Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Tribute To My English Teacher

It’s marvellous what Facebook can accomplish for you. One of the latest wonders at my end was the chance to get in touch with an English teacher who, little that she knew, played a significant part in making me who I am today.

Yes, Mrs Amar Shobha Sarna......it’s you, and this is a tribute to you.

She came into my Set B English Class for the first time in 1986. I was really nervous during this first encounter as her introduction was not words from her mouth but words that she listed on the board. The ‘rules’ as she explained, were what we had to adhere to in order to survive her lessons. She was a stark contrast from all the teachers that had taught me English before. She came across as realllllly GARANG and I was reallllly scared.

Prelude ~~~~ You see...I came from Jengka where nobody spoke English. Even the English teachers there didn’t speak English to us. They coached us on how to answer the English paper during Penilaian Darjah 5 exam, but did little else to enhance our grasp of the language. Considering the circumstances, I shouldn’t blame them though. And I actually did fairly well in the exam, being one of the three who managed to secure an ‘A’ out of about 100 students in the class. As a young boy, I had always wondered why the Malay subtitle for English programmes on TV didn’t seem to reflect what was actually being said. The punch line in the subtitle didn’t seem funny in ‘Mind Your Language’ but the laughter I heard in the backdrop of the show indicated somebody had definitely said something really funny. I thought then that it would be wonderful if I knew the language and be able to better enjoy shows like Combat and the Incredible Hulk. Then, against all odds, I had the opportunity to enrol into the Royal Military College (RMC). Expectedly, after the placement exam, I found myself in one of the weakest English classes and struggled throughout my first year while at the same time feeling intimidated by others who spoke English as if it was their mother tongue. I don’t know how I did it but managed to somehow climb my way out into Set B the following year and remained there for the next four years.

Ultimately, I found out that I had no reason to be afraid of her. In fact, her influence on me grew and the three years she taught me English was filled with lots of delightful memories. Miss Shobha as she was fondly known turned out to be a very dedicated teacher who devoted her time to help us comprehend the English language. Most of us in her Set B had to work hard no doubt, we had our fair share of being scolded by her as well...oh yes mam, I told you she was GARANG...but despite that she was a big influence on me....Why???? Because....‘SHE MADE ME BELIEVE’. She made me believe that I could speak the English language, she made me believe that I could do well in SPM, ......hey, she even made me believe that I could do well in my English 1119 exam....and ultimately she made me believe that I could be somebody...that I could accomplish things....that I could taste SUCCESS.

Miss Shobha paid attention to every little detail of our work. She diligently read every word of our essays. She was always ahead of all the little tricks we tried to pull (like ‘extracting’ sentences from the Reader’s Digest.....ha..ha..it wasn’t me:), it was my good buddy who’s now in the air force). She gave out little rewards like postcards and bookmarks to those who did well in assignments. She insisted and made sure that nobody...I really mean nobody...was late in submitting his work (we were just simply scared of the probable consequences).

At the end of my Form 4, when I found out that my English result was good enough to get me promoted to Set A, she pulled me aside and convinced me to remain in her Set B so that she could help me better prepare for SPM and 1119 exams the following year. She didn’t have to convince me...I was actually glad she offered me the opportunity to remain in her class. SPM English was one thing, but 1119 English was a completely different ball game. However, despite the seemingly impossible task of passing the 1119 exam (especially for those in Set B like me), she worked hard to prepare us for it...at times harder than us. I didn’t get an A, but the result I got surprised a lot of people...it even surprised me. And as expected I got an A for English in SPM.

She has always remained as my favourite teacher all this while...the same as Mike Flanagan as my favourite coach (Yes, you guess it, there’s going to be a tribute to him as well in the future).

She was like an angel who touched so many hearts...and changed many lives...she changed mine for sure.... and for that I’m forever indebted to her.

Mrs Amar Shobha Sarna....thank you very very much from the very bottom of my heart......you are the best.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The WRONGs and RIGHTs of parading the head of a dead animal .....and the subsequent public dialogue


A group of disgruntled people supposedly representing the residents of a housing area (are they really???) recently paraded a cow’s head as a sign of protest against the plan to relocate a Hindu temple to their area. Then the ensuing dialogue between the disgruntled people and the state authority turned rowdy, abusive and out of control. I watched online the video of the demonstration, and the eventual dialogue (if you can call it that) between the enraged people and the state authority.

I am neither well-versed in the game of politics nor bothered which political party each of the involved quarters supposedly represent, but I do believe there were so many WRONGs in the way this whole deal turned out.

-To march a dead animal ‘s head in the manner they did….WRONG.
-To step on and kick the dead animal’s head to demonstrate their feeling….WRONG.
-To claim the head was used to represent “stupidity” ….WRONG. Please....lah
-To use abusive language and to shout profanity….WRONG.
-To use abusive language and to “shout” profanity (virtual shouting I’d call it) when commenting online about both the demo and the dialogue….WRONG. Very wrong….uncivilised response to uncivilised act.
-To scream and shout and think that people will take you seriously….WRONG.
-To carry a banner saying “Take Beer” (Takbir??) during the demonstration….WRONG. What does the sale of beer in Selangor have anything to do with the relocation of the temple?
-To think that people support their actions….WRONG.
-To pull a chair from under somebody as he was trying to sit down….WRONG and very immature.
-To say they are championing Islamic cause….WRONG.
-To think that they are patriotic (one of the very loud and abusive guys was actually wearing 1Malaysia ball cap) ….WRONG.
-To incite racism….WRONG.
-To spur religious tension....WRONG.
-To say that they are “biadap” because the state authority (through actions or lack of) taught them to do so….WRONG.
-To make this a political issue….WRONG.
-To make this a racial issue….WRONG.
-To say their issue is about loud noise??? ….WRONG.
-To say their issue is about smell??? ….WRONG.
-To say their issue is about increase in crime rate??? ….WRONG.
-That nothing was done to stop the procession when it happened….WRONG.
-That the culprits are still at large….WRONG.
-That there are people who have the cheek to defend the march and the way people behaved at the dialogue….WRONG.
-That there are people using these shameful incidents for personal and political mileage….WRONG.

Don’t get me WRONG. The people have the RIGHT not to feel RIGHT about the relocation plan. They are RIGHfully RIGHT to have an opinion about it but they are not using the RIGHT approach in order to get the RIGHT response from the authority. I don’t think I’m in the RIGHT position to say whether the state government is RIGHT or the disgruntled people are RIGHT... .being apolitical and all...but RIGHT now I just feel that they should not feel alRIGHT about what they did and said....And after the many WRONGs that were witnessed during those sad occasions, I think we Malaysians still have a long way to go achieve racial harmony. And similar issues will surely crop up in the future and continue to burden our conscience.
Shame on us Malaysians....and I pretty certain I’m RIGHT about this.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Take On Iftar Invitation At A Pricey Place

We are more than half way through the whole month. I guess an intermediate reflection on my resolutions seems inappropriate at this stage. Obviously, I can’t judge my own performance…and I only hope that God Almighty will accept my amalan…….InsyAllah.

So far this Ramadhan, I have only been to one Iftar invitation and it was quite an experience. It was at a fairly nice place…of course when the price per head was in the region of RM80, you’d have to say by default it was supposed to be nice. As it turned out…the food was decent but it the whole experience made we wonder….was it all worth it. The word that kept buzzing in my head throughout the occasion was "stampede"…and many other synonyms. The alleys were narrow, people piled their plates with food (I know one of my friends would describe this as …kucing lompatpun tak lepas, literally translated as a cat will fail to leap over it), and that was only the beginning. The Qs were expectedly long…but what really bugged me was the feeling that I was back in military high school….holding my tray in line waiting for food to be served. Only this was worse, because I felt pressured to move quickly leaving me with little time to contemplate…"let see….. beef or chicken or lamb or fish or satay or the other beef, or the other chicken, or the other lamb or the other fish or the other satay….". No…no…this is Iftar at a nice place where you pay RM80 for your meal…so don’t think, juts move along. I could just feel the little "nudge" from behind every time I needed that additional nanosecond to decide. No wonder people didn’t contemplate, they just piled everything in and move along happily. And the thing was…the stampede continued on, before and during Iftar and up to at least 8.30 pm.

Anyway, I just pity this one makcik who decided to go for Gearbox Soup to start her Iftar…well, I failed to notice the many other food on her table but obviously the soup stood out like a sore thumb. I pity her because she sat right at the entrance of the buffet line and everybody who passed by would give her the OMG look when they saw the humongous cow’s knee in front of her. And it was 15 minutes away from Iftar when I saw that….it must had been the longest 15 minutes in her life I’d imagine. I guessed once Iftar arrived, people would be pretty much engrossed in their own devouring task that the image of a makcik staring at a huge knuckle would be long forgotten….and as it turned out, 3 people at my table tried the soup later and testified it was not that great…..I sure hope for the makcik’s sake, that she liked it.

I was in a great company…they paid for the meal so obviously I was expected to have a jovial time. But with the Indonesian band singing along in the background, it was rather difficult to have a decent conversation…what more with the need to join the stampede from time to time as I migrated from fruits to entrĂ©e to main course and finally to ice cream. The following band was even beyond my comprehension. They happily sang along when right next to the stage was a big screen showing "Forum Perdana"….talking about making difficult choice….and even more difficult when the band had two girls in skimpy outfits (the choice between good and evil didn’t get any clearer than this). I must confessed that I did look…(just look:)).., but hey….I thought they couldn’t have this kind of thing in Shah Alam….Anyway, after 10 minutes the hotel staff came to their senses and flipped the channel and the screen was showing a football game…..so it was easier I guessed for people to just concentrate on the band …and the mini skirt, minus the guilty feeling:).

I left the place with a mixed feeling….and without elaborating further, I was pretty sure I’d be better off having the Iftar at home, in the company of my beloved wife and kids……albeit probably having only 3 dishes, and having to chase after my kids to ensure they finish their meal…and I would probably not miss my Tarawih….which I did that day….

Last I look at my calendar, I have 3 more Iftar invitations to go to (and I have turned down a few already)……..is it going to be any better????