Friday morning last I dropped by my neighbourhood Speedmart mini market for a loaf of bread. At the payment counter, the cashier, a pleasant-faced girl of perhaps 18, gave me a friendly smile and asked:"Tak kerja hari ni?"
I returned the smile, saying "Saya dah pencen." That's not quite the whole truth, for I do not draw any pension of any kind from anywhere, and I am still writing professionally, but it beats having to explain what I do for a living.
Then she blurted: "Bekas guru ya?" Now, saying 'Yes' would definitely be an outright lie but saying 'No' would need a qualifier, and I wasn't in the mood to indulge. So I drew a deep breath, ayed with conviction, took my loaf and change, and left.
Throughout my career as a journalist, and now beyond it, I have always been mistaken as a teacher and not once any other profession.
I have been told time and again that I possess that school-marmish look and that I would not look out of place in front of a classroom or a lecture hall. As always, I would go away feeling good about myself.
Let it be known that I love being taken for a teacher, because teaching is one of the most noble professions ever, and deep in my heart I knew I would have made a fine, dedicated cikgu.
In fact, it was a toss between teaching and journalism way back in 1973. Had it not been for the timely arrival of that offer letter from the New Straits Times, I would have entered a teachers' college, majored in English and taught till the day I retired.
Today, in celebration of Teacher's Day, here I am, wishing all cikgus out there a warm Hari Guru from the bottom of my heart.
I have so many of them to thank for, for turning me into what I am today; from Cikgu Samsudin Jusoh (here and here) who guided me from Primary One to Six, to Mr Magan Lal who held my hand over Mathematics that had me completely addled in Form Three, to Cikgu Jawhariah Mahmood who shared the beauty of English and poetry with me in Form Five; I love them all...