Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Things We Said

I am, admittedly the last person who should be discussing the matter. When it’s windy, I tend to slur in my thinking and end up saying things I shouldn’t. Being forgetful (can be BLISSFUL at times, BLISTERING at others), I will forget the things I said in the heat of the moment and be at peace with myself. But the burnt party will be sour and I would be left to wonder whylah.

When I was in Standard 5, I just moved down to Johor from Sarawak. From a school in Kuching town, I moved to a kampong school in Kluang. Everybody was wearing baju kurung and I was in pinafore. They went to tuition in baju kurung and I was in jeans. Most of them wore the head scarves. In Kuching, the only ones covering their hair, those days, were the ustazahs. I was a bit tomboyish then, it was a huge fight for my parents to make me don on the pinafore. I wanted to be a boy and hated anything girlish. Baju kurung was strictly a pagi raya costume.

5 Merah
Me in Standard 5, sitting in the front with Muzalifah.

And so to the classmates in that kampong school, I was a weird kid from Sarawak, a land as foreign to them as any other country we learnt about in Ilmu Alam.

I came in a bit late, not when the term started. And so I was put at the back of the class. If I am short now, I was even shorter at 11 (duh!). A few days there and we had the Ujian Bulanan. Other subjects, we had the ‘gelek’ question paper given, not a prob. For Agama though, the questions were written on the blackboard and we were to copy them.

Now this is the problem. I didn’t know that I was short sighted. Rabun is a gradual process. I didn’t know. The bell rang when I wasn’t even done copying the questions.
And so I got a zero mark.

When the test papers were returned, I was singled out. Called by the Ustaz to come forward and he showed the big zero to everyone in class. Everybody laughed at me (it was a year after that, that my parents were called to school by a kind teacher who thought I should have my eyes checked). I was a kid, new in the school, trying hard to adjust. To be laughed at like that, did not help matters at all.

In the lessons that ensued, we were taught the importance of doing the solat. Learn, he said, do it gradually. Do one, then two and eventually do 5 per day and make it a habit. I liked the idea and so the next morning, I woke up very early and did my first, the Subuh. In class later, we were all asked, who did 5, who did 4 and so on. Most raised their hand at 5, some at 4. I was the only one who did only one. He didn’t believe me. What time is Subuh he asked? Subuh was early but I said I didn’t hear the Azan, I did it after shower and before breakfast. I was honest to a fault.
I soon found messages left under my table calling me ‘Dakwah Songsang’. I couldn’t even comprehend what they meant. So I took the paper and showed to Ustaz. He told me that the kids were right, I was as songsang as any kid could possibly be.

Ouch… big time. Although I still couldn’t comprehend what possibly could he meant by that.

I didn’t have many friends. My friends were Zarina who couldn’t walk right because she had polio as a baby, Muzalifah because she had the whole lice circus on her head, Icah who was just plain kind and mischief-free and Fazil who was every bit an-eleven-year-old kid when others our age have strutted around thinking they were already grown-ups. If it weren’t for the misfits I would be so lost. I hated school. I was always hiding in the library, buried myself in Enid Blyton books, was not in any clubs or societies. I didn’t want to confide in my mother because I didn’t want to upset her (so I talked to my father’s typist – a sexy young thing, and my mother came to know and THAT upset her more than the songsang kid bit! Hahaha… )

I could take anything the other kids dished out at me. But coming from a teacher left a huge dent on my self-confidence.

6 Merah
Me a year later, happier face and with glasses. Still next to Muzalifah.

In ITM in later years, an English lecturer, a certain Puan Hasnah Kadir, told me that she could see potential in me, that I could do SO much I could go SO far, only if I set my heart into it.

And so I went through life after that always analysing myself whether I have really reached my true potential, I was always seeking ways to improve myself, because I thought to myself, she saw it in me. I better not disappoint her (and myself) by ‘doing not so much and going not far enough’.

Her words, whether she meant it or not, served as the fuel that propelled me to where I wanted to go, to where I am today. Granted, it wasn’t just that, there were other factors too, God, of course first and foremost, then my parents and family being the most influential lot in my life, hardwork and luck too.

And so, the lesson that I have learnt from this – if I may say so, is that if you are in the position where your words carry a huge weight and especially so if it affects others, choose your words well.