(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cast From The Herd Excerpt #70: Tears And Farewells

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt #70:  Tears And Farewells

For the overwhelming majority of my classmates, Fifth Form (eleventh year of schooling) was their terminal school year. That is still true today for far too many young Malaysians. 

            The last few weeks of my final year at Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah, was consumed with planning for the farewell party, quite apart from preparing for that all-important, fate-determining terminal national examination. I was not caught up in the party mood. As I was continuing on to Sixth Form, I felt I was only transferring to another school. Besides, I had never attended any after-school social events being that I lived far away. 

            So when my classmate Ramli asked whether I would be attending the farewell party to be held that last Saturday, I was taken aback. Of course I would not; I could not as there was no bus service at night. I was surprised that he even asked as he was very much aware of that. So when I replied no, his response was a dismissive “Too bad!” Then as an afterthought, “If you change your mind, there’s an empty bed in my dorm.” 

            Intrigued, I inquired further. There were indeed many empty beds as those students in the hostel from the lower grades would have gone home. Many of my out-of-town classmates would be taking advantage of that to attend the party. So without waiting for Ramli to ask me again, I changed my mind. 

            That afternoon of the party was the very first time in all those years that I stayed behind after class, those Saturdays at the library excepted. How different the atmosphere was as compared to regular school hours! I was an alien in that environment. The playground was full of students from the different classes playing together. It dawned on me that I knew very few students outside my class, in fact none. I had missed a significant part of the school experience by my living far away. I had been exposed only to my books and classmates but nothing and nobody beyond. I felt deprived. How I envied those who lived close by or had stayed at the hostel! 

            The girls had done an excellent job decorating the hall. The event was well chaperoned by the teachers and there were no parents or guests. The girls were all dressed up; they never looked more beautiful. It was the first time that I viewed them as other than classmates; they looked so mature, womanly, and yes, beautiful. Either that or during the year I had a boost in my testosterone production. We were hugging each other, exchanging addresses, autographing each other’s yearbook, and promising to remain in touch. 

            Soon it was time to say goodbye. Everyone was crestfallen, weeping, and red faced. We all wondered when or if we would ever meet again. Somehow I felt detached from it all. Come January I would be continuing my classes, albeit at another school, and with that a new set of friends. What was the big deal? 

            Then it struck me. My classmates’ emotions were what my older brother and sister experienced only a few years earlier when they found out that their school days were over. Had I not passed that earlier Sixth Form Entrance Examination, I too would be commiserating with them.

            The scene broke down with the singing of Auld Lang Syne. I too cried; I would not be seeing them again. More than a few would be returning to their villages, and be stuck there, the fate I feared had I not been able to continue my studies. The party struggled to end with everyone not in the least eager to leave. We lingered on, stretching our goodbyes. However, even the longest evening must end, and it did, with the last few leaving sobbing and red-eyed. 

            Later at the dorm, I was tossing around unable to sleep on a strange bed in an equally strange room. I remembered that not too far away was a mass grave, uncovered during the building of the new school block. The school had been an interrogation center for the Japanese Kempetei (secret police) during the war. I confessed my fears to Ramli. He assured me that the religious people had given special prayers when the bodies were uncovered. Their souls were now mollified. With that he rolled over and was soon asleep. I however, took longer. 

            The next morning Ramli and I took a long last walk around our campus. It was quiet and deserted. I had never seen it like this before as every time I was there it was full of students and activities. As I walked towards the school gate to leave for the last time, a sudden emotion surged in me. I longed for that place! I diverted my path and walked around again, smelling every flower, dipping my feet into the pond of our botanical garden, rubbing my hands against the wall of every classroom I had been in. I could not get enough of my old school. Ramli had to drag me away and I had difficulty concealing my tears. In the end I exited the gate, with great reluctance. I was no longer welcomed, a young male lion pushed out of its pride. It was time to leave. 

Next:  Excerpt # 71:  Bound For Babut Darjat


Post a Comment

<< Home