Nine years ago Din joined our tuition class at Al-Manar after getting 2A’s, 2B’s and 1C for his UPSR. That was not much of a result to boast about. Under better circumstances, if life had not been rather hard on him, I am quite certain he would have done better. His father, now in his mid fifty and like many man folks in the area, has been depending on the generosity of the rough South China Sea for livelihood. According to Din his father began his ‘apprenticeship’ at sea as young as eight. This, too, is nothing new in this part of the world. And Din’s mother helps to supplement the family’s earning, working for keropok makers and operating a burger stall in front of their house. Din himself helped out at the stall, making it hard on him to attend Al-Manar classes regularly.
So if we talk about making burgers, Din knows all the tricks.
From the UPSR results of 2A’s,2B’s and 1C, Din improved his academic performance three years later to gain 5A’s and 3B’s for his PMR. He went on to do it even better two years later to score 7A’s and 2B’s in his SPM examination. Seeing how hard he worked, not forgetting his commitment to the burger stall, Pakcik knew that I had not yet seen Din at his best.
“Pakcik apa patut saya buat? ( What should I do ?)” was his question when his SPM results were known. Now he wanted to map out his future. Whatever it might be, he wanted to start something that he could realistically expect success. He did not want any uncertainty.
We discussed at length various possible courses for someone like him who did not make all A’s at SPM. Personally he would like to see himself doing a hospital-related job. That being the case, and having excellent results particularly in science subjects and mathematics, backed by reasonably good English, he should go for a diploma in radiography. The odds would be against him to compete for a place to do medicine. For Din there was no room to gamble. Ukur baju dibadan sendiri. With a good diploma in radiography he would be able to find a job and would still have the opportunity to continue for a degree in due course.
It had already been decided between us that joining Kelas Metrikulasi should be avoided. Accordingly, Din sent his applications and a month later he received three offers one of which came from a university hospital for a diploma course in radiography. This was one which he wanted most; but he needed to get through an interview.
Din had no idea what an interview was like and how he should conduct himself. To give him all the confidence he needed Pakcik lent him a book on radiography and pointed out parts he should try to familiarise himself. A few days later we sat rehearsing mock interviews. It amazed me to see how much of the subject he had digested from the book. So, reasonably assured of himself he left for KL.
When Din returned to brief Pakcik how his interview was conducted, I was reasonably certain he would make it. I had my doubt any normal candidates could engage on a discussion on radiography as he could. Indeed, a couple of weeks later he turned up with a broad smile. He did it.
Din spent the next three years shuttling between KL and KT, never failed to brief Pakcik of his progress each time he returned home.
It was not all in vain. Din did it in style. At the end of the course he topped the group, emerging the only one in the Dean’s list. He was particularly happy realising that his brilliant achievement was his greatest reward to Pakcik. For that performance he was given a choice to start his contractual service at the university hospital or continue on a course leading to a degree in radiography. Following a brief discussion Din expressed what he personally preferred, “Pakcik, I would like to work for a couple of years to save some money. Then I will join the degree course.” I supported the idea. A couple of years’ experience would stand him in good stead to perform well for his first degree course and beyond. However, deep in my heart I knew the true reason for his preference to work first before continuing for a degree - to earn some money so that his family would see the first ringgit from him.
Early next month Din will start working at the unversity hospital, and have the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of his patience and sweat over the years.
I have a vision that Din will ultimately be at university lecturing in radiography.
I have a vision, too, that many years into the distant future, his children will sit around him listening how their father once operated a burger stall, and how their grandfather rode the rough sea, all for them to emerge from the long dark tunnel. The children will realise how far his father has travelled from frying burgers to operating a sophisticated MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) T.O Tesla machine. I wish him all the best.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.