Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Will Be, Will Be ( IV)

THE capacious wooden structure on stilts, with its narrow anjung (verandah) and intricately carved window panels, was typical of a Trengganu kampung house. It had a large, open compound and an enclosed well. There was electricity but no piped water.

In May 1973, the weatherworn brown structure was home to ten out-of-town young women. Its location, about 300 metres off the main road and some four miles from the Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School (SSSS), approaching from Kuala Ibai side that is, was ideal for us.

Six formers all, I was the solo representative among them to be in SSSS; the rest were in a private college called Maktab Adabi. We commuted by bus daily to attend classes while friendly neighbours kept an eye on the house in our absence.

There was a wakaf (open-sided shelter) 50 metres away from our doorsteps and the presence of ten teenage kampung maidens in such close proximity to the public shelter naturally attracted the attention of young, hot-blooded Trengganu males.

Most evenings saw bicycles and motorcycles parked this way and that all around the wakaf, their riders idling in groups on the wooden platform, smoking and trading light banter, with one eye trained on the open windows of the house on stilts.

[By way of mention, so were much much older men, who would lounge about rolling their rokok daun and playing dam (Chinese checkers) while surreptitiously watching the movements within the house]

There was nothing in the house save for our clothing, books, a transistor radio or two, and some cooking utensils. All of us slept in rows, on mengkuang mats laid on wooden planks in the big room within, and took turns to cook and fill the enormous dragon-motif clay tempayan (water jars) with water drawn from the well.

With the exception of myself, all the girls were decent cooks. Cooking was done on both dapur minyak (gasoline cooker) which I could handle, and dapur arang (open fire) which I definitely couldn't. Although we took turns in the kitchen, a couple of girls did it more often than the rest because they wanted to.

My housemates knew how to turn out good fluffy nasi (rice) on dapur arang. I couldn't even do justice to rice on dapur minyak. In 1973, there was no electric rice cooker in our lives to begin with. Such extravagance was only the preserve of city folks. Our lauk-pauk were simple but nutritious; ikan singgang, fried vegetables, sambal belacan and ulam.

By contrast, my culinary contribution did not go beyond 'kari ikan sadin', an unappetising, unimaginative and only reluctantly appreciated hodge podge of curry powder and coconut milk, into which were unceremoniously dumped a couple of cans of tinned mackerel.

That signature dish of mine eventually became the butt of good-natured ribbing amongst us. Not that I minded because I knew I wasn't kitchen material.

I had contemplated entering Mara Institute of Technology (ITM) in Shah Alam after MCE, but had somehow missed the deadline of the first intake. My grandparents, however, would rather I enter Form Six like my uncle Ayah Cik Ali had done, and subsequently go to university.

To them, sixth form was the true and tested path to tertiary education. While I wasn't exactly sold on the idea, it did seem like a good one at the time, in the light of the missed ITM deadline.

By any yardstick, I was off to a good start in SSSS. At the close of the orientation week, I was crowned Freshie Queen 1973, my takings being a sash, a bouquet of flowers, some books, and a bashful peck from the Freshie King!

School life was boringly monotonous. Of the six formers in SSSS then, I could only remember one girl - Mahdiah her name was, I think - all because she was the only student who drove to school. My provincial mind couldn't comprehend a schoolgirl driving to school in her own car. But she was distant and aloof, so there was hardly any interaction between us.

Barely a month into Lower Six, my social life took on a life of its own. Z, a young English teacher from Sekolah Menengah Sultan Zainal Abidin started courting me in earnest. Z was an old school friend from my Dungun days.

Four years older, Z was completing Form Five in Dungun when I first joined DESS. We remained friends throughout the years, and he visited my house once in Dungun during my STF school holidays in 1971. I believe he went for a three-year stint in a teachers' college to acquire a teaching diploma after his MCE.

Truthfully, I was oblivious to the fact that Z was holding a candle for me over the years. Had he not admitted to as much, I would still be in the dark. I guess, like most patient young men, he bid his time, getting into the act only when the coast seemed clear.

Z had a Vespa. He would fetch me from home in the evenings, sometimes for tea at Mok Mek's famous 'kropok lekor' coffeeshop in Kampung China; other times to make up the crowd during the recordings of Radio Malaysia Kuala Terengganu programmes at the RTM auditorium.

But most times Z and I would motor to Pantai Batu Buruk where we would sit together and talk. Z was a quiet but intense young man with two primary missions in life - to teach English and to make me his wife. He had achieved one and was seriously pursuing the other.

Occasionally he would take me home to see his widowed mum - they lived in Losong - where I would end up helping her in the kitchen and having dinner together with the family. At 18, I was still dense enough not understand the significance of all these manoeuverings until much later.

I wasn't happy in Form Six. After all the trials and tribulations of STF and DESS, school had lost much of its shine. The restless spirit in me balked at being reined. The aspiring scribe in me chafed to write, to create.

I wanted freedom - from textbooks, teachers, lessons - maybe even from the the earnest but brooding young English teacher whose increasing ardour was beginning to alarm and unnerve me somewhat.

I was 18 years old; I didn't want marriage, not by a long shot. I wanted to hitch my wagon to the stars....


21 comments:

Kak Teh said...

puteri, wah freshie queen! ada gambar tak? dating at Mok mek's - that is certainly another chapter that Awang Goneng should explore, and our freshie queen should feature prominently in that.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Unfortunately kak teh, gambar freshie queen dah hilang entah kemana. but in SSSS, there are a couple of boards at the back of the main hall. all i can remember is, one listed the names of head boys and head girls and the other the names of freshie kings and queens over the years.

sakmongkol AK47 aka Mat Tomoi said...

alamak kak puteri..
suspense mcm ni yang buat tak tahan nya.
cepat sikit with all the other parts...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

hahahaha..sabaq, sabaq mat tomoi..:) semput dah kak puteri nak mengolah ceriteranya..LOL

Anonymous said...

Komen Pak Malim, kucing ray yang alim.

Saya suka naik Vespa, kata Pak Malim sambil minum air kelapa.

Pp said...

kama :-)

wah...i can visualize the boys at the bus stop. I can even enter their minds...and feel their anticipation. If I was anywhere around 50km of the place - I could have been one of them. Memories of old - such cool stuff!!

Yes, at 18 and already helping in the kitchen of BF's mom - that is seriously serious!! Jika ikan, kiranya sudah makan umpan di pancing. So what happened? Did you wriggle free...? and how??

A serious question, and apologies if I am ignorant. "Have you written books?"

Rashid Gong = answer to ur previous question.

:-)

pP

Pi Bani said...

Fulamak! Freshie queen wa cakap lu! Kata Pi Bani sambil buat muka tak malu.

Eh? Macam mana boleh jangkit penyakit Pak Malim pulak ni?! Tolong!!!! ;)

bangkai said...

As I said earlier: English teachers are usually angels. But will this one be a exception to the rule?

BTW I applied to be an English teacher once. They turned me down outright. I guess the two horns on my head, my pointed tail and my trident gave me away :)

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Pak Malim, kucing ray yg alim
vespa tu cool kan?
kata kama yg tak gemar makan ikan
dulu ada iklan - ves pa pa pa pa pa ...!
sampai la kama tak lupa...:)

PP - when ardently courted mcm tu pak payne, saya naik seram! takut TERjatuh cinta bagai nak rak, terus nak kawin..LOL

nolah, where got tulis buku. I was just a lowly newspaper reporter, betul2 foot soldier running around getting stories for publication. dulu punya journalists lain, we wrote for the love of our profession. gaji kecik tapi hati senang. ask kak teh. she and i from the same vintage.

Pi - they say in the realm of the blind, the one-eyed jack is king. I was that jack...:)

Mat B - There's truly something abt English teachers that defy convention. you should have been one, for you have all the hallmarks of a cikgu bahasa inggeris who would have girls throwing rose petals at your feet :)

Kama At-Tarawis said...

PS: pay payne, kalau his nickname was Rashid Gong, I agree wholeheartedly. Satu inci pun tak lari from the original...!

talqin said...

nak lagi nak lagi nak lagi nak lagi nak lagi...

Raden Galoh said...

Salam kak Puteri...

Thank you for dropping by and for the prayers and words of support.

Teringat my short stint (2 years) in Trengganu lak bila baca first part of your entry. I resided at Kg Atas Tol.

I became extra excited reading the later part of your entry...so you rejected errr declined his 'hands'? Can't wait to read some more la kak...

You stay well ya sis.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Talq - tunggu malam karang ma cuba karangkan bab-bab seterusnya.. tu pun kalau rajin la..

Raden - glad to know u pun biasa tinggal di KT, walaupun sekejap. such a laidback place, kan? and pasar payang tu best.. macam2 ada :) bab cikgu Z tu, tunggu la sat..ni tengah dok pikiaq how to begin the next one..LOL

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lenzaidi said...

Hi Kama,
ive been courting your blog for sometime and waiting to join in with the other eager blog readers who hail and comment lol.
Ive no blog but id loved bloghop and comment when my interest deem fit here.Hi kak Teh hope,that keep you inform about me.
You see, i was a Yayasan scholar who tried to make good grade at SSSS(1973-1976)I joined SS in form 4.No there wasnt any board listing freshie king/queens but definitely the name of head boys and girls.
And like aother reader i cant wait to see what happened to you and the earnest english teacher.

You were doing good so far, playing pillion on his vespa! wow.
cheers.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

lenzaidi - hello again! nice to meet someone from the same era (albeit a little younger, hehehe). Thanks for the clarification, am trying to reach deep into the past to write. I think the headboy during my time in SS was someone named Hatta Azad Khan (ni pun kalau my memory serves me right). Would you remember?

lenzaidi said...

Thanks for responding quick.The name Hatta Azad Khan sounds familiar but i wasnt there yet.I remembered Raja Kamarul and Soh Say Lian the boy/girl head prefect respectively for the year 73/74.

Cant wait to read your que sera sera V ;-).

changgeh said...

For all the sulaimanians. Go here http://sulaimanian.wordpress.com/page/2/

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Len & changgeh - I shall be off to sulaimanian.wordpress soon..maybe there's something I can use from there :) tq changgeh..

lenzaidi said...

Yup welcome Kak Kama to sulaiman.wordpress and dont forget to have a look at the sulamanian's group as well featuring class of 1970s.
cheers.

Anonymous said...

Very nicce!