31 December 2012

Welcoming 2013


My first thought for today's entry was a reminiscence of what I wrote at the stroke of midnight 51 years ago tonight. But I decided otherwise as my last week's entry was also related to a reminiscence. I should not bore my visitors with too much of 'Pakcik reminisces'.

Not unlike many growing up young adults I used to sit back in  front of a new diary enthusiastically thinking what my new year'slist of resolutions ought to consist of. Almost on all occasions the list would be a repeat of the same, year after year, to be forgotten no sooner than it had been put into writing.

Those were the days. Now, not unlike elderly folks, the thought grows more philosophical. I am sorry my today's thought goes in Malay. Perhaps, I should seek someone like Ninotaziz to translate the thought into English. What I am saying below may not sound coherent to my dear readers as it does to me. I apologise for my inadeuacy in modern literary Malay. So, here it goes:
Menghadapi pertemuan

From the long way back

Throughy tunnels

Sudah jauh perjalanan ku
Melalui pelbagai persimpangan
Jalan yang berliku liku
Ada kala melanggar larangan
Bila matahari hampir terbenam
Akan berakhir satu penghijrahan
Tiada lagi yang aku idam
Untuk menghadapi satu pertemuan
Sudak berakhir masanya
Memperbaharui cita cita dan azam 
Dengan kudrat yang masik ada
Biarlah budi sahaja yang ku tanam
Untuk menghadapi pertemuan

The end is there for sure
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan
NINOT has kindly given the followinginterpreration:
To face the Absolute One  
I have travelled the long road
The bends and the corners
Faced with difficult passes
At times, my not so 'kosher' choices
At the end of the road
My journey and salvation
No more shall I ask for
   To face the Absolute One 
I have passed by all the roads
Too late to change course or my mind
What's left in these hands of mine
Deeds shall be all I leave behind
     To face the Absolute One  
Thank you, NINOTAZIZ

25 December 2012

After the Reunion

Soon after the historic reunion of the two old pen-friends described below, the North-East Monsoon arrived with vengeance. It has been raining for four days and nights non-stop. We wake up in the middle of each night listening to the wind howling through the casuarina trees, the rain beating the roof and window panes, and the terrifying sound of angry waves furiously smashing the shore. Yesterday morning we found a neighbouring coconut tree lying across one side of our chain-link fence, a tall papaya down with large green fruit strewn about,  and a banana tree with a huge bunch of fruit lying across  another side of our fence.

And this morning a group of contract workers were clearing a huge tree lying across the road a few metres away from our premises. A lorry sppeeding in the dark of the morning tried to avoid the falling tree and swerved sharply to crash into one corner of our fence.  

Living where we are , these are not beyond expectation. But the thrill of the recent reunion is still fresh in our mind. We are just sorry for many in the state who have to be evacuated because of floods. 

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

Merry X'mas to my Christian visitors

23 December 2012

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 28 ) – 57 years on

1955 Diary

The front pages of my 1955 diary contain a list of over 30 names and addresses of boys and girls in Malaya and overseas.  If today a school boy spends lot of time on face/book I enjoyed writing letters to those pen-friends. Waiting with anticipation for the arrival of snail mails is a thrill by itself.

List of names and addresses

Among the many pen-friends was a boy named Abdul Khalik Hasan, studying in Anderson School, Ipoh. Like me he was also in Standard 9 (today’s Form 5)

My English school in Kuala Terengganu offered the following subjects for the final examination known as Cambridge School Certificate (CSC), a version of today’s SPM:

English language
English literature
General science
Health science

Subjects like Additional Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology had not come to this part of the world. I envied my pen-friend at Anderson School where he was able to choose Additional Maths and the three science subjects, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. And here I had to be satisfied with General Science and Health Science and just one mathematics subject.

I did not like History and was never good at drawing. So Arts was out of question too. As my passion was for Mathematics I begged the school administration to be allowed to take Additional Mathematics after performing well in that subject in Std 7 ( Form 3 ) examination. My wish was granted on one condition that I had to do it all absolutely on my own. There was no Add Maths teacher and the school library had no books on that subject. In my mind, if at that point in time I had fairly easily covered the simpler mathematics well ahead of class, I should not find it too difficult to tackle Add Maths on my own; the rationale of a simple mind!

So I took the challenge to self-teach myself Add Maths all the way without expecting any help from school.
The first task was to get hold of books on the subject. The only bookshop in town had nothing to offer. Fortunately I was skilled enough in correspondence. I wrote to a bookseller in KL ( I think it was Merican & Sons, if my memory has not failed me) for advice on a set of books for Add Maths; and subsequently I had one set of Add Maths books  posted to me. Money was not a problem. I was receiving a monthly allowance of 30 ringgits from the Federal Minor Scholarship (FDS). That sum was a lot of money when one could have ‘nasi dagang’ for 10 cents! I wonder, now, how in the first place I was awarded an FDS.

So from the beginning of my Std 8 ( Form 4) I started doing my Add Maths, working my way literally page by page, doing every worked example and all questions that followed every chapter. There were questions that took me days to solve. But I persisted backwards and forwards leaving no stone unturned until correct answers were found. The joy of arriving at correct answers was tremendous. I was enjoying the challenge.

However another six months from the CSC examination I was getting desperate to get at least one set of past question papers in Add Maths. I had to know the format of the two papers. It was in that time of need I realised that my pen-friend in Ipoh, Abdul Khalik, could help. What a joy it was to hear from him that he had one set of past question papers given to him by one of his seniors who sat for the subject in the previous year. Not wanting to part with the papers and in the absence of Photostat facility in those days, Abdul Khalik took the trouble to copy them in long hand, word for word, diagrams and all on sheets of paper which he sent to me by the snail post. I would not know how else I could obtain those valuable sheets of hand-written question paper.

Indeed, how could I ever forget that pen-friend in need?

I kept the handwritten question papers until about a couple of months to the examination. By then I I had covered most of the Add Maths books. So one fine day, with an alarm clock on the table, I sat to time myself working on the papers. At the end of it I was pleased to sense my readiness to enter the examination hall. 

On 5th and 6th December 1955 this 'kampong boy' walked all alone into the silence of the examination hall, surrounded by tables and chairs, and watched over by an English lady who was the invigilator.

My 1955 diary carries the following entries on the two days. 
Mon       5th Dec.
             10.30 – 12.35
             Add Maths I
              Expect ‘A’
Tues       6th Dec
              10.30 – 13.05
              Add Maths II
              Expect ‘A

2 hrs   5 min  for the first paper on Monday, and
2   ,,   35  ,,    for the second paper on Tuesday.

Look, I had the cheek to predict ‘A’ grade for both papers!

How could I tell that 57 years down the line “I shall be 
telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. “

                     Robert Frost 
A year after the CSC examination I began to slow down 
writing to pen-friends, and finally I stopped altogether until almost towards the end of my working career. Then I began to reminisce my past. Somewhere the memory of that old pen-friend, Abdul Khalik kept surfacing. In vain I began a search for Abdul Khalik. I went so far as contacting the police station in Parit for their help to locate that elderly gentleman named Abdul Khalik Hasan.
As chance would have it, two months ago I read in a blog 
something about Anderson School’s Group of 1955.That rang a loud bell.  From there I was led to the blogger Abbdulhalimshah (of Dalu Dalu) who is one of regular visitors to Almanar. He kindly did a search and put me on the right track and finally, through one
Amran Hamid, I was in possession of a phone 
number which was supposed to belong to that old pen-friend. And soon I was on the phone hearing for the first time the voice of my old and very dear pen-friend, Tuan Hj Abdul Khalik Hassan, an ex Malayan Railway man, an imam who is now settled in Tronoh, Perak.
My Pen-Friend
And on 19th December, barely a week ago, Hj Abd
Khalik drove to Kuatan to see his son.
From there he and wife took the trouble to drive all the way to Kuala Terengganu just to meet us at Nuri. For the very first time we were able to hold hands and hug each other fondly.
The two old pen-friends
I am lost for words to describe how I felt on meeting 
the man who had a hand in shaping the course of my life.
I am glad to know that Hj Abdul Khalik has a very 
successful family, an architect residing in Australia, an engineer, an accountant etc, etc , not to mention one of his grandchildren who has been offered a scholarship even before her SPM result is known. Indeed he is a man to be congratulated.
I am certain I will have more to write about this old 
friend and about his wife, the latter is obviously a very talented lady.

Words of appreciation
My special thanks go to you En Abdul Halim Shah and 
En Amran Hamid for helping to make our historic meeting a reality.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

12 December 2012

Today – Wed 12-12-12

12.12.12 is too rare a date to let it go without a few words.

How has the day passed for Nuri's occupants?


At 8.30 this morning a small group of Form 3 children came around supposedly to do revision in Mathematics before going into Form 4 in less than three weeks’ time. But it ended up much of the time with Pakcik giving advice. They sure need it after so much of their time being wasted over the last three years ; a wake-up call.

Just before lunch time the two of us took a short drive to a new restaurant about seven kilometers away. There was not much in terms of food variety but it was a very clean place, much to Makcik’s approval. Being rather early we had much of the place to ourselves, having ‘lontong’ and some ‘tea tarik’. The owner’s wife was friendly enough to come and sit to talk with us. She seemed to know well the customers having meals then. There was a small group of lecturers from the Teachers’ Institute and a teacher entertaining a group of children, probably to celebrate the end of their SPM examination.

The conversation with the owner’s wife turned more personal. We found out that she is not from Terengganu but her husband is. He works for an agency of the state government. Surprisingly he is a PhD holder and on a number of occasions has been approached by one of the two universities close by. But he has repeatedly turned down the offer to be a lecturer. He sees a better long term future for the family. Aside from running this restaurant the family has also started operating the business popularly known locally as ‘homestay’. Along the basis of the better known English ‘Bed and Breakfast’, the occupants of their ‘homestay’ are given free breakfast of local delicacies, ‘nasi dagang’ and all at the restaurant, a very attractive deal indeed. Seeing a good future in their venture, one of their children, owning a diploma in electronic has been encouraged to join this family business. I am determined that, one day, I will meet the owner of this restaurant whose outlook in life is one that I have a lot to admire. He does not see it of any benefit that his name card should bear the prestigious ‘Dr’.

As I was paying the bill for our simple meal one of the restaurant assistants came around smiling sheepishly to address Pakcik. “Pakcik Hassan kan? Tak cam saya, pernah belajar di Alamanar. ( You’re Pakcik Hassan, aren’t you? You don’t remember me. I used to study at Almanar.)” She is now doing  part-time work while on holidays.  

Daphne Du Maurier's

Short of doing something in the afternoon I found an old copy of Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA from my little library. I sat down reading it, getting more and more absorbed in the book which  was one my favourites more than 40 years ago. I am now in the middle of the book and the plot is becoming familiar. How I love reading Daphne’s works, all of which I must have collected; a few are missing after moving houses over the years.   

After our prayers together I am now sitting to write this short posting while Makcik is preparing our simple dinner.

It has been a simple day on this auspicious 12.12.12, unlike other days I have to sweat over groups of underprivileged children who, for the rest of the school holidays, are away from their ‘home’ a kilometer away from us.   
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

10 December 2012

What mushroom?

Every so often we find a couple of ball-like mushrooms sitting on the grass in front of our house. Each one looks beautifully white, its short stem invisible beneath. Two days after its appearance it begins to turn brownish and deep cracks would soon appear. Finally, it will rot away. 

Its short stem is invisible beneath the fat top

A gentle knock will break the stem beneath, tearing part ath the bottom

Cracking and rotting away

What is this mushroom called?
How do we know whether it is edible or poisonous? 

And Pakcik will continue to ponder "Why does HE create this wonder? There must be a purpose even if we fail to understand."

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

05 December 2012

All in the family (Pt 7) – Good bye, SPM!

Children who sat for the UPSR examination already know their results. Parents whose children have performed well are now looking forwards to see their children being admitted into schools of their choice. Some are worried. Pakcik’s grand child knew even before her UPSR examination the secondary school she would be admitted early next year. So we have no worry.  

Earlier, I wrote about our two grandchildren, who had sat for their PMR examination, and were having a good BREAK with us away from city, caring little for whatever examination results which will be released by the end of this month. What they need is just good enough passes to enable them to study science subjects in Form 4 at their present school. Life is that simple. They will continue to study where they are whatever their PMR results may be.

Then we also have two grandchildren who have just sat for their SPM examination. This is where the need for good results is important. But can we expect them to get all A’s and scold them for failing?  I do not forget that their parents and we, their grandparents, never got any where near the elusive all A’s in our SPM nor PMR examination. So why should we put the pressure on them? Come what may.
At this juncture I am reminded of my Senior Cambridge School Certificate (the SPM of the mid 1950’s). So I promise myself that one day I will write a posting on my reminiscence of that fateful examination, one that proved to be a fork in my path over half a century ago and I took the one less taken, leading to the less taken route I am leading now.

So our two eldest grandchildren have said goodbye to SPM. About thirty years ago our three children did it. The youngest of them said goodbye to his SPM in style. One day immediately after his examination he asked for our permission to allow him to camp one night with four friends on top of Damansara hill close to our house. Obviously they were in high spirit and very much relieved after that historic examination of theirs.

We did not think much of that top-of-the-hill camping until our boy returned home on the following morning with a broad smile, bringing along a few small Nescafe bottles. He proudly explained that those bottles were the urns holding the ashes of all his SPM note books and text books! It must have been a very exciting evening when he and his four close friends had a big bon-fire which left no more traces of their tormenting SPM examination except the ashes signifying a mixture of vengeance and satisfaction. That was the way they said goodbye to SPM, all in high spirit, knowing fully well that certificates with all A’s were never in their dream.

And they remain friends till today, every one not doing too badly in life, after all. And I, as a father, have never had any regret over it.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

26 November 2012

All in the family ( Pt 6 ) – Take a BREAK

It is time to have a BREAK.

In last Sunday’s NST Wan Hulaimi, in his article, ‘All that babble and blah about esteem’ said, “… it has been demonstrated time and again that telling students that they can hone their skills towards greater achievements is better than praising them for scoring all As. ….’

That interesting piece of writing bears no reference to the UPSR results. But it adds up to that pride of achievement.

After continuous record-BREAKING years of being the champion in UPSR examination, Terengganu, according to a local daily, is doing a ‘post-mortem’ on the reasons for the failure to maintain that distinction, the high esteem. From the small samples of pupils attending Almanar tuition classes over the last nineteen years I always wonder how on earth the state could have been proud of its achievement over the years. I have not been able to reconcile the reality with the esteem.  It is about time to have a BREAK forcing a much needed post-mortem.

So it is good to have a BREAK, even in a record-BREAKING dream of self esteem.

One of Pakcik’s grandchildren failed to get all A’s in the recent UPSR examination. I am glad it is not seen as a tragedy in the family breaking the chain of excellence set by her two elder brothers. Isn’t it good to have a BREAK so that we all do not get carried away believing the world is always at our feet?

While two of Pakcik’s grandchildren are right now struggling with their SPM examination two other grandchildren are enjoying themselves because they themselves have just sat for their PMR examination. Never mind what fate has in store for them. As for now they are having a good BREAK with us, armed with their guitars, serenading their grandma from the top of the tree house.

Standing on a tree house
Serenading a grandma
In this part of the world these two city boys have a chance to perform the neck-BREAKING task of picking young coconuts. It is easy when they see a local shinning up a tall coconut palm; or a trained monkey running all the way up to the top. Doing it yourself even on a small tree proved not all that simple without a bit of cheating. 

No, I can't make it

Let's do a bit of cheating

I can do it too


It is  November now, the middle of our special snow-free winter season when monsoon rain ought to be pelting down day and night. But even the monsoon has its BREAK too. We are having sunshine for a change and the steady sea breeze helps children fly their kites on the beach.

It looks tempting from the house

Nice breeze for flying kites

But the sea is still dangerously rough. Tnree  weeks ago a boy who was about to sit for his SPM examination was drowned in the sea not far from here. The strong under-current had drawn him into the deep water beyond. It is a sad story.
Watch that wave

It is fascinating to sit on the soft sand and watch the formation of waves and how they gather speed and strength only to BREAK with huge splashes, unrolling and laying sheets after sheets of beautiful white foams along the vast stretches of sandy beach.

I can sit all day

Only this deep we are allowed 

Roll on to me !

Crawl like a crab coming from the sea

To be sure that all play and no work does not make Jack a dull boy, these two long-and-bushy haired kids  are given small doses of English, Maths, Physics and Chemistry in preparation for their early Form 4 days in January. That is on the assumption that they would be allowed to continue studying at Victoria Institution. For a start they have been warned that they would not be allowed to see their PMR results if they turn up with untrimmed hair as they are today.

Let's play the guitar
And forget the PMR
And will these two young boys have all A’s in their PMR? Their parents did not achieve all A’s before them and their grandparents did not even have such an examination to sit during their time. So what is the fuss? For all the lack of ‘esteem’ we, as a family, have survived better than we deserve. Alhamdulillah.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan  

16 November 2012

End of the Tunnel ( Pt 20 ) – You can’t win them all

This should have been posted early this month.

Unusually early for visitors, two ex-Almanar pupils turned up at our home, both wearing sad faces.

Pakcik, berita tak baik. Nor Haliza meninggal, (Bad news Pakcik. Nor Haliza has passed away.)” The two girls burst out almost simultaneously, letting off bottled up emotion, and eyes beginning to brim with tears.

Happy days by the sea

Nor Haliza’s father pensioned from the army about twenty years ago. I am fortunate to have Pak Hashim’s three children attending classes at Almanar. The eldest of three, Azmi has just qualified as a dentist after three years in Indonesia, and is now waiting to be posted, hopefully at KT general hospital. The third, Azrol, is a medical student at a local university.

On her way home from work, this charming 25-year-old lass was knocked down in a road accident involving two motor-cycles, leaving her in a coma and she never regained consciousness; just a couple of months after sitting for her final degree examination and barely a month from her convocation.

According two her two friends, the deceased had  recently been telling them that she would be applying for a job far away from home and would not be looking after her dear mother. Who could have thought that she was looking forwards to her appoinment with the Ultimate Planner?

Parents - mission accomplished
Sadly, we have lost our only daughter

A dentist (R) and a medical student(L)
We have lost our only sister - but life goes on

This is a story Pakcik was hoping to write one day, that of a successful end-of-the-tunnel series. I was confident to see three winners in this family. Little did I realise that I would be sending my second ex-Almanar pupil on her final journey. ( My first was End of the Tunnel Pt 17 – click here )

I could hardly hold my tears when I saw the vehicle leaving her home on her final journey after a small group of us said our prayers in the home she was talking of leaving. I used to have a dream that in that small house there would live an aged army pensioner and wife, and three offspring, a dentist, a scientist and a medical doctor. No, it is not destined to be.

Alas, we can't win them all.

I have said goodbye to two of my loved ones. May Allah have mercy on them. And my condolences to their families.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

07 November 2012

Let’s Twist Again – Not Chubby Checker’s

This is nothing to do with that song, Let’s Twist Again, made famous by  Chubby Checker in 1960’s, over which Pakcik’s age group went crazy doing the ‘twist’,  or doing the ‘rock’ to Bill Haley’s Rock Round The Clock. No, this is something more serious.

This morning Makcik and Pakcik decided to accompany a husband-and-wife couple to town.  They are our close friends, known to Pakcik from my school days in 1950’s.This morning the wife was going for her second appointment with an acupuncture practitioner. She was suffering from weak knees. For that matter, who at our age does not have some weak spots somewhere? Her husband, still very active in tennis, has knee problems too.  Makcik has her complaints and I have mine no less. But we all pretend to be young and strong like a hundred-year oak tree with all the knots and twists.  

Accordingly, while the wife was being treated by a Chinese lady Makcik decided that she too should also have a go, and she did. While the ladies were having their needles in one room my friend and Pakcik sat talking to the lady’s husband, also a practitioner. Knowing our interest in his medical practice he  began to tell us about his grandfather who came to Malaya from China bringing with him the special skill that was handed to his father and later to him and wife. That does not end there. One son is practicing at a hospital. Another son and a daughter are now undergoing the course in China. ( What are we doing with our children, forcing into them biology, chemistry and all to become doctors? )  By then I was sufficiently conned into admitting that I had been having slight pains in my shoulder joints whenever I tried to TWIST my upper arms to reach for something behind my back.

Before I knew it I was already unbuttoning my shirt. Needles after needles were planted on my shoulder, knees and feet. I thought there must be about a dozen of them, and I must be beginning to look like a balding hedgehog.  But I would not dare to look directly at them. There was no real pain which I had been anticipating. Instead it was gentle wriggling of the needles here and there – at the nerve nodes, according to him. Hardly five minutes later the good ‘doctor  asked me to  do the ‘TWIST  with my upper arms to feel the lessening pain. I am not sure whether it was auto-suggestion or fear that made me admit that the pain had indeed lessened. After a bit more of wriggling and twisting of the needles he began to pull them out and threw the used needles into a waste paper basket. Well, I thought, there was no fear of being infected with that dreaded whatever. My friend, who was watching the act throughout confirmed the use of new needles on me.

Finally my good wife was poorer by sixty ringgits and I was by fortyone hundred in all for two. I think my friend is going to be the next to do the TWIST.

And now, as I am writing this, I recall the time I had

an attack of Bell’s Palsy three years ago ( posting of

21st Nov 2009 - click here ). In that posting I noted

down that Awang Goneng had suggested acupuncture after doing a well researched thesis on Bell’s palsy. On hindsight if I had followed that advice the duration of my embarrassing ‘half smile’ suffering could have been a few days shorter.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

30 October 2012

Do we have a winner?

We were in the grounds of our local mosque awaiting for the Friday prayers when a familiar gentleman wearing a broad smile gave me a tap on my shoulder. Obviously he was bursting to give me a good news.
Amirah menang hadiah karangan. ( Amirah won a prize in an essay competition)”

Amirah was an Almanar pupil for three years from her Form One until she scored all A’s in her PMR examiination and gained admission into a boarding school in Kuala Terengganu. 

I am not at all familiar with the various competitions for school children. This particular one, organised by SM Sains Alam Shah, Kuala Lumpur, is called 
As shown below Amirah came out third in the essay competition, the top two went to pupils in Kenya and India.
1st  -  Faith Pepela – Alliance Girls’ High School, Kikuyu, Kenya.
2nd  -  Roshni Khatri – St Marks Senior Secondary Public School, New Delhi, India
3rd   -  Nor Amirah Ab Manaf – SM Sains Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia
These top three received cash and Distinguished Award Certificates for their essays.
With a special smile Amirah called with her younger sister to tell us the news
Over a lunch in their house yesterday, Amirah’s parents were all too ready to throw credits at Almanar for threir daughter's achievement.  When things have not been easy these two years at Almanar and out of frustration I often feel like throwing in the towel, an  occasional success, the like of Amirah’s, is real tonic. And now, wishing her all the best, I have reasons to look forwards to 2012 SPM examination results. I think we have not heard the last of her yet.

Congratulations to you, Nor Amirah. You have given me reasons to carry on.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan