Thursday 27 September 2012

Remembering Mr. Kempson Wong

He must have seen me lingering by the classroom door where he was teaching  and he said out loud for all to hear,  "Maznoor, you've heard this story before.  Now get back to your class."  When Mr Wong gives you an order, you jump!

He was fierce, and one look from him would have us shivering with fear.  It was a cheeky habit for us to lean back and wobble on two legs of the chair.  For doing that, Mr. Kempson Wong would parade us in front of the class - and make us stand there balanced on one leg.  "You shall do what you did to your chair, using only half of what you've been given."  And I was the only girl to be put on parade.

But he was a great narrator of stories.  Our English lessons included 'story telling'.  Mr Kempson Wong would  sit on the chair, with all of us kids seated on the floor in front of him, and he would tell us a story without having to refer to a book at all. He did it so well, modulating his voice - the volume, the inflections, the pace and the pitch - according to the tenor of the tale.  His eyes and arms and hands and shoulders would move with the mood of the story.  He had us glued to the floor,  all eyes gazing in attentive rapture at his face.  What a teacher!

Our favourites were the stories from Greek mythology.  And the story of 'Jason and the Golden Fleece' had me skulking to Mr. Wong's next class just to hear him telling it all over again.  What a nut-case!

He was strict, he was fair and he made us push ourselves to the limit - especially for Arithmetic.

 Besides being my class teacher he was also in charge of my House, Keppel House.  I used to tag along behind him like a happy puppy during House Practice.

Red Arrow:  AsH.  Brown Arrow:  Mr. Kempson Wong
The caption reads - Keppel House - "The Champs" 1955  P.P.S.I

Back Row:  2nd from left Ang Hock Kee, 5th from left Ng Kian Ann, 6th from left Mr. Kempson Wong.
Front Row:  2nd from left AsH's kid brother Mustapha

In the autumn/winter of one's years we tend to look back on our springs and summers with nostalgic joy.
My one regret was my failure to say thank you to teachers like Mr. Kempson Wong, Mr. Chia Wai Chee, Mr. Chong Khim Siong, and Mrs. Tan Choon Lan.    In 1968, during my second year of teaching I went to Kaki Bukit Secondary School (if my memory serves me well) for a meeting.     I entered the Teachers' Common Room and there he was, Mr. Kempson Wong, right there in front of me!  We looked at each other, stunned.    And what did he do?

 He waggled his finger at me - just like the time he shoo-ed me to get back to my class - and  in his unforgettable crisp and powerful voice, he said,  "You are Maznoor! What are you doing here?"  The smile on his face was full of pride, just to see his ex-pupil from long ago.  I must have beamed like the bright morning sun - just to see my teacher again.

Like a magpie I treasure the memorabilia from days in Pasir Panjang English School.  And here, from my Record Book is  Mr. Kempson Wong's  notations on 11 year old Maznor bte Hamid when she was in Primary IV 1955.

Dear Mr. Kempson Wong,
Thank  you, sir.

Thursday 20 September 2012


My favourite past time is rummaging through my collection of old school text books.  This particular book has always been my favourite because I actually used it during my limited Malay Language lessons at Pasir Panjang English School.

You see, it's not just a Buku  but a  Kitab.  Buku has many attributes  It can be a joint of the ankle (buku lali) or the finger (buku jari).  There's also buku benang, buku bicara, berbuku and so on.  But a Kitab has only one meaning : a religious book, a piece of Scripture.  Hence reading and learning of a non-religious nature is also a sacred task.  Furthermore, it wasn't just Kitab with a number attached to it.  It had been given the poetic name of Kitab Beneh Akal.

The  word akal is rarely heard or used nowadays.  Fikiran seems to be the choice.  More and more in our schools and daily life, thinking is not allowed.  Schoolchildren especially  and  adults as well, are guided, lectured, advised, compelled - and they call that learning!

Akal invokes intelligence.   Akal requires understanding, common sense, discretion, and reasoning power - all of which separate man from beast.  But I find this attribute most meaningful.  Akal also means gumption.  And gumption is the ability and determination to decide what needs to be done and to do it.

"Innocence of Muslims" is just another deliberate act of provocation by the Islamophobes.  The video has been circulating since July and publicised to coincide with 9/11.   Again, Muslims jumped at the bait -this time thrown in by  a cock-eyed Coptic - Christian  fanatic from California.  There are innumerable hate videos and writings against Islam and Muslims on the Internet.  If each time,  Muslims  react by going on to the streets and yelling and burning flags, all it does is damage Islam's  dignity.

 Malaysia has  a well-off and well-heeled Ummah in comparison to many other Muslim countries.  Young Malaysian Muslims who have been educated at home and also overseas  (at the Rakyat's expense) -  stretching from North America to Europe and Egypt and Jordan and Yemen and Russia and Australia and New Zealand - should be tapping into and utilising their Akal to respond to and to counter not only these silly videos, but also the much more challenging and mischievous diatribes from Western Academics and the Western Media like Tom Holland's and Channel 4's "Islam: The Untold Story".  This of course is hard work, involving a long and quiet slogging and will not attract any glamour or publicity from the Media.

This is what Gumption aka Akal is all about.

If Malaysian Muslims can only react as Pak Torot and can't even agree on which road direction to take for their demonstration; then indeed  this statement is justified.   "Islam is a great religion, it's a shame about the Muslims."

Tuesday 18 September 2012

From Top to Bottom

What with a Coptic Christian making a nasty video/movie "Innocence of Muslims" and Tom Holland, the Cambridge Double First in Latin and English conniving with Channel 4 (British TV) to slag off  Islam and its history, the news of the world has been very unpleasant for 1.6 billion Muslims.  That however, does not take into account the daily sufferings and deaths in Palestine, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries touched by western "democratic ideals"'

But what do we expect?  Islam, as the world's favourite bete noir will always face the brunt of attack by the Judaeo-Christian culture - on print and/or electronic media.  It reminds me of this quote by Ivo Andric  (1892-1975).

Change "a nation's" (2nd line) to "the world's" and "the nation's" (5th line) to  'world's".
In his speech condemning the 'attack' on the US Consulate in Libya by a 'mob' responding in anger to the American film "Innocence of Muslims" - Obama warned on 13 September 2012  "that no act of terror would dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world  ...... We will not be deterred - we will keep going, we will keep going because the world needs us.  We are the one indispensable power in the world."

These words can only come from those that Andric described as "unqualified and incompetent" suffering a "huge and insatiable vanity."

But in this nation that is Malaysia, we have the same petty, inadequate egoists scrounging for power and control.  They can be found in the higher echelons of politics,  educational institutions,  religious bureaucracies of all shades of beliefs, the Press and  the legal establishments.

Such shenanigans at the top play havoc with the small fry at the bottom.  Our husband-and-wife road sweepers, Osman and Aisha had to keep on paying and waiting for seven years before they were given the key to their low-cost flat at Jelatek.  But they could not move in because the water supply which had been promised on the 16th of September was still unavailable.  Even worse, they had been told to vacate their Puchong low-cost accommodation when they received their keys to the new flat!  The rakyat like Osman and Aisha do not have the time, or the skills or the network and the clout to get their voices heard.

Tomorrow we shall try to go into the vipers' pit and speak to the developer and make an inquiry on their behalf.  As two pensioners with no titles, no clout and no chains to pull we do not hold much hope in getting through to the relevant pen-pushers.

As it is we still suffer  noisy assaults from Ikan Bakar Sekinchan's establishment.  On Hari Raya eve we were blasted with Hindi music from 8pm to after midnight.  On Hari Raya itself, we were given an encore as soon as  Eid Prayers were over.  We were told these were the workers from IBS celebrating Eid Mubarak!  I thought they should be entertained and entertaining their masters at the latter's residence.  And last week, at 2am we suffered more ear-splitting music from Datuk Jamal's IBS establishment.

Who can we complain to?  I suppose we have to wait for the announcement of the date for the next election - when we can try to play one against the other.  Dream on....AsH.


Monday 10 September 2012

Never Smile at a Crocodile

Due to great demand from certain members of the family I'm posting this song which I learned at a Girl Guides' Camp many, many umpteen moons ago.

It's supposed to be taken from Rudyard Kipling's 'Jungle Book'.   It was also in 'Peter Pan'.

But whatever the source it served me well in coping with boys and raging hormones during those torrid teen years.

This can also be applied to handling politicians, bankers, salesmen, estate agents and anyone else who wants to strike your fancy.  Ha ha!!

Saturday 8 September 2012

Oil upon the Palm

Kamisah - Hamid's Wife - Pasir Panjang - 1949 (?)

A young mother in the 1950s and 1960s  like my Emak was untutored in the sayings and quotations in her Holy Book the Quran to enable her to embellish and strengthen her objectives  in trying to bring us up to be
decent, moral, hardworking, humble, considerate, grateful and resourceful children.

There was one aspect of our upbringing which tickled me to laughter till today.  It had to do with emak and abah's female offsprings.

 Eventually all parents  have to face up to one fear - when their daughters reach puberty.

This was my father's cautionary note to me - in English.  "You're now a woman.  Remember, men are crocodiles."  I could not really digest what he was getting at but I could guess because I remembered the Girl Guide song   "Never smile at a crocodile....." and the phrase learned in school about "crocodile tears".  You see we still believed when we were 15/16 that we could get pregnant if we sat on a seat (the bus especially) that had stains of male sweat on it.  We were told of this dark horror by Lee Beng Hong and  she knew a lot about stuff like that.  The Hock Lee and Keppel Bus conductors used to swear blue murder at us schoolgirls because we refused to sit on such seats that had been vacated by a boy, sweat or no sweat.

As for me ole mum, she resorted to Malay Proverbs to remind my sister and I to keep on the straight and narrow.  There was a vacant piece of land next to our house which was quite swampy  and had a number of coconut trees growing on it.  Then in the early 60s a family with two grown-up sons decided to build a house  - a rumah panggong on this site.  The village was abuzz with all sorts of guesswork and talk about these two sons.  One was a clerk and the other was a teacher.  Very, very eligible indeed.

And of course like any other village there would be puberty and post-puberty young ladies waiting for a hero to sweep them off their feet to the pelamin.  When the rumah panggong containing the two very eligible bachelors was completed, we would observe a gaggle of maidens parading and walking past our house and the rumah panggong in the evenings - when the eligible bachelors would be back from work.

This became my mother's opportunity to teach my sister and I about decorum and dignity in young Malay ladies. Here are some of her proverbs.
1. Beri betis, hendak peha.
2. Semut mati kerana gula.
3.Sebab nila sa-titek, rosak susu di-belanga.
4. Menconteng arang di muka.

This particular proverb had an especially beautiful imagery.   She described the parade of young ladies as timba mencari telaga.  We used to have our own perigi in our previous house and I visualized these young ladies in a timba hip-hopping around hunting for a perigi.  What a hilarious sight!

Like my father, my mother was intent on us ( including her daughters) getting a good education.  Any whingeing and grumblings from us about school would be met with reprimands in the form of :
1.Jangan jadi macham katak di-bawah tempurong.
2.Belakang parang jikalau di-asah, neschaya tajam juga.
3.Sebab tiada tahu menari di-katakan tanah lembap.
4.Malu bertanya sesat jalan.
5.Kalau beneh yang baik jatoh ka-laut menjadi pulau.
6.Yang di-kejar tiada dapat, yang di-kandong berchecheran.
7. Biar lambat asal selamat.
8. Ikut hati mati, ikut rasa binasa.

We were aware of incidents and regrets pertaining to human frailties, frivolities and failings that occurred in our parents' experience.  I recall some of her sayings:
1. Seperti menchurah ayer di-daun keladi.
2. Di-tepok tangan sa-belah ta'akan berbunyi.
3. Enggang sama enggang, dan pipit sama pipit juga.
4. Kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang,
5.Besar periok, besar kerak-nya.
6. Buat baik perpada-pada, buat jahat jangan sa-kali.
7. Lidah tidak bertulang.

Emak, born in 1923,  was unschooled in both the secular and religious disciplines.  She was brought up in a fundamentally Malay tradition - applying selective Malay sayings and proverbs which had been passed from parent to child.  We were English educated but my mother gave us the proud heritage of living the Malay proverbs that shaped in many ways our strength and resilience.

Kamisah bt Suboh  brought us up:

"As a vessel full of oil is borne upon the palm -
A loving woman's anxious care to shield her charge from harm."

Seperti menatang minyak yang penoh

NB.  The proverbs were extracted from "Malay Proverbs" by A.W. Hamilton, 1947.  I'm just being perverse about using this book because I love the old spelling.  It's what my mother would have used if my grandfather had sent her to school.

Sunday 2 September 2012

IF ..........

A week ago,  a good neighbour, a kind friend, an academic par excellence from UTM, and  a much respected lecturer finally succumbed, after a brave fight with the two cancers that ravaged this anak dan harapan bangsa.

During his 52 years he had worked hard and achieved so much in his field : Intelligent Control Systems - much, much more than a lot of academics who live to a ripe old age.

Such was his strength and determination:  ........  to quote Rudyard Kipling ....

If you can force your heart and nerves and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them, "Hold on!''

....  that  he was able to celebrate this Hari Raya with his family.

Professor Datuk Dr Marzuki bin Khalid was lovingly cared for by his devoted wife Professor Datin Dr Rubiyah and the family at his home in Setiawangsa.  I'd like to think that visits by neighbours, friends and family helped to sustain him and the immediate family during this painful period.  However ....

Betapa berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul.

We will always remember the smile on his face when Iain mentioned about arwah spending Hari Raya with the family.

I have strenuously indicated the various titles attached to this modest couple because to their neighbours and to Osman and Aisha the road sweepers, they asked to be called simply Marzuki and Rubiyah  or Abang  Marzuki and Kak Rubi to others.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:

He hardly ever talked about his achievements and we only learned about them from the internet.  Marzuki was the proverbial 'padi':   "makin tunduk, makin berisi."

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Marzuki, you asked us to doa for you during your illness.  We shall carry on doing so even though you are gone.  We shall never forget you - a rare breed - A Malay Gentleman.

Al  Fatiha