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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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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, April 23, 2023

Cast FromThe Herd Exceprt #75 First Day At MCKK

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 75:  First Day At MCKK

The coolness of the twilight and the cold shower refreshed me, soothing my frayed nerves after the harrowing afternoon’s hazing that began right at the train station. Soon the school bell rang again. That was to alert us for dinner, Raja Azman advised me. Two bells later and we were in the dining room. We all duly stood up while the duty prefect at the high table recited du’a. It was a beautiful short verse in praise of Allah and all His Blessings; in Malay, not Arabic. It was also the first time I had heard a du’a being recited in Malay, and it was that much more meaningful because I could understand what it meant. 

     Dinner was great. We had meat, a rare treat for me. We ate with forks and knives, as I had anticipated. I did not splash my food across the table nor drop my fork, and had no difficulty finishing my ration. Only my shyness prevented me from getting seconds. After dinner we had coffee, discolored with sweetened condensed milk. 

     Affendi’s earlier premonition was right. Following dinner all “freshie” Sixth Formers were gathered in the common room for another session of “treatment.” Learning from the afternoon experience I decided to be as passive as possible so as not to attract any attention. I was hoping that they would find me so boring and compliant that they would drop me for other more challenging targets. I was right. I was put through the obligatory indignities to satisfy their juvenile demands. My attitude was one of utter contempt mixed with an abundance of disdain, but I successfully camouflaged both. 

     Affendi had it worse. He made the near-fatal mistake of protesting, accusing his tormentors of going beyond the pale. That only emboldened them. Then there was an older-looking character; he tried to be above it all. Whenever they tried to make him do a trick, he would do it but not before his disdain showed through, which only enraged his tormentors. 

     Even the longest evening must end. With lights out, we all dispersed to our beds. Then from a dark corner, “Puki Mak!” somebody, undoubtedly an upperclassman, yelled, “this is not my sarong! Damn it! I’m going to find that incompetent freshie!” 

     Puki Mak is a crude expression–mother’s genitilia. Obviously some freshie Sixth Former had earlier mixed up his suitcases. 

     “I’m here!” responded an exaggerated, suggestive feigned feminine voice. 

     Soon other sexual innuendos were hurled. “Come and share my sarong!” offered one, to gales of laughter. 

     “I know it’s hard, but that’s not my bedpost!” blurted another, to ante up the porno humor. 

A creative writing instructor would be pleased at the shades of subtleties, richness of imageries, and rank double entendre! I would never be able to sleep in the cacophony. Soon things settled down and I was off to slumber. The dorm was like my chicken coop at dusk when those birds came in to roost. For the first few minutes there would be utter chaos as they jostled for the choicest positions, with the inevitable pecking and shoving, together with the chortling and crowing. Then they all settled down; peace and silence at last! 

     Deep in the night I was awakened by howls of laughter and hand clapping emanating from our bathroom at the end of the hallway. Through the dim light I could see that Affendi’s bed was empty. He must be the object of that merriment. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I did not dare imagine what was going on. Affendi was spot on with his earlier prediction. 

     Awakened by the morning bell, I got up, made my bed, and rushed to the bathroom. After lathering myself I turned on the tap – dry! I turned it back and forth, still nothing. By now the last morning bell had rung; I had no choice but to just wipe myself dry. Although I did not feel it, I smelled fresh. Later Nazuddin apologized for not warning me that the tap often dried up fast in the morning. I would have to get up early or else give up morning showers. 

     The new day began; after breakfast we all marched to the main school for our classes. It was a novel experience for me – walking to class. It was not quite 24 hours since I stepped off the train; I survived, more or less intact physically, and also I hope, emotionally. Yes, I admit that I had set a very low bar for my first day at Malay College Kuala Kangsar. I hope to keep elevating it during the next two years. 

Next:  Excerpt #76  Not So Heavenly


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