Yesterday was the perfect lazy, hazy Sunday out in the open but under the shade of trees at Kana’s enjoying my daily quality moments - reading before brunch. Half an hour into my reading I saw a pair of hands on my table. He must be about 10. He asked, “My grandpa and grandma want to know if you are Uncle Zorro.” I took his hand and he led me to his grandparents. Philip and Gertrude read me every day I learnt. Just then a horn tooted and their transport was ready, but not before Philip referred me to the Star N10 and just said “Your time Bernard.” I told him I will read that online.
Philip and Gertrude I dedicate the post to both of you….and the YouTube…..IT IS YOUR TIME, THIS SONG.
Malaysian Red Crescent’s national chairman Tan Sri Tunku Shahriman Tunku Sulaiman misses the good old days when Malaysians were more tolerant, less sensitive and had a sense of humour. The septuagenarian shares his experiences with Sunday Star readers.
One influential figure in my life was my Science teacher Mr Gan Boon Guan in Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah. It was 1952, the year I sat for my Cambridge School Certificate Examination.
The odd thing is that although I do not really like Science all that much, Mr Gan has a special place in a line of people who have been guides through my life.
While small in stature, he was a strict disciplinarian. Even mention of his name then sent shivers through us students. As far as he was concerned, we didn’t study hard enough, we didn’t concentrate, we were too slow or we talked too much.
He would call students to the front of the class to write the answers to his questions on the blackboard. If one failed to give the right answer, Mr Gan would not hesitate to kick his buttocks or give him a good bullocking. Some of his criticisms were so harsh they would today be deemed perilously close to being racist.
Another teacher who comes to mind was my English teacher Mr Ponniah who had an eccentric way of teaching us. While he saw it as his right to spend the majority of lesson time reading newspapers in front of the class, he nevertheless expected us to give full attention to the work he gave us.
If he thought any of us boys were not concentrating hard enough, a loud bark would immediately be heard from behind the newspaper and the culprit would inevitably feel the back of Mr Ponniah’s open hand.
But somehow, none of us boys were ever offended by the actions of these teachers. We accepted the punishments in the spirit they were meant to be given – a way to get 50 boisterous boys, some from extremely impoverished backgrounds, to make something of our lives.
They were successful, too; students from our year got the highest number of Grade One in the school’s history.
Today, I feel there is a big difference between the young and old – in their values, attitudes and behaviours.
As a whole, I feel my generation was less critical or condemnatory of others compared to the young today. We were less sensitive and ironically – considering our lack of exposure to the larger world – more tolerant and open-minded.
Take the way we viewed Tuan Syed Jong who taught us Malay and was also in charge of the school’s hostel. Known for his elegant handwriting, especially in the Jawi script, Tuan Syed didn’t have Mr Gan’s acerbic tongue nor Mr Ponniah’s quick ways with his hand.
Instead, his weakness was his habit of spending his nights playingmahjong with his Chinese friends in a coffee shop across the road from our school.
None of us students or the Malays living in the surrounding kampung condemned him for his choice of entertainment. While it is against Islamic teachings to gamble, we felt it was not our place to be righteous or moralistic.
In the same way, we did not make a big issue of Mr Gan’s and Mr Ponniah’s less than sophisticated methods of teaching us, we didn’t raise a ruckus about Tuan Syed’s mahjong-playing because we felt what he did in his own time was none of our business. I am not sure Malaysian youths today would be so tolerant.
For instance, I wonder if today’s young people would be offended by shouts of “balik kampung” during Orientation Week as I was (shouted at) by senior Chinese and Indian students when I started university in 1954 at the now National University of Singapore.
Or would they, like me, be able to recognise the difference between making racist or religious remarks to deliberately hurt some innocent person and the sort of good-natured rowdy jibes common place in any educational place.
It would be a shame if they couldn’t because all of us, seniors and juniors – Malay, Chinese and Indians – remain good friends till today.
Such is the paranoia over issues like religion and race, and such is the grip of the politically correct agenda on everyday Malaysian life today, I sense many of our young cannot tell the difference between an abusive insult and an innocent joke. And quite frankly, I feel sorry for them.
It is, of course, entirely right that there are laws against religious or racial abuse but the crucial word in that phrase is “abuse”. Referring to a person’s colour or religious beliefs does not, in all circumstances, have to be abusive.
With that in mind, I would like to mention that when I first started work as deputy assistant district officer of Larut and Matang in Taiping in 1958, my three closest friends were Shanmugam, a Public Works Department technician, Dr Lai Mun Seng, a medical officer, and Lim, the son of a jewellery shop owner.
We used to spend time after office hours together and one of the places we would frequent was the one and only nightclub in Taiping, the lively and popular D’ Paradise.
In fact during my time, a licence was even approved for a striptease show headlined by the famous strip dancer Rose Chan.
I am glad to say no demonstrations were held in front of our district office nor was there a demand for me to be transferred out from the district at that time!
I last heard Shanmugam’s daughter is a graduate teacher married to a lawyer while his son is also a lawyer, married to another lawyer. Lai has retired and now resides in Teluk Intan after many years working as a doctor. Unfortunately, we have all lost track of Lim.
Apart from wishing them and their family happiness and good health, my greatest hope is that like me, Shanmugam, Lai and Lim have managed to pass the message of tolerance, humour and open-mindedness that we shared to their own children and they in turn, to theirs
YES TUNKU SHARIMAN, CAN WE RECLAIM THOSE DAYS?
YES, THIS SEPTUAGENARIAN SAYS WE CAN!
In a while I would be joining my buddies
to celebrate Deepavali and those good days in Goodyear.