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.


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Dear Pakcik,
1956???? Wow! Even my Dad wasn't even born yet...and I thought he's so OLD. Imagine if you had recorded all those on film then. Precious. purrr...meow!

kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik,
It's fantastic on 2 counts,
1)the tantalising 32hr journey itself and
2)the foresight to have kept all such details in a priceless diary.

You are now giving us glimpses of 1st person accounts and I just can't wait for the next episode. Thanks for sharing!


Ismail aka Pak Mail said...


Indeed, a very nostalgic and wonderful year to remember and nourish.

May Allah gave you and Makcik a healthy life ahead for another September to come by. Insya'Allah.

Anonymous said...


Many happy returns of the day Pakcik. Semoga diberkati Allah selalu.


al-lavendari said...


terima kasih kerana sudi berkunjung dan memberi pesanan di blog saya.

jujurnya saya belum sempat untuk meneroka blog tuan .. cuma kali ini saya datang hanya untuk membalas lawatan tuan sahaja dulu.

Al-Manar said...


I beat your dad in age. Alhamdulillah.It is a gift, not an achievement.

Al-Manar said...


If you and I look back I am sure we see the things we did right, a few others not. The hard thing is to stop ourselves from crying over the spilt milk. We give our young ones the benefits of our experience. I do not intend to glorify anything for the glimpses of 1st person accounts.

Al-Manar said...

Pak Mail,

I wish you the same, may not be a September

Al-Manar said...


Thank you. It is nice to see you around. I have promised myself one thing and, insya Allah,I will fulfill it.

Al-Manar said...


Dalam kesibukan kita tidak berpeluang melakukan semua yang kita ingin. Cuma menuggu masa mengizinkan.

kotastar said...

Wow, You did it again. Proving the importance of keeping a GOOD diary.. sadly some how somewhere we have faulted. I would guess VERY FEW people do write in their diaries less even have one now. Yang diberi sebagai hadiah pun tinggal kosong sahaja kecuali catitan tarikh khenduri. WE imagine we can remember all. Congratulation for touching September again and August for yr darling wife.Mine just passed and looking forward to next year for the 3/4 of a century. InsyaAllah. If you took off in September our group to Liverpool took off from Sg Besi on 21 August 1956 and touching Heathrow on 23/8/1956 my 19th bday. Yes we can recognize each others tribulations, joy etc.
Thank you for taking all of us , your new and old friends to the past. maybe we can pick up some important hints. By the way we are leaving for a 4D/3N visit to Brunei.It's a sort of balikkampong. Even Dato Baharuddin and wife are in the group. Being in Brunei before this is a homecoming. We have a small group of 22 persons on the Kirkby Alumni tour. Leaving 27/9 and returning 30/9. Wlll post stories of visit. Ada kawan-kawan menunggu di sana. Hopefully it will be a good visit for all. Salam to you and family.

Al-Manar said...


Kirkby has a very special, a vety dear place in my heart as well as makcik's. I visited there a number of times, very envious of the students there being among Malays/Malayans. Makcik had find memories of her happy childhood with her parents and many 'abangs' and 'kakaks', including Dato Baharuddin and wife, Dato Alias and wife, arwah Mustapha and wife etc.

Our routes ran in parallel, hence our love for some special events of the past. Would you please ask around those attending the reunion in Brunei if any would by any chance remember the little girl, Ning. They wold remember her father, Cikgu Sulaiman. Those who remember Cikgu may like to know that his wife passed away on last Hari Raya. Drop me an email when you return. Thank you and happy reunion.

Unknown said...

salam pakcik,

i promised to drop by .. and here i am, visiting and reading your articles .. and got carried away in your time machines. i just realised that for the past 5 years, i no longer keep a diary of my own .. and all i have now are "back to the future" time machines which i called, dreams ...

Al-Manar said...


It is nice to see you calling on us. make it regular.

You are lucky to have dreams as your time machine to go forwards. Many cannot afford to have one. Dreaming of the past can be a futile exercise. I do that because I can no longer afford to have too many dreams of the future .

Salaam to you

Cheqna said...

Assalamualaikum Pakcik,

Precious. Thank you for sharing your discovery year, looking forward to the next posting.(*sheepish* face ~ I do read your entries, bit late sometimes and not leaving any notes to you, sorry.)

Sempena Ogos/September ~ Semoga Pakcik dan Makcik dikurniakan kesihatan yang baik dan kehidupan yang diberkati Allah SWT, insyaAllah ke tahun2 yang akan datang..amiin.

dan takziah atas pemergian insan2 yang disayangi..semoga Allah SWT mencucuri rahmat ke atas ruh arwah2.

Al-Manar said...


Thank you Cheqna.Bila pula balik ke KT? Jangan lah sampai bulan September tahun hadapan pula.

Anonymous said...

i wonder what inflight meals they provided in those days. Certainly not the nasi biryani / orange juice I enjoyed while watching the latest hollywood movie on my flight last week!

Ahh... here comes beautiful October.... made memorable with the arrival of Pakcik's 'ain & nur, 3 years apart, some 40 odd years ago... wonder whether this joyous month would earn a blog posting ... hehe.

-Pakcik's no.2

Temuk said...

Semoga tuan dan isteri temui lagi, dan lagi, dan lagi.... Ogos dan September. Anak-anak di sekolah yang tuan perjuangkan kehidupan mereka selama ini pastinya masih mengharapkan bimbingan dan didikan tuan.

Coretan perjalanan hidup 'anak muda' itu amat indah dan bermanfaat sekali.

mamasita said...

Salam Pak Cik..your entry is absolutely superb..the English, the documentary of your diaries, everything..:D

Keep well..may you and Makcik and family be blessed with lots of good health and happiness always!

p.s. Sorry for the late comment.

Al-Manar said...

No 2,

It was all very British then but, fortunately, they had recognised 'vegetarians' as humans needing to be cared for!

Of course October is an important month. Mami's list highlights four important birthdays; those of No1,No 2 and that of No3's Nadia, and Mami's only sister.

Al-Manar said...


Semoga doa tuan dimakbulkan Tuhan untuk kita semua yang sudah memasuki alam 'bonus'.

Al-Manar said...


Coming from you it is compliment indeed. Thank you.

I wonder if your story will happily end in Mecca where you said you were heading for soon. Hope it is all well with the journey, and, perhaps one of your many journalist friends will have your story published somewhere.