28 December 2008

Happy New Year 1430H and 2009

“Bismilla …..

Kepada Tuhan yang Maha Kuasa ku persembahkan segala-gala yang telah ku buat ditahun yang telah berlalu dan apa yang akan dibuat ditahun-tahun baharu. Kalau kejahatan mengatasi kebajikan dimasa yang telah lampau ku pohonkan semoga kebajikan bertambah ditahun baharu.

Kepada Kau, Tuhanku, ku persembahkan kesyukuran dan lautan terima kasih. Tak ada kejayaan yang telah ku perolehi kalau tidak dengan pertolongan dan keizinan Kau. Dari Mu ku masih dan akan selama-lama meminta pertolongan. Moga-moga Kau tak akan menghampakan permintaan ku yang suci.

Dengan adanya Engkau wujudnya aku didunia. Kepada Kau aku akan kembali. Saksama dan rahmat ialah yang aku pandang-pandang kan .

That transcript was written fifty years ago today on the first page of Pak Cik’s Diary: Thursday 01-01-1959. (equiv. Hijrah 20.06.1378 )

I can still vividly imagine sitting alone in my room at 152, Herrick Road somewhere in the Midlands . The feeling of loneliness pervades me even as I was transcribing this today. It was cold, very cold in that room in a house without central heating. The use of an electric heater was too expensive for a student. It was loneliness living in a house with fellow students, none I could share my feeling with conversing in Malay language. By then I had been two years in that house enjoying an international company, eating foods prepared by an elderly English landlady. “Fish for you today, Hassan,” means everyone else was enjoying what I told her I could not take as Muslim. “You should try this, Hassan. Mrs Robertson is good at this, you know,” one or two at the table would tease me. Let me not dwell on this unpleasant subject.

You, children of Almanar. Pak Cik thought those words of prayers out when I was at about the same age as you who are at university today. I am proud to have those diaries of my yester-years. I look back and evaluate whether or not I have lived my life the way I promised myself fifty years ago. My above prayers tell me a lot of things, my success, my failure, where I have gone wrong and what little good I have achieved, and is there no room for improvement? If you make no effort to write down what you do and how you feel today, you will have lost the opportunity that one day you can look back and take pride, or bow your head with shame, in what has transpired in your life. Pak Cik said it all in those short prayers 50 years ago and I can say I have very little regret. He has answered my prayers.

To all of you I wish a happy new year, 1430 and 2009.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

24 December 2008

Merry X’mas Ian

Pak Cik have just received these beautiful pictures from my dear old friend, Ian Sanderson who now lives in the States ( see my earlier posting, Pak Cik Reminisces - Part 4) They had had 25 cm of snow.

To him and family, Pak Cik and family wish a merry X’mas. We wish merry X’mas to Jane and Peter Swarz, Julian Dalzell and family, who are all in the States. Our special wish goes to Pauline Ford of London who has just shortly lost her beloved mother. Our heart-felt condolences, Pauline. We remember it too well the day we took you, Pauline, and Nell on a tour of Masjid Negara. Likewise I wish merry X’mas to Christian visitors to this blog.

Will it be a white X’mas? Mi and Zaharah in London are sure to be out walking the Oxford Street for the beautiful lighting, or is it not there any more?

To Pak Cik's past and present Almanar pupils: Look at those beautiful snow-covered scenes that you have all read about in books like Jane Eyre, and imagine that one day you have a chance to see them for real - a change from the current monsoon rains and the sound of heavy waves lashing our shore now, day and night.

15 December 2008

Pak Cik Reminisces ( Part 6) - No2 (Nwar) reminisces

This morning Pak Cik received an e-mail from the elder of my two sons both of whom and their big sister are today grown up with children of their own. Pak Cik could not hold my tears reading something that kicked my own memory back to the days I used to take my two boys to Masjid Negara. It brought home how old Pak Cik am today, and how blessed Mak Cik and Pak Cik are that today we have a chance to read what goes in the mind of our son, reflecting the very thought that went through our minds those many many years ago.

I wish to share with Almanar’s pupils, past and present, what my son, Anwar, wrote in his e-mail message:

“I was in my reminiscing mood as I leaned against the big column half listening to the khutbah after the solat hari raya at Masjid Negara this morning. It was drizzling and weather was 'pleasantly' gloomy (autumn-ish) with cool breeze gently blowing across the open spaces of this great mosque - so many fond memories here.

I watched Azim and Arif from afar, both smartly dressed in baju Melayu, chatting & giggling away, oblivious to the surrounding, ahh... both still 'little' boys in my eyes, young and innocent. The solemn khutbah about son and dad, nabi Ibrahim and nabi Ismail, made me conscious of that unconditional love I have for the two (and the little rascal at home, of course). I wondered, surely 30 years ago, when I was here with my little brother and my Babah, for sembahyang hari raya, sembahyang Jumaat, tarawikh, the same thought must have crossed Babah's mind looking at the two of us 'cuit sana, cuit sini', oblivious to the real world - that unconditional love. - Nuar”

Mak Cik, Arif, Azim & cousin Aziz

Life would indeed be a lonely place without our loved ones.

You, children of today will surely, many many moons and years from today, come to a moment that you realise how much you truly owe your parents. So strive hard at your studies, that with your education you can do something for them – not forgetting the community that you belong to.

Nuar, Pak Cik & little brother Amran

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

07 December 2008


To all the present and past pupils of Almanar, and to those who happen to visit this blog, Pak Cik wish you all Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha. Very soon thsose of you who sat for the recent PMR will get to know the results. Let us hope and pray that all is well.

18 November 2008

PakCik Reminisces (Part 5) – 11-11-11

This is a delayed posting. Strictly it should have been done at 11am on 11th day of the 11th month of this year.

It was like an automatic alarm trying to tell Pak Cik something when I was murmuring to myself, “Oh sebelas haribulan November, dah hari ni” ( Oh, it’s already 11th November today). Pak Cik said that as a matter of fact as I was viewing my teaching itinerary for the day. Somehow that 11/11 rang a bell deep in my subconscious mind. Then, seeking an answer to the alarm I repeated, “ Eleven, eleven?”. Then it clicked, a picture of a blood red poppy emerged - the Poppy Day, the Armistice Day !

Armistice Day of what war is that? It is the first World War, sometimes referred to as the Great War of 1917-1918. It started with antagonism between Austria-Hungary on one hand and Serbia on the other. Germany was allied to the former whilst Russia was to Serbia . A chain of alliances, brought in Russia , France , Britain and finally USA . The whole antagonism and conflict were brought to a climax in a war which lasted for four years, leaving a total of twenty million people perished in and outside the battlefields.

Finally, the war ended with an armistice that was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 – the day known as the Armistice Day. So 11 am of 11/11 of 1908 marked the 80th anniversary of that Great War in which Malaya was never involved. But being part of that colonial power we were made to ‘honour the dead’. Pak Cik recall those annual events, and it stays there, deep in my memory, brought to the surface on mentioning 11/11.

The Remembrance Day was well known among us in Malaya as the Poppy Day. Apparantly, poppy plants were seen to bloom after the war well across some of the worst World War I battlefields in Flanders. (Note : Flanders is a geographical region located in parts of present day Belgium, France and Netherlands.) The red colour of poppy flowers was the reminiscence of the bloodshed. Coincidentally, a famous Canadian poet had the following line in his poem, Flanders Field,

“ …………...
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row

It was then seen appropriate for poppy flowers to be adopted as a symbol of the bloodshed of the Great War.

As I mentioned above, Malaya was never involved in the war, unlike the Second World War. We were, nevertheless part of a great power. The rest followed without question. Before Merdeka, during Pak Cik’s childhood days, 11th November, the Poppy Day was celebrated. Poppies made of fine red cloth material were distributed along the pavements of shop houses and everywhere. Each had a pin that could fasten the false flower to the front of your dress. “ A poppy, sir?” a girl or boy, holding a tray of them, would offer you. On accepting one you were expected to push a coin or two through the slot of a tin hanging from one arm – donations to the to welfare fund of the war victims

That belongs to Pak Cik’s past. And today you, ex-pupils of Almanar, read and hear of such tale as related above. What of it, one may ask. What is it to me? Is it just ‘a tale told by an idiot’? We hear of wars everywhere. Question yourselves, “Are we not lucky that we are safe and sound?” I, Pak Cik, belong to the past generation. Nothing matters very much to me any more. But many things matter to you. Work and prioritise what needs doing. Be ready for any dark tunnel that you may have to go through.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

14 November 2008

Hatinya baik (He had a wonderful heart) –Part 1- Al Fatihah

Early in the evening of Sunday 2nd November Dato’ Ahmad Badri bin Mohamed Basir, a very dear old friend, peacefully passed away in Kuala Lumpur . Al Fatihah

Pak Cik was informed by a mutual friend on the Friday evening that Dato’ Ahmad Badri was in a rather critical condition. With Mak Cik I drove down to KL in the morning of the following day, Saturday, after hurriedly canceling a number of scheduled classes. In the afternoon of the same day we visited our friend who was breathing hard from an oxygen mask. At the end of that visit, the last occasion we saw him alive, and on excusing ourselves, Pak Cik could hardly hold my tears saying to his dear wife, “Walaupun Badri sakit, hati-nya baik.” (“ He may be ill but he possesses a wonderful heart.”) I was implying to that piece of organ quoted in Prophet’s famous hadith. That is what truly matters in all of us, the heart. As it were, it was just about twenty four hours before we received the sad news of his departure.

Throughout the morning of the following day,Monday 3rd , his house received literally hundreds of visitors, or could it be more than a thousand? It was a measure of the man’s stature in life, a public figure, humble and approachable, the same that we had known for about forty years.

Some years ago, at the end of one of my visits to Dato’ Badri’s house, he popped out the following statement, “ Hassan, I would like to contribute something, a small sum on a monthly basis towards what you are doing. You just tell me how much.” Pak Cik cannot ever forget that occasion – that offer that came out of the blue. Never had Pak Cik given a hint a need for donation to him, for that matter to anyone. He was interested in Almanar and often commented favourably and now he felt the need to contribute instead of verbal supports. Somehow, Pak Cik did not take on his offer of monthly contributions. However, it was coincidental that I had just planned to purchase 150 copies of a five-volume book on English grammar It involved quite a sum that Pak Cik was about to commit. Involuntarily, Pak Cik put that as an alternative. Without batting an eyelid Dato’ Badri agreed. Strange enough, he was even grateful for the opportunity to contribute something. It was a cause he believed in. That speaks volume of a man I had the pleasure of knowing.

Over the years every one going through the English course at Almanar has had to read the books and analyse their contents. Since my return from Kuala Lumpur I have made it known to pupils at Almanar that from now on we have to recite a short verse from Quran each time we open the books that carry Dato’ Badri’s name on the inside cover. This will be our normal practice in memory of that wonderful friend, our small contribution in return.

To those ex Almanar pupils Pak Cik would seek you all to recite Al Fatihah for the very person who has a share in what you have learnt at Almanar. May Allah bless his soul. He will always be sadly remembered, a man yang hatinya baik.

06 November 2008


It is a global event, the resonance of Obama’s victory.

In America and the western worlds? But of course!
In Kenya where his father came from? No doubt – even a public holiday for the country!
A school in Menteng, Jakarta? Some suddenly remember too well of a classmate named Obama – very intelligent as well, he was, no wonder!
South African Archbishop Tutu said it showed “that for people of colour,
sky is the limit” What a spiritual insight indeed!
Even Obama’s step-gradmother in a village in Kenya? What a sight ,
jubilantly dancing and cheering!
A fantastic luck for a small town in Japan, called OBAMA, meaning a
small beach (Doesn't sound like THE Long Beach?)
Enough reason for the people there to celebrate!
and so on ....
and so forth ....

That man has promised to defeat the Alqaida and Taliban in Afghanistan!
He has promised to stand by Israel!
Would he dare to say that he would help the blacks and the blues (and the people of Desmond Tutu”?
Could he come out loud and clear saying that it was all wrong to fear visitors with Muslim names visiting America?

Has any of the last 43 presidents of America done something for Malaysians conscientiously?
Will this one be any different?

Pak Cik would rather spend my time and energy on something very close to my heart, that would, hopefully, be of some benefit to a few rather than on a global scale, the great American dream!

To Pak Cik’s pupils : Manage your time and work and keep questioning what and why. Be prepared for a long tunnel ahead, very dark indeed at times.

02 November 2008

At long last, the end of the tunnel - Part 2

(Out to sea with tears and toil)

A good twelve years ago, a boy of thirteen joined a group of new Form 1 pupils at Almanar. He had just passed his UPSR (Standard Six) examination. Like the rest of the group his result was not good enough to qualify for admission into a boarding school. But he was certainly better qualified than his father, a simple fisherman. It was not an easy life for a fisherman of 37 to feed his family of six children. The mother had to help out to make ends meet by working as a hired hand preparing fish for making keropok. The boy was simply called Hazri.

Hazri, today, with Abdul Aziz (Form 1), the size Hazri was when he joined Almanar 11 years ago

A very conscientious and responsible man indeed Hazri’s father was. He might be lacking in education but he knew its value in life. He was what he was because he had no proper education. For that reason he was determined to see a change in his family. Hazri was his first boy. The boy must have education. It was his dream that this boy would never have to weather the South China Sea day in and day out, come rain and shine, for an elusive catch. He left a legacy of words in his first son's memory, “ Carilah apa pekerjaan pun. Jangan sekali-kali mengikut cara ayah ke laut! Belajarlah.” ( Choose whatever profession you wish but never be a fisherman like your father! Study.)

A neighbour, who had a son of Hazri’s age but with better UPSR result, suggested that Hazri be sent with his son to a ‘paying’ tutorial class in town. Alas, it was hard enough for Hazri’s father to keep the family in one piece. The father had to content having his son receiving free tuition at Almanar, a small and unknown one-man show in the village. The father could only hope that the old ‘Pak Cik’ of Almanar would succeed in helping his son. It was a further relief to him that Almanar allowed his son the use of a new bicycle. Two and half years later the father was struck by cancer. That was just about six months before Hazri’s PMR (Form 3) examination. Life was even tougher for the family. At one stage Hazri did not turn up for classes at Almanar. That worried Pak Cik because the boy had shown great promise in his study. The boy could not afford to miss class.

In explaining the reason for his absence from Almanar class, the fifteen-year-old boy related to Pak Cik how sad he was when, one evening, he found the family with no rice to cook. Determined to do something he approached the owner of a chicken farm nearby for a manual job, washing the premises. At least he could earn a few ringgits a day. To his disappointment the ailing father found out what he had been doing. Absenting from Almanar class was a sin. “Biar kita berlapar. Jangan engkau dibuang kelas oleh Pak Cik!” ( Let us starve but never let Pak Cik find reasons to dismiss you from his class! ). That was the man’s firm order, his commitment towards education, That at all cost his son would never ever have to go to sea. On one of Pak Cik’s visits the frail man, lying helpless and in pain in bed, had little to say other than a few broken words of thanks for helping his son.

It was during a fasting month when the ailing father was admitted to hospital in a critical condition. Just before the time to break fasting Hazri’s voice came through the phone to say, “ Pak Cik, ayah dah nazak …” And, it so happened, that was the eve of the day the PMR results would be released. Pak arrived too late at the hospital.

At the burial ground on the following day, when his father’s body had been safely laid to rest, Pak Cik told Hazri to pull himself together. He should get his PMR results from school that same afternoon. He had to look ahead, as a man his father wanted him to be. Dutifully Hazri went to get his exam results and immediately called at Pak Cik’s house. It was a day too late. His father would be proud to see his son’s performance. ( May Allah bless his soul ) With the results Hazri gained admission to a MRSM college at form 4. He was definitely on the right course – further away from the sea that his late father dreaded most.

The rest was history. Today Hazri stands tall among the young men in the city of Kuala Lumpur, working as a graduate in Mechanical Engineering. He will probably, one day, hire a boat and set off with his family from his old wooden house by the sea towards the island resort of Redang. This time he will remember the great many trips charted by his father in fair and foul weather – for a different purpose, that Hazri, his son, would never be like his father.

As a matter of interest Pak Cik asked Hazri what had become of the neighbour’s son who had an edge over him in many ways twelve years ago. With a grin on his face he simply muttered, “He is a factory worker.” Such is life.

Deserted and lonely when the fisherman is gone

And Pak Cik pray that Hazri of this world will understand and appreciate the spirit that lies behind Almanar’s motto, lest he forgets that one day he, too, will have to contribute to the society in whichever way he can:

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.


To be sure that Hazri did not find anything objectionable in the above writing Pak Cik had him go through it before posting. He wished that I record the following points:

Hazri today

"PAK CIK HASSAN" sounds short and simple but there is much to talk of him as far as I am concerned - a god-father to me. I first met him 12 years ago. I still remember the first time I studied Maths and English with him. I had zero knowledge in English and was poor in Maths. I was lagging behind but he handled me like a baby, teaching simple English grammar and Maths. He never gave up even when I asked silly questions. He helped me financially as well.

For me there is no other word than “Thanks a lot Pak Cik. You changed my life. You taught me to have positive views on life. You guided me in religion and even discussed political issues. You have helped me to fulfill my late father’s dream – that I would never be a fisherman like him. I could not have done it without your help.”

Pak Cik, once again thank you very much. May God bless you, Mak Cik and family with good health.To those pupils out there at Almanar make the best of Pak Cik. Believe me, as your senior (1st batch at Almanar) you can't get from school what you can get from him.


17 October 2008

It doesn't sound right, does it? ( Part 1 )

Last week Pah Cik was readjusting the timetable for Almanar when a form 1 pupil anxiously said. “Pak Cik, tiap tiap hari pun saya boleh datang ke Almanar minggu hadapan.” Then a chorus of other pupils quickly objected, “Tak boleh Pak Cik, kita kena pergi sekolah seperti biasa.” It was a baffling situation although the answer was indeed very simple. Pak Cik was too old - for that matter I was never trained to be a teacher - to understand the modern thinking in this highly complex field of management.

One group was given time-off for a whole week and others had to attend classes as usual. It transpired that those in the end classes ( of less able pupils ) could sacrifice their class rooms for the PMR examination (or to be sure that less noise would be created for the benefit of candidates cracking their heads in the life threatening PMR examination!) The ‘better’ pupils would continue to attend classes and be taught It was the same case with the end classes of form 4. They too, being poorer pupils, must not go to school and not be a nuisance.

So the school does not have to worry over the need for poorer pupils to get greater attention in education to catch up with the better ones. How simple the answer was to a simple problem.

That sounds right, doesn’t it ?

30 September 2008

Selamat Hari Raya 2008

It is time for surprises. Pak Cik know for sure from past Hari Raya that I will be faced with such question as “Pak Cik ingat tak saya?” or “Pak Cik dah lupa saya?” Those were moments of minor embarrassment, but of great pleasure, nevertheless. And now Pak Cik can again look forward to these most rewarding encounters.

To every one of you, the ex-Almanar pupils and the present ones alike, I wish a happy Hari Raya. If, for some inevitable reasons, we do not meet on this occasion let us hope and pray we will somehow meet again in the not too distant future. I cherish the memory of those instances when you reacted to my scolding with long faces, the moments you were jubilant over your exam results and so on. And to see your faces again and be reminded of those lost moments is a pleasure indeed.

Selamat Hari Raya, maaf dzahir batin.

29 August 2008

It’s AUGUST again. Let’s celebrate

August is just a month like any other month but is not quite like any other month – not to us, Pak Cik and Mak Cik. For a start our wedding anniversary ( never mind the number! One gets tired of counting, anyway)is in the middle of August. Mak Cik was born in that month as well. Unfortunately, Pak Cik – I missed it by just a couple of days, for an even better one, of course!

That is not all. Our daughter and our elder son tied the knot on 25th and 26th August respectively. Our daughter and our only son-in-law had their fourth child on their anniversary. Our elder son had his first boy born in August. And not to miss the fun our younger son had his second daughter in that auspicious month too. So IT'S ALL IN THE FAMILY.

So, true to being a loyal rakyat Malaysia Pak Cik had the Jalur Gemilang hoisted right to the very top of the flag pole in front of Almanar. We celebrate IT ALL, this month of August, with a prayer in our heart, humbly grateful to Him. For all these,

kita berkhidmat untuk kemanusiaan

25 August 2008

Pak Cik reminisces (Part 4) - An old Friend resurfaces

Slowly and surely another month of August has crept up and caught up with us, making it the 51st Merdeka Anniversary. This is Pak Cik’s 8th posting since last year’s Merdeka golden jubilee. Without doubt the posting frequency has improved over that of previous years. It is Pak Cik’s hope to do no less in future. After all, this website and my e-mail are the most effective means of communication between Almanar and students associated with it.

During the course of this year Pak Cik had a very pleasant surprise, a message from one of my long lost friends of pre-Merdeka era. Those who have read Pak Cik’s postings a year ago - Pak Cik Reminisces, (Part 1)and(Part 2) - would realise that 50 years ago I was a lonely Malayan student in England, away from Malaya then and living in an English home with others who hardly knew where on earth Malaya was, Pak Cik had little choice but to adapt myself to the new environment. Over time Pak cik had many close friends from England itself. To my regret, we have lost touch with one another. By a stroke of luck, somehow, one of these old friends was able to contact me through the alumni association. He is Ian Sanderson, simply known as Ian among us. Apparently he migrated to United States, where he and his family are today.

Photo : 1961 Mechanical Eng class (L to R) - Peter Goodman, Harold Levy, Ray Perkins, Pak Cik, Anthony Roylance(dec) and Ian Sanderson

Ian sent Pak Cik a number of e-mail messages some extracts of which are recorded below:


Hey, how are you- do you remember me, Ian [!] We are all well, Blair, my wife and I have been enjoying retirement-almost a year….. . I keep quite fit playing table tennis [ping pong] 4 hours a week with some retired men who are very good. Also I still bike 30 miles every few weeks and play tennis…. I like to sail- I crewed in a friend’s sail boat for a [ Block Island ] race. We came 5th overall. I also sing in a church choir…”

“…….I have 3 sons; Peter 39, Mark 36, Matthew 23 and 5 grandchildren ……”

“ ….I have no contact with our old class at Loughboro' unfortunately- but I do with people in the old cycling club. I have a lot of relatives in England, nieces, nephews, cousins, sisters- that I like to keep in contact with…. .”

“ …..The only person I was in contact with was Tony Roylance- alas he died 3-4 years ago…..”

“……Blair & I went on a great vacation to Italy & Greece recently ……..”

“…….I actually retired June 2007 ……..
From Ian

That is Ian Sanderson who belongs to Pak Cik’s age group and was together with me for four years about the time Malaya became independent. It is apparent from the brief notes above that he is far more active and mobile than Pak Cik, professionally and physically. To all intents and purposes Pak Cik looked at Ian as a typical English lad during the years we were together. On that account I thought he was conservative enough to make his home in good old England. Instead he opted to migrate to America and be an American citizen. Pak Cik, on the other hand, have returned to my birth place – “.. belut pulang ke lumpur”.

Ian is a truly hard engineer to the core. He was active professionally until he retired in June 2007, a good 15 years after Pak Cik had called it a day. It is interesting to view Ian’s work background and experience. Before he retired last year he had been involved in most aspects of mechanical engineering work ranging from operations and maintenance to design and development, with designs patented to his credit as well. As a true professional he has, on top of it, authored several scientific papers.

Ian has three children, all boys, and is proud of them. Pak Cik have three as well but with a girl among them. Ian may say he is one up on Pak Cik since a girl is just a nuisance! I may indeed agree with him. My classes at Almanar are full of girls, shrieking, chattering, yelling, you name it, driving Pak Cik crazy at times! However there is a plus point in having a daughter, an opportunity to have a son-in-law!

Now allow Pak Cik to reminisce back to the Merdeka time, when Ian and Pak Cik attended the same lecture theatre, enjoying cups of tea served by the same tea lady during tea breaks and queuing up for lunch (of fish and chips for me) in the same dining hall. Ian was an avid cyclist and I was not. Cycling was a pure necessity to shuttle me between my house of residence and the college. Pak Cik can never forget an occasion when I was hurrying to college one morning. The road had an invisible thin layer of ice. That being the arrival of my first winter and inexperienced, Pak Cik soon found myself flat on the road surface with coat, overcoat, hat, files and all, after trying to make a clever manoeuvre on my bike. I knew a group of English school girls were across the road. Quite naturally Pak Cik expected humbling smiles and giggles. Instead they did the unexpected, hurrying across the road to offer help to a silly foreign student. That was a lesson in humility and civic-mindedness. I wonder how many of Almanar girls would react in such a manner under a similar situation – furtive glances and suppressed giggles at best!

Ian often enthusiastically talked about his hiking and biking with friends all over the country during weekends. And Pak Cik had to be contented with my hitch-hiking trips which were planned for semester holidays only. Pak Cik could never see the fun of sweating it out hours and hours on a bicycle. “These crazy English guys!” I used to say to myself. How strange it is that at my age today I have begun to appreciate it. Alas, I have none of the energy to pump up and sweat it out on the road. Now I sit to admire the likes of Ian. I am full of envy whenever I think of my Malaysian friend, Ramli, who takes it in his stride to cycle all the way home from KL to KB in Kelantan, calling at Almanar for keropok lekur. (To appreciate the true prowess of this Malaysian cycling enthusiast friend, Pak Cik would certainly recommend his website: When Less Is More)

Once, Ian told me that, when he was as young as 16, he had already been cycling with his cousin of 14 to places in the south of England, doing a distance as much as 140 km a day. I too was 16 once but my bicycle was for going to school, a distance of about 5 km! Now let Pak Cik ask how many of you have seen a penny farthing ( a bike with a small and a huge wheel – see photo ) being ridden? Pak Cik have and it was Ian who demonstrated it. He rode one during a college carnival week. It was a great annual event known as Loughboro’ Rag Week when students of our college staged a week of festival, reputed for a very sizeable sum of money collected for charity. Ian surprised us all riding a penny farthing! During the parade the traffic stopped. Guess how one makes a stop on a penny farthing! Ian deftly stepped off on to the hood of a nearby car. The driver didn't seem to mind. Few realised how much pain he took to be sufficiently good at riding that machine. On one occasion he managed to get up on it and soon found himself propelled unstoppable toward a nearby canal. Fortunately he fell off away from the canal. What a hilarious sight it was!

That was 50 years ago, a year after Merdeka.

According to his e-mail Ian still cycles on top of many other activities. He is in possession of an old bike, a rickety one indeed. Look at the picture of a proud man with his old bike – or should I say a prized bike with its old owner? (No offence intended, Ian, if you happen to read this.)

In his e-mail above he made reference to a Tony Roylance, another close English friend of ours, who has passed away. Tony too was a successful engineer. It is sad to hear of his passing. We were close those days (see photo above).

Pak Cik will end this posting a message for Pak Cik’s ‘anak buah’. I am sad to see that very few of you take up a hobby, a healthy co-curricular activity. I wish you would adopt one and learn to love and enjoy it.

21 June 2008

End of the tunnel, at last! - Part 1

“Pak Cik,you still remember me, don’t you ?” I looked hard at the short chubby figure dressed in baju kurung and smiling broadly at me. It was a familiar face indeed, unmistakable with dimpled cheeks and all. Her name was on the tip of my tongue. Noticing my stunned look and slight hesitation she volunteered, “Ana…” That was as far as she got. “Ana Sarda!” escaped from my mouth quite spontaneously. That name is by no means a common one but I had it uttered over and over again during the years she was at Almanar. It is like the title of an old favourite tune which escapes you when you need to name it. Someone needs just to say the first word and you get the rest.

Ana Sarda joined Almanar early in 1998, together with a group of form 1 pupils. She was a skinny figure of twelve, to-day a charming lass of twenty-two. Pak Cik have not seen her for a good seven years. How she has changed over the years to one who is free and easy at conversation and generous with her smile.

Then, in 1998, she was the eldest of six in the family. Her father retired early from the army but life had to go on with the growing family. Her mother, a good cook, prepared half-a-dozen types of ‘kueh’ every night and her father had it all delivered to a number of coffee stalls before dawn to catch customers on their way home from surau after their subuh prayers. Ana did her share of the work helping her mother. Consequently, she could only start doing her school work after nine o’clock. But that was not all as she had to wake up again by four, an unearthly hour for children of her age, to help out with the final part of her mother’s work, frying, boiling, packaging and so on.

That was Anna who, nonetheless, never failed to attend classes at Almanar with enthusiasm, albeit looking rather tired. Pak Cik came to learn of her nocturnal ‘co-curricular’ activity at home, and appreciating her position, I chose to ease my pressure on her. I even tolerated her occasional sleepy nods in class, fighting drowsiness. But Pak Cik was very worried particularly when it was barely three months before her important Form 3 examination (PMR). With hardly another choice I sought her father for a frank talk. It was such a relief to Pak Cik when he readily agreed to my suggestion that Anna be given the permission to stay with Pak Cik’s family during the months leading to PMR. Nuri then became her temporary home.

For some reason best known to Anna she left our house after the examination and simply vanished. There had not been a visit from her, not even a phone call. It was a great disappointment beyond words. And now, after seven long years of diappearance, she turned up. Pak Cik was least surprised when her second question was, “Are you angry with me, Pak Cik ?” I was truly lost for words. “Pak Cik I have finished my study at UPSI.”

Pak Cik and family offered her tea and sympathy with the sole intention of seeing her succeeding in life, and now she turned up to tell us just that. Should we grudge her for her disappearance and apparent lack of gratitude or should we be delighted with her success? She is now waiting for her posting as a teacher in chemistry, the subject she majored in.

A drop of tears for Ana!

It was a long dark tunnel and Ana has come to the end of it.



1. While waiting to be posted, Ana has been seen at Almanar voluntarily giving help to
pupils with problems in science and maths.
2. Ana is now the eldest of eight, two more added into her family since she joined in
1998. She is hoping to take along her two young brothers, still in primary school, to
wherever she is being posted because she is determined to see their success in life as

Ana has begun to live up to our motto : Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

01 June 2008

PIBG meeting of sorts at Almanar

For the first time in all these years, thirteen in all, Pak Cik decided to invite parents of new pupils for a get-together. Pak Cik opted for small groups of about twenty parents with the hope of promoting a more cordial gathering. Furthermore the Form One group of 2008 opened with quite a large number, close to forty.

Pak Cik began the afternoon with a simple introduction of Almanar, explaining the very reason for its existence – berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan. (Ex-Almanar members must have heard enough of that, for sure.) Pak Cik tried to dispel the general notion that something offered for free was of lesser quality than one with a high price tag. Fortunately, in as far as the free tuition at Almanar was concerned, this was not difficult to sell. The performance of pupils associated with Almanar during the last several years had spoken for itself.

During the course of the ‘cakap-cakap’ session we talked, among other things, about Pak Cik’s rather critical view on TV, computers and hand-phones. Uncontrolled, the numerous entertainment programmes dished out over TV, and ingenious computer games are fast turning into a problem of addiction among children. It is so easy for the addicted ones to spend absorbing hours on TV or exciting hours on a computer. On the contrary, how tiresome and boring it is for the same pupils to concentrate for ten minutes on a school book!

A pupil not in possession of a hand-phone can be regarded ‘ketinggalan zaman’. Among certain groups of pupils that is how it is. It may be beyond the comprehension of many village folks that an unhealthy relationship between ‘shy’ kampong boys and girls can develop from the ‘misuse’ of this modern gadget. Sending SMS is private and is hardly noticeable and, hence, it causes no embarrassment. That extra courage to approach a girl or a boy is no longer necessary. Coffee shop ‘politicians’ lament endlessly over the worsening moral problems. Few indeed appreciate that an innocent looking hand-phone can be a serious beginning. In an urban environment, where parents are from the middle or upper class, modern gadgets are just things taken for granted. For that matter it is a norm to see two cars in front of a house. In a village where two bicycles are shared among a family and one bicycle for each member of a family is a luxury, a hand-phone does represent a different value, more so to a young teenager, and can cause a different effect, too.

Pak Cik cited to the parents an occasion when two girls exchanged glances as I was talking on my hand-phone in a room at Almanar, At the end my conversation one of the girls, wearing a cheeky smile on her face, asked Pak Cik the model of my hand-phone. They did not have to hide from Pak Cik that they very well knew it.

“Nur, it’s just a cheap Nokia, the cheapest Pak Cik could get for under RM 150/-.” I responded casually. “And what is the price of yours?” I asked, playing an admiring look at a hand-phone beside her book.

“It’s just over RM300, Pak Cik. This friend’s is worth nearly RM 400/-,” smiling at he girl beside her.

“Why are yours so expensive?” I asked, showing a genuine curiosity.

“Ours have cameras, Pak Cik,” was her reply. “Ask a silly question and get a silly answer,” I thought to myself.

Well, here is poor PakCik, totally lagging in ‘kecanggihan’, and these children, spending their annual bursary of RM600 from the government – being of poor family but way up front in the possession of something ‘canggeh’!

Indeed we have numerous problems at a village level, different from one to another, a fishing village or one in the interior. Pak Cik often wonder how many ‘experts’ and ‘pakar’ from our ‘menara gading yang bertaraf antara bangsa’ care to carry out this kind of social study and highlight the many ills in a kampong society. The Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz did many of those during his days, hence his in-depth views of problems among Malay children and so on. A person like him could have thought of the need for an organization like Tabung Haji. He is convinced that Malay children in the villages need better nourishment for better brain. Alas, we are now all for turning our young ones to astronauts!

The parents listened to Pak Cik’s ‘cakap cakap’ and we all laughed light-heartedly. Finally we adjourned to Nuri where Mak Cik had some tea with ‘something-something’ simple prepared to end the occasion. That was an afternoon well spent.

Anak Pakcik No.2
Trust pakcik to jolt our senses to the reality of things! Indeed, the habitual act of taking things for granted. RM300 mobile phones? It is even scarier to find out from Azim (a form 1 student in urban KL) that some of his friends are walking with RM3000 handphones stuck in their pockets, and still complaining of lagging behind in terms of “yang tercanggih”! Ringgit and sense seldom come together.

For you dear Al-manar students, I envy you. You are with pakcik in his “prime time”, when he can sit back and share his life experience to all of you on a constant basis. His words oozes with virtues and wisdom, so children, listen up and pay attention!

21 April 2008

Sufiah – oh – Sufiah

When Sufiah hit the headlines recently, Pak Cik mentioned her name in class. Surprise, surprise, the whole class of Form 3 seemed to have read about the girl. I wonder if it was an English language paper they had picked up the story from. If that was so, they would have acquainted themselves with a few 'useful' English terminologies associated with Sufiah's profession ! If only they had read the London paper, which first splashed the news, they would have been thrilled with the accompanying photos. Pak Cik can say that I was truly saddened by the 'exposure' - the story as well as the pictures.

Do I feel the need to organise help for this girl ? Pak Cik commented to Almanar pupils that what they had read was the bitter side of life which they would, sooner or later, come to recognise and have to come to grip with. At the same time Pak Cik cannot take my mind off statistical figures published in a local daily recently. There is nothing to be proud of in what it says that 75% of the unemployed are Bumiputra and 60% of those involved in prostitution are Bumiputra as well. So why have we got to clamour over the lone Sufiah, an intelligent person with good education,who has willfully chosen to live the way she does? The 75% and the 60% are closer to home and are the ones we all need to be concerned about. If we cannot help them let us help ourselves and those who are dear to us from being part of that statistic. And Pak Cik sincerely hope with education, including conviction in our religious belief, we will survive the bitter tests in life.

To make the news of Sufiah appear more personal ( as Pak Cik did with our celebrity, Awang Goneng ) I must bring in Mak Cik into the picture. As soon as she had read the News of the World on internet, she scurried around searching our collection of photo albums. " I knew I had it," said Mak Cik proudly. " Here's my photograph with her."

It was on a trip to Oxford. Pak Cik's niece, Karina, was studying there and so was Sufiah, aged 13. Look at the photograph. Study the innocent face of Sufiah standing alongside Mak Cik, Pak Cik's sister and a family member. Would it ever cross our mind then that such an innocent looking and intelligent lass would be what she is today ? Such is life - a shadow, a poor player that frets and struts his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. So, ex-pupils of Almanar, wherever you are, I must say that we ought to look at ourselves, where we are and question ourselves what good are we that gives us the right to notice and criticise 'kuman diseberang lautan'. Let us do our utmost, then hope and pray that all is well. Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

St. Hilda's College, Oxford - October 1997

18 April 2008

2007 PMR Results - Further update

Unhappy with their awarded grade for Bahasa Malaysia, three pupils requested for a review which brought cheers. They have been awarded A grade in the subject after all. They have, therefore, joined their colleagues of all 8As. The final tally of results for Almanar-assisted candidates now stands as follows :

Grade: 8As - 8 students
Grade: 7As - 5 students
Grade: 6As - 2 students
Grade: 5As - 1 student
Total - 16 students

Equally heartening to us is the news that two more pupils have been offered admission into boarding schools, an SBP and a MRSM.

2007 PMR students in Almanar main room

10 February 2008

Acknowledging a gift from Awang Goneng

Saying ‘thank you’, which reflects a feeling from within, is one that ought to be delivered outright, spontaneously and promptly. Any hesitation in delivery may be misunderstood. On this score Pak Cik am guilty - to none other than the current celebrity, Awang Goneng. I should have said at the end of December last year what I am about to say now.

24 Dec 2007 - Awang Goneng & Kak Teh's visit to Nuri

There was so much hullabaloo over the arrival of Awang Goneng in Kuala Terengganu. It was an event worthy of many events. Pak Cik could never hope to be heard. So Pak Cik have waited for the dust to settle before saying my piece. Hopefully, some will read and come to realise that, unknown to many, the celebrated writer is not, to Pak Cik and Mak Cik, Awang Goneng and his wife simply Kak Teh. They are very much dearer to Pak Cik and family than those glamorous names. They are simply Mi and Zaharah to us. So here goes what Pak Cik have to say to them :

"That Mi and Zaharah chose to come to our home on the very eve of the successful launching of your Growing Up in Trengganu was a gesture of your true humility to Kak Mah and Abang Ngah. Instead of allowing us to go down town to buy a copy of GUIT for you to sign, you took so much trouble driving a copy of your celebrated work all the way to Pengkalan Maras. How much greater honour can anyone hope to be given? Kak Mah and Abang Ngah pray that what we are seeing is just the beginning of something greater to come for you both. Thank you Mi and Zaharah for the visit and the precious momento."

So Pak Cik have had it out of my chest at last. Now comes the time to brag about acquaintances – call it name dropping if you may.

When someone becomes famous, many will naturally want to be identified with him one way or another. You should not be surprised to hear,
You know, my brother’s wife’s cousin used to go to school with Awang Goneng’s second cousin. And ….”.

A second person quickly interrupts,
Is that so? But my wife told me her father’s brother-in-law once played football and won the game against a team which had Awang Goneng’s uncle’s third cousin in it. Not only that ……”.

Before he could continue a third person, not to be left out, cut him short,
Now hear this. Do you know Awang Goneng’s grandfather was a very very important person in Kampong Raja, Besut? Besut is in Terengganu if you do not know. Believe it or not my grandfather lived in Pasir Puteh in Kelantan. You may not know the two states have a common border. A road links the two towns. Half way the road runs over a bridge across a river at a town called Jerteh. I have crossed that river many times. But many years ago there was no bridge. Vehicles of all sorts had to cross by ferry. So I am very certain my grandfather must have met that great Awang Goneng’s grandfather on that ferry. I am dead certain, I bet you.”

8 Aug 1983 - 99 Westbourne Terrace, Paddington

Yes indeed, Wan Hulaimi and Zaharah are no strangers to us. Our three children used to visit their home in East Acton for tea and sympathy. In fact we ourselves spent many a night in their flat on Chapelside. It was there Wan Goneng caught on camera our little boy enjoying himself in the long bath in his birthday suit! The boy could never forgive him for that embarrassing photo. It could very well be out in Awang Goneng’s next creation.

No, Pak Cik will not say any more. Those ex-Almanar pupils who have read Growing Up in Trengganu may get more information about the real Awang Goneng, such as how he commercialised ‘tempe’ in London town and how he was recently lost, driving in circles for one hour in Kuala Trengganu, of all place!

P.S. Just look at the two photos above. See what 24 years can do to people!

04 February 2008

2007 PMR Results - Update

Some may want to have an update of what has become of those who performed well in their recent 2007 PMR - posted late December 2007. It is good news, a repeat of past years.

Two pupils will join Form 4 at sekolah menengah sains berasrama Penuh, namely
- Sekolah Menengah Sains Kuala Terengganu and
- Sekolah Menengah Sains Machang, Kelantan.

Seven others have been offered places at four MRSM schools namely:
- Pengkalan Chepa - Kelantan - 3
- Kuala Berang - Terengganu - 2
- Besut - Terengganu - 1
- Kuala Terengganu - 1

A few others may accept places at Sekolah Tekniks.

Pak Cik wish them all success wherever they may be, carrying the torch of Almanar.

20 January 2008

1 Muharram 1429H - A New Year farewell to Pak Cik’s Ayah Cik (a belated posting)

Yes, another New Year. Pak Cik was up at five that morning to greet the arrival of our Muslim New Year.

It was a public holiday but Pak Cik had, nevertheless, decided to run my Almanar classes as usual, scheduling a two-and-half-hour one in the morning and another in the afternoon. By 8.20 Pak Cik was already crossing the road to Almanar, all very enthusiastic to deliver my royal New Year message to Form 3 pupils. Then came an uneasy feeling when no one was in sight. ‘These lazy children,’ ran my thought. But when the clock showed 8.30 and there was still no sign of them, I was beginning to lose my cool on the 1st day of Muharram.

A few form 4 and form 5 pupils began to turn up to study in private, greeting their obviously irritated Pak Cik. I strolled to check the time-table on the notice board then my diary. ‘Oh, this is an absolute cock-up!’ I told myself. It began to dawn on me that a few days earlier I decided to alter the morning group to the afternoon without telling the afternoon group to come in the morning. Pak Cik could now expect two groups fighting it out in the afternoon. A flurry of activities followed, sending messages of cancellation of afternoon for one of the two groups. That done and feeling somewhat relieved, Pak Cik decided to drive down town to buy some books and a pair of new sandals. A few shops were open that day.

“Baguslah pakai sandal baru hari pertama tahun baru,” commented the shop-keeper when Pak Cik put on my new purchase to walk out. Just as I was about to step into the car the hand-phone buzzed. This was not at all a welcome news after the morning’s mess-up. At the other end of the line was Pak Cik’s brother-in-law. His voice was terse to announce the death of Pak Cik’s uncle, Hj Ismail, whom Pak Cik lovingly addressed as Ayah Cik. In September this year he will be 92. By Maal Hijrah he is 95, a grand old man by any standard. In my new sandals Pak Cik dashed to his house.

So around ten in the morning of 1st Muharram 1429 the final curtain fell and Pak Cik’s uncle made his exit, his final ‘hijrah’. One moment he was seen resting on a couch and the next slumped on his side breathless. How easy and what an appropriate and auspicious date it was. May Allah bless his soul.

In his life Pak Cik’s Ayah Cik had two loves, collecting religious books ( kitabs ) and flower plants. Never tell him of your going to do Umrah and you could be sure of getting a shopping list of kitabs to buy in Mecca . I felt guilty that, at times Pak Cik avoided telling him of my intended umrah for fear of having extra weight to lug around.

Frail as he was he would not miss visiting the twice-a-week ‘pasar tani’ days (farmers’ open market days). He simply must stroll around ogling admiringly at the display of orchids and other flower plants, hoping to see a new breed. More often than not he would take one home. He ceased visiting the pasar tani when one day he was given a lift home without his trusted motorbike. He claimed that he had forgotten the place where he parked it, though many of us believed that it had been stolen. In a way it was a blessing as the family feared for his safety riding his motorbike shakily along the busy main road to and from the pasar tani.

Pak Cik visited this uncle a couple of weeks ago. After parking my car in front I walked straight into his house passing his many plants on the way, hardly noticing his small body among the plants. He was squatting on his bended knees watering a couple of potted orchids. “Kasihan nampak pokok-pokok ini tak kena air,” he murmured to me. To him his plants were as much alive as little children that needed to be loved and cared. Gone is Pak Cik’s Ayah Cik – a hijrah on the first day of Muharram 1429 - one new year day that I woke up to greet with high expectation only to begin with confusion at Almanar and a sad farewell to someone who had shown a lot of kindness to me in particular. Semoga dicucuri Allah rohnya.

08 January 2008

Tokens of Appreciation

PMR results are known and it is all over until another year. What an added pleasure it was to see signs of appreciation on top of the satisfaction of witnessing good performance. A kain batik for Mak Cik, a pelikat, a sejadah or a towel for Pak Cik, a framed ayat Al-Quran to adorn the wall and such items are all what make you feel good. A visit from parents to express thanks for helping their son or daughter had no monetary value. When a boy was overwhelmed with emotion, crying and haltingly uttered, “ Thank ----- you ---- Pak Cik ---- I could not have -- done it –without Almanar –“ you felt like crying too. What if a pupil came with a small plastic bag containing about half a kilogram of small fish saying, “ Ini ayah beri.”? You began to imagine the harshness of life to earn some fish in the midst of monsoon season, the stormy sea and the risk that went with it.

All such invaluable tokens, material or otherwise, make us ponder and realise how lucky we are.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

01 January 2008

Pak Cik reminisces (part 3) - New Year, 50 years ago

The clock on the wall is showing 2.05 am, Tuesday, the 1st of January 2008. Mak Cik is fast asleep after watching the New Year celebration on TV. In the dark and still of the night, Pak Cik have just said a short prayer on the verandah outside our bedroom, a way of saying farewell to 2007 and welcoming 2008. And now here I am, Pak Cik, sitting and thinking. From sheer force of habit Pak Cik have to sit back and reflect on the year that has just slipped by. What have I achieved to thank Him for and what failure is there that I should feel ashamed of myself as a legacy of 2007? And what do I do now for my tomorrow? I thank Him for the gifts of the past year and continue to seek more help for what I must start now to build a better tomorrow.

I reached into a box of old diaries and picked up that for 1957. It was on top because I had dug it out very recently for the note on Merdeka (Pak Cik Reminisces - Part 2). What a coincidence , 1st January 1957 fell on Tuesday as well. The page is full. As always it begins with a short prayer. This one is in my poor Arabic which says :

Bismillah …….. O God, I have not been fair to myself and I belong to the weak. So forgive me and strengthen my faith in You. All praises are Yours and to You I shall return. God, please help me through this new year as You have always helped me. To You goes all my gratitudse. Only you are the Perfect. .Amin.

The weather was cold where I was.
Afternoon temperature - 8 deg C
Evening temperature - 5 deg C

Pak Cik must be sensing the great change in weather to see it fit to record the temperature readings in my diary. Here I am in my in my room with the air-conditioner set at 23 deg C.

To the Almanar community, the past and present, Pak Cik wish and pray that this new year will be better than the ones gone by. Do reflect on the past, resolve to achieve better and start the act today. As Pak Cik often say to you all, Yesterdays are not ours and we cannot count on tomorrows. Those are His, Alawwalu wal Akhiru. If at all we can claim today to do something and then we can hope and pray that we have a better tomorrow.