA ! “. ( It isn’t possible to forget Pakcik! Without Pakcik helping to teach me English how could I join UIA ?”

 
So this girl, Aishah, had graduated from UIA and she went on to tell Pakcik that she was having some document prepared to take with her to UK. In about one week’s time she will be starting her Master’s degree at Hull University.

 
I am sure, she could never appreciate, nor could anyone else, how her impromptu declaration (of my help in teaching her English) meant to me at that moment. I am not ashamed to admit this. Aishah rewarded me enough with those few involuntary declaration.

__________________________

 
Now I am able to reflect on this girl, Siti Nor Aishah, a young orphan, who, together with a few others, joined Almanar Form One tuition class in 2003. She completed SPM at the end of 2007. It was a credit to me and to her continued effort to finally earn the elusive ‘A’ grade in English. That, with her good SPM results in other subjects, earned her a place at UIA. And now she is proceeding to Hull.  

 
Siti Nur Aishah 

Reminiscing the time she was studying at Almanar, she said, “Mother used to scold me whenever I failed to attend one Pakcik’s class. ”  Aishah realised how much  her mother, a single parent, had wished her success in education. That is what has inspired her to come this far and to go further. 

 

_________________ 

 

On the second day of Hari Raya Qurban Aishah’s mother had a small party. Pakcik and Makcik were too happy to be there – to bid her farewell.  Insya Allah, we will, before long, be seeing more of her, a lady with high education.

 

 

 

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28 September 2014


Books over the Years ( Part 1 ) -  Pearl S Buck

 

 
The Good Earth
 

It was around 1954, my second year in an English School, when I began to make myself enjoy reading English books. Until then it was all Malay periodicals and novels. The need to catch up with English language became important when I realised how poor I was, having joined the English school a year earlier fresh from  a religious school where I hardly had a proper English lesson.

To begin yet another new seires (Books over the Years) for this blog I have a choice of old books which have left deep impressions in my memory. For a start I have to weigh seriously between a school text book, Charles Dicken's David Copperfield, and Pearl S Buck’s The Good Earth. I have decided on the latter, for its more worn out appearance. I am lucky for having this copy in my possession over the years since I purchased it on 13th March 1954 - for RM 1.80! That makes it 60 years ago and it is likely to outlast its beloved owner.

 
                                                         Pocket Book - 1953 edition



 


Noted in long hand: 1.80  
Hassan Abdul Karim 
S S S K Trengganu
13th March, 1954


I was fortunate to have two qualified English ladies teaching us in Form 4 and 5.   They were in K Terengganu following their husbands holding certain seniors government posts like heads of JKR, Education Department, etc. Those were the years before Independence when certain schools benefitted from expatriates’ wives who were qualified.  I remember it well that one of them was qualified with MA in English. Perhaps she was the one who introduced The Good Earth to us. To get the book I had to place order by post from a book store in K Lumpur. There was no bookshop selling English book in town.

 
 Author of The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
(Google) 
 

The author, Pearl S Buck, born in 1892, followed her American parents  to China on their missionary work. Sshe earned her master’s degree in English Literature from Cornell University,  and later married an American in China where they spent  the best part of their life, as university lecturers and voluntary workers.  Pearl had special love for the local Chinese peasants, about whom she wrote in a number of her books.

Pearl had her hall of residence in Nanking named in her honour. President Bush paid his respect there on his visit to Nanking.

For her work, Pearl S Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1938 , cited "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

Pearl was honoured in 1983 with a 5¢ Great Americans series postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service. 

 “Wang Lang, rising from humble landowner, glorified in the soil he worked. Had it above his family The back page of the book in Pakcik’s possession, carries the following tribute to this book ‘The Good Earth ;

“Wang Lang, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, glorified in the soil he worked. But soon, between Wang Lang and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution ….

Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize winner Pearl S Buck traces the whole cycle of life, its terrors, its passions, its persistent ambition and its rewards. Her brilliant nover – beloved by millions of readers throughout the world – is a universal tale of the destiny of men.”

I am never tired of going through this book. It is all about simple and innocent human and humanity, an environment not dissimilar to that I have been associated with the last twenty years.

Perhaps school children of todays, those in Form 4 would breeze through this wonderful book and enjoy what Pakcik had to struggle through – with my prized copy of Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary and all!

 

 

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20 September 2014

With a Sigh ( Part 22 ) – Kertas Bocor!! Leak in exam papers.


Now it leaks ! What's next?

 

It saddens me that I have not in this blog written an entry crediting on our country’s system of education. I moan and sigh whenever the ‘gods’ of education speak with high praise for their endless plans and blueprints, to make our universities more of ‘taraf antara bangsa’(world class) than those in other countries. They talk about importing Indian English teachers, American peace corps etc. etc. to help in teaching of English. This reminds me of a conversation I had with then the director of a state education department. When I casually asked him why there had hardly been one scholarship given to  an outstanding student in the state to study English  at a university in England, he went to a great length to convince Pakcik that England was no longer the best country to study English language! Fortunately India was not his best choice either. I found no reason to waste my breath in arguing with that self-proclaimed expert. He must have been convinced by the ‘gods’ up there, those who found him deserving to be promoted to run the state education.

 

I have never heard of a suggestion from our wizards in education that, perhaps, it is of immediate advantage to the country to invite experienced teachers, those trained in Kirkby, Brinsford and locally. Many of them would be too happy to come out of retirement to help our failing system. In the local dailies several readers did voice suggestions to this effect without being given any notice by those in authority who were bent on listening to the expensive consultants from overseas. 

 

And now we hear about the leak (bocor) in certain UPSR question papers.

 


In my part of the world I have, over the last ten years, been hearing rumours of leaked examination papers just about UPSR examination time.  Many teachers are convinced of that and I am inclined to believe them, too. Deep in my heart I know there is some truth in the rumours. Coincidentally, over the years my state is proud of holding a record of sort in achieving the highest percentage of children obtaining all A-grades in UPSR examinations.  

 

I thought the current unfortunate situation (of leaked UPSR papers) would hasten the replacement of UPSR examination with the new system publicised  not long ago. On the other hand, the minister categorically stated that UPSR would stay.

 
What does an A grade in UPSR mean?
 




 

The three girls pictured above are from a small group of Form 1 children attending tuition at Almanar. Two of them achieved 5A’s and the third 3A’s in their UPSR examination last year.  They decided to join Almanar a week ago. All the three girls excelled with A-grade in Mathematics and two with A-grade in English. It is not easy for them to come to Almanar , about ten kilometers away from their homes. But they do with their elders’ support.

 

Nine months into Form 1 these children claimed to have completed their Form 1 Mathematics for the year. That is encouraging. But I cannot take it for granted. They are at a disadvantage learning Mathematics in Malay as Pakcik would want children at Almanar to learn technical terms in English.  

 

The first chapter of Form 1 Mathematics is all about numbers, the odd, even and prime numbers, factors and multiples, etc.  It is enlightening to these children to learn to say; Ali is an odd boy; he is at odd with so and so; the top of a billiard table must be perfectly even; Their score at half time were even; He did not even open the envelop, etc. When asked what they guessed a ‘prime number’ would mean they looked totally puzzled. When asked what ‘prime minister’ meant, their faces sparked with delight – perdana menteri! I do not wonder why people like our Dr Mahathir feels strongly for English to be used in science and technical subjects.    

 

Like in many cases, it is most disappointing to see what a calculator has done to these children. Pakcik cannot help recalling the years I was in standard 2 and standard 3 seventy years ago. We had to commit to memory the multiplication tables up to 12. We would get a cane for not being spontaneous in giving an answer to say, 7x6.  These children are good at using the gadget but failed to divide 69 by 3 without one.

 

Hopefully our standard of education will remain at ‘taraf antarabangsa,’ and I say it with a sigh.

 

 

 
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