28 December 2011

With a Sigh (Pt. 11) - A Class for Three

Flashback - A year ago, on 15.12.2010 my posting went like this:

"With a sigh ( Pt 4 ) – Do I carry on or call it a day?

O, no, … only NINE ….?” cried my first little thought when I stepped into my class at Almanar one day last week. Rising to their feet to greet me were just nine pupils, ALL GIRLS. What has become of all the boys?....


Indeed, Pakcik went through a very disappointing time and questioned whether or not to call it a day. A few reasons contribute to the dwindling number of children attending Almanar. I was truly depressed at the situation then. Somehow, nothing short of providence brought fresh light into the gloom. A house for children of poor families and orphans was opened one kilometer away from Almanar, calling for help from Almanar to tutor about 80 children from Form 1 to Form 4. This god-send fresh mission was most welcome, albeit a fresh challenge never thought of previously; the majority are of very poor quality, academically and in attitude towards learning.

How the Form 3 children of this group fared in the recent PMR is not yet known to us as these children are away on holidays. But we are certain of very poor results for a start. We will soon know.

In the meantime we have not closed our door to other children in the community. This morning was supposed to be the first day for new Form 1 pupils to join Almanar class. Against the previous high figure of up to forty, we had THREE pupils, a boy and two girls!

The class of THREE

But we are past being deterred from pushing ahead. I remember Mr Micawber, a character in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, one of the text books for Form 4 English Literature in 1954. This eternal optimist believes that "something will turn up".

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

25 December 2011

Merry X’mas - 2011

To our Christian visitors and, in particular, our very old friends, Pauline, Julian, Ian, Raymond and their families, Salmah and I wish a merry X’mas, possibly a beautiful white one for those in UK and the States.

With kind regards from

Hassan & Salmah



Untuk yang seugama, Pakcik ingin melakarkan ayat 45 dan 59 dari surah Al I’mran.

Oleh kerana Pakcik sendiri tidak berkemampuan memberi penerangan secukupnya, memadai lah dengan apa yang terdapat dalam “Tafsir Pimpinan Al-Rahman Kepada Pengertian Al Quran” yang diterbitkan oleh Jabatan Perdana Menteri- 1968 :

Ayat 45 dari surah Al-Imran

“(Ingatlah) Ketika malaikat berkata: “Wahai Maryam! Bahawasanya Allah memberikan khabar yang mengmbirakan mu, dengan (mengurniakan kepada mu seorang anak yang engkau akan kandungkan sematamata dengan) kalimah daripada Allah ( kalimah arahan Allah ‘kuun’ - atau ‘jadi’- dan terus jadi) , nama anak itu: Al Masih Isa Ibnu Maryam, seorang yang terkemuka dalam dunia dan akhirat, dan ia juga dari orang yang didanpingkan (diberi kemuliaan disisi Allah).”

Ayat 59 dari surah Al-Imran

“Sesungguhnya perbandingan kejadian nabi Isa disisi Allah, adalah sama dengan kejadian nabi Adam. Allah telah menciptakan Adam dari tanah lalu berfirman kepadanya: ‘Jadilah engkau!’ Maka jadilah ia.


From those two verses alone we are being reminded that Al-Masikh Isa, is one of the greatest prophets who are to be honoured by us all. He is no less human than Adam, both of whom were created by a one-word command from Him – KUUN or simply BE. Adam was created without parents and Isa without the need of a father, hence Isa bin Maryam. That being the case, and firmly with that unshakable belief, should we not honour this prophet of Allah the way we are expected to do as enshrined in Al Quran? Could we not respect others for the basis they choose for their belief, that we be respected in return?

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk Kemanusiaan

18 December 2011

Moment to Reflect ( Pt 7 ) - I – Who am I?

5.30 pm today.

From our home we noticed,
An inviting scene.
We walked down.
And stood there.
Words unspoken.

Just watch.
Just admire.


The marvel of the Great Creator
Aku bertafakkur sejenak.

Click on pictures to enlarge

A 5.30 scene -Sunday 18.12.12

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

09 December 2011

What Pakcik Received ( Pt 2 ) - Room to Read

In September this year ( click HERE) Pakcik decided to introduce this ‘What Pakcik Received’ series primarily meant to extend to my readers certain articles of interest sent to me by friends. Recently, one in Thailand emailed an article by Nicholas D Kristof, a well-known columnist of New York Times.

Subject: Room to Read

ONE of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie's
construction of more than 2,500 libraries around the world. It's renowned as
a stimulus to learning that can never be matched - except that, numerically,
it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you've
probably never heard of.

I came here to
Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a
library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta - as
hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if
they were the rarest of treasures. Wood's charity, Room to Read, has opened
12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools.

Yes, you read that right. He has opened nearly five times as many libraries
as Carnegie, even if his are mostly single-room affairs that look nothing
like the grand Carnegie libraries. Room to Read is one of
fastest-growing charities and is now opening new libraries at an astonishing
clip of six a day. In contrast, McDonald's opens one new outlet every 1.08

It all began in 1998 when Wood, then a Microsoft marketing director, chanced
upon a remote school in
Nepal serving 450 children. Only one problem: It had
no books to speak of.

Wood blithely offered to help and eventually delivered a mountain of books
by a caravan of donkeys. The local children were deliriously happy, and Wood
said he felt such exhilaration that he quit Microsoft, left his live-in
girlfriend (who pretty much thought he had gone insane), and founded Room to
Read in 2000.

He faced one challenge after another, not only in opening libraries but also
in filling them with books that kids would want to read.

"There are no books for kids in some languages, so we had to become a
self-publisher," Wood explains. "We're trying to find the Dr. Seuss of
Cambodia." Room to Read has, so far, published 591 titles in languages
including Khmer, Nepalese, Zulu, Lao, Xhosa, Chhattisgarhi, Tharu, Tsonga,
Garhwali and Bundeli.

It also supports 13,500 impoverished girls who might otherwise drop out of
school. In a remote nook of the Mekong Delta, reachable only by boat, I met
one of these girls, a 10th grader named Le Thi My Duyen. Her family,
displaced by flooding, lives in a shabby tent on a dike.

When Duyen was in seventh grade, she dropped out of school to help her
family out. "I thought education was not so necessary for girls," Duyen

Room to Read's outreach workers trekked to her home and cajoled the family
to send her back to class. They paid her school fees, bought her school
uniforms and offered to put her up in a dormitory so that she wouldn't have
to commute two hours each way to school by boat and bicycle.

Now Duyen is back, a star in her class - and aiming for the moon.

"I would like to go to university," she confessed, shyly.

The cost per girl for this program is $250 annually. To provide perspective,
Kim Kardashian's wedding is said to have cost $10 million; that sum could
have supported an additional 40,000 girls in Room to Read.

So many American efforts to influence foreign countries have misfired - not
least here in
Vietnam a generation ago. We launch missiles, dispatch troops,
rent foreign puppets and spend billions without accomplishing much. In
contrast, schooling is cheap and revolutionary. The more money we spend on
schools today, the less we'll have to spend on missiles tomorrow.

Wood, 47, is tireless, enthusiastic and emotional: a motivational speaker
with no off button. He teared up as girls described how Room to Read had
transformed their lives.

"If you can change a girl's life forever, and the cost is so low, then why
are there so many girls still out of school?" he mused.

The humanitarian world is mostly awful at messaging, and Room to Read's
success is partly a result of his professional background in marketing. Wood
wrote a terrific book, "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World," to spread
the word, and Room to Read now has fund-raising chapters in 53 cities around
the world.

He also runs Room to Read with an aggressive businesslike efficiency that he
learned at Microsoft, attacking illiteracy as if it were Netscape. He tells
supporters that they aren't donating to charity but making an investment:
Where can you get more bang for the buck than starting a library for $5,000?

"I get frustrated that there are 793 million illiterate people, when the
solution is so inexpensive," Wood told me outside one of his libraries in
Mekong. "If we provide this, it's no guarantee that every child will
take advantage of it. But if we don't provide it, we pretty much guarantee
that we perpetuate poverty."

"In 20 years," Wood told me, "I'd like to have 100,000 libraries, reaching
50 million kids. Our 50-year goal is to reverse the notion that any child
can be told 'you were born in the wrong place at the wrong time and so you
will not get educated.' That idea belongs on the scrapheap of human


There are among us bloggers who spend a lot of their time and effort, not necessarily their own money, to help the needy, the aged, the sick, the poor children etc. Let us salute them and try to do our bits.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

27 November 2011

Moment to Reflect ( Pt 6 ) - Hijrah 1433 – Dimana kita berada?

Setelah berakhirnya seribu empat ratus tiga puluh dua tahun, dimanakah kita sebagai satu umat berada? Sudah berapa lapisan keturunan berlalu semenjak tahun junjungan kita berhijrah? Tahap manakah bangsa Arab berada hari ini selepas datangnya hidayat? Tidakkah mereka dianugerah Tuhan kekayaan didunia ? Beginikah kedudukan keturunan satu bangsa daripada mana seorang nabi teragung dilahirkan, dan dalam bahasa mana turunnya AlQuran yang teragung? Tidakkah mereka diberi sumber kekayaan?

Aku kembali berfikir:

Tahap manakah aku berada, umur dan pencapaianku? Selagi ada hayat dibadan ….. biar setitik peluh mengalir dibadan, tidak semata mata melaung azam

Let us spare a moment to reflect

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

13 November 2011

With a Sigh (Pt 10) - Toil and Trouble

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.


I have often sighed with despair watching children who, for their poor performance, are grouped into the end of the class. A large secondary school within my vicinity may have as many as ten classes of about thirty-five pupils each. I do not blame schools for placing the better pupils together. They are the likely children to give the schools a place in the honoured list when the PMR and SPM results are released. But I do blame the school principles who put up pressure on teachers to maximise number of excellent results, at the expanse of the pupils who are being grouped and neglected as ‘no-hopers’. We do not do that to our children. Likewise we are duty bound to help these children if we take pride pride in being teachers, and earn our livelihood at that.

In a large primary school in certain rural areas many children come from very poor background. They never see kindergartens. Their only hope is to learn something from schools the moment they join Standard One at seven years old. The seemingly total efforts of this state, in maintaining at all costs the record of UPSR results, often leave the needy children behind. And the situation goes on for six years at the end of which the poorer children hardly learn anything. Instead, they have sadly acquired all the bad habits within the years. I have a girl of thirteen with all E’s in her UPSR who admitted, “ Saya malas Pakcik ( I am lazy).”

For the first time in seventeen years I am now seeing a strange phenomenon; children of poor families and orphans do not only have poor UPSR results but have also acquired bad behaviour. By logic these are the children who should have been given all the helps and motivation in schools. Our zest and demand for record-breaking performance of all A’s at UPSR exam at all costs has this bye-product which many in authority may not wish it to be highlighted.

An now, as the state religious department have picked up children from nooks and corners of the state and put then in one home, I am seeing this phenomenon, the presence of which, people who matter may not wish to recognise. But, for the very first time I have about 80 of these children, from Form One to Four. I have never lost my temper as often as I have of late. It is a combination of anger, helplessness and desperation. You see it all in most of these children, the playfulness, misbehaviour, laziness and stubbornness. Only very few show rays of hope.

Should Pakcik weed out those very difficult ones? No, it is a challenge. Additionally I understand it too well the following two beginning ayats from surah Alma’un:

Surah AlMa'un

107 - 1&2

Hast thou ever considered (the kind of man) who gives the lie to all moral law? Behold, it is this (kind of man) that thrusts the orphan away.”- according to Muhammad Assad’s interpretation.

I talk to my children and children of Almanar the need to overcome challenges which make better men and women of us; and I shirk a challenge involving the orphans and the poor?


Two weeks ago I noticed a girl of Form Four struggling to copy notes from her beighbour. Half suspecting the reason I asked her and got the expected answer. “Dia rabun, Pakcik! (She cannot see!) came a chorus of cries from around her. But she was not alone. There were two other girls who had trouble all the years with no apparent help coming. Immediately after class I drove them to an optician. One and half hours later I drove the three girls home, looking shy but with confidence in their new gift of clearer vision. Deep in my heart I regret that this state of mine is very proud of dishing out computers to teachers of Standard Six (to encourage them to better UPSR results!) and children at all levels. And the likes of these poor children suffer the indignity of struggling just to be able to see. Could this be a rare case? There have been other pupils of Almanar requiring that simple and inexpensive gift to enable them to see the board, not something to play cyber-games with or join the face-book community.

Such is life and I can only draw a long sigh.


But I am going to get some small help!

A young lady teaching English at a university close to us is looking forwards to give half a day a week to Almanar. When forewarned of the difficult children she merrily said she would make them sing to her music. She has the equipment to bring along.

A senior lecturer at the Teachers’ Training Institute nearby, who is has a couple of years to retirement, is anxious to find something to usefully fill his time. He specialises in Mathematics. He too will, for a start, contribute half a day a week to Almanar.

Who knows there is a secret floodgate somewhere. We must not despair.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemsnusiaan


To a number of teachers who call at my blog, I regret having to express harshly against their profession. There are umpteen dedicated teachers and I certainly have not lost my deep respect for them. It is often the case of 'Seekor kerbau ..... '. At the same time I believe in expressing oneself, giving and receiving criticisms.

11 November 2011

11-11-11 - What’s in a date?

I write about the dates which are meaningful to me.


I saw beauty in 1.11.11, a date that appears once in a century, one day that I was blessed to have lived through, and I was thankful to Him for that. ( Click here)


May 13th 1969 was one day I wrote about, a day of frightening experience to Pakcik. (Click here) This date has become a land-mark in Malaysian history.


August 31st 1957 was a day greeted with pomp and pride in a small country named Malaya, now standing tall among the independent countries of the world. On that very day the young Pakcik was sitting alone far, far away from home, strangely wondering whether that independence would indeed be a good thing. ( Click here )


And ninety-three years ago today, the hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 was the official end of World War I. November 11th of each year was the Remembrance Day, the Armistice, celebrated year after year during Pakcik’s young days. It may no longer be celebrated in the independent Malaysia but the date was well etched at the back of Pakcik’s little cell. ( Click xxxx.)


Dates are turned into memories.

At this juncture I wish to apologise to Ninotaziz for having overlooked her comments for Pakcik’s 1-11-11 posting. As luck would have it, I was going through my deleted list when I noticed my mistake. In a way I am glad that it did happen as her contribution is not inappropriate to be included here. With apology to her, here it goes:

By Ninotaziz


“It is the way of the world
Time and tide, await no man

Except in the heart
Where memories reside

And yet there are those
Who belittle our hold to the past

I say to them...

Learning and teachings
Would be meaningless lessons

Why, civilisation was built
upon the memories of man!”

Isn’t that a beauty? Thank you Ninot.


Of course there are many other dates of importance to us all; of birthdays, anniversaries and so on, especially for one with a big family. But on top of all the dates, each and every one of us has a mysterious date of ultimate importance, a date we cease to be who we are, stripped bare of pride and position. Let us offer Alfatihah to our loved ones who have had theirs.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

04 November 2011


( I prefer Qurban to Korban for that specific rite in Islam - and Quran )

What did P Ramlee say?

P Ramlee


Berkorban apa saja
Harta atau pun nyawa
Itulah kasih mesra
Sejati dan mulia

Kepentingan sendiri
Tidak diingini
Bahagia kekasih
Saja yang diharapi

Berkorban apa saja
Harta atau pun nyawa
Itulah kasih mesra
Sejati dan mulia
hmm... hmm... hmm...

Untuk menjadi bukti
Kasih yang sejati
Itulah tandanya
Jika mahu diuji

Berkorban apa saja
Harta atau pun nyawa
Itulah kasih mesra
Sejati dan mulia


Kalau hendak melakukan qurban seekor lembu secara berkulmpulan, buatlah.” The speaker said. “Tapi janganlah membuat masalah kepada diri dan orang lain” ( If you want to perform the rite of slaughtering a cow jointly, by all means do it. But do not create problem to yourself and others involved.”

Makcik was listening to an Ustaz talking on TV early one morning a couple of days ago. Pakcik was reading a book, with half an ear on what was going on. Those words from the Ustaz interrupted my reading. I stopped to listen with interest. On matters related to accepted practices in religion he was against asking too many questions on whats and whys at the point of performing them. It would be right to put those questions for clarification while being taught in class. If one is being told by a person in authority what is good and he intends to do it, just do it without kicking up an awful fuss. Read your ‘niat’ ( be sure of your intention) and push on.


I like to make reference to a Quranic parable contained in Ayat 67 to 71, Surah Albaqarah, which begins with:

It tells how a group of people during the time of Prophet Moses were told to ‘sacrifice a cow’. It was to be performed for a specific purpose related to unsolved murders at that time. The requirement was just 'a cow' of any sort. Instead of doing just that, they repeatedly sought to know greater details regarding the animal. Ir went on from a simple cow to its age, colour, pattern etc etc until the final descriptions made it extremely difficult for them to find a cow so specified.

Ask too many questions and you get it, so to speak!


Selamat Hari Raya dan selamat BEQURBAN

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemnusiaan


I wonder how many people know about Qurban as organised by Yayasan Kemanusiaan of Muslim Aid, Malaysia. For more information click Cat-from-Sydney.

01 November 2011

1-11-11- One and the Only One

Today is an odd day, a truly rare one at that. It happened a century ago, in 1911, and will only be here again in another century, in 2111. And I know this, today, happens only once in my life time. Many of my friends, even those who were a few years younger, have left us and they never lived to see one. I think we ( meant for my Muslim visitors ), who have the opportunity to experience today, say ‘Allahu Akbar. Walahul Hamd ), and for our loved ones, who never lived to see one date like today, we offer them Alfatihah instead.


And last week was very unlike any other week. The two of us at Nuri received two very special and distinguished couples, two bloggers, GuiKP and Cat-from-Sydney. GiuKP came with his family and Cat-from-Sydney just like a honey-mooning couple.

To me it was not just a get-to-know-you occasions to meet these learned people with varied, very varied experiences. They are doing things bigger that what I have ever done, one deeply involved in higher education and the second in charity work. Conversations with these very special visitors are an eye opener – how much one can do in education, on one hand, and on charity work, the other.

To me blogging is immaterial as far as these visitors are concerned. What they have been doing is what I can never hope to do.

Makcik and Pakcik appreciate the trouble they took to locate our home, giving us the pleasure of knowing them, and leaving us hoping that that they should not wait for another 1-1-11 to be at Nuri again.

These learned visitors are doing just what I believe in:

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

29 October 2011

Moment to Reflect (Pt 5) - It is here again

Time and tide wait for no man. So does MONSOON.

The dark hovering clouds float threateningly low, accompanying waves growing in size and speed, bringing rain to irrigate our land.

And fishermen’s boats lie idling, threatening livelihood.

What will become of their children?

Do we wait and see, year in and year out?

Let us reflect for a moment

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

22 October 2011

What Pakcik received (Pt 2) - The Brick

How often do we sit back, look around and give some thought to what appears to us too insignificant to waste our few seconds ? Pakcik received the following “BRICK” from a friend. It made me stop to think.

The Brick!!!

Read It.

Read this today and
don't delete it
even if
you are too busy!! You'll


A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked
cars and slowed down
when he thought he saw

As his car passed, no children appeared.
Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door!
He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to
the spot where the brick had been thrown.

The angry driver then jumped out of the
car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up
a parked car shouting,

'What was that all about and who are you? Just what
the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that
brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money.. Why
did you do it?' The young boy was apologetic.

'Please, mister....please, I'm sorry but I didn't
know what else to do,' He pleaded. 'I threw the
brick because no one else would stop...' With tears
dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth
pointed to a spot just around a parked car. 'It's my
brother, 'he said 'He rolled off the curb and fell
out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him

Now sobbing, the boy
asked the stunned executive, 'Would you please help
me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and
he's too heavy for me.'

Moved beyond words,
the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling
lump in his throat.. He hurriedly lifted the
handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took
out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh
scrapes and cuts.. A quick look told him everything
was going to be okay.

'Thank you and may God bless
you,' the grateful child told the stranger.

Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy
push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk
toward their home..

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair
the dented side door. He kept the dent there to
remind him of this message:

'Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!'

We should not need a brick being thrown at us to stop and think: “ Can I be of help?”

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

11 October 2011

With a Sigh (Pt 9) - Punish her or Pity her?

This is the story of a small incident, insignificant on the surface of it. It is real. Initially I had no intention of making a posting of this but, on reflection, I doubt many of us would have a close encounter with that sort of situation unless one is a teacher. By default I was associated with the small school where this little drama took place. Because the incident meant something to me I chose to have it jotted down, and today is as good a time as any to share it with my visitors.

It is a small rural primary school with a total enrolment of just about 200 pupils. Many of their parents are just ordinary fishermen, small-time carpenters, petty traders and general labourers. A number of them are boatmen ferrying tourists to the island resorts off the shore. A number of younger ones found themselves manual jobs on the islands where rich operators serve super-rich tourists.

This school had nothing to be proud of by way of UPSR exam results. To improve the situation extra classes were arranged for the final year pupils of Standard 6. But many parents did not see it important enough to make their children attend these classes unless the children themselves could be motivated enough to attend. For this reason a very basic incentive scheme was thought of. Prizes would be awarded to those who scored well in their English monthly tests, English language being the most problematic.

I found it hard to believe when the teachers were almost unanimous on the kind of prize to be handed out to the top six best performers every month. Each of them would receive one or two packets of sugar-coated biscuits, each packet costing about two ringgits!

But it worked wonders.

Indeed, the teachers knew that the in-thing for these pupils was enjoying the luxury of those cheap sugar-coated biscuits, the craze of those children of that locality at that time.


A couple of months later, Pakcik was told by a teacher of what she had just heard. Children excitedly talked about the biscuits, how wonderful they tasted and so on.

This went on fine and the general improvement was surprisingly encouraging. Each time the prizes were presented, the losers would look with envy, lucky if the winners chose to share their prizes there and then with them instead of taking them home to proudly show their parents and share with their siblings.

One day Pakcik was told of an unexpected incident, a kind of the famous ‘Great Train Robbery’ ( of England in 1963 – a couple of years after Pakcik left the country, so I am not guilty! I estimate the 2.8 million pound sterling robbed, was equivalent to about 20 million Malayan ringgits at the exchange rate of that time. Only a very small part of the heist was ever recovered)

One packet of the biscuits was found missing!

A search was carried out resulting in a standard six girl being found with her bag containing the tell-tale biscuit wrapper. Not one piece of biscuit was left. On being questioned, the guilty girl full of regret and eyes full of tears, pleaded her case,

Saya teringin sangat, cikgu. Tak pernah makan.” ( Too tempting, teacher. I have never tasted it before.)

She had found a quiet moment to pick a packet and eaten the lot of its content in one go. Fearing to be caught she innocently hid the wrapping in her school beg.

Now, would anyone have the heart to punish this girl?

I knew this girl, a shy little girl whom I would never lay a finger on. I would just draw a sigh.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


i ) The school had its record performance that year, thanks to the sugar-coated biscuits.

ii ) Against this kind of scenario, not an isolated one for that matter, would I consider importing Mat Sallehs from all over the world, with all their slang and twang, to raise the standard of English in rural areas like this? Do the people up there, up in and beyond the clouds, know what the likes of these children need to improve their English? Is it the Mat Sallehs for them to watch with awe, wonder and admiration, or the sugar-coated biscuits to struggle for?

iii) Given the freedom and appropriate means our teachers may know better how to make children work and improve themselves. This may be the path rural schools need to take instead of the glorified 'policy' pushed down from the sky. Do these children really care for the need to obtain points in the mandatory co-curricular activities to qualify entering one of the universities 'of taraf antara bangsa'? Which should come first, university entrance or just simple sugar-coated biscuits?

iv ) Now I am wondering where that sugar-coated biscuit girl is now. Pakcik would love to see this girl again one day.

08 October 2011

All in the Family ( Part 1 ) -Yesterday & Tomorrow

My series ‘Pakcik Reminisces’ has numbered 22 parts, with likely more to come. In writing about my past I cannot help bringing in certain aspects of the immediate members of my family. Inadvertently, one may get the impression of unnecessary pride. This is something I wish to avoid. I see this is as good reason as any to create a new series to be called ‘All in the Family’, this being Part 1, the spearhead. Dear readers may opt to leave unread entries in this series.
Look at the following car registration numbers.
TAX 7917

TAH 7917 and TAB 9717

Earlier There was another vehicle bearing registration number TT 7917.

All of them belong to the lower end of locally manufactured car models, lacking in prestige as much as the plate numbers can testify. But seeing so many cars registered with that number under one owner can raise eyebrows – what’s in that number?
And somewhere in a garage is our very precious 30-year old BMW 525i undergoing a major operation by the end of which it should be running better than new! This vehicle bears registration plate WBA 7917.
The TAB 9717 was forced on us as we were late on deciding to buy the car. For the same reason we once had 1969 on registration plate.
7917 is just a number made up of 7, 9 and 17, the birthdates of our three children.
On 7th October, exactly forty-six years ago YESTERDAY, our Number 1, the only daughter was born.
Click on the picture to enlarge

Ainun's and her wiriting in the sand of time '10 Tahun - 7 10 75 KTR'
36 years ago


On 9th October, exactly forty-three years ago TOMORROW, our Number 2, a boy, was born.

Anwar's and his writing in the sand of time ' 9 . 10 . 75 KTR'
36 years ago


On 17th July, thirty-nine years ago last July, our Number 3, another boy, was born.
That made the initial five of us in the family.

The happy family : No 1, Babah, No 3, Mami and No 2
Camreron Highlands 30 years ago

The precious three

So there we are. The gift of three children is everything to us, nothing ever matches their worth. Lest our memory fails us, we should have those numbers to remind us of their birthdates. They are everything to us, His greatest gift. After all, they have brought into our family spouses, and in turn have given us ten grand-children to be proud of. But His gift does not stop there. Through Almanar we can claim many, many more children to keep us busy as the light grows dimmer in the west, before the final curtain falls.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

02 October 2011

End of the Tunnel ( Pt 13 ) - What is success?

Almost seventeen years ago Yani and Zira, two timid kampong girls, joined the form 1 tuition class at Almanar. Yani, currently working with a private college in Selangor, is already a mother of two kids. And early this year, Zira was married. She is working at a hospital, also in Selangor. Perhaps she too will be a mother before long.

An old picture of Yani with her second kid, Makcik and the new couple, Zira and husband

One morning last month a young couple gave us a surprise visit. The young man gave me a broad inquiring smile, " Pakcik dah lupa saya?"( Have you forgotten me?)

No, the face was too familiar to easily forget. He spent three long years as a pupil at Almanar. Despite the seveneen years that had lapsed I could not forget that face. He was one of two boys having the same name, Hafiz. I called this one 'Hafiz tinggi' and the other one 'Hafiz Maradona'; the latter being stouter resembling Diego Maradona, at that time the idol Argentine footballer who captained the country to win the World Cup. These two boys were in the same group at Almanar with the two girls, Yani and Zira.

"Ini kad jemputan saya, Pakcik( This is my invitation card)" his murmur was hardly audible, caused by the big grin on his face. By nature he is soft-spoken as well.

"After all these years only now you decide to turn up to this house again." I made it sound like a reproach. Indeed, the last time I saw him was fifteen years ago.

In the course of the following conversation Hafiz repeatedly apologised for staying away from Pakcik and Makcik. He repeatedly said, " Malulah Pakcik ( am ashamed)".

This Hafiz was not a star performer in school those days. His namesake, 'Maradona' is today a civil engineer and this one is not. He was ashamed that, in his mind, he had failed Pakcik who, he was convinced, had expected only the best of Almanar pupils. And he did not quite make it.

Now he was getting married. We promised to be present without doubt. And we did.

Before he left our house Pakcik managed to have a few quiet words with him, assuring him that he was wrong. A degree is not the certificate of success in life. He now has a permanent job with the state government and his very charming bride is with a university here. That is a better start than his own parents. And he now has every chance to place his children a step better in life. He smiled - pleased with himself.

The wedding party we never failed to attend

The happy couple

And Pakcik and Makcik pray that this new couple will have a life blessed with success and happiness. We know he is in a position to contribute something to his parents.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

23 September 2011

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 22 ) – Come September

Year in and year out in my life I continue to see the passing of August to September. The arrival of September heralds the soon-to-come Monsoon rain.


September in the rain

(Dinah Washington)

“The leaves of brown
Came tumblin' down, remember
In September in the rain

The sun went out
Just like a dying ember
That September in the rain

To every word of love
I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play
A sweet refrain

Though spring is here,
To me it's still September
That September in the rain

To every word of love
I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to play
A sweet refrain

Though spring is here,
To me it's still September
That September in the rain
That September in the rain”

September was the month I came into being three quarters of a century ago. I wonder whether it was raining then or bright sun-shine.

Now we have yet again left August behind and are moving towards the end of September 2011. These two months have brought Pakcik and Makcik a mixture of sadness and joy. Between the two of us we saw the last of five elderly relatives and a close friend, a very heavy toll in two months; and we have not yet seen the end of the month. We pray all will be well, until the next August, for us to celebrate another anniversary, and another birthday for Makcik; and the next September, another birthday for me. Makcik is just about to recover from the pain of having lost her only aunt and the aunt’s elder sister, Makcik’s own mother.


There is nothing magical about the months of August and September. However, the series of unhappy events which the two of us have to face during these two months prompted Pakcik to pick up one of my old diaries. Somehow that of 1956 was a natural choice. It was a very special year, not just a milestone to mark a distance covered, but a cornerstone to mark a prominent spot in time. It was in that very year I was allowed to realise a shift in the direction to one I was destined to head for.

I am looking at the year of 1956 from a different perspective, not just moments of joy and pain. On one part that year happened to be a year of discovery, when for the very first time I was made to explore life outside that I had been accustomed to until then. On the other part, the year carried a number of early academic successes, meaningful and important enough to chart my future.

In this posting I will explain why I have named 1956 'a year of discovery'. Insya Allah, in due course I will write another to give the other aspect of 1956.

I am fortunate to have kept diaries and carefully noted down what happened and how I felt at the point of writing. Today these entries bring to life what memory alone has begun to wear out in time. As I am reading the entries now, all seems like a playback of a video, uncannily real, despite a lapse of 55 years in time zone.

My 1956 diary

In my earlier posting, Pakcik reminisces (Pt 11), I described my maiden journey from Kuala TREngganu (note the original spelling, TRE…) to the far-away capital of MALAYA, Kuala Lumpur, with all its famous shopping areas along Batu Road, Mountbatten Road and so on. Till today I still call those two roads by their original names which are more meaningful to me (a sentimental old fool, maybe!). Through my mind's eye, I still see pictures of rows upon rows of shops no higher than two-storey buildings. And the Robinsons which drew mainly the elites.

That very first long bus ride to the Malayan capital in early January 1956 was a discovery expedition, a full two-day journey by bus. T here were seven of us. It sounds strange if I say that it was not just the seven of us who rode in the bus but the bus itself took a ride on a ferry on seven occasions along the journey. There were indeed seven rivers to cross en route to Kuala Lumpur. As the ferries were operated only during daylight, the journey required two whole days with a half-way stopover to spend the night.

Before the bus was driven up the ferry, all passengers (for safety reasons, of course!) had to step down. I do not recall being provided with life jackets or being advised what to do in case of emergency. I guess, as there was no record of serious incidents, safety measures were not deemed necessary. Standing on the ferries beside the empty bus was an experience for us. Maneuvering a ferry against the swirling current, which was pushing hard against one side of it, demanded skill and experience among the ferrymen. And there we stood in wonder whether the ferry would reach the exact landing spot across the river. It never failed. And watching the dark water around us, we wondered if there were crocodiles following us below the surface. The picture would be different if the ferry crossing was outside the rainy spells of a monsoon season, when the rivers flowed smoothly and everything seemed beautifully peaceful.

So the long bus ride was indeed an adventure for the seven of us, watching apprehensively at the strong current.


My ‘expedition’ to Kuala Lumpur, on 27th January, was just a start for the year. I was to join the Post School Certificate class (Form 6). During the course of the next eight months the sitution changed. In the evening of Friday 7th September I took a night train from KL station traveling second class to Singapore. That was an uneventful twelve-hour journey in the dark to reach Tg Pagar railway station, sadly closed down for good recently, at eight in the morning of the following day.

Then at 8.30 in the morning of Sunday 9th September I boarded a turbo-prop plane, leaving Singapore on the greatest ‘expedition’ of my life. I was heading west towards ‘negeri orang puteh’ (the white men’s country). After an eventful journey I finally set foot on the English soil.


Reading my entries about the journey, I can feel the great excitement and expectation. The kampong boy, just turned twenty, had left many things behind; his mother and ailing father and grandmother, his familiar environments, his friends, his way of life and above all his earlier dream of going to Al Azhar University for religious and Arabic education. I had now taken a one-way journey along a new path heading for a new destination.


Entry on 9th Sept 1956

The plane, before the advent of jet airliners, made four stopovers, Calcutta, Karachi, Beirut and Zurich. In total the number of hours we were in the air, as I meticulously jotted down in my diary, was close to 32 hours. That does not include the number of hours at the airports en route. (One of my children has just returned from his business trip to London. He took less than 12 hours in all to reach KL. How about that for a comparison?)

To make the historic journey of discovery more eventful, the plane to London had to be diverted to a military airfield about 30 miles (50 km) away from Calcutta. It was due bad weather. From there, we were taken by bus to Calcutta airport. That bus-ride itself was another interesting part of the discovery – running along a dusty road of the sub-continent of India. As if that was not enough, the plane was found to have engine trouble, and that caused a delay of another four hours. It was just as well that the fault was discovered while we were on the solid ground.

All in all, it was an exciting journey for this kampong boy, seeing the vast surface of the sea from the sky, admiring the inside of cloud formations and the upper side of the clouds, and watching the desert and the Alps (which I was familiar with from the geography lessons) with it snow-covered tops. There was a one-line entry noting down how air pockets after Zurich nearly made me throw up.

I summarise below the places we stopped and the flying time for each sector.

Leaving Singapore at 8.45 am on Sunday 9/9/56

Singapore to Calcutta 7 hrs 45 min
Calcutta to Karachi 5 ,, 45 ,,
Karachi to Beirut 8 ,, 15 ,,
Beirut to Zurich 7 ,, 50 ,,
Zurich to London 2 ,, 20 ,,


Total flying time 31 hr 55 min

Arriving London at 9.30 pm on Monday 10/9/56


Indeed, the kampong boy had his year of discovery.

The ‘discoveries’ alone are not all the reason that made 1956 a milestone, a cornerstone and a prominent landmark in my early years. A number of early academic successes resulted in my change of direction. 1956 was the year I reached a fork on my path, where I chose one, knowing I could never go back to take the road not taken (reflection of Robert Frost's poem, The Road not Taken). HE had it all planned for me, for which I can never thank HIM enough but to serve HIM with humility whilst there is still daylight.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

P/S Insya Allah Pakcik will have another posting on the personal successes of 1956.