Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Will Be, Will Be ( V )

WANTING to break free from the shackles of school was one thing, but it was quite another to try and convince the one footing all your accumulated bills that quitting school was your wisest decision yet.

I had created enough havoc in the reasonably placid lives of my long-suffering grandparents that I was loathe to surprise them with yet another bombshell – that sixth form and I didn’t quite see eye to eye.

They had left me in Kuala Terengganu with such happy thoughts and a long sigh of relief; that the dust had finally settled on their highly-strung and fiercely independent scamp of a granddaughter.

They were looking forward to some semblance of peace and tranquility in their own lives, now that I was safely cocooned in the arms of Sultan Suleiman (the school, not the ruler). Little did they know their lives were about to be rudely upended once again.

It is said that if you pray hard enough, your prayer might just be answered for God listens, and He listens well. I must have prayed harder than usual, because an escape hatch had opened suddenly and unexpectedly.

Scanning the newspapers one day, I spied something that was to change my life forever. Nestled within the classifieds pages of the New Straits Times (NST) was an advertisement seeking recruitment of fresh talents for publications under the national daily.

Without further ado I submitted my application, well knowing it was a mighty long shot. An 18 year-old schoolgirl, I had neither the experience nor the qualification to become a newspaper reporter. Would they as much as cast a look in my direction?

To my utter surprise, a letter arrived from the NST head office in Kuala Lumpur, asking me to present myself at their regional office in Kota Baru, Kelantan, for a preliminary written test.

Taking my housemates into confidence, not to mention borrowing their money for good measure, I quietly made the three-hour trip to Kota Baru. I remember skipping a day of school for it but couldn't for the life of me recall the excuse that I gave.

It was not long before another letter presented itself from NST, asking me to sit for a second written test as well as to attend a personal interview, this time at the NST main office in Kuala Lumpur.

Thinking long and hard, the schemer in me began mulling over a plethora of plausible excuses to be presented to my grandparents on the need to be in Kuala Lumpur, before I realised the interview date coincided with the second term school holidays.

Heaving a sigh of relief, I just knew what to do. And so it was that the term break saw me ‘visiting’ Kuala Lumpur, playing tourist purportedly to reward myself for a job well-done with regards my MCE examination.

Frankly, I don't think I even saw as much as a shopping centre (except perhaps Foch Avenue for the change of bus), for I spent my entire time in NST, firstly to complete a series of essays and secondly to attend a lengthy personal interview.

I put up with my kindly aunt and her family in Cheras during that memorable trip. I did draw her into my confidence, safe in my knowledge that she wasn't the kind to blab, not even to her own mother.

But one can only stretch it so far. When the offer letter from NST finally arrived, I had no choice but to own up and tell the truth, or decline the job offer. I chose to face Grandma’s wrath head-on.

Surprisingly, she didn’t as much as bat an eyelid. She must have given up on me and my wily ways. With the benefit of hindsight, I think she wised up long before to my miserable antics, but chose to give me ‘face’. For all my plotting and conniving, the old lady just looked at me straight in the eye and said:

“Pah nak sangat tengok awak masuk universiti, pakai jubah, pakai topi segi, dapat ijazah. Nampaknya tak kesampaianlah hajat Pah.” (I had so much wanted to have you go to university, and see you in the robe, with the mortar board on your head and the scroll in your hand. Looks like it is not going to be).

I felt like a worthless little worm. I wanted to crawl into a wormhole, never to surface ever again. I knew I had let my grandparents down with my decision.

It was one thing to quit STF - a major examination was at stake - but quitting Form Six (and the certainty of university) for a mere job was something else altogether. Couldn't I at least wait until university and graduation?

Therein lies my problem (then and now). It would be easier to rein a wild horse than to curb my will. The lure of journalism was too strong, the pull too great, that I just couldn’t let an opportunity like the NST job offer pass me by. It was the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream.

If I got past Grandma with hardly a whimper, I wasn’t so lucky with poor Z. He was so crestfallen that he cried. And so did I. He said my moving to Kuala Lumpur would spell the death of whatever we had between us.

Deep in my heart I knew nothing would die between us, simply because there was nothing alive to begin with. I held him in affection, not love. Maybe, given the liberty of time, that affection could have developed into real love.

But time was a commodity I could ill-afford. And for that matter, so was love. As matters stood, it was a one-way traffic from day one, with him as the ardent pursuer and me the reluctant obliger.

But it wasn’t easy to rationalise when you were breaking someone’s heart, even if you didn’t mean to, for the heart is such a fragile thing.

But I had a future to consider and that future did not involve love for a man, only love for the written word. Nothing could be more real or genuine. Anything as inconsequential as marriage and family had to wait.


Kak Teh said...

Puteri, who was it who interviewed you at NST? This piece reminds me of the day the three of us - Ena, Fati and I walked into the editorial floor and dare not even lift our heads - we reported to Pak Cik Dahari - the dear old man. And of course the late Tan Sri Nordin. I think I really enjoyed that time at the NST - and of course, between you and me, you know why.

It is funny that I took the route you did as well to London. Young, just married and then with child. Oh how long ago was that?

Ummi365 said...

kak kama, it really shows how strong you memory is. It's nice to have friends like kak teh remembering those years.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kak Teh - I can't recall exactly who interviewed me, but I reported to Phillip Matthews on my first day at work. That was in August 1973.

Ummi - It's funny how I can remember events of long ago, yet cannot recall what I did or where I went last week. Indeed I was fortunate to hv met kak teh again, in blogsphere, after all trhese years.. macam jejak kasih pulak..we share so many things in common :)

Anonymous said...

Komen Pak Malim, kucing ray yg alim.

Walaupun saya tak pi sekolah, kata Pak Malim sambil duduk berkelah, saya suka kawan dengan wartawan, kata Pak Malim sambil meminum teh secawan.

Pp said...

kama :-)

'choices' in life have made lesser beings confused, frustrated and dissappointed not because they have failed at what they chose to do BUT because they failed to choose!!

I admire people who dare make a choice - as unpopular as that decision may seems to others.
Frost's -"Unbeaten path" is an inspiration to this end.

pakpayne terkedu bila baca dialogue dgn grandma.....uhuks....heartbreaking moments to know her one hope and dream was not to be met.

Have a wonderful Sunday Kama!!

Thanks for this story.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

wahai pak malim, kucing ray yg alim

berkawan dgn wartawan pompuan bagus
kata kama bawak kreta pi alor janggus (aloq jangguih lagi betui)
sebab kami suka huuu haa
mengomel dan jugak merepek
jadi boleh praktis pekak telinga, esok dah kawin tahan bini pokpek..! :)

Kama At-Tarawis said...

PP - i did eventually sambung belajar, at 26 after 3 kids, and graduated at 30. sedihnya, she died the year before I went back to school. the only saving grace was that my grandpa was still alive when i graduated, sekurang2nya he tahu..

I agree about making choices. I firmly believe it's you yrself who have to decide on yr own path of life because you hv to live with it.

lenzaidi said...

Kak Kama,
i dont think there were many like you who lived to what you believed.'The road not taken by Robert Frost but less taken in the case of you befitted your undertaking well.I really salute you for taking the path less and you triumphed.
Again the pressure to earn and leave school i reckon is equally difficult decision to make only a resilient person like your good self would considered taking.

Now, you did continue your studies after 3 kids that came along and graduated.How was that possible?Que sera 1V?

Pi Bani said...

Bab-bab nak belajar apa ni we should actually let the tuanpunya badan decide. I tengok sometimes sampaikan nak ambil kursus apa pun, mak bapak yang decide (ni especially yang suruh anak-anak ambil medic). Some will still pass but end up not happy with their jobs, while some, time belajar lagi dah fail miserably pasal tak minat.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

len - aha! that segment would conclude this series..jeng jeng jeng! in cinemaspeak - Next Change - hahahaha....

Pi - you couldn't have put it more aptly. parents should not decide on their children's future vocation. bagi nasihat, guidance and words of encouragement tu cukuplah. let the kids buat pilihan sendiri. macam you katalah Pi, tuan empunya diri lebih tahu apa dia nak. tapi kadang2 takut nak bantah pilihan mak ayah. tu yg kesiannya.

bangkai said...

Foch Avenue! There's a name I haven't heard for a long time. Brings back memories, that did.

Hmmm... was Z the English teacher with the Vespa?

In any case, I'd drop my love for the written word for the love of a woman without even having to think about it.

Then again, perhaps that's why I have never finished writing my book :)

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Mat B - don't you think Foch Avenue sounds a lot better than Jalan Silang? Yes, Z was the broken-hearted Vespa owner, poor thing..

U.Lee said...

Hi Kama at-Tarawis, wow! You sure one eloquent lady. Love your this posting....and re "love"....
live life with no excuses, love with no regrets.
You keep well and have a great week, Lee.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Whoa Lee ! You sure have travelled far. Tq for dropping by. You hv an interesting site.. took a peek just now. Hv to return for a longer look.. I saw some stuff that could make good reading.. :)

Mutiara said...

Assalamulaikum Puteri
I was a silent reader and was drumming my fingers on the keyboard to put in comments especially when the headmistress Cik K was mentioned. Looking back, I could understand her situation. She must be under great pressure to produce as many rocket scientists as possible. (I think when you joined STF, she was made the headmistress). I too ran away from Science class after Form 4, so was the then head girl datuk Z****** who is now a High Court Judge. Wonder what she would be if she stayed on in Science Stream.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Wsalam Mutiara - thanks for dropping by. I no longer harbour ill-feelings towards Cik K (I used to in my jahiliah days). In understand the pressure she was in. the only regret I had then was not only she wouldnt give me benefit of the doubt, she shooed me out like kucing kurap.