Monday, November 1, 2010

Have we lost THOSE DAYS?

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




In a while I would be joining my buddies

to celebrate Deepavali and those good days in Goodyear.


Anonymous said...

The tipping point that the country became 'intolerant' is when mahathir made BM the medium of instructions in secondary school.

Because most of the malays from then on cannot read and understand English (i.e. alternative media)and were indoctrinated with media such as Utusan and the likes of BTN thinking.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6.04 has a point. Mahathir indeed transformed Malaysia into a racist country by playing on the sentiments of the weak Malays through a divide and rule policy. Today he is restless as he can see people have wised up to his cover-ups. He sees imminent jail for himself & ultimate disgrace - such as what happened to Marcos, Suharto and a few other Top Asian crooks

Vernon Kedit said...

May I invite readers to view my blog which is about Dayak history. Thank you Uncle Zorro.

Anonymous said...

Ultimately it is European & US technology( of which Mahathir is an avid secret admirer ) in the form of cheap computers & the worldwide internet (real time online facebook/twitter/blogspot/wordpress ( RPK/MT,Zorro et al & portals like Malaysiakini/Malaysia Chronicle etc) & other patriotic Bloggers that expose all the real devious antics of the real crooks & criminals amongst us & which I believe will them down on their knees.

Those early ye olde days are over Mr Zorro - what we have is now & it looks good, cheers

Anonymous said...

It's the generation gap. This is where the separation of boys and men begin.

It would be difficult to explain to parents or teachers in the 60's what a Beatle haircut was, or what Yong Teck Lee's sideburns meant. Mini Skirts, bell bottoms, wet look, drainpipe pants and funny curry puff hair were part of the generation gap in those days of wine and roses.

Well, another generation gap is in the making. The young of today want a Beemer as opposed to a Hillman or Ford Capri in those days.

As the glorious boys of the past are getting into their twilight time, their children are rebelling in their own ways, again to the ire of the elders.

It is just a cycle of life every generation goes through, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Mahathir forced all the university lecturers to conduct their lectures in BM when he was the minister of education. Suddenly he realized most of graduates could not even converse in English and they found it tough to get decent employment in the private sector. He allowed the use of English concurrently with BM in institutes of higher learning by that time he's about to give up his primer-ship. Votes were not important anymore. He even campaigned the use of English to teach science and mathematics in primary schools. We have come a full circle and lost at least one generation's time. Now the ministry of education has to recruit English teachers overseas. What a shame!

vinnan said...

This nostalgia is sickening. How do you gostan 50 years of racism? Cannot be done. If you try the Malays ultras will do you in. The best the non-Malays can hope for is to wait for UMNO and their 'Ketuanan' heroes to implode and rot away. Mark my words. Come the next GE if UMNO were to lose you better take cover. UMNO do not wish and will not give up a system which have enriched them for three generations since independence regardless of what happens at the polls.

Anonymous said...

It was the irresponsible politician that had resulted in today's divide and rule. In the words of Mr Lee Kuan Yew "Short Cut".

I remembered 30 years ago, while we were in the college, a hard core UMNO lieutenant college mate has this idea that the Chinese come to Malaysia to squandered or take away all the wealth of the country. Malay must defend this land. I hardly can find the logic of that assertion then. Only realize lately that those are the hate campaign embrace by the party.

After more than 30 years of poisoning, most of the Malay are convinced of the fact and are not ashamed to be rude although their religion forbid that.

The mamak is wicked, cruel, barbaric and inhuman, he had crippled the Malay, institutions and the country beyond resolution.

bumi-non-malay said...

We also have to move on with days of past....its the PRESENT that will shape the Future. That means whatever King Tut Racist Dr. M did is already done and needs to be Obiterated like Pharohs of Past.

How to unite Malays when some believe they can be born Islam, some malay believe they are bumiputera when they are also Pendatang and some thinks they want to maintain the ELITE legacy by hook or crook. Malay unity is a Myth.......wait till Hunger and Anger hits them ....What we see now is the crumbling of that Myth. Thanks to Sultan Perak Fiasco.....Malays are now starting to see the Malaysian Race for survival.....these are those who will fight for a better Malaysia.....Its the Basic STOMACH agenda now....and Malays in general are sick and tired of being manipulated for a few individuals UMNO Malays, friends and Sultan talk their CRAP and not address their Hunger and Anger. The Third Force is therefore the Hunger and Anger..... Happy to see Foreign Investment in Racist Malaysia drying up... If another May 13 is the best UMNO Racist can do then be prepared for many separated Autonomous states in Malaysia....and an end to all MYTH and Racism...

btw Happy Devali to all Hindus.....Devali is the More Correct word to use ....go ask 1 Billion Indians in India.... Why UMNO-MIC change it to Deepavalli....another form of BTN and sub conscious Brain Washing?? Wish your Indians friends Devali and they will feel me.....use them from now on and stop UMNO-MIC agenda!! Devali is the correct and MOST respectable word for this celebration!! Some Indians will have no clue until they ask their Priest!! Lets hope their Priest also not like UMNO Ulamas...just parrot the error and all ILLS of society!!

Anonymous said...

A narration that makes us feel proud as Malaysian! This is what 1Malaysia should be.

Anonymous said...

What a trip back to the good old days, I miss them BUT I also know that they are lost probably forever, something the new generation will never experience, what a shame...

sampalee said...

There are two sides of a coin.Dr M was bad,but it is this very seeds he planted that will eventually destroy umno,

Anonymous said...

We can strive to go back to the good old days that require no '1 Malaysia' slogan where every race can mingle together regardless of religious intolerance.

For that to happen everyone of us mus reject BN and all its compone parties. Exercise our vote for the future of our children.

Anonymous said...

People .. I think you got it all wrong!

It was not Mahathir, but Anwar Ibrahim who went in government with his Islamic crusade to Islam Malaysia.

It was Anwar who introduced many Islamic rituals and force the young Muslims student to wear long pants and head scarf..

It was then to contained the rise of Islamic fundamentalist by PAS in the year 1980s..

It is the same Anwar Ibrahim that you thought will bring you a united Malaysia..



Anonymous said...

Hello Uncle Z,

I did my secondary schooling and tertiary education mainly from 2000 onwards and there are young Malaysians, both from the small towns and KL who do mix around freely, can and do joke around at the expense of a buddy's race and religion and (shockingly for some sensitive souls) NOT trigger a race riot. We go to each other's houses for parties and assignment work, we lepak kat' kelab malam together, bitch about the cikgu discipline together and the like. My friends and I were not the only such group, but there weren't many similar cliques either.

We were all aware that we were from different races and religions; and that according to the retarded logic of some pejuang bangsa's of all races, we shouldn't really be hanging out doing what we do. We choose to ignore them.

While it might seem that Malaysia is always on the edge of a race riot, don't give up hope because we just might surprise ourselves and weather the storm. Remember that certain parties have been trying very hard to create civil unrest and yet Malaysians against all odds did not take the bait. There are young Malaysians that represent the best of our past and the best of what makes us human. And there are more of them than some might think.


Anonymous said...

Anwar was with Umno then, now he is with PKR.

This is like Tevez who was with Man Utd then, now with Man City.

They were both on the devil side last time, now they have turned good.

Moral of the story: Do not associate yourself with syaitan. CSL and his mistress Heng please take note.

Old Fart said...


Last Saturday we had a grand dinner to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Old Boys Association of MBS Sentul at the Chinese School Hall. You know where it is!!

One thought that went through my head throughout that memorable evening was, "f only it was three MBS Sentul School boys, born and bred in Sentul, who had gone to London then to negotiate Malaya's independence, the so called Social Contract would have been vastly different!! Wouldn't you agree? O.k la...we shall throw in a La Salian as well!!

zorro said...

Old Fart, the day before your 50th anniversary dinner I was invited by a group of Lasallians who went on to MBS(after Form 3) for a session at Backyard. I was aware of the dinner the next day.

Wow, 50 years. By the way, did you know that MBS Sentul was also referred to as La Salle Upper Secondary?

The social contract, that dead horse. Why flogged it anymore? Lets just drink to the future...I still believe in this.

Anonymous said...

we can only relive those good old days if and when, amongst others, :-

i) the kiasu urban folks mingle more with the rural folks. please lah...they are voters too. u want them to vote for umno? go save them to save yourselves and your children's future.
ii) speak more bahasa in ngo and pakatan functions. this is f-king malaysia. orang kampong dan orang asli yang telah diperbodohkan oleh umno selaman 50tahun kebanyakannya tak erti bahasa inggeris. tolonglah... jangan abaikan mereka. mereka ni boleh menjamin kemakmuran negara dan selari dgn impian kebanyakan kami, iaitu KUBURKAN UMNO.
iii) drop the pretense that some ngo attendees care for the cause. some of them are there only for the social netwoking value. or to kill time. they dont really give a damn. sure, they talk about it all the time. issues, you know. they want u to know they are up-to-date with the issues just like they are with the latest football results. they only want an excuse to wear their jewelleries and be seen with anti-establishment people because it's hip and it's fashionable. they will converse in english. even amongst those upper class malays. they will however NOT be involved in the nitty gritty works required to topple umno/bn. no, they just want to be seen around functions in sabm for example. it's hip, really. i know. amongst themselves, malays will bitch about si-mata sepet and si-botol. chinese will bitch about me"LAYU"...and "keling guai"... and the indians will bitch correspondingly.

if u folks are too jaded to be in the frontline, as i feel myself to be, do something really useful. contribute in other ways. frontline workers need MONEY for petrol, food and other expenses TO FIGHT UMNO. can spare a ringgit or two from the millions in your safe in the house? can buy a book or two by ngos or friendly fighters? attend a function or two? if u cant even do that, then shut the F up.

UMNO has its dick halfway up our asses for the past 53 years. halfway. it is still lodged there. u can't feel it? it wont take long before UMNO's dick is all the way deep inside your ass. enjoy it, folks.

and screw you and your pretensions. all you f-king hypocrites. all you f-king armchair critics, who rather go shopping in the weekend than to spare a few minutes to seek out where/when/how you can contribute to KUBURKAN UMNO.