We had many classes during my schooling years but there was one class everyone wished to avoid and that was the detention class.
It wasn’t my fault when it happened. He sat besides me from day one in Standard One until we were in Standard Three and I was very protective over him. Honestly I can’t remember his name but he was very special to me. Let’s just call him Mat for the sake of this story. Mat was a healthy boy and had been in my class since we were both in Standard One. However, he was suffering from epilepsy and we didn’t know what this sickness was and so we called it sakit gila babi. Every time when it happened, every one near him would run away except me. When I first saw him suffering from this terrible sickness, I was very scared and ran away from him. When his ordeal was over, I could see him sitting quietly alone and sometime he would cry. You can imagine how would a Standard One student feel crying over his terrible disease especially when his parents wasn’t around. I felt so sorry for him and from that moment I promised I would not run away from him when his sickness came.
Sometimes the sickness came while he was eating at the tuck shop and every students would scramble away. He would be like in a trance, his hands and his head would shake vigorously and some bubbles would appear from his mouth. When I saw him in this helpless situation, I ran towards him and held him tightly. Every one would just watch in a circle seeing me holding him. I was very sympathetic towards him because it wasn’t his fault and obviously he never had wanted this to happen to him. He would always feel embarrass whenever he regained consciousness because he would notice every one looking at him in a curious manner. He would be very happy whenever I was near him because he knew I would always help him. One day Mat introduced me to his parents and they were very glad to know that I cared for their son. However, I can still remember his father’s name whom I called only as Pak Atan.
It happened when we were in Standard Five and we were no longer classmates because he was cleverer than me. I was in Standard Five B while he was in the ‘A’ class. Throughout my schooling days, I was never in the ‘A’ class because I was just slightly above average. One day while we were in the midst of our lesson, we heard a commotion next door which was Mat’s class. Our teacher came out and went to the class next door. My mind began to work fast and I thought this could well be Mat’s problem. I went out of my class trying to find out what actually happened? True enough, Mat was beaten by two other boys and our teacher managed to save Mat from further beatings. Their class teacher had gone to the toilet when his sickness came. I noticed the faces of the two boys and I became very angry towards them. After class, I approached one of the boys and warned him that I would fight him ‘to death’ the next time I saw him beating Mat.
The next day while on the way to the tuck shop, he confronted me and this time he was with two other boys. I told him if he wanted a fight then we could have the fight at the school field after school was over. He accepted my offer and I began to feel scared because he had two other boys with him. Back in class I was not concentrating and kept on thinking about the coming fight and the two other boys I had to face. When the school bell rang, I went straight to the field and waited for them. I was extremely scared but I had to live up to my name. I knew the school bus would leave me and I had to walk home of about four miles away from my house. When I saw them coming, I took my shirt off pretending to be as brave as I could when I was actually trembling to the bone. Then I saw Mat and his father Pak Atan also coming towards me and when the three boys noticed them, they ran away. I was saved by Mat and his father. It seemed Mat knew that his three classmates had planned to beat me and quietly when his father came to fetch him home, he told his father about this coming fight. I told Mat’s father Pak Atan that he saved that three boys otherwise I would have them crying for help. Mat’s father commended me for being such a brave boy. If only he knew how scared I was.
The next morning our class teacher called my name and asked me to stand before the class. The teacher of Class ‘A’ had reported to my class teacher that I was a trouble maker and always looked for a fight. The three boys had complained to their teacher of what happened but they did not tell the truth. Because of my ‘bad behaviour’, my class teacher punished me by sending me to the detention class on the coming Saturday.
Detention classes were meant for students who misbehaved, always playing truant and caught fighting during class hours. The class would begin at 9.00am in the morning and finish at 12.00pm. There wasn’t any actual lesson except for some works we had to do like doing some gardening at the school compound, wash the school windows but the worse was to wash the school toilet. Our school toilet could easily win the Guiness Book of World Record for being the most dirtiest toilet in the world. Every time when I had to ease myself, I wouldn’t mind finding some hidden places in the nearby bush of the school compound rather than go to the toilet. Even all the perfume of Arabia could not erase the great distinctive smell of our school toilet.
There were six of us attending the detention class and the other five were from the Standard Six. One of them was caught smoking at the school field. The teacher who was assigned to look after us was an Indian teacher whose name I can’t recall. He was however a very kind teacher and was not too strict with us. When he informed us of the assignment, washing the toilet, I was the first to groan followed by the other five. We pleaded with him few times and the boy who was caught smoking promised he would not smoke anymore until the day he dies. The teacher smiled at us and told us that the six of us had done something very serious and the punishment for serious offences was nothing else than washing the toilet.
Before we were sent to this class, the teacher must submit our names to the Headmaster. There must be a special committee who must first approve the suggestions made by the teachers. They would then decide whether the ‘crime’ committed was very serious. The punishment list began with washing one of the school toilets and those caught with minor offences would be doing some gardening around the school compound. Once they had made the decision, the names of those going to the detention class would be displayed on the board besides the administrative office.
Finally after some pleading, the Indian teacher insisted that the five Standard Six students must wash one of the school toilets and he left me off the hook by sending me to do some gardening. I never did any gardening at home and knew not how even to begin. When he had settled down with the five boys, he brought me to the school hall where we had our weekly morning assembly. By the side of the stairs leading to the hall was a small patch of land filled with small flowery plants. He then gave me a shovel and told me to dig the surrounding area of these plants. It was not too tedious for me and I executed my responsibility with ease.
While doing the digging, he asked me why I like to fight? He knew the reason why I was sent to this class. I told him the true story (of course with my broken English) and after listening to my side of the story, he began to feel sorry for me but commended for what I did. However, he told me that in whatever situation I was in, I must not take the law into my own hands. I should have reported to my class teacher before making any decision.
Throughout my schooling days in the primary school, I was involved in two fights. The first fight was with my Chinese classmate who said I had a small head. I was very angry with him and challenged him for a fight. We fought during recess and it was held at the school field. While we were punching each other ( none of these punches reached our faces anyway), my cousin Ajis Mak Enggor who were passing by with some of his classmates saw me fighting and they all ran towards us. The Chinese boy immediately ran away because he thought Ajis and his friends were coming to assist me. Another fight I had was with another of my classmate who teased me by saying that my tetek looked like those belonging to the girls. Every time when we had our P.E classes, he would tease me. One evening after our P.E class, I went straight to him and kicked his buttocks. When he turned around to face me, I pretended to be a silat fighter with both my hands displaying the way a silat fighter performed. He thought I was a real good fighter and he ran away. Since then he never teased me again. These two fights I had were not reported to our class teacher and that saved me from going to the detention class.
That was the first and the only detention class I attended.
Mat later left school while in Standard Five as his father moved to Pahang. Since then I have not heard anything from him. He must be sixty six years old just like me but I wonder whether his epilepsy could be cured?
Memories become so precious as we grow older. How I’d wish I could go back and replay those wonderful moments when time was truly a gift of life.