Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Early Years - Part 3

At the end of 1961, once again my father was on transfer. This time it was all the way across Peninsular Malaysia to Teluk Anson (the present day Teluk Intan) in Perak.

I could not remember much about Teluk Intan. In school, once again I excelled in academics. My favourite teacher was Cikgu Azhar. I became quite popular among my classmates, not for any special reason, but just because I was the son of a policeman. Policemen were highly respected back then.

One day, a group of my classmates came to me and told me that a boy was bullying my younger sister, Rohani. They asked me what I wanted to do with the boy. One of them even suggested that we should teach the boy a lesson for his actions! I said no to their suggestion and the boy was set free with a stern warning not to disturb my little sister ever again.

Then there was this incident where I lost my Parker fountain pen. When my friends heard about the loss, they quickly investigated and searched for it.

They suspected that somebody in the class had stolen it. The pen was a real collector's item and I was sure that nobody else in the school had one.

A few days later, they found the boy with the pen. They brought him to me. He was so scared that he broke down and cried in the class. I forgave him. I knew that he just wanted to have that great feeling of having something special in his possession – a very common desire or even a dream for less fortunate children.

After the two incidents, I just knew that I had friends in the school and no body would ever bother my sister or my belongings again. That was how they all liked me. Sadly too I did not remember the names and faces.

Besides school, one thing that I could not forget was the unbelievably cheap food in Teluk Anson. We could get 1.8 kg of cockles for only 25cents, and also with that 25 cents I could enjoy a bottle of orange juice and a piece of roti canai!

Giant fresh water prawn was also dirt-cheap and having it daily was nothing to shout about. Being caught from still unpolluted rivers, they were surely very much sweeter and tastier than our present-day cultured ones.

The same thingwas also true about cockles. Besides being cheap, they were also cleaner and they were safe to eat even when they were half-cooked. Talking about the prawns made me remember the time my sisters and I were left under the care of a newly married couple. They were close friends of my parents.

For a few days while we were in their care, they really went all out to make us feel at home. Daily, we were served with delicious prawns and fish roe curries. As the barrack had only one bedroom, we all slept in the same room with the couple. My small sisters shared the bed with the couple, while I slept on thefloor.

One night, as we were fast asleep, I was awakened by something. I overheard the husband coming back from his night shift. He was whispering some thing to his wife. I did not quite catch him, but being a curious little boy I decided to wait and see what would happen next. Then the wife glanced at us to see that we were really fast asleep.

Then it happened, right in front of my young eyes. It was dark, but I could still make out what was happening between them two under the mosquito net in the bed. I was barely a metre away. That was the first time I saw anything like that.

Well, I was no peeping Tom, but it just happened. There was no prior planning or bad intention on my side. Thank goodness, they did not realize that I had witnessed their nocturnal act, a completely natural thing between a husband and a wife.

In Teluk Intan I started my Quran reading lesson. The class was in a room near the Police station's canteen. The class was usually held in the evening. I did not remember much about the class except that I was a fast learner, and in no time I was halfway through the Quran. In conjunction with me reaching the halfway mark, my mother prepared special gift to the teacher and my classmates. It consisted of yellow glutinous rice, hard-boiled eggs, omelets, beef curry and bananas.

What happened after the Quran class was something else. It might sound a bit wild for some, but I guessed it was just a part of growing up.

After class, usually at ten, we boys would usually wander across the perimeter fence and most often our wandering would end up right into the neighbouring fruit orchards.

The owner was an old Chinese man. The fruits found in the orchard included tangerines and kedondong. The tangerines were sure the sweetest that I had ever tasted. More than once, the owner chased us out of his property after finding us enjoying his fruits for free.

One time, a close friend was caught red handed while enjoying the fruits. He was brought over to the police station. Luckily, he escaped with a stern warning from his father and the police station's chief.

After that incident, our nightly raids still continued, but we were always more discreet and careful every time we were out there. I hoped that the owner did not really mind of our nightly raids. I did not think that he lost much out of our mischievous deeds.

Nothing much was stolen saved for a few tangerines and kedondong just for us to munch on for the night before we went to sleep. We did not steal the fruits to make money or to cause heavy losses to the owner.

After a while, we stopped our nightly raids, the old Chinese farmer gladly allowed us to visit his farm for free fruits during weekends. After that he became closer to us, the naughty policemen's sons.

It was also while I was in Teluk Anson that Malaysian television made its debut. Most folks could not afford to buy a television set then. Almost every afternoon, many adults and children went to the canteen to watch television.

If my memory did not fail me, Danger Man,The Lone Ranger and The Fugitive were my three favourite television series. I was always enthralled by David Jensen, who was playing Dr.Richard Kimble, when he, times and times again, was successful running away from his chasers.

As far as the Danger Man, I loved the scenes of the hero, played by Patrick McGoohan, jumping into the back of moving lorries. With The Lone Ranger, the intelligent and ever helpful silver horse ridden by the masked hero never failed to fascinate me, and so too was Tonto, the hero's loyal Red-Indian buddy.

While glued to the television programmes, I liked to munch on something from the canteen. I never needed any cash for the drinks andcookies. All that I had to do was to write down what I had taken into my father's account. The canteen operator knew me well enough to allow me do just that.

The monthly bill could be understandably higher during school holidays. Once when my mother was away on her maternity leave in Kemaman, my father was startled to find out that the bill was extra-ordinarily high. Scrutinizing the bill he immediately burst into laughter on seeing the long list of orange squash, peanuts and cookies!

In my mother's temporary absence I spent more of my free time in the canteen, especially when my father was on his nightly shift. I wouldgo home only when the television stopped its nightly programmes with all doors and windows tightly locked. Being a heavy sleeper, once my father had to climb up the roof and throw his boots through the ventilation spaces onto my bed just to wake me up.

After that incident, I never again locked the door before going to sleep.It was in Teluk Anson too that I first visited a circus. It was theRoyal Indian Circus. It was such fun to see tigers, lions, and elephants showing their talent under the watchful eyes of their trainers.

An experience that I could never forget was when I was involved in a serious game of tug of war with a full-grown silver back gorilla. While I was engrossed watching a baby gorilla with its antics, an adult male gorilla suddenly made its way towards me. It grabbed my shirt.

A tussle followed and surprisingly I put up quite afight and despite the obvious size and strength differences, I managed to set myself free from the great ape, but of course my shirt was torn to pieces at the end of it all! I did not have any grudge against thegorilla. I guessed it was just attracted to my colourful brand newshirt and perhaps decided that it was going to have it for its own.

Iwalked home with a shredded shirt that day. If Pisa was famous for its leaning tower, so too was Teluk Anson. It also had its very own similar leaning tower in the form of a leaning clock tower. However, it was not the building that really attracted me. It was the things that were going around it that always pulled my friends and I there.

The traditional bloodletting was the main attraction! At the time I did not understand why the people did whatthey were doing. What I saw were people with cow horns sticking at theback of their heads. When the horn was removed, it contained a lot of blood, thick dirty dark red blood clots.

The sight of so much blood always made me sick, but I still came to watch. According to the bekam enthusiasts, the act could cure bad headaches and giddiness.

A tragic accident occurred to my close neighbours at the end of our stay in Teluk Intan. The father was suspended for being accused of bribery. They were forced to vacate the barrack. My mother was so fond of one of their children. His resemblance to Rashid, my late half-brother, was so great that my mother could not help it but love him as if he was her own far away son. They had to go home to theirmother's home village somewhere in Parit Buntar.

We were all in tears as the truck made its way out of the police barracks. It was raining heavily then. In the rain I saw my friend waving sadly through a small opening at the back of the truck. I could understand how he must have felt for what had happened to him. What a pity a boy so young to face such a daunting challenge life had to offer.

A few hours later we received some shocking news. The truck was involved in a terrible road accident. It plunged into a river as it ran out of control after a head-on collision with another smaller lorry coming from the opposite direction on the bridge.

Both children, who were then fast asleep at the back of the heavily canvassed lorry, were drowned in the swollen river. I guessed that they had no chance whatsoever of escaping from the lorry. A witness told me that they were trapped underneath a heavy cupboard inside the lorry.

We all were so sad with the sudden departure of our dearest playmates. We cried for days after the incidence.The year 1962 flew so fast. All of a sudden, it was December.

Again,we were on the move. This time it was to Kampong Gajah. Before leavingTeluk Anson, Cikgu Azhar repeatedly begged my father to let me stay with him. He wanted me to continue studying in the same school. To him my present school was, in many ways, far better than the one in Kg. Gajah.

He did not want the transfer to disturb my studies. What a good teacher he was, so visionary and caring. I wish many more present day teachers will belike him, giving the academic success of his students more importance than merely monetary rewards of having after-class tuitions.

Luckily for me, my father did not agree to my teacher's suggestion. Healways wanted all his children to live together under one roof, came rain or shine.

What a relief. I could not imagine living away from my parents at such a young age. Besides, I just felt that I would enjoy it very much living in a remote village for a change. So I followed my family to Kampong Gajah.

The town was more of a very remote village, to say the least. There was no electricity and so we had to depend on gasoline lamp to brighten up most of our nights. The only way to and out of Kampong Gajah was by boats along the PerakRiver.

It would take hours to reach the village from Teluk Anson. At low tide, the passengers had to wait in the boat, sometimes for hours,until the water was deep enough for the boat to move on.

According to my mother, it was common for me to finish an entire loaf or two of bread just like that, including even the crumbs, without any butter or jam, while waiting for the tide. Mind you the breads were just the manually made Bengali bread and not the present day good-enough-to-eat-on-its-own Gardenia bread.

Bread had always been and still is my favourite food since I was small. In Kampong Gajah, we rented a small but strategically situated wooden house by the sides of fruit orchards and within a walking distance from the police station. The owner was a generous old lady with acres and acres of fruit orchards. She was so friendly and generous that wewere never short of fresh fruits whenever they were in season. She also owned her own special reserve of freshwater fish supply.

Every time I visited the pond, I was always amazed in seeing so many species of fish living within such a small area and could not help myself in playing with them. There were common snakeheads (haruan), climbing perches (puyu) and catfish (keli) in the pond. All we had to do was to put our hands in the pond and simply grope the area and there you had it, your hands would be full of fish. You had to be careful though. Catfish's spines could be terribly painful if they accidentally punctured your skin!

Being a generous lady, she allowed us to collect the fallen buah asam gelugur and process them into asam keping. We sold the asam keeping in Teluk Anson by the gunnysacks and we always got good money for it.Many of our loyal customers at Teluk Anson's market preferred our asam keping over the others as they were crispy fresh and much cheaper too.

Here is a little bit about processing asam keping. The fruits were usually collected every morning at the base of the tree. They usually fell during the night, especially after a heavy rainfall.

They were then cut into thin slices and left under the sun on a piece of old mengkuang mat to dry. When dry, the fruit strips would be brown and wrinkled resembling our external ear.

For all you city folks, they oung shoots of this plant are good to eat; they are soft and pleasantly sour in taste, perhaps much tastier than the present day sour plum sweets.

My half-brother (he was brought back to live with us just before wemoved to Kampong Gajah), younger sister and I went to a primary school in Kampong Gajah. It was a small and old attap-roofed school, situated on the riverbank of Perak River. It had no electricity, but came to think about it, we did not need electricity back then. The free flowing breeze from the Perak River was far cooling than the present day fan.

The teachers and fellow students were friendly to us newcomers. I particularly remember one Cikgu Zaleha, who was not only a good teacher, but a good-looking lady too.

In the class, I soon found agood and charming academic rival by the name of Mardhiah. In many class examinations, both of us would always be the class top two students.

Also, there was this other girl with a ponytail whom I used to walk to school with. Her name was Hasnani Saad. She was the daughter of my father's colleague.

We were indeed very close friends(my brother used to tease me telling that she was my sweetheart), but honestly, our relationship was pure and innocent. We used to share crispy saucer-shaped fried tapioca crackers while walking hand in hand along the path overlooking the beautiful Perak River to school. The crackers were normally consumed with a type of hot and sour gravy.

I wonder where both of them are right now. It had always been my dream to meet them, just to reminisce old times and childhood stories. During many tea breaks, my classmates and I used to play a 'catch-me-if-you-can' game called 'police sentry' on the school field.

We all just loved running and trying to catch each other. We never missed playing the game, especially when it was the girls' turn to be chased around. Every boy was looking forward to the chance of holding on tightly to the girls whom they caught.

Even though at that time we were still too young and naïve to know what sex was all about, we were excited nevertheless every time we had a chance to hold a girl by her waist.

The girls too did not seem to mind being held on to by the boys. But most of the time it was decided well before hand who was going to hold whom in such a game. It was just like a date, slightly better and perhaps more exciting than a blind date I supposed.

The river, the fruit orchards and the traditional village provided me with many new things to discover and learn. The still-unpollutedand almost undisturbed Perak River was an excellent fishing ground for many. Fishes like kissing gouramis (kalui) , lampam, sebarau, seluang, etc. were abundant and so too were giant freshwater prawns (udang galah).

All we had to do was to lower the fish lines into the water and then keep lifting up fish after fish in no time. An old grizzly fisherman taught me to first sprinkle freshly grated coconut mixed with kekabu seeds in the chosen spots, usually beneath a shady tree on the riverbank, before lowering my lines. By doing that, fishes like lampam and seluang would be attracted to the site and they would then be easily caught.

Gouramis were so big that they were usually the targets of many. They were usually shot when the water was clear and the fig trees along the riverbank were fruiting. Fig fruits were their favourite food. All that you have to do was to place bamboo poles or even empty tin cans in the water and leave them for a while there. Within a few hours the bamboo poles or tin cans would be full of delicious prawns and all you had to do then was to carefully lift them up and there they were, a handful of fresh green giant prawns ready for the grill.

The river too had taught me a lesson or two concerning respecting Mother Nature. My brother and I were busy searching for small prawns in the cavities of bamboo poles on a floating toilet.

In those days, toilets were mainly floating! There was no fear of human excreta polluting the river water, as there were many ever-ready biological cleaners in the forms of catfish and lampam playing around in the water beneath the toilets.

I was so engrossed in what I was doing thatI did not realize that all forms of dangers were lurking around the floating toilet. Then a speedboat passed by us, creating big waves that rocked the toilet from side to side. I was nearly pushed overboard. Trying to stabilize myself, I stepped hard on a piece of rotten plank. The plank gave way under my weight and down I went into the river creating air bubbles around me as I was forced by gravity to descend the whole depth of the river.

Holding my breath hard, I just let go hoping that my breath would last all the way down the bottom and up again. I stepped hard onto the sandy river bottom as soon as my legs reached it and up I went rushing towards the gaping toilet's floor.

Then I felt strong hands grabbing my hair and pulling me up onto the floating toilet. It was my brother. Thanks God he was there and realized what had happened to me. With the guide of Allah, he had rescued me from the eerie depth. After that incident, I began to learn how to swim andwas more careful whenever I was near the Perak River.

One day as my friends and I were busy looking after prawns among the weeds at the edge of the river, we saw a noisy crowd a few metres ahead of us. Some things must have attracted their attention. We scurried to the area and were shocked to see a huge oversized and probably an outcast Macaca nemestrina (beruk) caught in a trap that had been set on a coconut tree. It was surely the biggest monkey that I had ever seen.

He was as big as a ten-year-old child. He was so huge and strong that he had to be chained using a big steel chain. He was also so wild that the people handling him had to resort to brutal and almost cruel methods to try and break his spirit and put him under control.

He was beaten with a rope and submerged into the river just so that he would be weaker and easier to handle. Trying to pacify him further, a man brought his pet baby monkey for him to play with.

Then it happened. Without warning, he violently caught the helpless baby monkey and began ripping it apart. Blood was all over the place. After toying with the completely mauled body of the baby monkey, he then slowly began to devour theflesh of his own species – cannibalism, and it occurred right in front of me. How disgusting!

But I was told that it was the way of the jungle- survival of the fittest. We had no business whatsoever tocinterfere with the law of the jungle. Never judge what the outcast monkey just did by our standard.

Believe me, in many ways we humans are much crueller than the giant primate! Since those days I was always a great animal and nature lover and I would go all the way defending them whenever there was a conflict between humans and animals.

Besides having great times in the river, I was also involved in the rounding up goats – goats that had strayed into the police compound. Every time a goat entered the police compound, uncle Shukor howled my name.

Hearing my name being called, I just knew what was expected of me. Chasing the goats was really a good exercise for me. Not only that, it was also a good way of earning some cash for my pocket money. For every goat I caught, I was rewarded twenty cents (a big sum ofmoney, at least for boys like me those days). Brother B.D was usually assigned to get jackfruit leaves for the goats.

Still about brother B.D's family, his sister Badariah never failed to amaze me. She had an appetite for almost anything edible that she could get hold of. I remember watching her consuming freshly laid egg raw and munching on ginger, tumeric, garlic, onions, and shallots, just to name a few of her snacks' and 'cookies'. No wonder she was always in her best health.

Coming back to our rounding-up of intruding goats, B.D was paid fifty cents a day for supplying feed for the goats. We made a good team.From watching the goats in their temporary captivity in the police pound I learned something about husbandry, nutrition, and most interestingly about goat's breedingbehaviour – the oestrus cycle, the mounting, and even the penetration.

Once I even saw the buck ejaculating when it missed its wandering target! Professor Jainudeen must be proud to know that his former student was so interested and knowledgeable in animal breeding long before he introduced the course in Universiti Pertanian Malaysia.

Besides goats, I was also attracted to birds such as house sparrows and a variety of munias (pipit). In as far as house sparrows, out of my curiosity I found out that they liked to spend most of their nights inventilation holes of the police station's generator building. So, one night there I was, tiptoeing my way to the building with the intentionof catching those little birds. With my bare hands, I began catching the birds, one after another and in no time the rattan bag was full of them.

At home, the little birds were slaughtered, defeathered, and cleaned just like the bulbuls (merbah) when I was in Kuantan. The birds were then deep-fried till golden brown. They too made a very delicious and crunchy snack for me.

It was a totally different story with the munias. They were trapped in specially built cages made up of stems of giant reeds and veins of coconut leaves (lidi). I usually kept the munias as pets. They were easy to feed and look after. They thrived on small seeds like paddy and sorghum. After a while, they became so tame and used to living inthe cages and enjoying an easy life that I found it unnecessary to close the cages. They would fly freely together with their wild friends but would return to their cages whenever they were hungry or to have a safe rest at night.

The sad thing about the munias was that we could hardly see any large congregation of munias anymore. I missedthe elegant White-headed munias (pipit uban)and the forever working Scaly-breasted munias (pipit tuli). I did not know why, but they just disappeared from many parts
of our country.

In some ways, a handful of Kampong Gajah folks were strange to me. I remember seeing many people, young and old, and irrespective of their sex, putting on ankle-length sarong wherever they went. At first I thought that it was their normal way of wearing sarong. One day, while travelling in a boat, the sarong worn by a young girl was half-blownby a sudden gust of wind. Despite her best attempt to cover her up-to-now well-covered part of her body, everybody in the boat, including me, saw her legs.

Their secret was finally uncovered. The legs were huge, wrinkly, and swollen all the way from the knees down to the toes. She was really embarrassed when she realized that many eyes had seen her legs. After that I saw many more people with legs much bigger and more swollen than hers. It was later, much later that I knew what the disease was. It was elephantiasis! They were the mosquitoes, plenty ofthem in swamps and parts of the slow-moving river (almost an ox-bowlake) that was overgrown with lush water hyacinth, which carried the causative agent of the disease, a filarial worm. These worms got lodged in the lymphatic system of the limbs causing the affected legsto swell. It was pitiful to see them that way, but I was told that at that stage of the disease, it was almost incurable.

In Kampong Gajah too I found that some people were too hot-tempered that they would attack the school just because a teacher had scolded one of their children. The entire family members would then march on angrily to the school, some with parangs and whatever weapons they could get their hands on, to confront the teacher. Outsiders like us would try our best not to intervene in such a confrontation. It would always take the police intervention to settle such disputes. Anythingcould happen during such emotional exchanges. Once, I even saw a piece of muscle on my father's desk!

Things could get out of hands and could be ugly, especially when the super angry mobs could not be pacified by the headmaster orcontrolled by the police. Having said that, I did not mean to say that all Kampong Gajah folks were like that. Only a minority of them behaved that way.

I remember one very old lady who lived in a small house not very far from ours.She was special in her own way. She had this special kind of power over cats. She owned more than a dozen cats, which to her were more offamily members rather than mere pets. Living alone in the small house, the cats were all the 'children' that she ever had. I was not too sure whether she had ever been married or not. She talked to her cats, dined with them, and even spent the nights together in her old but neatly kept bed. Her cats even had names of their own.

Her strange way of living made her the target of naughty children. They would always disturb her wherever she went. They called her a witch. However, tome, she was just a very kind and lonely old lady, minding her own business most of the times and disturbing no one.

One day, while visiting our house, one of her cats came by and started wagging her tail, meowing, licking her toes, and pulling her sarong with its teeth. She looked at the cat and said, "Putih is calling me. Someone must be looking for me at home." She went home and I secretly followed suit just to see whether she was telling the truth. True enough, reaching her house I saw a man sitting on the verandah, probably waiting for her.

After that incident, she became closer to our family. It was also in Kampong Gajah that I was first exposed to a kind of'magic' possessed by a good-but-too-easily-riled man. My father caught him for breaking his neighbour's nose in a fight. He was put in the lock-up. My father was on duty in the station. Suddenly this man called him to the lock-up and asked my father's permission to go home for a short while. He promised my father that he would be back in the lock-up as soon as he had finished helping his wife.

Of course myfather said no to his request. But the man explained to my father his reason and assured him that there was nothing to worry. According to my father, he sounded so convincing. With that he just vanished into thin air, leaving only his sarong in the lock-up. My father was almost hysterical about the man's sudden disappearance. He knew then that his career would come to an abrupt end if his superior happened to make a surprise visit to the station. As it was already past midnight, he decided not to report the 'escape' to his superior and hoped that the man would keep his words.

Two hours later, just as sudden and smooth as he disappeared, he reappeared in his cell with a new pair of shirt and trousers. He again told my father that he had something to settle in his house and thanked my father for allowing him to go home.

The next morning my father told the strange happening to his fellow policemen. He was surprised as everybody was laughing at him. It was not that they did not believe him or anything like that, but they all knew who that special man was. They told my father that the man had repeatedly done the disappearing act every time he was locked up. He had this magic power that could make him invisible and he was able to pass through any hole, no matter how small it was, as long as air could pass through! It might sound like a scene from a science fiction film, but according to my father, it was real and he saw it happening right in front of his very own eyes. I believed him.I knew that there were many things that basic sciences today could not explain.

Take this story as an example. According to my mother, it happened when I was soundly sleeping in the bed, sandwiched between my mother and father in a police barrack in Air Kuning, Negeri Sembilan. Suddenly my mother was awakened from her sleep by some inexplicable thing of the night. She was not too surewhat it was. In her dream-like state, an old hunched back lady came towards her. She told my mother that she was going to take away thebaby from my mother. Of course my mother disagreed with the request of the old lady, but without warning, the old lady then rudely snatchedthe baby from my mother's arms.

I was 'abducted' despite of my mother crying and yelling at the old lady. Barely ten minutes later, strangely the old lady came back to my mother. She said that the baby would be returned to my mother. She explained that the baby was not a good candidate for adoption becauseof a birthmark on the baby's left thigh. The old lady then roughly threw the baby onto my mother's lap. Then she woke up and began looking for me. I was not there.

My father too was awakened by all the commotions caused by my mother who was then beginning to panic as she realized that I was lost. When all seemed lost, my mother, as if forced, glanced at the windows near the bed. There I was, nicely sleeping on my tummy on a piece of cloth.

The next morning my mother told the story of my disappearance to her neighbours. They were surprised and when they took a closer look at myleft thigh, there it was, that flowery birthmark. I did not know whatto believe, but according to my mother the old lady was most probably an orang bunian. According to her, the orang bunian had also abducted the brother of my late grandfather. He was never been found again after that. It was often said that in time of great need, like when someone close to us was seriously sick or something, my late grandfather would 'call' him for help. He even helped in getting enough plates and dishes for my grandfather's parties. A strange rule about borrowing plates and dishes from these orang bunians, so I was once told, was that it was expected for the borrower to return all that had been borrowed. If any of the plates and dishes were broken, the broken pieces must also be returned. If this rule was broken then the lending would automatically stopped.

Sadly, I was also told that over time, my grandfather's relationship with his abducted brother stopped. Many believed that perhaps he had already passed away as it had been many years since his disappearance.

Time travelled fast for an adventurous boy like me in Kampong Gajah. Soon it was the end of 1963. Like always, once again we were on the move. This time it was to Langkap, another small town in Perak. Before leaving the school, Cikgu Zaleha organized a simple but memorable farewell party for me.

It was held under a busily flowering durian tree. The cooling mid-morning breeze blew away the durian flowers from the branches. White petals, filaments, stamens, and pollens, were floating in the air, just like snowflakes flying in the wind. They soon covered our heads, faces, and bodies. It was indeed a colorfuland joyous party for all of us. Most of us, Cikgu Zaleha in particular, cried that day. It was sad for me to leave all my friends, but I just had to move on in life. CikguZaleha, in her final speech, reminded us all to study hard so that someday we could meet again in a boarding school somewhere.

When I was in Sekolah Dato' Abdul Razak (SDAR) a few years later, I tried looking for Hasnani and Mardhiah through my friends in Sekolah Tun Fatimah (STF) and Tengku Khursiah College (TKC) but they were not there. I had never met them or any of my classmates again except Cikgu Zaleha. It was in Ipoh; many years later (I was in Form one then) that I was fortunate to once again meet her. She was a full-time housewife then. Sadly she did not remember me. I did not blame her; perhaps I was just a boy among hundreds or even thousands of students whom she had taught all these years.

To be continued

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