07 May 2011

Pakcik reminisces (Pt 17-Sec2/2) – Who and what am I?

A cheat, no less

So, on Friday evening, Jan 4th 1952 with smattering of English learnt in afternoon classes I joined the evening classes at a private school, hoping that, by the end of the same year, I would have learnt sufficient English to be admitted to the only government English school in the state of Terengganu, Sultan Sulaiman English School (SSES). Whilst proficiency in English was never a necessity for one to further his studies in Cairo, it had, for unexplainable reasons, suddenly grown in importance in my case- the work of an unseen hand.

The morning classes at the religious school (MSZA) went well in 1952. Today I relate to my children with pride how their father completed a seven-year course at MSZA in five years, something unheard of until then. The two years saved was a gift from heaven without which I would never have an earthly chance to join the government English School. The age alone would put a stop to it and I would very likely be on a long boat journey to Egypt (Gaddafi would be a boy of about 12 then!) to join my other school mates.

I had to satisfy three conditions to join SSES viz,

i) Joining a class appropriate with my age group.
ii) Possession of a leaving certificate to show proof of
acceptable level of English education.
iii) Passing an entrance test in two subjects,

English and Maths.

AS mentioned above, the two-year credit the religious school was a blessing. I could be pegged to join Form 3.

The first condition satisfied, I was left with the impossible task of meeting the other two. It was simply impossible. How could one own a certificate when he had never sat for the exam? How could one pass a test for admission into Form 3 after a year’s study in the evenings.

What then?
Could we do it by-hook-or-by-crook principle?
Should we change the rule of the game so that crooked means justify honourable ends?

Yes, apply the ‘darurah’ (sheer emergency) rule and all should be legal!

Today I live to marvel at how with five ringgits (mind you, that was in 1952!) I became a proud owner of a leaving school certificate that came from someone/somewhere, the details of which transactions best left undisclosed. The certificate categorically stated that I had passed Form 2 in all subjects. This satisfied condition (ii)

Having achieved to satisfy the second condition, we began to work on good ‘human relation’ practices – one must cultivate the skill of intimately knowing who and who. This town was a small town where almost every one was connected to everyone else by blood or whatever. So it was not all that difficult

The long and short of it I was discreetly given a chance to study the test questions while everyone's eyes were closed. Armed and well prepared, on Monday, Jan 13th (lucky number!)1953, as recorded in my diary, I sat for the entrance test and with sheer brilliance I DID IT!


And so, as recorded in my diary, on Sunday ( Fridays being weekend in the state) Jan 18th, 1953, I joined one of the two Form 3 classes at SSES, coy with inferiority, to be with a group of about 30 pupils consisted of Malay, Chinese and Indian boys and pretty girls. And the English teacher was an elegant English lady (in knee-length skirt!) named Mrs Patton. This was my first taste of ‘culture shock’.

How I envied my new friends, seeing them socializing with ease, and merrily conversing in English among themselves and with teachers. And I, in the course of the next few weeks, was a laughing stock when I, with sheer ignorance, read aloud certain words like ‘stomach, rhythm, volume’ etc (pronounced sto maach, raai m, vo luum etc) like an Arab!

However, it did not take long before I began to get on very well with them, albeit keeping my safe distance from the opposite sex. And, soon, I began to be myself again, a serious and determined fellow.

A dream is just another dream

Circumstances and new atmosphere created new ideas, new aspirations and new dreams.

In those days Bukit Besi in Dungun, if one studied geography as a subject, was known as having the world largest tin mine. Those who managed to be employed by the company operating the mine were seen as especially privileged people, earning good salaries and all, against the backdrop of farmers, petty traders, fishermen and so on in the state.

It would be nice to be a mining engineer working in Bukit Besi’, a seed of a new dream began to germinate to rival that of a graduate from Al Azhar university.

The following three years saw me being carried forward by my own momentum. All went on so well that I found it hard to step on my brake. It was just what Frost said:

‘ …….. Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back


Five of these seven musketerrs (1956) have sadly gone

Early 1956 saw me taking a two-day bus ride with a group of friends heading for KL, my first ever trip (Pakcik reminisces – Pt 11), to join the Higher School Certificate Class at two prestigious schools having ‘Mat Salleh’ principals, teachers and all; but at a price. Must I join my new non-Muslim classmates in the school chapel on Monday mornings (me, the product of a religious school with a headful of Quranic verses)? - more cultural shocks

I was beginning to come to terms with who and what I was in life – and more to come.

Just as I was settling down nicely in KL, getting acquainted with the busy Batu Road, Malacca Street, the week-end ‘pesta’ at Lake Garden nearby, the marvel of Robinsons departmental store, and my new hostel life of course, I came yet to another fork , two roads diverged in a yellow wood.’

One morning I was summoned to see the school principle who asked me whether I would be interested to be nominated a candidate for interviews with a multinational company which was offering two scholarships to boys in MALAYA. Successful candidates would be packed overseas to do an accelerated one-year A-Level course followed by a four-year tertiary education; and, all being well, would need to serve the company for a specific number of years somewhere on earth.

A new challenge; but what became of my earlier dream, a prosperous engineer mining this good earth?

Subsequently I did attend a series of interviews, only soon to be advised that two Chinese boys from other schools had topped the list. That ought to be my first bitter taste of appointment. But was it really?

Look at the opening page of my 1953 diary.

from 1953 diary

The highlighted words coined in Arabic told me on no uncertain terms : Never cease to expect His bounty. So as early as three years earlier I instinctively forewarned myself that life was not going to be a bed of roses. Be prepared and never cease to expect better things to come.

But there was an unexpected twist of event. Hardly two weeks later, came an official from the multinational company to my hostel. He was a bearer of good news that one of the two successful candidates had failed his medical check-up. Would I accept it or was I too proud to be just a stand-by? God works in mysterious ways. I did not win it but someone lost his chance by default. With little thought I made up my mind to go for it, knowing fully well that

‘I doubted if I should ever come back’

Accordingly, in early Sept 1956 I bade farewell to my parents, leaving behind a dream of the revered posts of an Al Azhar graduate and the prestigious position of a mining engineer. As Robert Frost said:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverging in a wood, and I,
I took one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I will end this posting with one saying that I learnt some 60 years ago, one that I do not expect to forget ever. It came from an early Islamic thinker/philosopher (before Imam AlGhazali), Yahya ibn Muaz Al Razi. He once said:

Yahya Ibn Muaz Al Razi

A person who truly understands and knows who and what he is, is indeed, one who knows who his Creator is.

Today I know better who and what I am, my weaknesses, strengths, failures, successes and how I have been led from one path to another less traveled one; and I think I know HIM better.

And today whenever I raise my two hands, I never fail to say in whatever little Arabic that I learnt sixty years ago, “My God. I thank You for the very life You have given me, and for giving me a wife, children, sustenance, knowledge ………”

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


DR Bubbles said...


Pakcik, I love this entry of yours.

I am going to copy some of the quotes.

I will contact you as soon as I finish my translation work in a couple of days time.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
I once read a book about parallel lives of one person, if he had taken path 1 ends up as what and vice versa for path 2. Have you ever had a "what if" moment? purrr....meow!

Anonymous said...

AKH,ref your entry I love it very much because I was one of those naughty classmates who frequently teased you in your pronunciations.I do not regret what I did, otherwise you would not be what you are today, a wise and a respectable personality. ZUL Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam,Selangor.

Al-Manar said...

Dr Bubbles,

You notice what goes on around you and see how you can fit in your worth of contribution. Let us hope hope what you have been doing and what I have been trying to do in our own ways can inspire others to contribute something. Subconsciously we are learning about ourselves, our limitations, hence, hopefully we know HIM better.

Hope you continue to succeed.

Al-Manar said...

Many a time I run the 'what if' question in my mind. I reached many different possibilities, some beautiful and some not. In all cases I came back to the reality that I just do not ever want any less than what I have had, my life, my wife, my children and the rest. All the other parallel and non-parallel hypothetical events would alter what I am most thankful for today. HE has designed it all to perfection, and for that I am forever grateful, and dare not ask for more than what HE knows best for me, my wife and my children. Hope it works the same with your many lives.

Al-Manar said...


You have been one of my old 55's generation, you and your tennis balls (stress on tennis), your 'kebun' and me with my white board and pen. I remember how laud you orchestrated your laughs at my expense and how many times you dropped you pencil to stoop below the desk to pick (not peep) it!

Do not stay too long chauffer-driven in the big city. Come back and drive your vintage Merz before you forget how to operate the gears. And I promise you lunches as usual as long as you pay for the 'News of the World'.

Salmah Sulaiman misses Tok Puan Asmah Sulaiman!

norzah said...

A very sober recollection and analysis of your life experience, Pakcik, most edifying and reassuring. Yes, one who knows and understands himself truly knows his Creator. To know Allah know yourself. Even at this late age I still can't say tjat I know myself 100% for there' s much in me that still baffles me. What more in others and the Creator of all heaven smd earth and everything in between.

Wan Sharif said...

Wanna say just 1 word "FatabarakalLah"

Al-Manar said...

Akhi Norzah,

At best we see ourselves through our mind's eye. How we are perceived by others can be shockingly different. That is how helpless we truly are in reality.

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wan,

How unusual it is that you are lost for words - age must be catching up with you and me.

Hua Ahsanul Khalikin.

sintaicharles said...

Praise God for his all seeing providence.

Cheqna said...

Assalamualaikum Pakcik,

I'm thankful that one of HIS many blessings to me is in finding postings like yours..so thank you for sharing, one day I hope I can come and visit you and Makcik, InsyaAllah.

Whenever I feel down, I'd always remind myself that Allah SWT knows what's best for me and I place my trust in HIM (but I do fail in some of HIS "tests", facing a long journey to truly understand and know myself.)

btw, I read with a grin on my face the "confession" of your classmate .. :-).

amiin to your du'a Pakcik.

Al-Manar said...

It is good to see you around. Hope all is well across the sea.

Al-Manar said...


You must make it a point to contact us next time you are round.
I am sure this school holidays will bring you and family home for so many weddings around. We have at least one invitation to Losong area.

Unknown said...

Assalamualaikum, definitely love this entry of yours. Thank you Allah for giving me a chance and opportunity in finding this interesting, a life experience worth sharing. I am deeply touched. Thanks to you for sharing. Allah bless you and family always.

Al-Manar said...


I have visited your site to see what subjects interest you, and, hence, to understand a little about yourself.You are where I was - oh, so many, many years ago. Each one of us will, like it or not, travel that 'less travelled road' one way or another.

Salaam to you and family as ewell.

TheFusionTea said...

Assalamualaikum, Alhamdulillah you are a blogger who share your path with us.

Al-Manar said...


Waksalaam. Yes in some way we share the path towards one common end. But I like my 3-in-1 coffee better!

nordinmusa said...

Thank you for sharing your colorful life stories, Pak Cik Hassan.

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
Assalamualaikum Pak Cik. Been away for so long, caused by hardware hiccups no less and greeted with a gem of a posting.
Many can relate to what you have mentioned and many would have regretted. I for one didn't have the foresight of keeping those little diaries and other knick knacks which suddenly dawned on me to be such precious things.
Many may have faced the choices you also mentioned but not pursued as you did.
It must be so inspiring to those youngsters to better themselves when they are still young.

Anonymous said...

NORDINMUSA has left a new comment on your post "Pakcik reminisces (Pt 17-Sec2/2) – Who and what am...":

Thank you for sharing your colorful life stories, Pak Cik Hassan.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Akhi Hank,

I was truly saddened by your complete disappearance. I would have emailed you if only I had your address.

Anyway, I am so relived to know that nothing untoward had happened.

I consider myself very fortunate to have kept hose small diaries. I have been trying to get my grands started on diary writing. I think writing hard copies gives more fun and pleasure than in pc.

Al-Manar said...


My pc was giving me some problems when you comment was received. It refused to be posted. I am sorry having to do it under unanymous.

I said to makcik that you and wife must have been very busy with the business, especially with holidays coming and the number of weddings. Update your posting with some 'business' news for a change.