Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Well Served

Sometime in the early half of the 1990s I had to travel alone to Kuala Lumpur because of a family emergency.  The spouse drove me to Heathrow but we were caught in a bad traffic jam because of an accident on the worst Ring Road in Britain, the M25.

I very almost missed the check-in at MAS counter and as a result I could only get one of the worst seats on the plane,  in the smoking area.  At that time they had the ridiculous idea that it was fine for non-smokers if the puffers were kept to the back of the plane.

When the passengers on either side of me started to light up their cigarettes, I found myself gasping for breath.  I had to ask the stewardess for a change of seat because I could not cope with this for the next  16 (?) hours.  I could see the plane was full and she would have a problem getting me another seat.  To get some respite from the smokers I had to get out of my seat and take a 'walk' away from the two and other chimneys in the rear of the plane.  Then about half an hour or so  I was informed that they had got a seat for me in the non-smoking zone.  I almost cried with relief.

As I packed my stuff I saw a young Malay man approaching to take over the infernal seat.  I realized then that he had responded to the stewardess's effort to help me by giving up his non-smoking seat.  As I left, I grasped his hand and said,  "Terima kasih 'nak.  Macik tak tahan asap rokok".  He smiled and said "Tak apa macik".

I was taken to a seat next to an aisle seat.  The young Malay man stood up to let me through, made sure I had settled down properly before he sat down.  He asked me in English,   "Auntie okay now?"  I smiled a grateful  'yes'.  I then informed him that I'm actually a macik, in other words a Malay.  He was taken aback and apologized for getting it wrong.  I assured him that this happened to me all the time.  After all I had a Chinese grandmother!  He nodded and smiled.

There were 6-8 other young Malays sitting nearby.  They all had the same haircut typical of men in the Services.  They were neatly dressed, long-sleeved shirts and slacks and neck ties.  I found out later they were ratings from TLDM  (Royal Malaysian Navy) and had just ended a training stint in a new Destroyer that had been purchased by the NAVY.

Their bearing and manners were immaculate and faultless.

 I smile whenever I recall this experience.  After the meals, my young neighbour would very kindly ask me if I needed to go for a 'comfort stop'.  I though that was so considerate of him.  Whenever I did, he would remove himself completely from his seat and stood to the side to let me through.  The whole scenario was repeated when I returned to my seat.

Much later, the young man who took over my seat from hell came to see me and inquired, "Macik selesa sekarang?"  I nodded my head, smiled and thanked him.

Bless them all, bless the training they had, bless TLDM for producing these kind and caring Malaysians.  And they did all this without bothering who they were doing it for.  That is Satu Malaysia from nearly 20 years ago!

Two weeks ago, when the spouse was resting in the Hospital, I would wander off to Mydin for a bit of shopping. Of course my 'bit' ended up with a full basket.  When it came to my turn to pay at the cashier, the young Malay man who was before me, lifted up my laden basket to place it on the counter. He had almost  exactly the same haircut and same straight bearing of those TLDM men on that MAS flight.

Yesterday, on my way home from Immigration Damansara the  meter on the taxi chalked up the lowest fare of all my six taxi trips.  The taxi driver had just started  his new occupation.  He told me he had only recently retired from the Army.

What training do they give to such members of the Armed Forces to make them a cut above the rest?  Can this be transferred to the other Government Departments, to the schools and Universities? Please????
A Malay Man from A.W. Hamilton's "Malay Proverbs"

I know I've been slagging off most things Malaysian.  We are not the most efficient and well-organized country but I believe there's a core of softness and decent flexibility which is absent in some robotically-efficient and many developed countries.  Malaysia has an accommodating heart - that is why those who originate from foreign shores can gain entry and gain a livelihood here , even though they now kick up such a stink about their  so-called plight.

Orang yang kenyang kalau di jamu, lauk yang sedap di-kata tawar.

A well-fed man if offered food
Will say nice dishes are no good.
Those who are with good things sated
Often call them over-rated.

From Malay Proverbs, Bidal Melayu, A.W.  Hamilton , 3rd Edition 1947 (First Edition 1937)

That last taxi driver who took me home yesterday by the shortest route reminded me of the generous and unsolicited kindness of some members of Malaysia's Defence Forces to a litle old lady.

 Now that we have the movie 'The Last Communist'.  Can we have another of  'The Last Pahlawan' ?

Oh yes, mission successful at Immigration Damansara yesterday.


BaitiBadarudin said...

Salam AsH,
Congrats! What a double jubilation - the visa approval and the lowest taxi fare.
I couldn't agree more about the impeccable manners of those in the army and the navy, in spite of being underpaid and unappreciated.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you BaitiBadarudin,

You can't imagine my joy when they called me to make the payment at Immigration. So we now have three months extension - enough time for Iain to heal.

Society always puts a prime value on those who don't deserve it.

The Pumkiner said...


Military men. They are aware of their occupational hazard. Ready to sacrifice their lives to protect others.

The concept of discipline, bravery, honour, chivalry etc are hammered into their heads.

I think helping a makcik hardly imposed any challenge to them.

We tend to take them for granted. May they be bestowed with blessing from the Almighty for their service to the country.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Pumkiner,

In a nutshell, you have explained the difference between these men and the 'graduates' from our education system.

All the more, will some bright spark somewhere make a ground breaking story about these Pahlawan? Perhaps it's not post-modernist enough!?!!

Don Jeffri M Sadiki said...

Dear Makcik,

What a touching story indeed.

Let me relate one story of mine. I have a schoolmate, he was a special elite unit with Malaysian Forces. He was sent as UN special peacekeeper to Bosnia-Herzegovina in late 90's right after the end of Balkan War. What he had experienced & had seen, changed him a person. When he came back home, he was quite a quiet person not like himself before.

Once I asked him what he would do if our country is attacked or we are in war, would he hesitate to fight? He kept silence a while, then he said, the soldiers like him do not have split second to think.
And yes, he was also trained to jump right from helicopter.

The story of our soldiers is not to be told, for they are not politicians, artist celeberities or ministers looking for glamour. Some of them are just have this bare SPM/SRP or low level qualification. But these boys pledge foremost their loyalty to serve the King & Country to defend the honor of our Nation.

In any war, they will be the first in front-lines.
They are our finest of finest. Be grateful for their sacrifices & thankful for country producing such capable gentlemen.

Do you know that upon retirement, they are being trained to equip themselves to be taxi driver, carpenter & plumber among other things ? as the only thing they knew before is being the soldier !

Don Jeffri M Sadiki

Wan Sharif said...

Nice to reminisce all the "nice episodes of our journey". Sejuk hati saya membacanya..
I thought it is 'Bidalan Melayu' non?!

Awang Goneng said...

Oh my goodness, I have not seen that book of Bidal Melayu for yonks and many years!

anak si-hamid said...

Don Jeffri M. Sadiki,

Your comment touches me in the same way as the graciousness of the TLDM young men on that MAS flight.

Many parts of Malay and Malaysian society have become so enamoured with the trappings of wealth, consumerism, and self-righteousness and THE SELF that basic values like duty, loyalty, humility and sacrifice have been left to the "SPM/SRP" to maintain.

Your views and that of your friend gives this makcik some hope.

My grateful thanks for your contribution.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Wan Sharif,

I'm glad this posting is soothing because at times I am like a fire-breathing dragon.

Well, the colonial-orientalist only know it as "bidal". It's just another example of the way they mess up our language and our Semenanjung.

anak si-hamid said...

Awang Goneng,

Thank you.

See what you can discover from this makcik? You don't have to trawl through the "great antique bazaars of Europe" to find bits of one's history.

I found this at our humble Chowrasta market in Penang.

mekyam said...

hi AsH!

gems, that's what goodwill and good manners like that are. coming across them is like stumbling upon treasures.

it's wonderful to come across some to keep as precious memories. :)

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you mekyam,

Indeed it's a joy to encounter such civilized and kind behaviour from our young men (and women?) to make up for the crassness we
observe in our day-to-day activities.

But then I'm just an ex-schoolmarm!!

Some years ago when my students and I were going on a camping trip, I noticed the boys happily ambling along leaving the girls to do all the carrying. I gave them such an earful and till today they have kept up what they learned.

Anonymous said...

I almost got stranded in Melaka once, before I managed to get a last minute ticket to board an almost-leaving bus to Johor. It was a few days before Raya and I was such a young man then; 18 if I'm not mistaken.

I was one of two persons getting into the bus last minute like that. The other is an army man, who sat right beside me. His seat was faulty; it did not have a back rest so he had nowhere to lean to. I guess this was the reason the couple who was originally to have our seats let them go. Halfway through the journey I woke up from my compulsory-on-a-journey-sleep and felt really bad for the army man and offered my seat. He refused. No matter how you see it he is the gentler man.

Thank you for this piece. I wish people respect and appreciate these people more.


koolmokcikZ said...

tabik mokcik

jika ada pahlawan yang terbaca tulisan ASH ini, pasti mereka berbesar hati.

great observation ma'am. thank you for sharing it here.

wishing you a great day

Anonymous said...

I just read you piece "We're Blessed" and can't help myself from commenting.
Years ago when I was in Form Five, the whole school wrote me off as a sure failure ( my refusal to conform contributed greatly ! ). I was lucky that my History teacher took an interest in my plight and guided me until I did well enough for my SPM to further my studies in the UK. For the five years I was in the UK she wrote to me every month without fail. On 25th Oct 1986 she gave me a Quran as a birthday gift.
I am now a small town lawyer and eventhough I make it a point to go and see her at least twice a year I feel it is not enough to repay her kindness and belief in me all these years.
This teacher of mine is one of a kind. I believe your students also feel the same way about you.
I still have the Quran with me. I feel that she is close by whenever I read it. Some teachers are true gems.


ph said...

ulat, AsH is a real gem and so is Uncle Iain. It's a buy one get one free (bogof) kind of deal for us.

jooli said...

AsH, you compare our uni students to those trained in the navy. i can't agree more.
One aspect I'd like to share here is the way they drive and ride their motorbikes: simply dangerously.
I wish the traffic policemen&women were stationed periodically on campuses. They'd make lots, through summonses for speeding, driving dangerously and not following traffic rules>

anak si-hamid said...

KoolmokcikZ, Anonymous and ph; my apologies for the late response.

Thank you KoolmokcikZ,

To me, the small men and women have done a lot more for our society and our well-being than the big fat cats, tom cats and glamour puss.

And that includes those I have encountered both in Malaysia and England.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Naj,

Sorry I missed your name earlier.

Thank you tellin us of your experience. And bully for you for remembering. Despite your youth then, you can still remember and appreciate and appreciate the stoicism of that soldier.

By the way, I remember those bus seats that are permanently semi-reclined. The Hasry Bus from Singapore to Batu Pahat is or was(?) one of the worst bus services in the Semenanjung.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear ulat,

As a former teacher, I think you are also 'one of a kind' for remembering that wonderful History teacher of yours.

You know, for a lot of kids who struggle so in school all they need is someone to believe in them. They may not end up as well as you - a lawyer - but if they can turn out to be happy, well-balanced individuals and good mothers and fathers, that's all a teacher wants.

She must be so proud of you like I am of all my Rainbow Band and some others.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you ph,

You can come down from the chair now. And Uncle will make you a potato salad.

Have a good week and ignore the t.... s in your office.

anak si-hamid said...

Dear jooli,

Thank you.

Boy, am I glad I'm not the only one who despairs of our undergrads and graduates!

If the 'educated' do not behave better befitting the education they have received ( and for most at the expense of the rakyat who do not have their privilege) then heaven help us!

But worse than this selfishness is the attitude of this new graduate teacher who came to our school.

On her first day she informed us that she 'read' English Literature in University. So I said to her, "I studied Political Science and Geography."

Later, when my good friend Katy, who was the Senior Literature teacher ( only 'A' Levels, mind you and she's the best literature teacher I've ever known) told this graduate-floozy that she was to teach Shakespeare's "As You Like It" this SYT declared, "I can't teach that. I did not do that in University."

Katy and I just looked at each other and raised our eyes to the ceiling.