My Roots

I was going through my hard disk and came across this. A story that I wrote as a tribute to my mom and dad.It just melt my heart to see how excited they were where they saw the story published in the pages of The Malay Mail. The last four years have been a very testing period for my family and it proved to me one thing, if you shower your children with love, they will love you twice harder. Both Ma and Pa did precisely that. Ma has left us on Dec 19 last year after a 14 months battle with a brain tumour. Semoga Ma di tempatkan dikalangan orang-orang yang beriman. Amin. Al-Fatihah

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AS a kid I was always bullied. Not by my peers, but by my teachers. And no, I am not joking.
When I was in Standard Six, my discipline teacher, Cikgu Gemuk (real names have been changed to protect the guilty) stripped off my tie in public and sacked me from being a prefect.
His reason – I was not doing my duty during recess (mind you, the prefect duty roster was not even ready then!).
Later, he did try to patch things up by offering me the post back, as well as his apology (via my best friend!). Well, thanks but no thanks.
In secondary school, I was supposed to go into Kelas Khas, meant for students with the potential to excel academically.
The teacher in charge then, The Iron Sheik, refused my entry because apparently there was no more space for me.
Was I frustrated? Hell, no!

Me and Ma back in 1978

That was the best punishment I’ve ever received. By the way, I’ve always wondered how the Kelas Khas turned out…
Similar things happened when I was in Form Four. I was supposed to enroll into the science stream (you know, where the smart students are usually diverted to) but because I wanted to take up art, the teacher in charge then, Cikgu Rabun, relegated me to class 4H, (the class with all the ‘hopeless’ and problematic students).
Was I frustrated? Hell, no! That was the second best punishment I’ve ever received.
And why am I telling all these? Because tomorrow is Teachers’ Day and instead of remembering my former teachers in a good way, I decided to remember them the way I remembered them the most.
Personally for me, there are only two good teachers in my life, my mom and my dad who also happen to be school teachers.
My mom teaches Ekonomi Rumah Tangga (Home Science) in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tinggi Segamat.
My dad, well, he teaches almost everything from music, arts, Bahasa Malaysia, English and so forth.
He is currently the headmaster at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temenggong Abdul Rahman Segamat, Johor.
Well, that’s their job.
Then again, based on time spent with them I’d say it was more a passion rather than a job.
There’s nothing particularly unique about my dad, Ramly bin Abdul Rahman or Cikgu Ramly or simply Pa, as all his three children call him.
He has the same daily routine as any other teacher. He has the same dress code as most of the male teachers out there. He also has the same ‘garang’ face like most male teachers.
But there’s something about him that winners of the Tokoh Guru (you know the award given to teachers who have done a lot during their career), I assume, would have – passion.
To him, teaching is a responsibility and never just a job. He always gives 110 per cent to his school-related responsibilities and, of course, his family.
He always wants his school, students and fellow teachers to be the best in what they do.
For instance, he would spend hours in front of his computer to come out with all sorts of filing systems for his school, teaching methods for his teachers and interesting new ways to make education fun for his students.
And what does he get from all of these late nights?
Nothing material for sure, except for satisfaction and maybe a bit of credit from those appreciative enough.
The other thing that makes him stand out from the rest is his outspokenness.
He would always be the one with ideas (practical ones of course) and he’s never afraid to speak his mind.
My mom, Mazidah Mohd Yatim or Cikgu Mazidah does not stand out as much as my dad but she has always been popular among her students as her approach is motherly and sister-like at the same time.
Her fellow teacher friends like her for her delicious and ridiculously cheap home-baked cookies and cakes while her children love her generosity (she is the one that gave us spending money).
To be honest, I can’t really say how good my dad is as a teacher as the only time he taught me was when I was in Standard Six. Did I receive any special treatment from him?
No. Cikgu Ramly even failed me in my recorder class!
“You hit the wrong notes,” was his only explanation.
Not just that, once I was caned publicly for a crime I initiated but didn’t commit!
“Saya merotan anak saya supaya orang tak kata saya pilih kasih (no one escapes punishment even if he is my son),” he said before three strokes landed on my `innocent’ behind.
Was I angry at him? Not really. He was just doing his job.
Later, to appease me, Cikgu Ramly bought me the latest Lima Penyiasat book – that’s the Bahasa Malaysia version of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.
To really know more on how good he was as a teacher, go and ask all his former students like producer Anita Rafar (yes he taught her too) and a string of doctors, lawyers, teachers among other successes.
As teachers, both Cikgu Ramly and Cikgu Mazidah never really imposed excessive strictness on their kids.
They never actually told us (my younger brother, sister and I) what to do with our lives. We were never told to become a doctor or lawyer or whatever.
We were only asked to become useful human beings.
My dad would always tell us that he would only give his children education as long as they were interested in studies. After that we were on our own.
And that’s arguably his biggest lie to us. Until today, he still supports his children.
Cikgu Ramly and Cikgu Mazidah are also often best friends to their students.
You can talk about almost everything to them as they were never judgmental.
We had their trust and the freedom to think for ourselves.
For instance, Cikgu Ramly once told me if I wanted to go on a date, bring my date home when they were around as it was safer and people will not bawak mulut.
During my later years in secondary school, they would wake me up in the morning and ask me if I was going to school that day. If I said no, then they would ask me to look after the house! How cool was that?

Ma's birthday celebration in 2008: Look at how passionate my dad is, that's love

My mom even tried to hook me up with my cousin when I told her that I wanted to settle down and get married. (I didn’t actually marry her though).
Unlike other kids, I escaped after-school tuition.
Well, I told them that they should not waste money, as my results were more or less about the same as those who went.
(I was not lying to them. It was a fact. Er, did I tell you that I was a bright student?).
The other great thing about Cikgu Ramly and Cikgu Mazidah is that they never really cared about what other people said about their hyperactive and extra curious children.
(Living in a small town like Segamat, everyone would always have something to complain about anak cikgu).
They didn’t dictate. They guided. They didn’t impose. They discussed.
They made my sister and my younger brother and me better and independent people.
They are totally the opposite of most of the teachers out there and that’s why they are the best teachers in my world.
Happy Teachers’ Day to Cikgu Ramly and Cikgu Mazidah. And yes, to all other teachers out there.

* Originally published in The Malay Mail on May 15, 2004.

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