Friday, April 22, 2005

a trip to Jakarta (part 1)

Last week, I made a trip to Jakarta. One, to look for business opportunity and two, to attend a wedding. It was my second trip. The first made in 97 (or was it 98?) to study the Padepokan Pencak Silat Indonesia, after which Gerbang Persilatan Terengganu was modeled on. As I passed by the Padepokan, while visiting the Taman Mini Indonesia, I saw that the center was still alive for what it was. Back home in Terengganu, the Gerbang Persilatan is no longer the home for Pesilat Terengganu. Soon after its completion, it went into ownership turmoil and sadly as a result failed to be what it was meant to be originally. But then, Gerbang Persilatan was built with Government’s money unlike the Padepokan that was built by three generous individual as a gift to the nation. I would not comment more on that. This is not what this blog is for.

The time of the trip coincided with some important events. The Ambalat Block - Sulawesi Sea incident, the ‘Ganyang Malaysia’ demonstration (2 Mac 2005) and the continuing seismic activity of Gunung Talang (beginning 12 April 2005). Jakarta too was about to host the Asia Africa Summit (22-23 April). Against the background, military present were felt. Armed personnel were obvious on the roadsides. Cars into hotels and shopping complexes were searched and entry into buildings was through metal detector. The Indonesian host when asked about the incident diplomatically answered, ‘Apa bikin ribut, Pak. Kita kan serumpun.’ (Why the noise. Are we not of the same race?). Our driver when asked about the demonstration laughingly explained. ‘Di sini bisa aja Pak - pokoknya dibayar’ (It’s normal here, as long as they are paid). Against the background I chose not to walk on the street - something I love to do when visiting foreign places. Instead I rented a chauffeured car. Even then we were constantly reminded. ‘Jangan guna telefon di simpang Pak, nanti dirampok.’ (Don’t use hand-phone at the junction Sir. We might get robbed)

Because we are ‘serumpun’ – of the same race, we share the same language. Despite so, the meaning of words may differ to a hilarious consequence.

As we were leaving the immigration checkpoint, queuing for custom x-ray, a security officer called out, ‘Mas, lorong sini.’ (Mas, this lane please) Almost everyone of MAS flight from Kuala Lumpur went to a single lane. Then someone laugh. The call was not for Malaysia Airline passengers but for everyone. ‘Mas’ was their way of saying Mister or Sir. They might also call you ‘Bapak’ (father) or Ibu (mother) for the ladies.

I had a good laugh on my second day in Jakarta. I had the night before booked for a car. In the morning I went to the concierge asking for it. ‘Pak, saya menunggu kereta.’ (Mister, I’m waiting for a car). He gave me an ‘are you crazy?’ look. Sensing something amiss, I quickly added, ‘Never mind, please put me to Pak Jaya.’- the man who made the arrangement for me.

Thing went smoothly until late afternoon. As we were passing a railway track, Yati asked, ‘Keretapi tu ke mana Pak?’ (What’s the train destination?).

Oh, kereta tu ke Bandung’ (Oh, the car is to Bandung) said the driver.

Kereta?’ (Car?) I asked.

Maaf Pak. Di sini, ini dipanggil mobil. Kereta itu kereta-api.’ (Sorry sir, this (the car) is called ‘mobil’ here, kereta (car) is the train)

I laughed. No wonder the concierge was looking wierdly at me.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

the malay college (part 2)

MCKK, its environment, its teachers and students, to a great extent, made me and many others what we are today. For a Malay ‘kampung boy’ from Sekolah Kebangsaan Kemasek, (where?) I may not be writing this in English if not for a painful punch in the stomach by the ‘mad’ Mr. Terrence Ng and maybe not an architect if not for ‘Mr Lee Sai Soo’. I was so bad with my Quran reading that I opt out of Pendidikan Ugama Islam and took up Art instead. In Form 5, as the President of Art Club, and one of the few science class ‘artists’ (who took art in exam) I had the privilege and the key to the Art Room; a great place for getaway and sleeping. Funny how fate intertwined – shaping up your future. It was ‘art’ (and some essay writings too) that gave me the chance to walk-up the stage receiving awards on Speech Days, almost without fail; despite my academic hopelessness elsewhere; something a particular teacher noticed.

Only recently when I delivered a career talk on architecture, a girl stood up to ask. ‘Sir, how do you yourself get to be an architect?’ That fateful day I decided to be an architect kind of flashes by. I said, ‘Well, let me tell you the story.’ It was the story of Mr Lee Sai Soo.

If Mr. Lee was the reason for my career, Mrs. Lee was instrumental in my learning of the meaning ‘long arm of M-Chop – the Law. She reported to M-Chop our headmaster of some missing Terengganu boys, near one Raya holidays, and M-Chop personally gave us his best hand once the holiday's over.

Business exposure too began for me in MCKK. (I would count selling ice cream during primary school too.) In 1979, Che’gu Ghazali started a cooperative movement. I was an active founding member and its secretary the next year. Running the coop means having to go out to town to buy stocks (plus a quick detour to …….. for coke and chicken-chop). It was a post that interestingly gave me privilege to go out to town almost every day on the pretext of buying stocks for coop. It too was an excuse that saved me from DC (Detention Class – MCKK’s own brand of detention without trial) or maybe even the cane when caught by Sab the head-boy out in Kuala one day. Che’gu Ghazali’s belated signature on the ‘town-leave’ form saved my butt.

School co-op sells only exercise books and stationeries. It was boring and brings little money. 1980 was the 75th anniversary. We grabbed the opportunity to print T-shirts and souvenirs and made a handsome profit of over RM3000 that year. The Cooperative ‘posts’ gave us some ‘air’ of importance. I remember some of us feeling so important that they (it was Shah and Hamdan I think), in smart but ‘borrowed’ blue blazers, took a MAS flight from Ipoh to Subang ‘representing MCKK’ to make a deal on souvenir printing. Of course it was not on the coop expense.

One may wonder how rarely teachers were mentioned in my memories of MCKK. But that was the way of the school and we were free to run things our own way. Teachers were there on the sideline; as advisors, guiding but seldom interfering. It was the wisdom in the education system that allows character development, independence and making mistakes. It was the wisdom that has no parallel in local education and sadly missed with the introduction of AUKU (University College Act) and its gross misinterpretation in the education system. Funny that AUKU introduction was attributed to some extent to an MCKK ‘terrorist’ – Saudara Anwar and Co. and the students’ riots of the 70’s.

About teachers.

To think that the fierce Malayness of the MCKK students was attributed to its teachers was a half truth. Yes, there were Malay teachers with a very thick ‘semangat Melayu’ but there were equally many non Malays, Indians, Chinese, Singh, Mat Salleh and one or two very ‘anti-Melayu’ teachers that at least one we nick-named ‘Komunis’. Remember we were then in the early decade of National Economic Policy (NEP) and its affirmative action. Special treatment for Malays were not truly endeared us to other Malaysian. But then even as boys, we don’t go crying to our parents for the insults, ridicules and even the punch on the stomach. We don’t even go to anyone even when we fought one another. Our junior-senior rivalry sometimes meant taking a personal fight in the Squash Court but hey, that’s our business.

Looking back, I think (at least for myself) that those ‘challenges’ made us tougher and more aware of ourselves. The teachers, the ‘komunis’ included must have meant well in their own peculiar ways. Truly that was ‘wisdom’ teaching so very early in life. I would not think twice of sending my own son to MCKK given the chance for I know he will learn as I once had.