It had been quite a while since my last posting as many things happened unexpectedly.  I was extremely busy with the publication of my second book “More Pages From My Past” which was successfully launched by Tan Sri Datuk Seri Utama Arshad Ayub on the 16th October, 2016.


The launch turned out to be a gathering of Muarians, those residing in the Klang Valley and few others who came from Muar. We had a good time meeting old friends talking about the good old days of the 50s and 60s.

500 over copies were sold during the launch and I wish to thank those who came and gave their full support.


The book is now on sale at MPH bookstores. Those who wish to purchase the book may whatsapp/sms me direct on 013-6041071. The price per book is RM40 (excluding postage).

An on-line sales service as well as e-book will be set up soon.

More stories of the 50s and 60s will be posted soon.

Thank you.

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Master Jabbar

continue from Part One

Now no longer a single father, he could find more time to devout not only to his family he loved most but to his career as well. He was extremely happy to note how his three little children adapted very well with their new mother and likewise. To him that was very important to maintain a good family life.

Abdul Jabbar loved children and beside his own, he loved all his nephews and nieces treating them all like his own. Even children from the neighbourhood would find comfort in him. A great storyteller, he would tell stories to them whenever he had the time to spare. Whenever there were school holidays, these nephews and nieces would flock into his house and they would enjoy every moment when Wak Bar (as they all called him) spent the time with them. Even when these nephews and nieces grew into adulthood, they would still love to be with him. He was perhaps the only uncle that could give them the affectionate bond greatly yearned. He understood their feelings, each and every one of them. On one occasion when he was riding in a trishaw, the trishaw man told him that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. When the trishaw man asked him to suggest a name for his baby girl, Abdul Jabbar immediately suggested the name ‘Shamsiah’. The name came out from his mouth without hesitation because at the time the question was asked, Abdul Jabbar was thinking about his niece Shamsiah, the daughter of his eldest brother Ibrahim. A few years later, he rode on the same trishaw and the trishaw man remembered him vividly. The trishaw man told him that his daughter Shamsiah whom Abdul Jabbar had suggested for her name was now schooling at a primary school and excelled well in her studies.

A nephew who lost his mother at a young age of ten would always look forward to be near him. Azmi Ismail, the son of his immediate elder brother would always find solace with his uncle Wak Bar. He would tell him stories that warmth the hearts and the young Azmi would sit by his side listening diligently as the story progressed. Such was a man who would always find time to enlighten the young ones. He would advise them the good values of life.

He advocated greatly the importance of good education for children during their growing years. To him good education was the best investment any father could give to their children. For his three young children, he had plans for them but the time wasn’t ripe.

The education policy of that period emphasized the importance of learning the English language and failing this subject in your examination meant failing your examination in total. Realizing the fact that many young Muarians of that period lacked the knowledge of the language, he mooted an idea many would shrug. In 1956 he built a school on a piece of land along Jalan Khalidi, an idea nobody of that period would even dream of. After getting all the necessary approvals, he began his school project. It was built by using wooden planks and consisted of two blocks. The first block could accommodate five classrooms and the other block consisted of three classrooms, an office, a library and a canteen. There was a small field suitable for light recreational activities. The school was named “The Muar Hana English School”, located at 100, Jalan Khalidi, Muar . It was named after the first Englishman by the name of Captain Hana who arrived at Muar town after the Japanese surrendered. Abdul Jabbar must have liked this Englishman to have named his school after him.

A great teacher himself, he roped in few of his cousins and nephews to be the teachers of the school. Among those who were teachers in this school were Aris bin Abdul Aziz (cousin), Karim bin Othman (nephew), Kamar bin Othman (nephew), Maznah binti Mohamad, Selamat bin Johari and Abdul Ghafar bin Ali (who himself earned the title Master Ghafar in later years). When the school opened for registration, the response was unexpectedly overwhelming. He had to rent a vacant house across the road that could accommodate three classrooms. Students of all races were enrolled and among them was my uncle Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid (first cousin to Master Jabbar). Uncle Aziz had many fond memories of the school before being admitted to the Muar High School.

The school functioned like any other schools and produced many outstanding students in their own fields. His uncle Abdul Rahman Hj, Taib who was younger than him took charge of all the administration of the school. The school had a football team and participated in few local tournaments. The team was named after him known as Abdul Jabbar 11.

The following year in 1957, the Bar Council of Malaya recommended to the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ibrahim that Abdul Jabbar be honoured with Justice of the Peace (JP). In the same year, he was awarded the prestigious Bintang Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim. He became a Magistrate in the Juvenile Court and Rents and Control Acts. Later in the same year he was appointed a member of the Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri Johor, Public Service Commission and the Johor Civil Service.

When everything was in place and the school he set up had made a name for itself, Master Jabbar now focused on his children. In 1958, he brought along his two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin to India with a big hope to have them registered at one of India’s well known university-the Aligarth University at Agra. The three of them went on board the ship RMS Rajuna from Singapore to Podicheri, South India. They then proceeded to Madras by rail and the journey took them three days to arrive. It was perhaps during this long trip that many things began to creep into his mind. The thought of his first wife Zaharah, the fate of his children, his new wife Kalthum and his children that would come from her. He had always wanted to be a good and responsible husband and father. He had plans he’d wish he could implement and carry on and prayed that God would grant some of his wishes. He was compelled to his own conviction to accept anything that God refused to grant, treating them as blessings from the Knower of the future.

In Madras, he met the student representative for the university and was advised to abort the idea of sending his two sons to the university. His two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin could not be enrolled to the university as age forbade their admission. Furthermore they were too young to be left in a faraway country. In his moments of quiet reflection, he reminded himself that patience and steadfastness were valuable virtues to be preserved at all times. Before leaving India, he remembered his old friend from Muar, Abdullah Ali, who was then the First Secretary to our High Commission in New Dehli. They met and both of them spent some valuable moments reminiscing those good old years they had left behind. Father and sons then left for home on board RMS Madras.

In 1962 he received an unexpected call from someone he knew when studying at the Raffles College. It was from his old friend who was now the Deputy Prime Minister of the country. Tun Abdul Razak had wanted to see him and they were to meet at the residence of the Johor’s Menteri Besar. It must be an important meeting for a Deputy Prime Minister to summon him and so he left for Johor Bahru and headed straight to Saujana, the official residence of the Menteri Besar. Upon arrival he was greeted by Tun Abdul Razak and Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos the Menteri Besar. The three discussed topics of development and areas for improvements for the state of Johor and in the midst of their discussion Tun Abdul Razak asked him something that served the actual purpose why he was called. Tun had wanted him to join UMNO and the plan was for him to be the next Menteri Besar. Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos was on the verge of retiring and the state needed someone to steer the wheel and they both thought Master Jabbar was the most suitable candidate. It was not long for him to respond and there wasn’t any reason to delay why he had to reject the honourable request from the second most important person in the country.

Master Jabbar was a good practicing Muslim. To him a mere declaration of faith was insufficient, it must be firmly rooted within oneself. Politics is the art of the possible, where back stabbing is the norm. He had enough of that and had learned enough to understand the dirty side of politics. The experience he had personally gone through taught him many valuable lessons some of which he wouldn’t wish to repeat. He had watched and observed some of his family members being vilified through politics. His own uncle Dr. Hamzah Hj. Taib, the first Malay doctor of Johor State, who was partly instrumental in crushing the British’s dream of creating the Malayan Union suffered such a fate. He was adamant that politics would no longer play a part in his life. This was evident when in 1976 after the death of an UMNO assemblyman of Parit Bakar YB. Abdul Aziz Ishak, he was offered by an opposition party to stand for election against the Barisan Nasional candidate which he refused without having to think twice. Politics was history to him.

The education policy changed with the introduction of the Razak Report rendering many private schools in the county to close their operation. After some consultations with family members and close friends, Master Jabbar too decided that the Muar Hana English School should ceased operation. It was in 1965 when he was only 44 years old, still young and energetic. He began to plan few other things to make ends meet but Master Jabbar had his life full of unexpected tragedies. He had lost his wife for the second time in 1961 due to some complications after delivering their last child Shirazah. The nature of her death was quite similar when his first wife slumbered through eternity.

Nobody for sure knew how heart broken he could be for he never let loose any of his negative traits to others. Behind that happy face that he had always extended to others was perhaps to secretly keep the agony and pain that had deeply cut his heart. Who would know how many tears he had shed alone? Who would ever know that every night before retiring to bed he could be crying alone thinking about his two wives, taken away from him during the time he needed them both? He concealed his frustration only to himself and to God. His life was an illustration of one’s great faith to the Almighty. Perhaps it was too much for him to bear and the reason why he had shunned any idea of having another wife in spite of his young age.


1967 was my last year in Muar town and I can still remember most vividly on one December morning of that year when a classmate came looking for me. Hassan had wanted to see Master Jabbar for some advice on land matters for his ailing father. He could have easily met Master Jabbar by himself but instead chose to bring me along. He knew I was related to this great Muarian respected by many. Yes, Master Jabbar had a close tie with my family and his childhood friend Abdullah Ali was my father. His relationship with my father became closer when my father married his first cousin Kamariah, my mother. My mother passed away in 1949 when I was three months old and I was then looked after by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather Abdul Hamid Hj. Taib was Master Jabbar’s uncle, younger brother to his mother Aishah. Obviously I knew Master Jabbar although I wasn’t too close to him. He was a frequent visitor to our house.

Much as I can remember, Wak Jabbar (as I called him) was a tall man, chubby but well built, bespectacled and would talk with a loud voice. Every time when he visited my grandfather, I knew it was the voice of Wak Jabbar even from a distant and without having to see him. He would be talking to grandpa on subjects of interest to both for hours. Grandpa seldom talked at home but he would turn into a fine conversationalist every time when Wak Jabbar was with him. That was Wak Jabbar’s special talent; he could turn a dull person into a lively one.

Both Hassan and I cycled to Apong’s restaurant that morning hoping to see Master Jabbar. It was still early but we planned to have our breakfast before he arrived and of course if he was in town. It was a gloomy morning with dark clouds looming over many parts of town. When we arrived the restaurant was crowded as it would always be every morning. We shared a table with two others who were absorbed with their discussion. Ah Pong was at the counter looking happy with the continuous flow of customers that kept coming. He knew me as “Din anak Kolah” and was a good friend of my father. I went to see him and asked whether Master Jabbar would be coming this morning? He gave me a positive answer for he knew too well the schedule of his special customer. All the tables were filled with customers except the one with a typewriter on it.

At slightly above 10.00am, Master Jabbar arrived on a trishaw, his usual daily transport as he couldn’t drive. In spite of not being able to drive, he had an amazing record of being the first to ride on a moto-moped in Muar town; a small motor bike slightly bigger than a normal bicycle with a small engine. It could be peddled as well as riding like a motor bike. In fact he was the first in Muar district to own a Lambretta scooter. He had told to his children how he had gone to Malacca to collect his newly scooter. Being the proud owner of this ‘fascinating’ vehicle, he rode it home to Muar town. Halfway he stopped at one village to take a rest. When the kampung folks saw the scooter they were amazed at seeing a peculiar vehicle never seen before. Many came to view for themselves this new invention. When he reached Muar town, the first thing he did was to ride straight to Aman Workshop and met the workshop owner Pak Man himself. He told Pak Man to keep the scooter and study the parts so that it would be convenient to repair it whenever the scooter gave any problem in the near future. He always think ahead, just in case. In the evening he would ride the scooter bringing along his little children who would stand behind the center of the handles.  His five young boys namely Ali, Shamsuddin, Abdul Majid, Hanafi and Abdul Kadir would  enjoy the riding spree around Muar town ridden by their father. Sometimes the four of them would be on the scooter with Abdul Majid standing at the front in between the handles while the other three would be sitting behind him. All heads would turn to the strange moving vehicle.

As he stepped out from the trishaw, few people were already waiting for him at the entrance of the restaurant. Some had come as early as 8.00am to see him. It was like a typical scene in a busy clinic with patients queuing to see a doctor. Master Jabbar greeted them and invited them to his table. His hot black coffee was already on the table. They always had it prepared the moment he showed up. Both Hassan and I decided to let the others conducted their business with him and finally when he was sitting alone, the two of us approached him.

“Salam Wak Jabbar, my friend wants to see you”, I told him as I extended my hand to his. He invited the two of us to take our seats. As we sat in front of him, he looked at me and asked, “You look so familiar, have we met somewhere before?” Then I told him who I was and he immediately smiled and said, “No wonder I thought I’ve seen you somewhere. Ok let me deal with your friend first.” Hassan explained to him the problem his father had with regards to some land matters and he advised him accordingly like a true professional. When he had done with Hassan, he turned to me and asked:

“So young man, are you still schooling?”

“Yes Wak Jabbar. Just sat for my form five examination last month,” I answered.

” And what are your plans? Aren’t you going to pursue higher education?”

“I have no plan for the moment Wak Jabbar. I will be leaving for Kuala Lumpur in a week’s time and will decide after that”. We talked for a few minutes touching mainly on my immediate family members whom he knew them all too well. He described the nature of man my grandfather was, about my late mother and how she was supposed to marry her cousin instead of my father and he could even described how soft spoken my grandmother was.

When I noticed the people wanting to see him had built up, I decided that we should leave. Hassan asked how much was his service to which he answered smilingly, “I don’t charge anything for just uttering some words”. Before we parted, Wak Jabbar told me to come and visit him at this place whenever I had the time.

I did not. That was the last time I met him but the memory of this great man will lingers on. I remember few things about him. There was one evening when he came to our house looking for my grandfather, in fact he wanted to see my uncle Aziz who made the grade and was accepted to be admitted to the Muar High School. Uncle Aziz who was a student of the Muar Hana English School was playing football with his friends at the field of the police barracks nearby. Both grandpa and Wak Jabbar walked to the field looking for uncle Aziz and I followed them. They both were more like friends rather than uncle and nephew. Whenever there were family gatherings Wak Jabbar would surely be around and as usual he would always be the center of attraction.


After completing his terms as a magistrate as well as with the Johor Civil Service, Master Jabbar had more time to himself. To fill in the gap, he took interests in few hobbies; collecting stamps, writing, music and even weight lifting. He liked listening to music and had himself not only a radio but a Hi/Fi Amplifier, something not many had in those days. He almost got himself hooked into running the Amateur Radio ( but aborted the idea because he had to learn the Morse-Code as required by the Communication Commission to get a license. For weight lifting he had a full equipment at his disposal well placed inside his house.

He even took up photography with all the necessary equipment including a picture processor. For the dark room, he used a toilet and the pictures would come out nice and clear. During the rush for the identity card, he went inside few villages and took the photographs of these people so that they would not have to go to town to have their pictures shot. That was how kind and considerate the man was.

Friday morning being a weekend holiday was reserved for his children. He would treat them lavishly and of course at Ah Pong’s restaurant. A trishaw would come to fetch them with the father sitting with his eldest daughter Mihrimah, his youngest daughter Shirazah on his lap while the boys squatting at the small space by the front. The family would be enjoying their breakfast of satay and lodeh, mi jawa and Ah Pong’s home made drinks.

In 1988 he performed his Haj pilgrimage on the first flight to the holy land and in the same year he received the medal PIS II from the late Johor Sultan DYMM Sultan Iskandar.

Sometime in 1990, he noticed his grandchild who was schooling in the afternoon session did not perform her zuhor and asar prayers. When asked why, she answered by saying there wasn’t a suitable place for her to pray. The next thing he did was to write a letter to the then Education Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the needs to provide facilities in schools for Muslim students to perform their prayers. The letter was registered and he had it posted personally. A week later the Education Minister instructed that all schools should provide facilities for Muslim students to enable them to perform their prayers. A small thought from a great man could change a policy of a ministry and that what made Master Jabbar a great man in his own way.


All close family members had been informed of his deteriorating stage and how his health had failed him by the hour. They all came to spend the last few hours with a man they loved most. Some grieved silently with great pains while some others cried uncontrollably. The thought of losing a lovable man who had been unconscious for the last three days in the hospital was truly unbearable and prayers kept coming continuously for his recovery. When doctors advised that they should bring him home, they knew that his audience with God was now near. They made all the necessary preparation and the house of his son Shamsuddin in Sungei Mati was ready to accommodate more close family members who were on their way to Muar.

On the night of 8th October 1992, Master Jabbar was brought home in an ambulance accompanied by his eldest daughter Mihrimah and her husband Daruish. That was a journey they both wished did not happen. Holding the hand of his dear father who was motionless, she kept on crying and praying for the best but her dear father did not respond. Strange as it could be, she noticed the lips of his motionless father moved slowly chanting the name of his Creator throughout that short and painful journey. Even at the time of his near death, Master Jabbar did not fail to remember God.

When they arrived home, the house was already filled with close relatives; his children,his siblings, uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces all with teary eyes as they watched with great pains the man they loved being carried to the bed already prepared. They all sat by his bed side offering prayers and many began reciting the surah Yassin. Even at the time of his death he was not alone but surrounded by many who kept on wishing that God would extend the life of a man they loved most. But his life must end and slightly before dawn, Master Jabbar peaceful slumbered through eternity having successfully uttered There is no God but Allah.

They buried him at the 6th mile Jalan Bakri Muslim cemetery.

….to be continued Final Part.






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master jabbar 3

Along the road of Jalan Suleiman of Muar town leading towards Tangga Batu on the left side was once a kopitiam that would serve its customers as early as 6.30am. A few distance from this famous restaurant was the site of the ferry services where commercial activities were always bustling. Office workers and school children from the other side of the Muar River would arrive to proceed to their working places and schools respectively. Fishermen with their catch could be seen along some parts of the shore negotiating with wholesalers from the town’s wet market. Buses would begin to ferry passengers and the trishaws had by then positioned themselves to receive their passengers to carry them to their respective destinations. As the eastern sun began to rise, the Tangga Batu of Muar Town would repeat yesterdays’ activities and the lively scenario would continue to gain momentum as the clock ticked. This kopitiam thus played a very important role to complement the early hours of the broken morning.

Filled with round tables made of marble and chairs of high quality wood, customers would flock to have their first meal of toasted bread spread with butter and kaya, half-boiled eggs and black coffee. The owner known simply as Ah Pong to the locals would be serving his home made drinks of hot and cold barley. By 7.30am, more customers would flock into the kopitiam and this time it was the grilling smell of satay that caused them to gravitate. Owned by one of the Muar cartel satay families, Wak Santano had one of his outlets in this famous restaurant. This setting of the mid-sixties was a typical scene of Muar town and as the clock ticked further reaching to 10.00am, more customers would fill the kopitiam, some craving for the satay and lodeh, others would be enjoying their toasted bread but there were few others who came with a different agenda. They came to this place in search of one man; a tall, chubby and bespectacled elderly gentleman known affectionately by Muarians of my early years as Master Jabbar.

Muar town during my growing years had quite a number of English teachers whom we referred to as “Master”. We had Master Nasir, Master Daud, Master Ghafar, Master Khaled but the most outstanding was none other than Master Jabbar. Once a proud owner of an English medium school known as the Muar Hana English School, Master Jabbar was regarded by many as a man of great vision adhering to the flow of development in parallel with the needs of the western world. My contemporaries looked upon him with great respect extending him the honour like all other humans of great wisdom. Always hardworking and alert, he kept on pursuing tirelessly the good values of society to justify the time bestowed by God. Now in his twilight years when some of his contemporaries would succumb to old age and spending more of their time at home, Master Jabbar refused to kick the bucket and kept on charging his energy to the fullest that could shame his younger generations. At the left side inside this kopitiam was a table with a typewriter on it and some documents. This table was reserved only for him. Refusing to accept his declining stamina that time had taken much of it, Master Jabbar made himself to be a Petition Writer, after all he was qualified to be one; he was bestowed Justice of the Peace (JP) by the Sultan of Johor in 1957 at the recommendation of the Bar Council. Reaching the zenith of his life and wisdom, he spent his last years using his mental skill more than his physical ability bowing gracefully accepting the fact that age had finally caught up with him.

This article is dedicated to a man Muar town of his era owed so much.

Abdul Jabbar was born on the 4th of January 1921 to Abdul Majid bin Ahmad and Aishah Hj. Taib. His father Abdul Majid was a Javanese descent tracing his roots to the monarchs of central Java, Indonesia where Kings and Queens were next to gods and goddess. His mother Aishah on the hand was a thick blooded Bugis whose ancestors were sea warriors who hailed from the Celebes providing excellent services to the Johor Sultanate in driving away pirates over the South China Sea borders. The blended characters of both husband and wife produced children of strict discipline, articulate in characters, good morals and Abdul Jabbar lived up to these expectations and disciplines.

His early education started at the Sekolah Bandar Maharani situated along the same spot where stood the central wet market. The young Abdul Jabbar exhibited his early intelligence with his fast learning skills and went on to proceed his education at the Muar High School. Among his classmates were Abdullah bin Ali whom in later years became our country’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Talib bin Darwish who became Brunei’s head of the Public Works Department (PWD). Abdullah’s relationship with Abdul Jabbar became even closer when Abdullah married his first cousin Kamariah Abdul Hamid. Both Abdul Jabbar and Abdullah went on to pursue their education at the Raffles College in Singapore and it was here that he became friends with students from other states most notable was Malaysia’s second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak.

Abdul Jabbar excelled in his education and dreamed of becoming an architect but that dream was vetoed when he received a scholarship to study Law in London. Destiny and fate are written, so they say. While waiting for the date of his departure to London, the Japaness attacked Malaya and it was in that year of 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army landed at Kota Bahru, Kelantan to begin its rule over British Malaya. The good life began to change and the administration became everything Japanese. Abdul Jabbar had to abort his plan and worked temporarily at a rice warehouse situated on the same area where once stood the Muar Daimond Jubilee along Jalan Sultan Ibrahim. He worked as a Clerk and because of his proficiency in the English language, the Japanese Commander who could speak the language well became close to him. Impressed with the Commander’s command of the English language, Abdul Jabbar lend him some of his books much to the delight of the Japanese master. At times he would relate stories to the Commander in English and over the time their relationship grew.

Among those who worked at the warehouse were Mat Indera and Margono and because they were anti-Japanese to the core, they soon joined the underground unit of the Malayan Peoples’ Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA). However, they did not look back and continued their struggle for an independent Malaya after the Japanese surrendered and joined the the Communist Party of Malaya.

A year later in 1943, Abdul Jabbar got himself a wife. As a matter of fact, he had been engaged with this girl even before the Japanese invasion. His father had a relative named  Shamsuddin staying in Batu Pahat and was a very influential person of that district. It happened one night while having dinner with his family that his father told his children how he’d wish to see one of his sons to marry one of Shamsuddin’s daughter. Without hesitation Abdul Jabbar was too happy to fulfill his father’s wish and so he was officially engaged to Zaharah, one of the daughters of Shamsuddin. He was 18 years old then and his fiancee was still schooling.

They were both pronounced man and wife when he was 21 years old and it was held at Sungei Ayam, Batu Pahat where the bride’s parents stayed and a few days later another ceremony was held at his parents’ house along Jalan Omri, Muar. Awkward it may seem, Abdul Jabbar had never met his wife in person even when they were both engaged. That was a risky venture he took, not knowing how pretty or ugly his future wife could be. Some of his friends would tease him but he was never perturbed and instead would answer resolutely “no money can buy the thrill”. His first sighting of his wife was on the day they both sat side by side during the bersanding ceremony and he must have sighed a great relief to see for the first time the pretty face of his dear wife. (Malay weddings during the Japanese occupation could only be done during the day). Deep in his heart he vowed to be a good husband and a good father to their children. Now his dream to pursue higher education had turned into a distant dream  It was however a good marriage and they were blessed with three children; Mihrimah the first child and a girl followed by two boys Mohammad Ali and Shamsuddin. The happy marriage life turned tragic when his wife passed away in 1948 after giving birth to their third child due to some complications but life had to go on and the single father weathered through the stormy life raising his three little children with great care.

When the Japanese surrendered and Malaya was again under British rule, Abdul Jabbar became an English teacher teaching at the St. Victoria School which was then situated next to the Christian church along Jalan Salleh. It was in this school that he taught one student who later became the head of  MCA and a Federal Minister. That student was Dato’ Neo Yee Pan. When the school was closed he went on teaching English at KK English School and later at the Maharani English School. The same school where St. Victoria was later became known as St. Andrews School.

Abdul Jabbar was the seventh child in a family of eleven siblings. The first four were girls followed by seven boys of which he was the third boy. Although unable to pursue his dream for higher education abroad, he received a number of good working offers but outside Muar town. Among the few offers he received were to be a Police Inspector and a District Officer of other district. His two elder brothers Ibrahim and Ismail had made their grades and were on their way to their exciting careers and so Abdul Jabbar decided to accept these offers to enhance his own destiny. Again fate had it written that he must stay put in his hometown. His mother forbade him to leave town and was asked to take care of his younger brothers who were still in their schooling years. Furthermore his mother’s health was deteriorating and being dedicated and loyal to the family, Abdul Jabbar agreed to sacrifice.

In 1954 he was appointed as Ahli Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan for a one year term which was extended for another year in 1955 and it was in this year that the British government decided to have a local council election. Now Abdul Jabbar was beginning to taste the bitter side of politics. He decided to stand as a candidate but not under the wings of the established UMNO party, he was adamant to stand as an independent candidate. That was one big risk and which also meant that he had to fork out all expenses on his own. Some friends advised him to think twice but Abdul Jabbar was unperturbed and knew he could sail pretty well. He had many friends of all races and his two year term as Ahli Majlis had gained him worthy experiences that could be used during the campaigning period. The race was set and the whistle blown. Abdul Jabbar began his political battle with an UMNO candidate under the Alliance Party.

Almost all family members, close and distant relatives gave their undivided support and Abdul Jabar went around the constituency which was along the road of Jalan Salleh towards Parit Stongkat with his fierce rhetoric. Words began to spread among the UMNO members that he was a force to be reckoned with and should be treated as a heavyweight and treating him otherwise was a great mistake. They sent their best orator to counter Abdul Jabar’s excellent public speeches. A young lawyer by the name of Saadon Zubir arrived in Muar town and was invited to speak for the UMNO candidate during one night at the Padang Muar Club. When he received the news, Abdul Jabbar went to the police station and applied for a permit to speak at the same time and venue where Saadon Zubir would be speaking. Apparently his permit was approved but later when it was discovered that the same permit had been given to the Alliance party, the OCPD went around Muar town looking for him. When they met, the OCPD requested that Abdul Jabbar cancelled his intention so as to avoid any undesirable incident. He flatly refused and told the English Officer of his rights to keep up to his schedule.

That night the Padang Muar Club received overwhelming response from the public all wanting to hear the speeches of two great orators from both sides of the fence. But Abdul Jabbar applied a witty and cunning strategy. Earlier during the day, he had summoned his close friends of various races and trades and told them he needed their cooperation for the night. The owner of the Grand Paradise cinema was to supply him the best movie they could find and another friend being a Quarry operator to get his lorry full of granite and pebbles. Although unknown to them what was in Abdul Jabbar’s mind, they gladly extended their full cooperation.

That night when the battle began, Saadon Zubir took the microphone and began to speak. There wasn’t any stage, both sides used lorries as platforms to speak. Just as the crowd began to fill the field where Saadon was speaking, Abdul Jabbar showed an exciting movie over his side. A free movie with so many fighting scenes was obviously more thrilling than listening to a political speech and so most of the crowd began to disperse from the UMNO area and turned their faces toward the screen. When most of the crowds were absorbed with the exciting scene, Abdul Jabbar killed the climax and stopped the movie as intermission and that was the opportune time for him to reach the crowds with his speech. Both sides began to hurl disparaging remarks at each other and the situation became almost chaotic with each side of the supporters almost engaged in a scuffle. That was the time the lorry full of granite and pebbles arrived at the site where Abdul Jabbar’s supporters were. The granite and pebbles served as their arsenal, just in case. However, there wasn’t any bad incidents and the OCPD sighed a great relief saying “This incident never occurs anywhere except Muar”. Later Saadon met Abdul Jabbar’s eldest brother Ibrahim and told him “Yem, adek engkau Jabbar hentam aku kiri kanan” (Yem, your younger brother Jabbar ‘bombarded’ me in his speech endlessly).

Another strategic plan employed by Abdul Jabbar was to write letters to all the voters in his constituency. When the polling was over, some of the voters confessed that they voted for Abdul Jabbar because the letters they received instructed them to do so. When the result was out, he won with a handsome margin and was declared as the new Ahli Majlis Daerah. 

As a representative for his constituency, Abdul Jabbar executed his responsibilities well and introduced reforms beneficial to the people. It was during this period that he was appointed as a panel of Prison Inspectors, Johor State War Executive Committee, Commissioner of Oaths, Chairman of the Penarik Beca Association, Board of Governors Sekolah Ismail School Two and a panel of Jury of the High Court. His popularity was at its height but yet he knew no glory and he became even more closer to the ordinary masses.

1955 was a good year for him and it was even more exciting when he met a beautiful young woman who was destined to be his future wife.

Malaya was fighting for its independence from the British and UMNO played a leading role headed by its President Tunku Abdul Rahman. As a young political party, it lacks many things among which was finance. A delegation comprising the three major races of the country was invited by the British government to begin negotiation in London. They needed funds and UMNO members throughout the country were requested to raise the fund. In Muar town, some of the members likewise did the same and went around to collect donations and financial contributions from those who could afford. Among them was a young woman named Kalthum binti Anuar who hailed from Parit Keroma, a village quite near the town. She was a dedicated Wanita UMNO member who sacrificed much of her time going around the housing areas looking for donors. Every time when she came to Muar town, she would be staying with her cousin Arfah binti Abdul who stayed along Jalan Joned.

Kalthum had few close friends in Muar town and among them was a lady known as “Mak Jah Kucing”. What an amusing nickname but such peculiar nicknames were common among Muarians of that period. Mak Jah Kucing knew Abdul Jabbar as well and it was her who suggested to him to take Kalthum as his wife. He had never met Kalthum and had no idea how she looked like. But being Abdul Jabbar that was never a priority, after all he only saw for the first time the pretty face of his late wife on their wedding night. It was Mak Jah Kucing who kept telling him how beautiful Kalthum was.

One night there was a Fun Fair at the Padang Muar Club and that meant night outing for many Muarians. Muar town of that period had not much entertainment outlets and so when a Fun Fair came to town, nobody wished to be left behind. Abdul Jabbar was neatly dressed and ready to show his presence at the famous field. Likewise Kalthum was ever ready to spend the evening with her friends at the same place. Earlier during the day there was a heavy downpour and some parts of the field were muddy.

Like in a love story of a typical Hindustani movie, the hero Abdul Jabbar arrived at the Fun Fair with style and on the other side of the field was the heroine Kalthum mingling among the crowds with her friends. The hero waved tirelessly every time he bumped into some friends while the heroine kept giggling listening to some funny gossips. They both kept walking and as they were about to cross path, they both noticed a muddy area in front of them. As they both tried to avoid the muddy area, both of them almost skipped and when that happened their eyes met. When the hero saw her, he almost got himself electrocuted from the power supplied by the heroine. It was obviously love at first sight and Abdul Jabbar took no time to inform Mak Jah Kucing that he would obediently heed her kind suggestion. Arrangement was made for both of them to meet and they eventually tied the knot.

It was a happy marriage and they were blessed with four children; Abdul Majid, Mohammad Hanafi, Abdul Kadir and Shirazah.

To be continued….Part Two.





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sekolah bandar maharani

In December 1955 I was five years and nine months old and never bothered about going to school. I would only be going to school in 1957 and that would be a very long time to go. In the meantime I was enjoying life of a very young boy running around the house, playing with my cousins and the neighbouring boys of my age. We would play hide and seek and many other games where toys were not needed. We would climb trees that had branches within our reach and we would catch grasshoppers wherever and whenever we saw them. We would only return home for lunch when our stomach gave the signal. We kept on playing under the hot sun and when it rained we played in the rain even more happily. There wasn’t a moment we wasted and by dusk we would be at home ready for dinner. So obviously I had no worries not until one night when grandma broke the bad news.

While having dinner, grandma told everyone that next year I would be going to school and next year would be in a month’s time. I was shocked to hear the news and asked grandma why? She said I must learn how to read and write in Jawi because there would not be a lesson conducted in Jawi when I would begin my Standard One in 1957. Immediately my appetite eroded and the good food in front of me looked tasteless. Grandpa and the others (my uncles and aunties) did not say a word and kept on eating while I just played with my rice with a broken heart. That night before going to sleep I cried silently thinking what a waste having to go to school and missing all the fun the others my age would be enjoying.

A few days later grandma said tomorrow morning grandpa would be bringing me to the new school I would be attending for one year and to have my name registered. As the days grew nearer, I began to suffer insomnia and would toss around left and right at least for an hour before I could sleep.

Our maid-servant Mak Yang had prepared breakfast the following morning and grandpa was still in his room putting on his clothes ready to bring me to my school. It was a fine morning with the eastern sun rising steadily and the morning clouds moving gracefully. I was already fully dressed and my hair of center parting combed by grandma and Mak Yang smiled when she saw me with my stockings on. Our daily breakfast would always be boiled tapioca eaten with grated coconut mixed with white sugar but that day it was special; we had toasted bread spread with butter and sugar on top. Those days we toasted the bread on top of a wire mesh and underneath a bunch of very hot arang until we could see the white bread turning brownish in colour. After having my breakfast, grandma brought me outside the house where grandpa was waiting holding both handles of his bicycle. She carried me on to the steel bar of the bicycle and grandpa began peddling. I was on my way to my new school.

At five plus, I had never ventured outside the territory of our playing ground and so this morning many scenes that we passed by were alien to my eyes. I sat silently gazing at the new environment and noticed one or two cars in black colour passing our way in both directions. We passed Jalan Ibrahim leading towards Simpang Lima, the only junction in Muar town that connected to five roads. Grandpa kept on peddling without saying a word but being grandpa, he seldom talked even when at home. Grandma would be the one doing the talking. All my uncles and aunties would communicate with grandma first if they needed something (like asking for some money) from grandpa.

It wasn’t too long to reach the school situated along Jalan Arab. This school was known as “Sekolah Bandar Maharani” with a very typical English facade. Grandpa stopped at the front gate and I jumped down. He then parked his bicycle and locked it and walked straight into the building while I followed from behind. When we reached the office, there were only two people sitting on their respective tables. When one of them saw grandpa, he rose and went straight to see grandpa. Then grandpa took out my birth certificate which grandma gave to him earlier at home and he pointed at me and the office worker looked at me too. He nodded and began to write something while holding to my birth certificate. Grandpa asked me to sit down on a chair not far away and I did as told, sitting quietly looking at the surroundings inside the office. After a few minutes the office worker stood up and gave grandpa a piece of paper together with my birth certificate. I guess business was over because grandpa asked me to follow him to his bicycle.

Upon reaching the bicycle he carried me to the steel bar and I sat on it and again holding the center of the bicycle’s handle and he began to peddle. Grandpa did not go home and instead he cycled into town which was nearby the school. I was amazed to see so many tall concrete buildings  (only two storeys) in rows and there were quite a number of people around. Around this place I noticed a number of cars all black in colours moving in both directions.

Then grandpa stopped at a shop selling satay. He carried me down, parked his bicycle and walked straight into the shop and I walked behind him. He went to a round table made of marble and sat down and showed me a chair beside him for me to sit down. An old Chinese man came and asked whether he could take our orders. Grandpa asked for a black coffee and asked me what would be my drink. I replied with a grin that I would like a cup of ‘Ovaltine’ because it tasted like chocolate. My head was slightly above the table and when my drink came, I could not drink properly and so I stood up to have my drink. Grandpa poured some onto the cup’s plate and gave it to me to drink while he kept on holding the plate. Then he asked the satay man to wrap some satay to bring home for grandma and the rest. When it was ready, the satay man came with some wrapped satay while the gravy was put inside a used condensed milk tin properly tied with a rope so that grandpa could carry it together with the wrapped satay. When we both finished our drinks we went straight home.

At home after we had our lunch grandma did the talking. She told me the building I went to with grandpa was the building of the school I would be attending to in two weeks’ time. In a day or two she said she would be going to town to buy my school uniform, a new rubber shoes and two pairs of white socks. After this she would tell me every day that I must learn as much as I could. I must learn how to write and read both in Jawi an Rumi. I must learn how to calculate numbers by heart. She would even tell me every night before I went to sleep and I could not escape her lecture because I slept with her.

A few days before school begun, a man came to our house looking for grandpa. His name was Malek. Grandpa then invited him in and asked grandma to look for me. I was running all over the house with my female cousins when grandma called me. As I entered I saw the man talking to grandpa and grandma introduced me to him. Pak Malek would be my beca (trishaw) man, ferrying me to school and to fetch me after school.

The first Sunday of January 1956 I started my first school day crying non-stop. From the moment I woke up, in the bathroom and while grandma was dressing me, I cried and cried. I would only stop crying when grandpa starred at me but he could not stare at me all the time and so every time he was not around I would resume my crying. Grandma gave me ten cents for me to spend at the tuck-shop.

It was almost 7.15am when Pak Malek arrived and I was still crying. Grandma brought me out of the house and we both went straight to the beca where Pak Malek was waiting. Inside the beca I saw another boy my age already seated inside the beca. I was still crying when I sat beside him and Pak Malek began peddling on my first journey to school. Along the way my crying began to subside and the new boy kept looking at me. When we arrived at the school I noticed there were many school children and some of them were bigger than me. Then I saw grandpa waiting at the entrance of the school. He had gone to the school earlier to check which class I would be attending to. Then he brought me to the classroom which was situated at the back of the building. Many boys of my age were already seated and some were wearing their songkok. Two or three boys were crying but by now I was not crying any more. Grandpa then told me to go to the entrance after the end of the school session and to look for Pak Malek and he left for home.

A few minutes later our class teacher arrived. His name was Cikgu Rahman Mahmood. He was wearing a white long sleeve shirt with a white trousers and a songkok. After introducing himself, he gave a very short speech about the importance of learning and the advantages of knowing how to read and write. Then he asked each of us to stand up one by one and to give our names after which he would write our names in a book that was on top of his table. I noticed a boy whom I used to see at our family functions named Shahroldin and later I found out that we were related.

Our first lesson was to know the Jawi alphabets which the teacher wrote down on the blackboard. He would recite these alphabet and requested us to repeat them after him. It went on until the bell rang for a short recess. All of us then went to the tuck-shop to have our meal. I bought a plate of mi goreng and a glass of rose syrup that cost five cents. After my meal I walked around alone looking at the new environment I be must accustomed to for the next eleven months. The bell rang again and we all went back to our class to resume our learning. This time Cikgu Rahman taught us the Rumi alphabets. The class ended at around twelve thirty and I ran straight to the school entrance looking for Pak Malek. When he saw me he waved at me and I ran straight to his beca. The boy who was in the same beca this morning came running towards us. We then went back home sending me first.

At home I was like a celebrity. Everyone was looking for me to find out how was school. I told them that the building of the school was taller than the coconut trees. I told them that I now knew the alphabets of both the Jawi and Rumi and when they asked me to recite the alphabets, I told them that they had to go to the school to find out when actually I had forgotten. After school my life became vibrant running around the house with my female cousins of my age only to be sad again the next morning.

For the next few days or more I would cry every day before going to school and was a real nuisance. The boy who sat beside me in the beca must have thought the same about me. I would cry even inside the beca and this boy would just stare at me. A few days later a girl joined us and the three of us became friends. I stopped crying because I was shy to cry in front of a girl. The three of us would talked and laughed  inside Pak Malek’s beca while he kept on peddling the beca happily. The boy’s name was Murad bin Hassan but I can’t remember the girl’s name.

Although I would cry every day before going to school, I was a different person at school. In fact I began to like many things while in school. In the beginning we did not have exercise books to write but were given writing tablets made of wood and a small blackboard for us to write on and we wrote by using white chalks. Only after one month we began writing on our exercise books.

Although we have quite a number of teachers, I can only remember one. Cikgu Rahman Mahmood was a good man who taught us with great patient and never scolded any of us. In later years, Cikgu Rahman became a politician and craved a name for himself in the history of Muar Umno. He stood as an Umno candidate in few general elections and became an assemblyman for his constituency. He was made a Dato by the Sultan of Johor and sometimes in the late 70s he became an Executive Committee (EXCO) of the State Government of Johor. I had the opportunity to meet him one night at an Umno function in Johor Bahru sometime in 1985. When I told him that he was my class teacher in 1956 at the Sekolah Bandar Maharani, he exclaimed, “Yes I was but you can still remember me after so many years?” I replied, “Teachers normally can’t remember their past students, but a student can remember a teacher particularly a good and kind teacher”.

As for Murad the boy who sat beside me in the beca, he was not long with the school as he had to follow his parents who moved to Johor Bahru. Later I was informed that Murad left for Australia to pursue his studies. His father became the first elected Menteri Besar of the State of Johor. He was Tan Sri Hassan bin Hj. Yunos and the state government honoured him by naming the Larkin Stadium of Johor Bahru as “Stadium Tan Sri Hassan Yunos”. Murad had a colourful life travelling around the world until finally he met his old JB sweetheart and they tied the knot.

My classmate in the class Shahroldin bin Ali who is related to me excelled extremely well in his later years and was made a Dato.

My beca man Pak Malek continued to ferry me to school and later in 1957 to my new primary school which was about four miles from home. When I was in Standard Four Pak Malek retired and after that I cycled to school.

Both Murad and Shahroldin are still among my best friends today. Whenever we meet, we will always remember those wonderful years when we had no worries and life was so simple. As we grow older, we realize how precious life was then but we had no regrets; we spent those wonderful years with great happiness.

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My book Pages From My Past was published on the 24th November 2013. It was well received and many have expressed their satisfaction after reading it. We hope to have our third printing soon.

We are now preparing to publish the sequel Pages From My Past 2. We are making every effort to have the second book much better than the first. We are targeting to have the book launched before the year end.

Hope to receive your continued support.

Thank you.


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Selamat Hari Raya Haji

Young kids of my growing years knew not the significance of celebrating another day known to us then as Hari Raya Haji. We only knew a number of things about our religion and the celebration that went along with it. We knew because we heard all these from the elders of our family but we knew not the significance of celebrating them. We knew why we celebrated the Hari Raya Puasa because God said you could now celebrate after having fasted for one whole month. We also knew that the Hari Raya Haji was meant for people who had gone to Mecca and they became a “Haji” upon their return. But others especially young kids could celebrate as well. What became even more interesting about this celebration was our town mosque would be slaughtering some cows and the meat of these cows would be given away for free. On the morning of this day, they would cook a special dish called Nasi Briyani Gam served on a dulang to be shared with four persons. And now the Hari Raya Haji was approaching and we all looked forward to celebrate this day.

The atmosphere of this special day in my hometown of Muar during the fifties was as enjoyable as celebrating the Hari Raya Puasa. The most best part of the Hari Raya Haji was we need not fast like the one month of Ramadan. So whenever my grandma baked some cookies, we could eat some of them immediately after they had been baked and it was truly delicious. In a few days time we would be celebrating the Hari Raya Haji and kids like me looked forward for another special day in our life.

Grandpa had by now mowed the lawn surrounding our house while grandma was busy washing and cleaning the curtains hung at most windows of the house. Believe it, we had eighteen windows on the upper floor of the house not counting those on the ground floor. Most Malay houses of my growing years would be a two storey wooden bungalow that stood on a concrete beam and at the front would be concrete stairs of semi spiral in design. Depending on the height of the ground concrete beam, some houses would have a room or two at the front ground floor and a small living room. For Hari Raya Haji we need not change a new curtain because it was recently changed during the last Hari Raya Puasa. Every part of the house would be clean, even the drains would be free from any debris.

The food to be prepared was quite like those we had during the last Hari Raya Puasa and so a bullock cart would soon arrive to deliver the chopped rubber woods. During every festivals, we needed lots of chopped rubber woods for cooking purposes like boiling the ketupat, cooking the beef rendang and the main gravy for the Laksa Johor. The area around our kitchen would be like a mini carnival with the womenfolk moving about doing the necessary responsibilities. The only difference was they could eat and drink while executing their roles.

Grandpa was not a Haji but he had many friends who were Hajis and they would be referred to as Tuan Haji before their names while the women would be Puan Hajjah. But kids like me would call them Pak Aji and Mak Aji respectively.

Two houses away from our house was a house belonging to Mak Aji Yang, an elderly widow whose granddaughter named Nora lived with her. Being a Mak Aji, she would be celebrating the Hari Raya Haji and so many of her grown up children would be returning home to celebrate with her. They would bring along their children too and one of them of my age I remember was Ghazali Abu Bakar. His parents stayed in Batu Pahat and every time his parents came to visit Mak Aji Yang, Ghazali would come along too and he would look for me and we became good friends for a short while.

On the morning of Hari Raya Haji in 1957 when I was seven years old, I woke up very early and headed straight to the bath room. Grandma was already dressed while grandpa was ready with his baju Melayu to go to the town mosque for the morning congregation prayer. It was still dark but the rickshaw man named Pak Malek had already arrived to bring grandma and me to the ‘Bakri Batu Satu’ Muslim burial ground. She had been bringing me to this place ever since I was as young as three years old. Later I found out that grandma was not my mother and my real mother had died and she was buried at this burial ground. Since I never knew her, I have always treated grandma as my mother.

Upon our return to the burial ground, I had a small breakfast of Ketupat Lodeh and saved my empty stomach for the nasi briyani gam that would be served at the town mosque. By now the radio could be heard the chanting of the praises of God throughout our neighbourhood. This morning I would take a walk to the town mosque together with my neighbour Othman, a boy my age. It was almost 9.00am when we started walking. We used the back lane of my house passing through the house of my granduncle Talib bin Haji Taib. As we passed the house, some of my relatives noticed me and they all asked the same question; Din, nak pegi masjid ke? (Din, are you going to the mosque). I just grinned and nodded at the same time showing off my baju Melayu of sparkling green in colour. I had my polished pair of shoes on which grandma bought for me during the last Hari Raya Puasa. The house was fronting ‘Jalan Ibrahim’ and from here we walked towards the junction of ‘Jalan Khatib’. Many people were seen walking towards the town mosque and we assumed that all had the same idea; to have a great taste of the nasi briyani gam. From ‘Jalan Khatib’ we walked straight to the town mosque. By now the compound of the mosque was already filled with people with their colourful baju Melayu and of course with their songkok on. The congregation prayer had just ended and so it was time to fill their empty stomachs.

Few cows and goats were seen tied on a field behind the mosque. Othman and me went straight to where the nasi briyani gam was served. There was a long queue of about five to six lanes leading to the big burning pots filled with nasi briyani gam.

Nasi Briyani Gam has its origin in Pakistan as many believed. It must be cooked using a special rice called Beras Briyani in those days which is Beras Basmati today. First they would put in the special rempah to the boiling oil inside the big metal pot. After a few minutes, the meat would be thrown inside the boiling rempah and in most cases they would use mutton. After a while, boiled eggs would join in and finally the rice. When it was about to be cooked, the fire would have to be put off leaving only the burnt charcoal to provide the heat. They would then place a white cloth on top of the big pot to let the aroma stay inside the pot. So Nasi Briyani Gam is cooked together with the rice, meat and eggs.

Before joining the queue, we got ourselves a dulang and headed straight to the end of the line. Some people including kids had already enjoying their meal sitting cross-legged under the big trees surrounding the mosque. The women had theirs at the other section of the mosque. When our turn finally arrived, we just held on to our big dulang and the nasi briyani gam was poured onto it together with some portions of the cooked mutton and four eggs. They were very generous by giving us many big portions of the mutton. As a dulang was meant for four persons, we invited two other boys to join us and the four of us had a great feast.

While enjoying our indulgence, I noticed the slaughtering of the cows and goats had already begun. As I was too sacred to see the slaughtering process, we only went nearer when it was time to collect our free meat.

Walking home after such a great feast was tedious. We walked very slowly and had to stop for a while to catch our breath. When we passed my granduncle’s house, it was already filled with so many of my relatives and some noticed me and called out, Wah Din dah kenyang makan nasi briyani kat masjid (Wah, Din is already full having nasi briyani at the mosque). Again I just grinned and nodded and at the same time showing off the free meat I carried in my hand. They invited me to come later for lunch and I would go together with grandma.

Othman bade farewell when we reached his house and I proceeded home alone, a walking distance of hardly a minute. Upon reaching home I went straight onto the ambin and laid down messaging my bulging stomach after which I dozed off.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha to all my Muslim readers.


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English languageI was brought up in a Malay society and obviously the Malay language was the only language I spoke and understood. Although at seven years old I started to learn the English language and began to write and speak the language, it was only done in school. The Sekolah Ismail School Two was an English medium situated about four miles from where I lived. My Standard One teacher was a young Chinese lady I remember only as Miss Lim. It was only after a week when things began to fall into place that we only begun to write and speak in the English language. There were very few subjects; Nature Study, Arithmetic, Geography, English, Malay, Art and Singing. The year was 1957.

When Miss Lim started her class, she conducted everything in the English language and that made all of us hardly understood every word she spoke. So whenever she asked any one of us in the English language, we could only smile with some showing off their missing front teeth. She needed to translate some of her questions in the Malay language for us to understand. Most of the students were Malays, some Chinese and very few Indian students. Because of the breakdown in communication, we mingled around only with our kind. But most Chinese and Indian students could speak in the Malay language and they would talk to the Malay students in Malay. By the middle of the year, we began to understand some simple English words and we would communicate with our Chinese and Indian friends in English but we still spoke the Malay language among our Malay friends.

The subject I liked most was Nature Study. It would always begin with Today is Sunday. (The first day for the state of Johor). The sun is shining. It is a sunny day. Then we had to draw that sunny day. In most cases, there would be a mountain at the background and the sun just above the mountain. There would be two or three coconut trees and some birds with a V signs. Beneath the mountain would be the river. The sun would be a round ball with orange colour and surrounded by its rays. The next day we learned another sentence; Today is Monday.

Obviously if it was raining, it would be Today is a rainy day. And if we noticed the sun was blocked by the clouds it would be Today is a cloudy day. Of course we had to draw a rainy and a cloudy day. At home I would tell grandma and our maid-servant what I learned in school.

Counting numbers wasn’t that difficult but when we had to do it in the English language, that made the Arithmetic a difficult subject. First we had to count the numbers from one to ten followed by the “teens’ up to twenty. Adding, subtracting, multiplication and division sometimes confused us. Those days we used the phrase “take away” and not “minus” for subtracting, perhaps it was descriptive. And for multiplication we used the word “times”. The most difficult was dividing numbers making most of us blinked for few seconds. Miss Lim was a very patient teacher and she would always give us a helping hand whenever we got stuck somewhere.

Our English teacher was a middle-aged Chinese man I remember only as Mr. Yap. A very tolerant person, he would always give us time to think before giving any answer. Whenever we gave wrong answers, he would encourage us to think again saying the answer was not right and requested that we took our time before answering. In most cases we never managed to correct our wrong answers simply because we knew not. So Mr. Yap would correct it for us.

Suleiman was a frail boy with such an innocent face. Timid and very quiet, he would only talk when asked. One day in one of our English classes, he was asked by Mr. Yap about his father, his occupation and how old was he? Suleiman was suffering from speech impediment and would remain silent whenever he found so difficult to begin a sentence. Another of his problem was the pronunciation; he could not pronounce words that began with “F” and words that used “th“.

“Suleiman, what is your father’s name, and what is his occupation?” asked Mr. Yap pointing his index finger at Suleiman giving him a shock like a thunderbolt passing through his nervous system.

Suleiman stood and looked at Mr. Yap meekly, then slowly answered, “My pader name Mahmood.” Mr. Yap smiled at Suleiman and walked slowly towards him and said, “Father, not Pader”. Can you try now?”

“Pader”, answered Suleiman again and this time he was visibly shaken. It was very natural for boys of seven years old to tremble whenever faced with an English teacher. He looked at his teacher with fright but Mr. Yap being such a nice person consoled him amicably and finally said it was alright for Suleiman to pronounce father as pader, but emphasized on the apostrophe “s” after the word father.  At seven years old, the word occupation was very alien to us and so Mr. Yap had to explain what it meant. Suleiman told the class that his father was working in a very big building situated right besides the Muar River..My pader go opes…opes besar kat laut.

Chinese students too found difficulty to grasp the language at an early age. While Malay students could not pronounce any word beginning with an “F” replacing with a “P”, most Chinese students pronounced any word beginning with an “R” glaringly different replacing it with an “L”.  So Muar River would be Muar Liber.

“Kok Chai”, where is the central market of our town?”, Mr. Yap had once asked Chong Kok Chai in one of our English classes. Lanky and quite tall for a seven year old boy, Kok Chai stood up confidently and answered, “Near de liber”(Near the river). No matter how glaringly wronged was the pronunciation, we never laughed because we were no better.

Indian students somehow had a better grip of the English language. Some say because the Tamil language is quite difficult that learning other languages is easier. But most Indian students of my early schooling days had their share of different pronunciation; they could not pronounce “V” which they would pronounce as “W”. Thus ‘vehicle‘ became ‘wehicle‘.

By the time we were in Standard Three, our English improved but not tremendously. In class we would converse in English only with our non-Malay friends and maintained talking with our mother tongue with those of our kind. We spoke broken English but understood pretty well by our listeners. Our vocabulary improved and we learned new words everyday.

It was in 1959 when I was in Standard Three that I joined a group of students to watch a religious epic movie called “The Ten Commandments”. It was organized by our school and the movie was screened at the newly built cinema called The Cathay Cinema. Each one of us had to pay sixty cents and not many students could afford it at that time. When I told grandpa about it, he encouraged me to watch the movie because it was about a prophet named Musa (Moses) and so he gladly gave me the money. We watched the movie on a Saturday morning and was attended by some other students from other schools as well. In spite of watching a movie on a Saturday morning which was a holiday, our school insisted that we wore our school uniform and likewise we noticed other students from other schools wore their own school uniform too.

We were so excited to watch an English movie because most of the movies we watched were Malay movies where we could understand every word spoken. And it was more interesting because it was a coloured movie while most Malay movies were in black and white. Going to a movie was a real treat in those days. We had no television then, in fact we had never heard of anything like a television. It was unthinkable for a square box to produce pictures that could move like in a movie.

The show started at around 9am and when the credits were rolling, all of us watched the screen with great excitement. We knew not a word what they were talking about but we enjoyed watching how Moses built the pyramid and the most intriguing part was when Moses parted the Red Sea. All of us had our mouth wide open enjoying many exciting scenes and when the Pharoah’s men were drowned, all of us were so happy because these bad people were finally defeated.

At home I told the story to my cousins of my own version and with so many exaggeration. The next day at school during our English lesson, Mr. Yap questioned us about the movie.

“Tan Swee Kang, tell us which part of the movie you liked best?” asked Mr. Yap to Tan who sat at the front row. Confidently he stood up and said, “I like the one when he make the sea open”. Then he continued, “I think he got magic one because he can also make the liber red colour.” And all of us agreed.

When we were in Standard Six, we could converse quite well although still used  some broken English but our listeners always understood what we said. We could even write short essays and our grammar was much better. Although our written grammar was quite alright, we still spoke the English language with many wrong grammar. When we watched English movies at the cinema, we still could not grasp what they were talking about and after the show we would always speculate what the movie was all about and how the hero ended being victorious.

For me I was beginning to learn more of the language. At home I would read the daily newspaper The Straits Times. As I liked reading stories, I spent quite sometime at home reading all the readable books and many were those written by Enid Blyton especially about the Famous Five.

It was in Standard Six that I befriended a Chinese boy my age who became my close friend. Eddie lived along Jalan Majidee quite near the Muar High School and he would cycle to my house everyday and from here we both cycled to our school of approximately four miles. We conversed in the English language and perhaps this made my spoken English quite fluent as months passed by. Apparently he was my classmate and we would go to the tuck shop together and sometime when I brought some food from home, I would share the food with him eating under a tall tree besides the football field of our school. So every moment I was with him, I would speak in the English language and whether some of our spoken English had some grammatical error was not much of a concern to both of us for as long as we understood each other. Eddie is still my very close friend till today.

In 1963 I was admitted to Form One of the Muar High School. Our class teacher was a chubby Chinese man I remember only as Mr. Quek. Whenever he was not around, I would always invite some friends to sing a famous P. Ramlee’s song Quek Mambo. One day as I was singing the song, Mr. Quek suddenly entered the class as he had forgotten something. As he entered the class, he saw me dancing and singing the song and just stood and observed me. When I turned towards him, I was shocked to see Mr. Quek smiling at me and requested me to go to the front of the class. Then he asked me, “I heard my name being mentioned in the song. Are you making fun of my name?” All the students in the class laughed at me. I explained to him I was only singing a famous P. Ramlee’s song that happened to have his name…Quek Mambo. Then he asked the class whether I was telling the truth and the whole class said, “yes”. He just smiled at me and said, “I never knew my name would be in a P.Ramlee’s song.

Our English teacher was an Indian man named Mr. Subramaniam. He wore a very thick glasses and taught us the English language until we reached Form Three. He taught us how to use the correct grammar and how to construct a good sentence. One day he asked us to read any book as long as it was in English as he had to go to the toilet for a while. I read my history book while some others read the geography books and some other English books. There was one boy whose name was Othman Sinapon who read a dictionary. When Mr. Subramaniam returned, he was quite pleased to notice all of us reading until he noticed Othman reading a dictionary. He went besides Othman and said to all of us, “Boys, our friend here is reading a dictionary.” Othman was shocked and closed the dictionary immediately. Mr. Subramaniam took the dictionary only to find a comic in the middle of the dictionary and Othman had to pay a price attending a detention class the following Saturday.

Mr. Subramaniam was a fine English teacher who taught us many English phrases and how to use them in our essay. He encouraged us to read a lot of English novels, literature books and suggested that we get all these books from the town library. I took heed of his encouragement and began to read a few English books that I borrowed from the town library. From these books I learned many words by referring to the dictionary. By and by my English improved tremendously and since then I never failed in my English examination.

When I was in Form Four our English teacher was a Chinese lady I remember only as Miss Wong. She was another teacher that contributed greatly to my improvement and I began to read more books recommended by her. Once she suggested that we read books written by William Shakespear and when I caught hold of some of the books written by him, I was not too keen to continue. It was like reading a poem, something that I did not quite like. So I continued reading novels and by this time I read novels about love, intriguing tales of mysterious happenings and even some ghost stories. My favourite author was Harold Robbins.

Miss Wong continued teaching us in Form Five and by then my spoken English was considered good and she always commended on some of my essays to the other students and I was extremely proud. But I did not do well in other subjects especially Physics simply because our teacher was an American Peace Corp who spoke like John Wayne. His American accent was too deep that at the end of every Physics lesson I understood not a word of what he had been talking about. As a result I failed miserably in this subject.

Looking back, I am grateful to all these teachers who had contributed greatly to my achievement. All these teachers taught me one common factor that I follow till this day. Do not write to impress others, write to entertain your readers and in doing so your readers will eventually appreciate your works. There is no point in using difficult words just to show off because there may be some of these words used do not fit in correctly to the sentence.

I am glad I took heed of their advice. My first book “Pages From My Past” published in 2013 was well received and most of the readers that I met told me how much they loved reading my book; so simple and easy to understand. Learning is never an ending story, for as long as we live, we have to keep on learning. But my book would not have been better if not because of my editor who happened to be my cousin; Zuraidah Omar. She has a better grasp of the English language and in fact I learned quite a lot as a result of her editing.

Memories are always wonderful moments to be shared as we grow older. I have so many wonderful memories and I thank God for giving me such a good memory because from all these memories stored in my mind, it gives me great pleasure to share them with you.

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