My first posting as a teacher was to SMK Kuala Berang. The school was new and so was I. I was originally slated to teach in one secondary school in Air Lanas, Kelantan but as Allah willed it, a teacher in Kuala Berang was desperate to return to his home state and wrangled a mutual transfer for us.
The school's building was not ready yet so SMK Kuala Berang used Sekolah Tengku Ampuan Intan's class rooms in the afternoon.
My Bah (father) bought me a Lambretta scooter and on the first day of school, I put-putted to Kuala Berang, 25 miles (40 km) away.
I reported to the headmaster MH who promptly detailed me what to teach (BM, English, Geography, History and Art), where to teach them and when (the time table).
MH, the HM (headmaster) was a very good headmaster and brilliant at maths. He was also an alcoholic. Something must have driven him to drink although I did not know what. I don't normally ask my headmasters that kind of questions. I kept my nose away.
To be fair to MH, he did not drink on the job although my friend in charge of the Science Lab did notice that the stock of lab alcohol diminished mysteriously during the later part of every month.
MH was tolerant of my teaching experiments like the day he rushed to my class upon hearing lilting music. I was asking my pupils to paint according to what they hear for a change.
A few years later, when our school was up and running, MH came to my quarters in his Morris Minor. He thrusted into my arms a bundle of envelopes and a thin book. Although drunk, he announced that I was to conduct the Qualifying Test Examination the next day. It was to be my test too. The first thing I had to do, MH advised, was to deposit the question papers in the strong room of the Kuala Berang Police Station. Then I had to read the book and study how to conduct national examinations in about 12 hours. I was not, under any circumstances to fail him. He then started his Morris Minor and went off to continue drinking.
Dinner time came but I had lost my appetite. Instead I devoured the pages of the instruction book voraciously. To the Examination Syndicate's credit, the manual was written better than today's pc manuals. I read late into the night.
Early next morning I skipped breakfast and went straight to retrieve the question papers from the Police Station and proceeded to open the examination hall. The candidates (mostly teachers from the Malay schools) came and took the examination. It went without incident except for the grumblings of my stomach.
After I collected the last answer papers and stowed them in a sealed envelope, MH came. He saw and he beamed. He told me to get into his car and he drove to Seaview Hotel in Kuala Terengganu. He wanted to show me his appreciation the only way he knew, by giving me drinks.
My repeated protests were brushed aside and he ordered brandy and ginger ale for both of us. He relished the drink, I didn't. It was my first time (and the last) and it tasted awful. He finished my drink for me and ordered more. Then he decided to move to another hotel in Jalan Banggol where he ordered beer. I prayed that he would order something to eat. By that time, my stomach was heaving and MH was having a buzz. He started phoning the Kadhi and other state luminaries, picking quarrels with each of them.
When he saw me changing colors, MH took pity on me and decided to call it a day and go home. I threw up again in the car and MH stopped at Balik Bukit directly in front of the toddy shop. He called one of the pushcart hawkers (it was the rojak guy), spoke Tamil to the guy and disappeared into the toddy shop. MH had friends in all places. The rojak guy came to the car and massaged my neck and back but it didn't stop my throwing up. I was being punished for partaking alcohol and on an empty stomach at that.
A couple of mugs of toddy later, MH came back to the car and drove to Kuala Berang. The whole way he was berating me for not being able to hold my liquour. To him, I disgraced all anak raja. He drove straight to the
Months later, I saw him banging the door of his house calling his wife. He had forgotten that earlier he had taken his family to Kuala Terengganu, had a drinking spree and went home to Kuala Berang. He inadvertently left his wife behind in Kuala Terengganu.
MH passed away a long time ago. We missed him.
Pok Ku... where do you meet all these interesting characters??!? I never realised that Malaysia was so interesting and colourful before I started reading your blog... and to be honest, not especially for the East Coast of Malaysia. I seem to have this innaccurate picture of very sombre, staunch Muslims as the by and large population there.... Anyway, I'm glad that I was wrong. :)By DaisyBoo Blacksheep, at 5:37 AM
Haha! And I grew up amongst them, Daisy Boo!By mokciknab, at 9:37 AM
The earliest memory I had was of a flood in Kuala Berang. We were living in the teacher's quarters, and had to decamp to the school block to escape the rising waters. Was this right, Papa?
I remembered that I slept in a blue wooden cot which faced an open window, through which I could see the science lab. (or maybe it was something else)
On a recent trip to Kuala Terengganu, my mother and I persuaded my husband to take a detour to Kuala Berang, just to show him where I lived as a little girl. The quarters weren't there anymore, but the old school buildings were still intact, even the windows were the same. I stood at the spot where I thought my first home was and tried to see everything with the eyes of a four year old.
Your bedroom windows faced the other school, Tengku Ampuan Intan. We did'nt escape the floods by camping in the school. It was also under water. We had to camp in the hostel with other villagers. The hostel was on higher grounds.By Bustaman, at 10:08 AM
pokcik, I think he couldnt possibly drink those alcohols in the science lab because if he drank the wrong type of alcohol, ie methanol, he would be blinded by the content of high dosage of alcohol. if he drank ethanol, his throat would probably be burnt because usually those akak and abang makmal kept them in high molarity of alcohol.By Orang Kita, at 11:11 AM
i think laaa..:D
Orang Kita: He could have diluted the lab alcohol and not drink it "on the rocks" or "neat". MH had a acst -iron stomach anyway.By Bustaman, at 11:44 AM
oohhh....cenggitu.By Orang Kita, at 3:30 PM
Ohh..the colour of life...By Jane Johan, at 9:51 PM
Pak Ku,By Berisman, at 10:15 PM
I just wonder how your HM must have driven his Morris Minor along the road to Kuale Berang? The last time I went there(ten years ago,I think), I got to drive my car like a drunkard.The road may be straight ,but I had weave(zig-zag) my way to avoid cow dungs all over the road pavement;-)
Thanks for a very interesting story..
Our lab alcohol was Everclear, a very strong alcoholic beverage. Perhaps this is what he used. This stuff could take the hair off a man's chest, lol. -Jackie-By , at 6:58 PM
I like your blog. You should go visit drug rehab news and contribute some news or info about drug alcohol testingBy Steve Westphal, at 10:35 PM
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