(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, June 11, 2023

Cast From The Herd Excerpt #82: Introduction Night Part Two

 Cast From The Herd:  Memories of Matriarchal Malaysia

M. Bakri Musa

Excerpt # 82:  Introduction Night – Part Two

When my turn came, I walked to center stage and spent a few moments adjusting the microphone to my height, all in stride of course, or at least a pretend one. I noticed that an earlier speaker had to stand up on tiptoes making him look like a little kid trying to reach the counter top. Another looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame when he had to stoop forward to level himself to the microphone. 

            “Mr. Ryan, members of the academic staff,” I began as I looked at Mr. Ryan and scanned the first row where the teachers were seated. I learned those tricks of slow deliberate eye contact from my bleached-blond Aryan friend Norlan Harun back at my old school in Kuala Pilah. 

            The teachers smiled when I referred to them as “members of the academic staff.” I heard that phrase over the radio a few years earlier when the orator of the University of Malaya (then in Singapore) used it when honoring Pendita Za’aba on the occasion of his retirement. I was elevating the teachers to a university faculty! The audience did not know how to react; they kept quiet. I was afraid they might boo me for using big words. They did not; I knew then that I had them. My confidence boosted, I went on. 

            “I am from Kuala Pilah,” I continued. “You probably have never heard of the place; there’s no reason to.” No reaction; they did not appreciate my self-deprecating humor, but then they did not boo either. That buoyed me. “It’s not even on the map; if it is, you would need a magnifying glass to see it.” Some giggling, but still I was pleased there were no boos or hisses. 

            “I went to Tuanku Muhammad School,” I droned on. “That too you have not heard of.” I was still struggling to find a way to praise Malay College without sounding like I was sucking up. “You have a wonderful hall here,” I complimented them, but still it was quiet. “You have individual seats with backs instead of long benches as at my old school. Back there you have to pay attention. If you snooze you would fall backwards and the whole school would know.” I snickered, and they joined me in the laughter. At least they were not laughing at me. 

            “My favorite subject is chemistry.” I saw Mr. Norton smiling. “Chemistry is life!” I continued. “Life is not possible without chemistry.” 

            By this time I realized that I should also give equal billing to the other subjects lest I would offend my other teachers. So I continued. “But I also like physics and biology. Physics is so precise and quantifiable.” Wow, ‘quantifiable,’ not ‘measurable.’ Again, quiet. “Biology on the other hand is so fluid and diverse. Look at the beautiful trees and flowers on our campus.” 

            Ah, ‘campus,’ not ‘school compound!’ That would sound so “secondary-schoolish” if not elementary. ‘Campus’ evoked images of the bucolic grounds of a university. Nobody however appreciated my subtle backhanded praise. Still quiet! 

            I highlighted physics, chemistry, and biology because only that year Malay College had started its pure science stream at the Fourth Form. Prior to that, the college had offered only “General Science II.” The week earlier the headmaster had announced with great fanfare this major step. Here I was a week later telling them, including the headmaster, that the little school I had attended back in the boondocks had been at it now for some years. No wonder they were quiet; my little out-of-the-place school had bested Malay College. 

            Having humbled the crowd with my humility – granted it was again the put-on variety – I dug deeper. I sprinkled my presentation with economic terms like demand-supply curve and price stickiness that I had picked up from my physics teacher in Kuala Pilah, the one who was pursuing his external degree in economics from London University, as well as from the then popular radio program, “Kursus Ekonomi Radio” conducted by Ungku Aziz, a University of Malaya professor. The don was so animated in his presentations and passionate about his subject that you could not help but be glued to the radio when he was on. 

            To justify my introducing those terms, I had earlier told the crowd that had I not been selected for the science stream, I would have chosen economics as my favorite subject. At Malay College, as well as the rest of the country, economics was taught only at Sixth Form. Sprinkling those economic terms in my speech created the impression that I had taken the subject in Fifth Form, which further impressed them to no end. 

            On that high note I concluded my speech. I dared not venture further. I took the guitar and belted out a few bars of Blueberry Hill. I did not hear any booing, hissing, or screeching noises and decided not to press my luck. I exited the stage amidst silence, not even a perfunctory clapping. That notwithstanding, I felt victorious, like a novice lion tamer who had cowed the agitated felines to a corner. I had not yet made them eat from my hand but at least they were not growling at me. 

            At my seat Ramli whispered in my ears, “You showed them!” 

            Later that evening I bumped into Mr. Malhotra. “Bakri,” he pleaded, “I hope that when you get to Cambridge you would also say nice things about Malay College.” 

            Thus ended my dreaded formal initiation into Malay College!

Next:  Excerpt  # 83: Settling Into Boarding School Routine


Post a Comment

<< Home