21 September 2013

Special Form-One girls

The number of children joining tuition classes at Almanar has, much to my dismay, dwindled over the last few years. Some years ago I used to have to deal with an intake of around 40 Form-One children. That number would go down to about half or less by the time they sat for their Form Three (PMR) examination three years later. It is Almanar’s open policy that children who show no interest should leave us voluntarily, or else would be asked to.

Three years ago the intake into Form One dropped to around 20. And early this year the figure dropped further to just 16 children, seven of whom were boys. Believe it or not, it is pathetic to see that  today that small number has run down to just FOUR – without a single male.

One would expect Pakcik to be totally despondent over the situation. No, the good side of the situation has, instead, placed me in an enthusiastic mood. After all I still have other classes and I am expecting a new group to join Almanar classes before the coming end-of-the-year school holidays.

The four girls prove that they are worthy of being given help and attention which would enable them to stand a good chance to advance academically. 

Let us look briefly at these four special girls. We will identify them as Nor, Nora, Norma and Normadiah

 L to R : Nor, Nora, Norma & Normadiah


Nor’s family is no stranger to Pakcik and Makcik. Her elder sister is a successful ex-Almanar pupil, married hardly two months ago and working with a bank in Selangor. I have known her father, a tractor driver, ever since we moved here twenty years ago. From time to time I rely on his services to clear the thick bushes growing outside our perimeter fence. Nor scored 4 A’s and 1 B in her UPSR examination end of last year.


Nora has an elder brother studying in the same school which runs on two sessions, morning classes for Form One and Form Two, and afternoon classes for Form Three and higher. Following Nora’s unusual absence from Almanar classes for two days and my subsequent enquiry into the reason, I found out that she and her brother had not been to their school as well, simply because the one bicycle they shared needed repairs badly.  Despite adverse circumstances Nora had to face she scored 3 A’s and 2 B’s in her UPSR.

To alleviate Nora’s current problem Pakcik immediately helped her to own a new bicycle. In return I had the satisfaction of seeing the delight on her face and her mother's. I am certain, knowing there are people who care, Nora will have greater motivation to work herself harder.

  Nora and her new machine



Norma’s father passed away eight years ago. Doing some odd business to earn a living her single mother dotes on this charming girl, being her only child who shows an early promise to succeed in her studies. To prove herself to her mother she obtained all A’s in her UPSR examination last year.


Pakcik will relate what happened three years ago.  Makcik had just returned home from a short trip to London. During her stay there she was taken by Awang Goneng and wife for a meal at a Malay restaurant. In the course of conversation with the restaurant owner’s family, Makcik mentioned Pengkalan Maras where she came from.  At that point the restaurant owner’s son-in-law excitedly mentioned that one of his sisters was at one time a pupil at Almanar. On her return Makcik related this incidence to Pakcik; but without proper name and time Pakcik could not figure out who the sister was. Subsequently, it was Normadiah who told Pakcik recently about her having a married elder brother working at a Malay restaurant in London. The girl referred to by her brother was an elder sister to her. What a small world it is.

But there is more to it about Normadiah than just having a brother in London. She is number 14 of FIFTEEN siblings. This is an all-time record for Almanar. I only know of one family (nothing to do with Almanar tuition) with 14 children. 

Last week Normadiah did not attend class as she was required to stay by her father’s bedside at a hospital after undergoing a surgery. Some years ago he retired from the army.  

Normadiah & father

So, these are the four girls I currently have  in Form One.  Every one of them deserves to be helped. Exhibiting the right studying attitude gives Pakcik a much greater pleasure to teach them than a group of forty.

They are my very special Form-One girls.


Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

13 September 2013

Of Durian & Cikgu

The countryside is flooded with durian, duku, rambutan and manggis. Village folks, who own land with these fruit trees around K Terengganu, moan over the drop in fruit price. It is not worth the trouble of collecting them, so say many of them.

Ten days ago the man, who occasionally drops by to help clearing our land, came with three large durians and a bunch of ‘petai’, all from his plants. For Pakcik and Makcik, one durian is half-a-durian too much.

A few days later a father of one of our Almanar pupils came over with six durians. He is a retiree from an oil company and owns few acres of fruit trees. So these six durians are for his daughter’s Cikgu and Makcik. That was certainly not a gift we could refuse.

Then, driving home one afternoon three days ago, I dropped by one of several durian sellers by the roadside and asked for one good durian of his choice, showing my trust in his judgement - if not his honesty.  No, he insisted that I took two fruits that had already been nicely strung together. They were the best of the few he had left.

Feeling rather sorry for him I agreed and expressed myself clearly that he should name one price which I would pay without any bargaining. He looked hard at me and, after a brief pause to think, he murmured, ‘Baiklah, empat ringgit (OK, four ringgits).  So I readily told him that I accepted that and would pay him the eight ringgits for the two. Grinning at me he retorted that it was to be four ringgits for both fruit.

Two for four ringgits?

With disbelief and looking at the beads of sweat on his face I drew out a five-ringgit note and handed it to him, saying at the same time that I would not take the one ringgit change. He looked hard at me. Convinced that I meant it he turned around, picked two smaller fruit readily tied together and handed them to me.

Cikgu, ambil lah dua biji lagi ni - hadiah ikhlas dari saya! (Cikgu, take these two extra durians - a sincere gift from me!” I had little doubt he truly meant every word of it. But somewhat  curious, I asked what made him address me as ‘Cikgu’.

Tak tahu lah. Nampak pada saya macam Cikgu, ( I don’t know.  You seem to me like a ‘cikgu)”

For some unknown reasons I had taken a picture of him when he was holding the first two fruit to hand over to me. Did I have as much sixth sense to take his picture as he had to think that I was a teacher? But no one calls me other than Pakcik - not a teacher.

Semoga Tuhan murahkan rezekinya. One day I will drop by to ask if he has a child I can help at Almanar. How I wish he had children who would grow to give him a better lot in life.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan 

09 September 2013

What Pakcik received ( Pt 4 ) - Bluebeauty

A lesson in geography

As a short break I must share this Bluebeauty. It brings me back to the class when the geography teacher, in a darkened room, rotated a globe against a torchlight to show the movement of sunrise and sunset.                      

Allahu Akbar


Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

01 September 2013

Pakcik reminisces ( Pt 33) - Merdeka + 20

Initially, I had no intention of writing about this year’s Merdeka celebration. This morning, however, when it is all but over, the dailies splash all about yesterday’s events, the gtreat celebration. Without class at Almanar the whole day today, fancy-free and not having much else to do, I thought of tidying up my bed-side set of three drawers, one of which contains my most valuable property – my‘ancient’ diaries, one of which was wrapped in a large envelop. That was the one most damaged – the work of silver-fish during years of storage until I realised the damage five years ago, in September 2007.

We were then celebrating our 50th Anniversary of Independence and I wanted to go back in time and write something for my new blog. It was my 6th entry ; and, coincidentally, I chose to make that entry as Part 1 of a series to be known as ‘Pak Cik reminisces’ ( click here ). Right now I have come to Pt 33 in this series, Alhamdulillah.

Yes, 1957 was a lonely part of Pakcik’s student life, being 13,000 km away from home. Tears rolled down my cheeks when I heard the three shouts of ‘Merdeka !’ by Tunku over the BBC radio.


 Apart from that Pakcik could only read from the British dailies and listen to the BBC radio the sketchy coverage of the Independence Day of MALAYA.   

That was 57 years ago. What has it got to do with 77?

Well, 57 years ago Pakcik was twenty, independent of my family. The mathematical part of me began to do the sum, 57 + 20 = 77. Seventy seven rings a bell. Those were the years when a very popular TV private detective series called ‘ 77 Sunset Strip’ was a hit. Later it was followed by a very popular comedy series, called ‘All in the family’ ( which incidentally prompted me to start my other series by the same title – minus the comedy part.)

So 77 indeed  it will be for Pakcik in a matter of hours, insya Allah. It is Merdeka + 20, forever young!

Malayan Stamps- Jawi and Arabic numerals

Pre Merdeka stamps

If I may be allowed to digress, please look at the picture of few old stamps kept between the pages of my 1957 diary. When I look again and again at these few pre-Merdeka stamps, I have my regret. I grew up with Jawi script and the stamp values were written in Arabic numerals. Today, perhaps because we are Merdeka (possessing our own freedom to act), we have discarded our affinity to Al Quranic script and its pronunciation. It is not just the show of our freedom to discard but also our freedom to embrace the great many English words as part of  Malay vocabularies!  Yes, indeed, we have the freedom to remove all the shady trees down to their very roots simply because we wish to show our freedom to build a mansion that, we dream, will one day reach the sky. 

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan