We were told to dress our best that day. The minister was coming! Yes , the Minister of Education was coming to MRSM Balik Pulau to officiate the opening of the school. It was an occasion the whole school had been waiting for for years.
I put on my best shirt. My neck tie was in a perfect knot. I put on the blazer , looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked real sharp. I guess even the Minister would be impressed when he saw how good I looked. Except for a select few, nobody knew the blazer was actually rented for RM10.00 from a photo studio in town!
We had to be in school by 3.30 pm. The Minister and his entourage would be coming at 4.00. I had to be there early. So, I took out my bicycle and cycled the whole 2 km to school.
I certainly attracted a lot of stares that afternoon. A lot of heads turned to look at this strange man in tie and blazer riding his racing bike through the kampung. Even the chickens pecking near the roadsides scampered away in shock and the cows mooed.
Kampung Pondok Upeh was a small remote village in Balik Pulau where everbody knew everyone else and was not yet ready to to see a man dressed like that on a bicycle. They would expect a man dressed as well as I was that day to be in a big expensive car not on a bicycle!
In my first four years as a teacher in MRSM Balik Pulau I went around in my racing bike. While others were racing each other to but Proton cars at that time I just couldn’t be bothered.
I was happy to be on my trusty bicycle. I heard all sorts of snide remarks about how a teacher, a graduate from a university overseas should be properly equipped with a more appropriate mode of transportation , both from the staff at the school and the kampung folks. Yes, I could afford a car but I chose to ride a bicycle. I was the one riding the bicycle. I could deal with it, why couldn’t others?
I went to invigilate the SPM Oral exam at one time in SM Seri Balik Pulau. When I got there the guard wouldn’t open the gate for me! He didn’t believe me when I said what I was there for. Fortunately I had a friend who was a teacher in the school and he told the guard to let me in.
I did the oral the next year in SM Sacred Heart in Balik Pulau. The students were naturally nervous and scared doing English Oral. Later when they saw me on my bicycle in town their mouth dropped open. They would call to their friends and point at me. I didn’t understand what they were saying but maybe they said, “Can you believe it? That idiot on the bike was our invigilator!”
Sometimes I couldn’t believe the prejudice that people extended to me just because I rode a bicycle. One day I rode my bike to a mamak stall and parked right in front of it. As I walked in the mamak was flirting with a young girl, a Minah Kilang who just came back from work. The guy was asking the girl to go watch a movie with him and the girl said no. As I walked in the mamak, who knew me well, pointed to me and said to the girl.
“Tak mau saya kalu, keluar dengan dia mau ka?”
The girl looked at me , then my bicycle and scornfully said,
“Ini lagi tak mau!” And she turned and walked away.
The mamak laughed his head off! I was left speechless as I didn’t know what was going on.
Did she say no because of my bike or because of me? Surely my bike. It couldn’t be me. I wasn’t really too bad looking. I did have more than a few admirers then. Would she have said no if I had come in a car instead? I don’t know.
Another time, some teachers from the school arranged to meet for lunch together at another mamak stall. We arrived on our own but at the same time. The mamak greeted the other teachers, whom he knew and respected.
“Cikgu, apa mau makan?”
When it was my turn the mamak said , in a raised voice ,
“Tambi , lu apa mau?”
The other teachers roared with laughter! One of the teachers explained to the mamak that I was also a teacher. The mamak couldn’t believe his ears. I had always gone to his stall on my own and he had always treated me with indifference. I couldn’t care less.
At least one person never treated me with scorn even though I only had a bicycle. I would cycle to her house and leave it there. She would then drive her car and we would go out on dates. It was her car and she even drove because I didn’t have a driving license. Pathetic isn’t it? Well, I later married her and we now have two beautiful children!
by: Kamarul Azlan Habibur Rahman