The Year 1964
A long story by Mat B. Zakaria PhD. (retired Professor from UKM and now with Universiti Darul Iman [UDM]) about his experience in SS and hostel in 1964 under the Malay Medium which was later transferred to Sekolah Padang Midin.
Reproduced with consent from his blog: http://matzakaria.com/fototeks/a_1964.html
The year 1964. It was late morning of Sunday, January 12, my mother took me to the school, Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School (popularly known as SS to the folks), six kilometers south of KT along the south trunk road, adjacent to the vilage of Kuala Ibai.
My mother was told by a teacher by the name CheGu Ismail (an arwah now) when and where to take me when the school reopened in Jan. He took every effort that he could possibly acquire to convince my mother and to make sure that my mother take me to the school as told. I did not know a thing about getting on to secondary school after the primary school.
Closing my twelfth year, ending the 1963, I thought I had graduated from the schooling life of a boy, not because I hate going to school, or because I was less brainy. It was a cyclamatic taste of a chance to partially feed myself. It was tasteful indeed for my poverty-enameled taste-buds.
SS was then the most prestigious school in Terengganu, in Kuala Terengganu precisely, on the beach nextdoor to the Sultan’s Palace, the Istana Badariah. The compound was very large, the fields extended to border with the Palace fence. There were two long double-storey blocks of classrooms, and another two shorter blocks. There were two blocks of double storey boys hostels, all together twelve rooms, about fifteen boys in a room. The blocks were on the beach side of the compound, and in fact a high wall right on the beach was built to mark the furthest a student could go to the beach. The wall also served to block the high wave from strong monsoon wind from reaching the hostel.
In January, the monsoon was at its peak, the blowing wind sang the sleeping song, with the coconut and ru leaves melody all days and night, and that carved a permanent nostalgia in my memory when I first started my hostel life here. The school was attended not only by the brainy boys of Terengganu, but most importantly by the wealthy kids whose grey matter did not measure up in boarding schools like MCKK, STAR, MGC, etc.
We were actually squatting in SS for a couple of months. My seniors had been squatting there for many years. Our own school would be ready soon, not near here, but somewhere more uphill. We were actually Malay-Medium students. We were among the pioneers to study in secondary level through the medium of Malay as the medium of instruction, then all secondary schools in Terengganu, in fact in Malaysia, used English as the medium of instruction.
My most senior fellow linguocomrades were in Form Five. I did not know how they came about that senior. I chose, or rather I was with my mother to choose Malay Medium school not because my grey matter was not sufficiently dense. It was because of the fees. In SS the fees would be six ringgit a month, excluding nine ringgit hostel fees, plus books. That would require fifteen ringgit overhead. In Malay medium school, the fees was six ringgit a year. With my father and my mother earnings so irregular, and my brothers and my sisters feeding so regular, I did not bother to seek advice of many relatives in making the irreversible decision to go to Malay medium school.
Many years later I was told by my mother that some of my relatives were not very happy with my mother’s brave decision to let me go on to the secondary school, and especially to non-religious school.
I was in Form One, precisely 1AM. The extension ‘M’ was indication of Malay medium, differing from the conventional English medium, and it was in the afternoon session. Those who opted for the English medium went to Remove Class, learning mainly English. On the first day, we were met by Pak Ngah Him, Mak Long Su’s son, a very close relative of my mother. He, his actual name was Mohamad Abu Bakar, was then in form four, just through his LCE, English medium, in Commerce class. And he insisted that there is no way I could commute from home to school every day. So, with his ‘supervision’, my mother decided that I would stay in the hostel, and he would make the necessary arrangements. On the first day, we returned home, early, to catch the last bus from KT to Batu 6, at about five.
My mother sent me to school again the next day, Monday, with a very simple preparation. A sleeved kekabu-pillow, a patched white short, a last year blue short (std six), a sarong (no towel), some small personal items, wrapped and rope-tied in folded kerchut mat, plus another patched short and a white shirt I was wearing; no books what so ever; the primary school leaving cert, my IC and birth-cert were folded and in my shirt pocket (my belongings was added with a Batu-Enam-Itam tailored white khaki short paid by Ayah Li, and a casual white-flowered spotted light green shirt my mother sewed for me during my first term home-break in April). The night before, my mother asked me to sleep beside her, for she said I would then be away from her for a very long time to come. I did not, because I felt I was grown up enough, but she was right for the being away from her. It was before noon when we reached the school, and with Pak Ngah Him assisted, I was registered in A block, room number 2.
I did not remember saying good-bye to my mother, but I did not feel scary being away from home. When she left I had only twenty-five cents in my pocket, the most she could leave to me, just enough for my bus fare, which was ten cents to KT bus station then another fifteen cents in another bus to Pengkalan Arang, in case I had to go home. I did not pay anything to the school or to the hostel because my mother did not have any money, and the teachers invested for the credit on my SSE results which under no circumstances would it not be awarded with a Federal Minor Scholarship.
My bed was the most peculiar in the room, it had no mattress because I could not affort one, it has a pillow and was only covered by a ‘kercut’ (made from the straw of a grass-type long stem) mat, the traditional ‘bed’ for the poor, not even the more expensive and colourful ‘mengkuang’ mat. One would not miss to know my bed during day time, because it was one and only bed without a matress. At night my bed was not covered by the mosquito net, for similar reason, and one would not miss to know my bed at night, even after the light out. Many times I was haunted by a rather inferior feeling seeing the best bed the others had. The feeling did not get worse only because the prefect or the warden did not ask me where was my mattress. And I was befriended only by those who knew my SSE results, not by those who saw my very presence for every bit of my presence, my dress, my wallet, perhaps my look and my smell too, were unpleasant. It was nonetheless a blessing.
It was a weekend activity of the hostel boarders to sun-burned the mattress to free from the bugs, and the more beautiful the mattress was the more bugs could get aboded in the creases and folds. And my bare bed freed me from bugs bite at night, and at night the area was actually not a mosquito-infested area. And one would not miss me on Friday afternoon: I wore school shirt (instead of baju melayu) to go to friday payer in Kuala Ibai mosque, just outside the school compound.
The warden for the A block was CheGu Ghani, and for the B Block was Mr Nava. [Met Mr. Nava in Bali] Both had a VW Beetle, the most prestigous casual car at the time, parked right in front of the hostel block. The hostel captain was Mohamed Derus, an English Medium Fifth Former. He shared a frontage room on the ground floor of A Block with a fellow prefect, Yahya, who was the school HB. I onced glanced into their room, and it was a very cosy-looking with individual study table equipped with individual table lamp and beds well-managed with framed mosquito net to look so nice. Looking at my bed, I could only wish to have such privileges; the wish I was actually granted in even more elegant ‘penthouse-like’ accomodation in 1970, by beeing the HB of SAS in KL.
After two weeks I returned home for a weekend. My mother told me that she was applying for the Welfare assistance for my schooling, helped by Che Wan Nawi, the village assistance head, and he told me that book loan was approved for me, ready to be collected at Pustaka Timor in Jalan Banggol. So, the following weekend I went to the said bookshop, and checked my name, and collected some of the books, many were translated versions published by DBP, all brand new for the old stock, collectable at another place, were already out of stock. At about the same time, forms of the prestigious FMS were distributed by the class teacher to those with an A in SSE, ten of us in the 1AM class. I filled the form.
At the hostel, when Pak Ngah Him visited me, he incidentally saw the form, before it was due to be submitted. He pointed a glaring oddity: that I wrote five ringgit as the monthly income of my family which was very true to me. He took a while to get me understood in that case that, I have to lie to survive. He suggested sixty ringgit instead to make it sensible, and I agreed the change be made in the form even though my heart wanted to throw up the fifty-five ringgit lie. He was right. In late February the decision arrived. I was awarded a FMS, with all the nine others, twenty-five ringgit a month, an amount more than enough for me to become independent of my mother’s income; and the first payment arrived in late March, back-dated from January, announced through the PA in the class to be collected in cash in the school office immediately.
I paid all the dues, and deposited the rest in POSB Kuala Trengganu the week end that followed. It was so much money for me that I did not know what to buy, and one of the thing I bought at KT bookshop which I regretted very much later for the waste, was the two-ringgit adjustable rubber-stamping set, a ‘toy’ no other students knew its existence at the time. It nonetheless stamped my name on every book I bought. With the award, I was obligated to withdraw from the Welfare list, and I returned all the books which I took from Pustaka Timor. I bought all of them for replacement. And with the award, very meaningful to me, only myself could foolishly undo its right track.
With my own ‘income’, I could go home and return to the hostel ‘honorably’ like other boys. I stayed at the bus station with more confidence while waiting for the next bus either to my place or to the hostel; otherwise I was always scared. I could buy the drink when I felt thirsty (a ten sen per bowl ABC), I bought a few turtle eggs (- the big leather back’s – ten sen each – the delicacy my relatives in Mengabang Telung promised whenever we were visiting them, but could not deliver) to take to the hostel, I bought a bundle of green-fresh limau lakap, still in their stalks, for my brothers and sisters at home (one ringgit for 15 or 20 pieces), I bought a towel to get dried after bath in the hostel, and I bought a fountain pen which I reckoned would last for quite sometimes; and I bought a proper bag (a blue squared split-opened of 1 by 2 ft) to put my books in and another one, a yellow sling to put my dresses and other sundries. On my final return trip from SS hostel in Dec, I carried these two bags and another tied folded mat with the pillow in it.
My class teacher was CheGu Saadiah Awang (later I knew she lived in Ladang, driving a short black car with the door opened the front-way) and she taught us Bahasa Melayu. The geography teacher was CheGu Ramlah. CheGu Jalal, who seemingly was eyeing CheGu Ramlah taught us history. Mr Naga, a fierce looking teacher, took us, the boys, for PE, while the girls were taken by CheGu Rehana who always dressed in a white short and a whistle hanging around her neck most of the times. Mr Naga always fooled us with the catch-phrase “assamulakum,…. mulakumussalam”, and never not asking us to “duck-walking, … goh” in every PE class in the field in the evening.
In one PE class, Mr Naga took us into a dark room on the second floor of the other school block (along which I saw a class full of typewriters – the commerce class, an a class below it with a ‘human’ skeleton standing by the teacher’s table – the biology lab), and we were shown a movie – Davy Crocket – the film for Cinema Club members for that particular week. CheGu Razali Haron taught us Science and he also addressed the assembly every afternoon in the hall before settling in the class. He was presumably the afternoon coordinator. Before the assembly we were waiting under the lines of big jambu air tree beside the hall. In the hostel I heard students were talking about a teacher CheGu Mustafa Jar, but only when we moved to Padang Midin, I came to know him.
I noticed a teacher, most of the evening, in the hall practicing or teaching gymnastics. He attracted my attention so much, then suddenly I realised that he disappeared, but I kept on hearing the students conversation about a good gymnastics teacher in the school. He was CheGu Razali Abdul Mutalib and that his aurora in the assembly hall was in my memory for so long because I was destined to meet him again, in person, in different environment, after many long years later, in 1993, twice; once in his office of Nazir in KT, and another at his home in Panji Alam, with all the family members.
The ‘repeat scene’ began on Monday Dec 14, 1992 when we sent our second daughter Malini to TKC Seremban to begin her form one schooling; we were greeted by her CS prefect named Karena. On further acquaintance she, then a form-fiver, was the daughter, the youngest, of CheGu Razali Abdul Mutalib. Having a perfect restarting point I made an effort to meet him. And I met him on March 23, 1993 in his Nazir Office (Bank Pertanian Building), introduced by Pak Ngah Him, who was also a Nazir, and on business of concluding the transaction of selling his land in Wakaf Tengah, to me and my brother Num. It was a short meeting, but I extended the meeting three days later, on Friday March 26, a day after Aidil Fitri, with all the family members at his home in Panji Alam. At the meeting, my wife met also her former teachers, visiting, happened to be friends of CheGu Razali’s wife, Puan Khatijah who was a retired teacher to do her business in handcrafts. And at the meeting, I asked him of his sudden disappearance in 1964; I got the answer: he went to New Zealand for further training.
Back to the hostel, the dining hall was between the room blocks. We had lunch earlier in the afternoon since we were in the afternoon session, but we had dinner together with all the hostel boarders. In every lunch and dinner, the desert was a green apple. It was the first time I ate apple, and its aroma was very nostalgic. Before we start the dinner, a prefect would read a prayer, in English, “We all remember all the good things for the day, Amen”, and all students were waiting to amuse Zakaria’s turn to read the prayer, because he was a stammer.
I did not have the idea of ragging among the hostel boarders, and I was not warned so by any body, but the idea slowly came into being as I moved on. However I was not abused by the seniors, probably because I was not attractive enough judging from my bed attire in the dorm, or perhaps because my next bed neighbour, on my left, wall-site, was a form 3AM senior named Wan Ahmad Khalid, a smart, handsome with an Elvis curly hair, well-dressed good-looking boy. He helped me on many occasions.
One day in June, I found out that someone had stolen my POSB (Post Office Saving Book) passbook and managed to draw fifty-ringgit from it, and unwisely put back the passbook in my locker from where he took it. He left for me only five ringgit in the account. I reported the stealing to the hostel captain who quickly started the investigation. That night it was a big story in the hostel and during the prep-class, for the thief managed to get the money drawn from POSB passbook, since it needed a thump-impression to get approved. Immediately after the night prep-class ended, the thief came to see me, took me to Mak Jah tuck shop just outside the school compound for a bowl of ‘bubur pulut hitam’, and on the way back he admitted that he stole my money, knowing that I was a FMS recipient and had some deposit in POSB. He unfortunately was Wan Ahmad. He promised to pay me back monthly and we settled it with the captain.
However, it took me the next month to get the first fifteen ringgit. I wrote a letter to his brother, who was his guardian, in Dungun telling him the incident. His brother, despite getting frustrated and angried with me, settled the money in two monthly installments, cash-registered directly to me to the school. I told my mother of the incident, but she could only monitor the progress. That was the first time I handled my matters alone, successfully, without my mother’s help. Not long after that I moved to the opposite row in the dorm. As some of the students had in their locker, I also had a small hot water thermos (the hot water was available from the kitchen, a small cup, and sometimes a tin of milk, a margerine pack, and thus completed with pack of biscuit for supper after night prep class (instead of going out of the school compound).
The most notorious boy in the block, a form two English medium, happened to be staying in my dorm too, a few beds away to my right. He was nicked Mohd Kera, and his activity was ‘painting’ the boys face with fabric paint at night when they were fast asleep. He had the paint for his art class, as had every body for the subject. It took a thinner, not soap, to remove the paint. Many boys got his menace, including me, once. At one time the food in the hostel was so bad, that prefects led the students in a protest. The warden wanted to know the leaders and with the prefects taking part obviously he met with the incooperations, until he met a boy, a form one English medium, who liked chicken so much, at any cost, in his meal. With the bribe in a restaurant in KT, the warden was told everything. However the prefects were forgiven, but the boy, since then was nicked Ramli Daging Ayam (Chicken Ramli), and secretly the prefects asked the professional job of Mohd Kera to teach Ramli. He went home for two weeks. When he returned to the hostel again, with hairless head, everybody knew that he got the paint more than just on his face.
A big boy, insane-looking, by the name of Syed came to find me one evening, and said he wanted to harm me. He took my hands by his hands, laid me down on my back on my bed, and fiercely spitted in my mouth, a disgusted act that I could not forgive. I wept for the first time during my stay in the hostel. I did not tell any body, including Pak Ngah Him because I felt so embarrassed from the most evil act which I could not defend myself. But, later I found out that he was truly an insane boy, a form one English medium, disappeared from the hostel and from the school altogether.
In SS in 1964 and the years before, there were afternoon classes for Extension School (Sekolah Lanjutan) catering the LCE drop-outs as a second chance. If they make in the Qualifying Test at the end of the year, they would be readmitted in form four the following year. But the students did not stay in the hostel, and thus the hostel did not have the experience of handling afternoon session students in the morning. But this year, my batch was SS students, some of them like myself were hostel boarders. There have never been prep-class in the morning, so the hostel had to make one from this year, seeing that we did nothing in the morning. The class was held in the recreation room of the A Block from eight thirty to eleven. And I was picked by warden CheGu Ghani to become the ‘prefect’.
My job was to keep the class in order, that is to make sure that students were studying or doing their homeworks during the class, and to watch that they do not make any menaces. I also had to keep the attendance register everyday. The register had to be endorsed by the warden by ten thirty in the morning which I normally accomplished by seeing him in the school tuck-shop while the teachers were having their refreshment during the school recess. And I never had any problem with the job because all the students were of my batch, and there were only about thirty of them, less than the size of a class.
My independence on my folks-mate developed late because I was sort of a shy boy and always haunted by the inferior feeling of lacking in everything. The only mate in the hostel that came from Bukit Tunggal was Razali Yusof of Pak Katak, but he was not in my class. Apparently many more of my Bukit Tunggal schoolmates checked in SS, but they did not stay in the hostel and they were not in my class; they were sort of luckier for being able to commute because they stayed in the area along the northern bank of Trg river estuary: Pengkalan Batu, Bukit Kandis, Bukit Tunggal, and Bukit Tumbuh. One was Ahmad Mokhtar Che Man.
The closest batch-mate in the hostel was Mohamad Awang from Banggol Tuan Muda, Kg Tengah. He was not in my class also. Another mate was Ali Yatim from Tok Jiring. I came to know later that another boy, Ibrahim Muda from Paya Datu actually commuted to the school, by bicycle. There were many batch-mates from Dungun, but I did not get very close to them for they were very close among themselves. The closest was Anuar Rushdi, from Dungun, and my class-mate too because he talked a lot. Somehow I was befriended by a form two English medium, Azmi Ambak. Together with Mohd Ariffin Musa from Chalok, my batch-mate, we used to stroll along the beach down to the lagoon in the estuary of Ibai river to the low tide flat land, opposite the lagoon, full of spiky grass and short mangroove trees, about one km south of the hostel along the beach. He owned a camera and I had no problem to be in front of his camera, and for the first time, apart from the IC, my moments were recorded in b&w photographs.
Most of my class-mates, about thirty five altogether, were of my type, I knew it from their books, their dress and their words, but only Anuar stayed in the hostel. His many friends from Dungun were also hostel-boarders, but in the English Medium. I began befriending Hashim Anang from the lines we made under the rows of big ‘jambu air’ trees before entering the assembly hall, then into the class, every afternoon. We were always side by side, or next to each other. He was from Marang, and I almost saw him everyday getting down from the bus that took him to school. He was a very kind, gentle and honest boy. In the class he sat at the back row, while I sat on the second row, second last column (near the windows).
There were about ten girls, but none I had known before. Apparently there was a block of girls hostel, on the other side of the compound, close to the trunk road. I came to know later that Mariam, from Bukit Besi, Dungun, the class monitor, was a hostel boarder. She befriended quickly a ‘local’ from Losong name Zawiah. Not much stayed in my memory about the others, at least not yet at that moment.
Back at the hostel, I remembered very well some seniors, all were hostel boarders, Tasnim Othman and his younger brother Alamin, both of English Medium. Then another pair, Taib Mohamad and his younger brother Razak, also of English medium. The former somehow reached UKM in 1971 at the same time with me, but in Arts Faculty. There were many boys from Batu Rakit – Mengabang Telipot area, and many of them were actually my distant relatives, or at least their mothers and fathers knew wery well my mother and my father. One was Mokhtar Ibrahim, a form five English medium whose mother was the niece of Pak Itam Ghani near my home.
Another was Ismail Said, the son of my mother’s cousin from Batu Rakit (eventually many years later to become PakNgah Him’s brother in-laws). Wan Mohamed, a flying colour form two Malay medium was unknown to me in SS in 1964, but the story was related that he had a flying colour elder brother named Wan Sulong who had just been to SAS in KL, after his SRP in SS last year; for that matter he was nicked ‘Adik Long’ by the seniors in SS, and for a few years more until he went to SAS himself (in 1966).
October 1, we moved to our new permanent ‘campus’ in Padang Midin, and naturally the school was named Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Padang Midin (SMKPM). Every one was happy, including our new HM, CheGu Nordin Nasir, and every class from form 1 to form 5 was in the morning session. The hostel was not yet ready, so those who had to stay in the hostel, continued to do so in SS, including myself. A chartered bus, ten ringgit monthly ticket, ferried us in the morning and afternoon.
I realised many years later that the move was actually at a cost, the significant of which depends on which side one is on. To me it was rather dear. It cost my friend, a class-mate, closest than all others, none other than Hashim Anang. He commuted to SS by bus and the timing was just as suitable since it was afternoon session. Padang Midin is on the western side of KT, and one has to take another bus. If he wanted to continue to commute when we have moved, there was no way he could reach the school at seven every morning from Marang. Unfortunately he, and perhaps with the support and suggestion of his parents decided to stop schooling.
As told to me, he was going to help his uncle manning a coffee shop on the beach of Marang estuary whose customers were mostly fishermen, and the uncle he said he was going to work with was a YB. When we moved in October, he actually stopped coming to school. He wrote letters to me saying that he had stopped schooling. I replied his letters. We kept in touch through the letters until the end of term in late November when I decided and braved myself to go to visit him and his family in Marang.
So, I told him that I was going to visit him. He was very glad and gave full instruction on how to get down, and I was actually visiting him, I went on Saturday morning, the morning after I returned home from the hostel (for good in SS) for the final term break; the first bus I could catch from my place, and I stayed one night with his family. His father, Pak Chik Anang, was a very nice person; hashim did not have many brothers and sisters. I found out that his family was not that poor after all, in fact he was one million times richer than me. Then why did he decide to stop schooling? And what did his parent say?
I did not try to probe the questions further during the visit, in fact I was drowned in the hospitality of Hashim’s family, the kind of hospitality I usually enjoyed from my relatives in Mengabang Telung who brought my mother up. I was even offered to take home a pair of pigeons by his father which I turned down because I would not have the time to bring the birds up.
Apparently that was the last time I saw him. In the years that followed, I was careless myself, I was sort of in natural entropy, and we were loosing each other. We finally lost each other. In the late 80’s I had a chance to stand right on the spot where he met me as I got down from the bus in December 1964. However, from there I could not see his house anymore. Things had changed very much. I was in a hurry too. Again, in mid 90’s I had another chance. But, the spot I was standing in 1964 had changed again.
I met an old lady food seller near by, and asked her about Hashim if she knew; and yes she knew. And she knew Hashim’s father, PakChik Anang to her, and she said he was here, right where I was standing, ten minutes ago. She said that Hashim was not staying in Marang now, but she did not know where. At that very close point, my children and my wife was pushing me to go on with our drive back to KL. I could have ask them for another ten minutes or so, but if they do not understand who is Hashim and his father to me, that could mean a bumpy drive back to KL.
More photos at http://matzakaria.com/fototeks/a_1964.html