Although I was born before Merdeka but on 1957 I was too young to comprehend or even to capture the epic of Independence. In fact I hardly have any attachments or memories of the first Merdeka celebrations or Batu Pahat where I was born.
I remember Kluang quite well because I was there until primary 4. School was fun and nothing to worry, unlike most of my kids today. I hardly remember learning but then remembered well the time I spent catching fish and birds in the secondary jungle and rubber estates near my neighborhood. Yes we played warfare games with neighboring housing estates – raiding their areas with our “senapang kayu “. Technology ? Yes we did make our own wooden motorcycle that glide down from the hilly roads ….. that was fun and like motorcycle GP at that times. I was so playful that when my family decided to move to Mersing, my teacher gave me 50 sen and advised me to behave myself at my new school - not to bring bad names to my Kluang school.
I remember the early good times in Kluang where my father was quite wealthy with Ford Falcon in our garage and changing cars every now and then. We can have anything that we want and even chauffeured driven to school. My father even brought home the Sultan of Johor car for us to take a ride during his peak business collaboration with the Sultan. But then life is a cycle somehow along the line his business came to the lower ebb and I remember hard times too. We survived but the hard way and both my father and mother have to work hard and live in simplicity.
Naturally in bad time the best place to head is your Kampung …. that why we moved to Mersing. In Mersing we got more attached to my mother family and in fact they were very supportive to my family during the trying times. My mother really work hard to keep the family economy going but then my father was kind of lost despite giving his best to help mother in her restaurant business. Here I was a changed person from the playful and careless person to a more responsible person helping out my mother with her business. I was more serious with education and tend to study harder and became more successful then my elder brothers and sisters. Perhaps hardship is a good stimulant for us to perform better. Coming from a big family of 12, I used to complain to my mother on the performance and poor attitude of some of my siblings. Her words always stick to my mind “ Dalam setandan kelapa bukan semua nya elok ada juga yang tidak menjadi “ I guess reflecting her words I must be thankful that I was chosen to be among the good ones not otherwise. From her words again my duty is to help the other family members who are less fortunate then me.
My child hood in Mersing was less playful and fun, except for the island hopping that I did during the weekends with the tourist boat operators. In fact Pulau Tioman, Pu Besar, Hujung, Tinggi, Rawa and the rest of islands offshore Mersing became my playgrounds.
Since I am not much of a sport man I joined the school theatre group and enjoyed the leading roles I played in school drama. We even represented the district to state level drama competition. I was told off by my teacher to focus on my study and stop the drama antics during my MCE year. Looking back I guessed he cared about me and wanted me to do well in the examinations.
I was lucky my hard work paid off when I passed my MCE with good in 1974 and was offered PSD scholarships to UK. It was quite difficult for me to take up the offer because my father passed away on the same year and I was quite reluctant to leave my mother who had to shoulder the big responsibility to feed and educate six other children under me. Of course being a great mother she could not accept my decision to forgo the scholarship. I finally accepted the offer after my uncle and aunties in Mersing told me that they will help my mother on financial or any issues while I am away. I became part of the Malaysian who benefited from the Government policy to send as many as possible Malay rural students abroad.
When I flew to London in 1974 with six other friends to take up shipping course in Liverpool, I created my first millstones by becoming the first boy from Sekolah Menengah Sri Mersing to further studies abroad after MCE. It was a good bench mark for the school because in the following years few more followed my foot steps. It was a big change from Mersing river to Merseyside Liverpool. The home of the Beatles and Liverpool FC.
…….to be continued.