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.