... once upon a time ... a long long time ago ...

Small satchets of happenings from pockets of my life, as lapses of memories rewind to the particular place, moment and time ... realities of life
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Travelled to Kuala Lumpur - Alone

By the time I was in Standard 4 in my primary school, my parents have moved out of the Kampong Cendana house to a 'Police Quarters' at Jalan Aman (Jalan Damai). And I have been going to Kuala Lumpur more often, almost all school holidays. I am getting to know my only brother and my other 4 sisters. I am getting used to living with my parents too; which is an entirely different kind of life that I am living then. After getting the directions, I was supposed to come to Kuala Lumpur the next time - on my own; which is very easy! No problem; and I was only 10!

With RM3.00 in my pocket and a determination to go to the big town, Kuala Lumpur, I left Kampong Senaling on the Eng Giap Bus to Kuala Pilah. From Kuala Pilah, I took the Union Bus to Seremban, through the winding road of Bukit Putus. At Seremban, boarding Foh Hup Bus, the trip from Seremban to Pudu Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur takes approximately 2 hours. This Pudu Bus Station is the muddy with pot holes and watery place where all buses to any station in the south, starts and stops. There is now the Puduraya Bus Terminal sitting on top of the once Pudu Bus Station.

My father's direction was, 'After you get out of the bus, walk towards the roundabout (now Pudu Roundabout). From the roundabout, you will see two roads - one on the left (then Foch Avenue, now Jalan Sultan Mohamed) and one on the right (then Jalan Mountbatten, now Tun Perak). Take the one on the right. Walked down the hill and turn right into the 3rd junction (now Lebuh Ampang). Wait for the big blue bus (Sri Jaya Bus); take the number 8 bus, the fare is RM0.05 sen for a child - it will take you to Kampong Datok Keramat. Stop at the ESSO Station (which I know where it is)'. That was what my father said to me the last time I was in Kuala Lumpur. From there, I then walked over the wobbling temporary bridge over the river and reach my parent's home.

Since that successful 10-year-old only; trip to Kuala Lumpur on my own, I had travelled back and forth between Kuala Pilah and Kuala Lumpur, alone, from then on.

My First Trip To Kuala Lumpur

As we grow into adulthood, at about age 8 I realised that I do not belong to the family where I was living. Whenever we quarrelled, Ina (Abah Rahman eldest daughter) would chased me out of the house, telling me, 'go back to your father's house ... this is not your house'. With that remarks getting more frequent, I realised that I have to look for my 'roots'; moreover, Atuk Usop who adopted me in the first place is getting much much older. The family have a cousin living in Kampong Datok Keramat; and one day during school holidays, with the white Volkswagen BH120, the trip to Kuala Lumpur became a reality!

The family lived in Lorong Kiri 15, Kampong Datok Keramat. We normally spent a few days there and after visiting the sights of Kuala Lumpur, we would come home back to Kampong Senaling. During that first visit, they are going to bring me to my parents home. That would also be the first time I will be going to my parents house to see my own family. As the 'feeling' of the family in Kampong Senaling; did not want me around them anymore; I would soon be moving back to my own family. One afternoon, we drove to Kampong Cendana (near Kampong Baru) where my parents lived.

We parked at the edge of the Ampang cemetery; walked besides 2 houses and through a sugar cane plantation. Approximately 500 metres, the first house that we met was my parents' house. It is 2 houses built under one roof; our neighbour was my youngest uncle, Pak Su Hashim - who at that time drove the Sri Jaya Taxi. The house is made of planks with zinc roof, one of the modern squatters. At that time, we called them 'rumah kilat' due to the fastness of putting it up. Today it is not there; the next day it is already occupied. I didn't stay the night as we have to go back to Kampong Senaling that day.

Since then, whenever they make a trip to Kuala Lumpur, I will be left there over the school holidays, picked up again before the school starts. I am getting used to living in the city. Welcome to Kuala Lumpur!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Godong (The Village Centre)

Kampong Senaling lies approximately 4 kilometres from Kuala Pilah town centre. It lies on the Kuala Pilah - Tampin trunk road. In the centre of the village centre is the junction to Sri Menanti. Sri Menanti may also be accessed through the Seremban - Kuala Pilah trunk road. The village centre comprises of 3 rows of single storey palm-roofed shop houses. There a few restaurants, some provision shops, 2 fish mongers, a bicycle shop, a barber shop and a few middleman rubber buyers. Most of the shopkeepers stays at the back of their respective shops.

Kedai Ah Sin is the popular fish shop that most people would patronise. Kedai Dolah, the mamak shop that sells 'roti canai' is the favourite haunt for the oldies to get together, have their drinks and chat till late afternoon. If you need a hair cut, you will have to go to the only "Kedai Gunting Rambut" 'Achik' and 'Obok'. Ah Pang's restaurant serves good food, especially 'roti bengali' toasted over charcoal with margarine and home made 'kaya'. The restaurant also made their own 'charkoay' which is served all day round. There are also 2 restaurants run by Malays. One is 'Kedai Pak Cek' who serves excellent 'mee rebus' and 'Kedai Jamal' who serves all kinds of 'Malay Kuih' and a host of local malay food. The small village centre is sufficient to support the population in the surrounding areas. If you need to see more choices of things and food, you go to Kuala Pilah town. The bus costs RM0.10 sen one way and the taxi will take you there for RM0.20 sen.

The village town centre is affectionately called 'godong' by us locals. The word 'godong' must have come from the word 'gedung' which means 'big building'. As the people from the area are of 'Minangkabau' origins, it may have some bearings and affect on the word 'godong'. Going to 'godong' is something that we look forward to as we can buy things and hang around. We can cycle to 'godong' or you may talk a few minutes walk from the house.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rambutan Kuning (Yellow Rambutan)

This 'rambutan' tree was planted by my grandfather when he first built the house. According to Kak Ngah he must have planted the tree in the early 50s. It is smack right in front of the house. It is big, sweet, juicy and yellow. According to the folks, this is of the best seedling and some called it 'rambutan gading'. Whatever it is, when it fruits, it fruits! There will be lots and lots of them hanging down from the branches. Sometimes it seems there are more fruits than there are leaves. When it starts to ripen, it will be an adventure to pluck and pick them.

On the chosen day to harvest, even the neighbours will join in. Nobody needed to climb it as the tree is large in size and it had grown too high. We were all equipped with a long bamboo stick with a small sickle attached tightly to the end; to cut off the fruit branches for picking. Large rattan bags are prepared to accommodate the 'rambutan' fruits. While plucking we will be eating them juciy 'rambutan' fruits. There will be tea and 'kuih' served and once it is all done, we will sit down eating the fruits and drinking water, eating the 'kuih' and drinking tea. Those who came will go back with large bags of the fruits to be eaten later or to be taken home for those at home to eat.

The 'rambutan' tree had now grown too big and too tall that it endangered the house, if the branches were to break and fall down onto the house. It was then time to cut it off. Some people were called in to take the 'rambutan' tree down. A few will climb up the tree and cut down the branches one by one, until all are cut down. Lastly came when the big large 'rambutan' tree will be chopped off from the compound. With sadness, we saw it being cut down, carted away and discarded. That was the end of the juicy, large and sweet 'rambutan gading' tree.

Berkhatan (Circumcision)

On completion (berkhatam) of the learning and understanding of the Al'Quran and after the berkhatam feast, it was time to go to the hospital. There were choices to choose; either you 'do it' at home, to be done by the 'Tok Mudim' or you 'do it' at the hospital. I choose to get it done at the hospital; after I have seen how it was done at home!

For those that chosen to 'do it' at home (which is normally done in pairs or more); from the early morning they would be sent to the shallow well to be 'numbed', as the water in the shallow well is cold. They would submerged themselves in the shallow well for at least 5 hours, to ensure that 'it' is numbed and as such will not feel the pain. In the afternoon when the 'Tok Mudim' arrive at the house, the boys will be carried to the house and placed in front of the 'Tok Mudim' to 'get it done'. Often than not, you will hear the boys screaming in pain; as it is done without any anesthetics, except getting it numbed earlier in the shallow well. Learning from this experience that I chose to 'get it done' at the hospital.

As for me, I was sent to the hospital early in the morning. After all the necessities and logistics were done I was sent into the 'operating theatre'. Scared as I can be, the doctor assured me that it is not going to be painful at all; however, if I am still scared, I may chant the verses from the Al'Quran so that I will be protected at all times during the 'operation'. I did just that. But when the needle (for the anesthetics) pierced 'it' I could have screamed and sworn that it went through. I could also feel the 'cutting of the flesh', however due to the anesthetics, I felt no pain. Once it was done, surprisingly I could walk to the car on my own and still not felt a thing!

As soon as we reached home, still have not taken the pain killer; the pain started to set in. I felt the excruciating pain on both the knees and all over the whole body. I was advised to eat something and swallow the pain killer. As soon as the pain killer takes effect, the pain was gone. The only pain I felt was that; which I felt is a whole lot better than going through the process of circumcision at home. Two weeks after the 'operation', I could get up and run! All Muslims have to go through this process, as required by the religion. It is anyway, excellent for health purposes.

Belajar Ngaji (Learning the Quran)

Boys as young as 6 are expected to learn to understand and read the Al'Quran. It is required of all young Muslim boys to go to a religious elder to learn to read the Al'Quran and to learn how to pray. The learning place could be a house, the surau, madrasah or at the mosque. The person who teach is normally a religious, not necessarily pious, but would have the command and understanding of the Al'Quran; normally an Imam or at least his assistant. On most occasion, the 'ustaz' or 'ustazah' will be sufficient.

I started learning the Al'Quran from the age of 7. My first place of learning was at Pak Cik Manat's house, a house approximately 200 metres from the edge of the small village. It was there that I learned the very basic of reading the 'mugaddam' (the 101 of Al'Quran). Every night on the way to go home, we would stop by the bread shop (Kedai Roti Mohd Tasadukkhan), as the time is just right for the bread to be ready; right out of the huge oven. It only cost RM0.10 sen for 2 slices (approximately 4" x 2" x 1" each slice). I was at Pak Cik Manat's house learning the 'mugaddam' for about 6 months; when then the village 'surau' was already ready; which is across the street where I lived.

At the new 'surau' I graduated from the 'mugaddam' and thereafter started learning the Al'Quran. Our ustaz was Lebai Awal, a short man with a short temper. There were about 20 boys and 20 girls learning from him. For being mischievous, I was canned twice, at 2 different times. Others who also misbehave would also get the whip from the cane. Nevertheless, I 'khatam' my Al'Quran reading and at the same time learned how to pray. On completion of the Al'Quran, a feast ws prepared, calling the whole village to celebrate my 'graduation' of the Al'Quran. My father came all the way from KL with a sheep to slaughter (for 'akekah' purposes). It was from the 'surau' that I learned how to read and understand the 'muqaddam' and the Al'Quran. All in all I took approximately 5 years to learn, understand and 'khatam' from Al'Quran; besides learning how to pray!

It is also traditional that for the coming of age into adulthood, as soon as you completed learning the Al'Quran, it is also time to circumcise. I did mine the next week after the feast - in 1968. That's another story.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Banking was Manual (Accounts Department - Books)

Each banks branch handled their own set of accounts. There will be a Department which handles all the accounting need of the branch. This included making out and maintaining a set of accounts of the bank branch. The Manager's 'pet staff' would normally get to do this job. At the end of the day, the staff will collect all vouchers, cheques, transfers and other transactions of the branch to come out with the Trial Balance of the Day. At the end of each month, they must come out with the complete set of the accounts for the branch.

The Trial Balance and the Balance Sheet will show the standing, profitability and the position of the bank branch. The staff are the ones who will check and determine that all transaction are of the correct amount and to the correct laid down accounts. Sometimes they may take days to balance a day's transaction; what more if it is at the end of the month where the number of transaction is higher due to additional entries not normally passed on a normal day, like interest charged, depreciation, revaluation, accruals and prepaids.

The most busy part of the year is when it is half-yearly or yearly closing. All accounts need to be closed and entered correctly in order to come out with the complete, correct and perfect Trial Balance and Balance Sheet of the branch. These accounts will be submitted to Head Office where it will be populated and compiled to determine the standing, profitability and position of the Bank. Besides the normal accounting reports, Accounting Department is responsible to submit all other branch's reports. They may take weeks to prepare these and would most of the time busted the date line for submission. However, these staff stand tall as their job is considered one of the most important job in the branch.

Now, with on-line accounting, straight through processing and auto uploading of entries to the main accounting system, the accounting job at the branch level have been eliminated. You could get any branch's Trial Balance or Balance Sheet at any time for any date from any terminal if you are authorised to do so.

Banking was Manual (Housing and Term Loans)

Long period loans such as 'Term Loans' and 'Housing Loans' are handled separately from the normal 'Overdraft' accounts. As these have a fixed repayment amount and fixed repayment period, their transactions are normally fixed monthly repayment amount and interest charged. Housing Loans interest were once based on 'yearly rests'. Interest are charged once a year, normally on 1st of July of each year, based on the balance outstanding on the 30th of each June. It is expensive; but consumers do not have much choices then!

Loan Statements are only produced once a year, which detailed out the whole year's transaction in 1 or 2 pages only. As such, staff at the Housing Loan and Term Loan Department have to bear with the pile load of work on the 30th June of each year. This is also the time when the Banks closed their yearly accounts. It may take the staff up to a week to prepare all these tasks, to ensure that the figures are balanced and submitted to the Accounts Department and the statements are sent out to the loan customers as soon as possible.

However, besides that yearly affair stuff to do, we have to make do with maintaining and following up of the loan accounts with customers or responding to Head Office on the loan matters the whole year round. Typing was necessary and there were lots of monthly, half-yearly and yearly reports to submit, with date lines to meet. Staff serving these Departments are the 'special breed' as they have to be experienced in banking operations, the necessary typing skills and the skills in handling customer relationship. Most have to also do marketing for the products that the bank sells.

Banking was Manual (Typewriters)

Clerks working in Banks are expected to learn and know how to use the typewriter to type letter, forms, AAs, index cards, agreements, notes and a host of other documents that needed to be prepared and documented. The earlier typewriters are normally 'manual' and of the "Olivetti" kind. Only the Secretaries and important staff who handle important documents are equipped with 'electric typewriters', some of which had a correcting function; which was a luxury to have then.

I learned to use the typewriter in Kuala Pilah, when I was living there after my MCE. As such, I do type, until now, with all my 10 fingers. We learned from ASDF ;LKJ to moving the fingers up and down the typewriter keys. The 'number keys' and the rest of the odd keys are a matter of experience and our normal practice typing strokes to master. For those who have never been to typewriting classes or just refused to learn to use all their fingers when typing, they type using the 'chicken plucking' way of typing.

We use rubber erasers to rub off the mistakes on documents or letters when using the typewriters. Then came 'liquid paper'. This stuff sometimes smudged the documents or letters, when it is used to correct the mistakes; as it is not dried yet when we resumed typing. Those days, we would also normally type a few copies of them documents or letters by inserting 'carbon papers' on each copy of the documents or letters. Typewriters are now 'antique stuff' to be displayed. With the computer age creeping into our life since the late 70s, some of the younger generations have not even see or know what a typewriter is. Now we copy, cut, paste, undo and spellcheck; all at the same time!

Banking was Manual (Cheque Clearing)

All cheques deposited by the account holders into their respective accounts were received over the counters. Confirmation of receipt of these cheques deposited are only by way of the 'bank's stamp' on the pay-in slip denoting the date and time it was received. These cheques are collected by the clearing clerks to be processed. The 'clearing' area would have a cabinet consists of pigeon holes, to segregate the cheques for each respective banks. Before the cheques are separated from the pay-in slips, it is summed up (both sides - cheques and pay-in slips) to ensure that the correct cheque amounts are entered into the pay-in slips which will ultimately be the credit amount to the respective account.

We, the clearing clerks, will separate the cheques from the pay-in slips. Then the cheques are inserted into the pigeon holes, according to the respective banks' cheques. When 'clearing' time ends at 11:30 am, we must now process the cheques; as these processed 'clearing cheques' must reach BNM in Kuala Lumpur for purpose of inter-bank 'clearing' by 2:00 pm. The cheques are totalled up in the 'clearing' slip, using the 'ADDO-X clearing machine', denoting the cheque numbers and the amount of each cheques. The slip is attached to the group of cheques of the same bank ready to be sent to Head Office. At Head Office Clearing Department, the cheques are compiled together (banks by banks) and sent for 'clearing' at BNM. At BNM, we exchange cheques among drawer banks, to take it back to the respective branches for debiting of the respective Current Account.

For those who have done 'clearing' of cheques, speed and accuracy is of the essence. Our cheques must reach Head Office by the designated time and the posting of the cheque numbers and amounts on the 'clearing' slips must be perfect. Any wrong figures (especially the cheque amount) will invite trouble and all figures (including inter-bank) will then not balanced for the day. When this happen, the managers and the officers will be screaming into our ears for days to come. Nevertheless, with practice, figures are seldom wrong (we use 4 fingers to cast) and the time line is seldom breached. Now this 'cheque clearing' service is outsourced to others to do!

Banking was Manual (Month-End Closing)

After the days' operational banking is done and after all the necessary tasks have been completed on all the accounts, including postings and balancing for the end-of-the-day, there is one very important job to be done; on the last day of the month. It is month-end closing. This entails posting all transaction including interest charged to the individual ledger card accounts and balanced up for transfer of outstanding amount; debit or credit; into a new ledge card for the new month.

All 'closed' loose ledger card account statements are taken out of the main base ledger cards. These statements are handed over to the 'guys in armour'; Messengers / Office Boys; to fold it nicely to fit into the envelopes; showing the name and address in the envelope window; for collection or mailing to the respective account holders. The Current Account staff will transfer the outstanding amount on the main base ledger cards into the new month statement, as the opening balance for the respective account. When finished posting for all individual respective on the new month statement, it is then summed up again and balanced up, to ensure that the amount transferred is of the correct amount. This is again verified and authorised by an officer.

Month-end closing is always a fiesta and usually lasts into the wee hours of the morning. However, the extra hours that we have toiled are being compensated by overtime payments, which is usually twice the normal working day rate. Staff working in a branch, especially in the Current Account Department enjoys the much extra monthly overtime money which may sometimes be more than our basic monthly pay. So they say at that time, a bankers work is never done! Work work work - with a big fat pocket. 4 pay cheques in a month. By the 14th, we receive our first half months' pay, on the 20th, we receive our 1st half months' overtime payment. By the 28th, we receive the other half months' pay and on the 30th or 31st of the month, we receive the 2nd half months' overtime payments. Kayo lah den!

Banking was Manual (Month-End Interest Calculation)

The busiest day in the Current Account Department (in a branch) is the last day of the month. One of the important task to do was to calculate monthly interest and get it debited (there was no such thing as a 'credit interest' then), to the account. All Current Account Department staff are aware of this and it is expected that we have no other plans, except to 'slave' for the bank, especially for the night. But the 'overtime money' is good!

As the last day of the month may also be a working operational day, we must take through the normal process of serving customers, postings to ledgers, balancing and closing for the day. When all the day's operation is done, we will then start to calculate interest that is to be charged to our borrowing customers. Interest calculation is done by all designated staff, "manually". First we convert the monthly interest rate into a 'interest factor', by getting the sum of the interest rate calculated against the number of days in the month. This is cutting short the 'constant' multiplying and dividing for all accounts to be calculated. Manually, based on the operation postings on the ledger card, we add the 'daily amount outstanding' in each account and a 'product' is derived - depending on the amount and number of days it remained in the 'red'. The product is then multiplied to the 'interest factor' which will give you the 'interest chargeable' for the month. All these calculation is done on the adding machine with rollers. There is an 'Interest Calculating Machine' - where you turned the knob to get the product total, depending on the number of days and what amount the account stays in the 'red' (still manually handled). The calculated figures with the 'calculated interest' printed are torn out of the adding machine and stapled to the respective 'ledger card'. An officer will go through each and every one ledger card account with the calculated interest and if found to be correct, will authorised it for posting into the individual account.

Painstakingly, the respective clerical staff handling the respective 'ledger' will then post the respective interest chargeable into the respective account. Once all individual interest amount have been posted, the individual ledger cards will have to be summed up again and balanced against the total sum of the calculated interest to ensure that interest posted are of the correct amount and it is posted into the correct account. If it takes too long, we can have KFC dinner (the only fast food restaurant then) or supper before coming back to continue our job into the wee hours of the morning.

Banking was Manual (Current Account)

After spending 1 week doing very basic counter banking job at the branch, I was assigned to the Current Account Department. Each Current Account staff was assigned a 'ledger' each. 'Ledger' here means the starting account numbers - 1, 2, 3 or 4. Account numbers were then assigned to an account holder based on the alphabet of his/her name of his/her company. If you name or your company's name starts with "A", you account number will start with number 1; which is what we called 'ledger 1'. Mistakes in posting to the wrong account are mitigated by the 'check digit' assigned to each account number.

All postings to the respective account 'ledger' be it cash cheques, cash and cheque deposits, transfers, cheque clearing or other miscellaneous debits and credits; will be done by the clerical staff handling each respective ledger. All cheques and transfers transaction will be kept until the end of the day for balancing purposes. Each clerical staff handling the 'ledger' will have to 'balance' their 'ledger' individually. Ledger balancing means making sure that the amount posted in the 'ledger cards' - debits and credits including reversals will tally with all the documents supporting the posting. This is done by taking the 'sum' of the new balance in the 'ledger card' and subtracting the yesterday's closing balance (the amount supposedly posted into the 'ledger'). The supporting debits and credits documents are also 'casted' to a nett 'sum'. The 'sum' from the all the 'ledger cards' are then compared against the 'sum' of the supporting documents. If both figures tally, that means we are 'balanced'. If not, the 'overtime' will be longer.

If there is a difference between both 'sums' or if it does not tally, this means that there may be a mistake in postings, missing supporting documents or a host of other mistakes or 'problems' arises during the banking operation day. As we are 'experts' in our Current Account operations; casting with 4 fingers, we would normally solve the 'not balance' problem before the end of the evening. However, since balancing does not start till late, working long hours into the night among Current Account Department staff is considered 'normal'.

Banking was Manual (Cash Cheques)

In order to gain more operational banking experiences; and after hearing the interesting branch banking life, I requested for a transfer to a branch. In April 1977, I was transferred to Malayan Banking Sea Park Branch. Being one of the busy branches, there was a daily hive of counter activities. It was always crowded, especially at month end when pay cheques were cashed. I was assigned the very basic counter task - handing out token number to customers who wishes to cash cheques.

The cash room was enclosed secured by grilles and all-the-time locked. There are a few cashiers supervised by the Chief Cashier who controls all the money in the Cash Room. Cashing a cheque is an adventure. At the Current Account counter you are issued a token (number). The cheque will then be posted to the particular account holder's Current Account ledger using the 'large' NCR machine. When posted, it will then be given to the officer for authorisation; depending on the amount cashed and authorised according to the amount on the cheques. Larger amount may require more than 1 officer's authorisation (depending then on his/her ranking). The posted and authorised cheque will then be sent to the Cash Room for payment. The cashier will call out the token number assigned to the cheque earlier. The person cashing the cheque will then go over to the Cash Room counter to pick up the cash.

At the end of the day, the cashier will balance all his cashier and hand it over to the Chief Cashier who will balance all the cash for the branch. Cash are kept in the 'strong room'; entering it will require 2 separate keys and 2 separate combination on the safe, managed by a minimum of 3 officers. As the branch is one of the busiest branch with lots of cash activities, closing for the day would normally extend beyond 5:00 pm. Going back home very late, depending on what you handle, is the norm for bankers at that time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mr Appukutan & Negara Ku

We were in Standard 6 at Tunku Munawir School when one of our teacher was ill and there was no other replacement teachers to teach us. In came the Headmaster, Mr Appukutan. With his dark fierce look and a wrestler's body, he is one scary Headmaster. No one dared to look him directly into his eyes, not even while greeting him. As he was not sure of what to teach or do, he requested us to sing the Negara Ku (National Anthem). Scary as we were, even though you could sing it, no words came out of our mouth. This made him angry and accused us all of not knowing the words of the Negara Ku. In his angry state, steam coming out of his ears he asked all of us to write the full Negara Ku (including the title) 50 times and send it to him when done; within 1 week.

I went back with all the worries in my heart. Can I write 50 pieces of Negara Ku within a week? It has to be done. You bet I did. I got all 50 pieces of Negara Ku written on 50 pages of white papers. A week passed; two, three weeks passed; but Mr Appukutan never came back to collect any of the 50 pieces of Negara Ku from any of us. By then he must have forgotten about it.

BUT we have got it all done! All 50 pieces of Negara Ku written neatly on 50 pages of white papers, each titled as required.

Buat Minyak Masak (Making Cooking Oil)

There are an abundance of coconut trees around the house in Kampong Senaling. These trees have been around long before I was born. Some of them are more than 60 years old. I myself have even planted one. That coconut tree that I planted is still standing next to the house. Whenever the urge to make cooking oil arise, we call in Duman, the coconut tree climber; to climb up the coconut trees and pick the ripe ones. Meanwhile we would have also earlier accumulated a lot of coconuts in preparation to produce the cooking oil.

Lots and lots of coconuts are pried open, grated and the milk squeezed out. A few bodies will help; which normally include the neighbours. All the coconut milk are collected in a large container and put over fire to let it slow cook for a few hours. The cooking coconut milk are shovelled and moved in the cooking pot at all times. This is to ensure that all the coconut milk in the pot are evenly cooked. Only after a few hours (normally more than 8) that the coconut milk will be cooked and becomes coconut cooking oil. Only 10% of the total amount of the original coconut milk will be produced as cooking oil.

The best part of the whole episode is the 'tahi minyak'. This is the residue left behind in the cooking pot from cooking all that coconut milk that turns into coconut cooking oil. The 'tahi minyak' taste out of this world. It can be eaten as it is; which is a little salty or becomes seasoning for food and dishes to be cooked. This making coconut cooking oil is normally done once a year, especially when there are an abundance of coconuts that fell from the tree as it is already ripe.

Mandi Tengair (A Day at the Dam)

A dam was built across the only river in Senaling, located at Batu 46. This is for irrigation purposes for the planting of rice. A water catchment area is created, to ensure that the padi fields have ample water when it is needed and water is held back during padi ripening period. It is a long walk from home and we have to pass through the padi fields owned by Haji Maarof, who is not very pleased for us to pass through, especially during replanting and growing of the padi in his fields.

The whole gang will creep slowly through Haji Maarof's house, into his padi fields to the dam. Bathing naked we enjoyed ourselves, sometimes forgetting to come home for lunch. Being small boys and not knowing how to swim, we only swim at the falls of the dam. The water area before the dam which is very deep is for the 'big boys' only. We play where the water falls created by the dam as it is only 2 feet deep. Before or after school, we frequent the dam for a nice cool swim and having a marvellous time. When it rains, the water was all muddy and murky. For a swim and fun with the gang, who cares if it is muddy or murky.

When we walked home after the swim, the thin layer of mud would stick and dried on our bodies and we looked whitish with the mud. When asked arriving home, there was no way denying we went for a swim at that 'dangerous place'. The dried thin film of mud on our bodies give us away. The dame was considered a dangerous place as on a few occasion, people died, stuck in the mud in the water area before the dam. When we knew of that, we never went back! We had our sanctuary. The dam still stands until today.

I have no idea where the word 'tengair' came from nor do I know on what base word does it come from.

Basikal Pertama (My First Bicycle)

Due to peer pressure, I wanted to also have a bicycle so I can cycle to school as my other friends. I went to the bicycle shop to look for a used bicycle. Found the one that I liked and came home to tell Atuk Usop that I wanted him to buy me the bicycle. He reluctant agreed and we walked to the bicycle shop together. For the one that I liked, there were some imperfections, however Atuk Usop said he can repair them and make it good since he a 'mechanical man' who can repair anything. We paid RM5.00 for my first bicycle.

I rode home on my 'new' bicycle, but Atuk Usop walked back and he is not confident on my riding skills as yet. We took the bicycle to our 'workshop' and started to tighten all the loose bolts and nuts, realign the tyres, tighten the spoke wheels and oil up all contact parts that needed to be smoothed. He even grease up the ball bearings and straightened the steering, to ensure smooth riding. Now it needs a new coat of paint. Riding my repaired and boosted up 'new' bicycle, I rode to the shops to buy a small can of black paint.

The afternoon was then spent on painting my new found love 'new' bicycle, matt black all over. Following Alang Udin, at the tip of the back bumper, I wrote VC9, in white paint. Alang Udin had his bicycle already named as VC10 (in conjunction with the then famous VC10 aircraft). When I showed my other friends my new bicycle; with the VC9 etched at the back bumper, the gang followed and named their bicycles VC8, VC7, VC6 respectively. Whenever we ride in groups, especially to football games, we proudly display our bicycles arranged in a row with all the VC names etched at the back of our bicycle bumpers.

Senapang Buluh (Bamboo Gun)

One of the fun things to do was to play cowboys, especially gun shooting. Since we cannot afford to buy those expensive toys sold at the shop, we come out with our own creativity - make our own guns. Those who were raised in the 'kampong' will know exactly what I am talking about.

We seek small bamboo about 1 foot long. We cut off about 2 inches at the base and insert a small stick also out of bamboo (stuck into the base), to be the pumping stick; that should slide fittingly into the rest of the bamboo passage. The pumping stick will push the pellet shoved in from one end of the bamboo and will shoot out at the other end. It works by applying air pressure. Pellets are green 'cenerai' fruits knocked into one end and then shoved and push all the way to the end. Another one will then be shoved from the same back and with the air pressure building in between the green 'cenerai' fruits, it will force out the earlier green 'cenerai' fruit in front, like a bullet, giving a pop sound just like a gun! Maybe not as powerful as a bullet, however it could instill pain to whoever is being shot at!

'Cenerai' trees can be found almost anywhere and it fruits all year round. The fruit is about half the size of a ground nut. It is a wild tree that grows about everywhere and since it provide nice shelter from the sun; even though it is a wild tree it never got chopped down. The 'cenerai' fruits are green; it would always mess up the clothes when we try to knock it into the small bamboo passage way. I would normally get a tongue lashing when I get home as the green paste stuck on the clothes could not be washed away no matter how much and with whatever you try to clean it with.

No matter how much the risk of being scolded or sometimes beaten up for messing our clothes, it was all worth it playing cops and robbers with our 'senapang buluh'. No expensive toy guns can bring the same satisfaction!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

White Volkswagen BH120

Ulong Leman (Sulaiman Mohd Zain) was a teacher at Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah. He was also once the Headmaster at Sekolah Menengah Zaaba, Kuala Pilah. He was a teacher all his life and is now living in SS2/4. He was my mentor. He was my idol.

When he bought his first car, a white Volkswagen, I was one of the happiest boy in the village; for I will now go to school everyday in a car instead of the bus. Every morning, when he goes to work at Tuanku Muhammad School, Alang Udin (Shaharuddin - his brother) and me would go together in the car. I was in Standard 2 in Tunku Munawir School. I normally sit in front. When he drives, I would replicate whatever he was doing. Using the small handle bar at the front as the steering I would 'drive' together with him. I use the window slider by the door side (there were no auto window then) as my 'gear' replicating everything he does while driving the Volkswagen. 1st gear front, 2nd gear back, 3rd gear further front and 4th gear further back. However, there was no reverse gear!

Everyday, after school; and I would have finished earlier from my primary school, I will go to the place where he usually parks his car. Under the 'Flame of the Forest' tree next to the TMS school hall. I will wait for him and Alang Udin to come out, to take us home to Kampoing Senaling. Many years later, and I do not live in Senaling anymore; when he moved to Lembaga Peperiksaan in Jalan Duta, he sold the car and bought a Nissan Sunny (the 1st version), still white in colour. I will always remember that car, the first car I 'drove' - the Volkswagen with the number plate BH120.

Turun Sawah (Time For Padi Planting)

When the time was announced by the government to start preparing the padi fields, our community will also have a small gathering and meeting to discuss on the arrangements to start preparing the padi fields, planting and care taking of the padi. As the padi fields are owned by 'the family'; cousins and cousins from generations every able bodies would be called in to help. Since my family do not owned any paid fields, I normally join in the planting fiesta.

With cangkuls, sickels and parangs, we would all throng the padi fields manually to prepare it for padi planting. For ease of management and water flowing procedures, the vast fields are divided into batas (squarish plots). Manually using the tools and bare hands, the growth and the other undesired elements are ploughed and overturned into the soft watery soil. While doing this, we may also catch some fish; which will be cooked and served for lunch. Plots by plots and fields by fields the land is prepared for planting. Meanwhile, a smaller plot is prepared for the 'semaian' best seeds being planted for replanting into the prepared plots later.

Once all the plots are ready and the 'planted padi at semain' are ready for replanting, the padi plants are pulled out from the 'semaian' area and manually 4 or 5 plants of padi plants are replanted in the prepared plots. The padi is planted approximately 6 inches from each other covering the whole prepared plots. When replanting is completed to the prepared plots, you will see a sea of green new padi planted. Water irrigation will now play an important part of growing the padi as continuous water supply have to be available for the padi to grow. Maintenance and weeding is necessary to ensure that the padi grow healthily and would then produce good harvest. I was a padi field extra helping hand!

Everything was manual, back breaking and time consuming; up till the time when 'KUBOTA' came into the picture. That's another story.

Getah Skerap (Scrapped Rubber)

Besides producing latex from the rubber trees, there is another small income that rubber tappers got from the rubber tree. The latex that flowed into the cup in the morning will have a layer remaining on the flowing path. These latex would have dried up by the next morning. Before the tappers cut another layer of the skin to extract latex, they would peel off the dried rubber on the flowing path, left overnight.

There are also excess latex left overnight in the cup; which will also considered as scrapped. These scrapped rubber are then collected and kept aside for a few weeks until there is enough amount to sell (which is earlier dried in the sun). Whenever it rains and the rubber tappers cannot tap rubber, they may also go into their small holdings to collect these rubber scraps. These scraps may also be sold to the 'peraih gotah' (middleman rubber trader) in the small town but at a lower price. Yet, it is still income to the rubber tappers.

During school holidays, to speed up rubber taping, children are encouraged to help their parents 'tapping rubber' by picking up and collecting these rubber scraps before their parents do the tapping proper on the rubber tree. It also forms part of income generating for the children during school holidays. It does not add to much, but this is the start of exposing their siblings to rubber tapping; which may sometimes be the only job and income earning ways for generations in the family.

Mesin Getah (Making Raw Rubber Sheets)

Before MARDEC started to buy liquid latex from the small holders, rubber tappers have to turn those liquid latex into sheets, dry them up and then only it is saleable. They leave in the wee hour of the morning bringing their tools to extract latex from the rubber trees. From tree to tree they would toil and cut a layer of the rubber skin to extract rubber, which falls into a small cup. These latex are collected using to pails (carried over their shoulder with a long stick) with each pails hanging at each end of the stick. These latex are then carried to the 'machine' where it will be transformed into dry rubber sheets (gotah koping).

The latex are poured into a 24" by 12" container of about 6" deep. Depending on the amount of latex collected for the day, it may vary from 4 to 8 containers. It is stirred slowly to ensure that the latex and the water are even out in the container. Acid is added to the latex in the containers and once again stirred to ensure that the acid and the latex are mixed well together. It is then left to dry for about 30 minutes, so as to get the mixture ready for squeezing at the 'machine'. The ready for squeezing latex is then rolled in between rollers on the 'machine' until it is approximately 1/4 or an inch thick or when all water have been squeezed out. When it is 'ready' it will then be rolled over the 'machine with patterns' to create a sheet of rubber with patterns on it.

These still wet latex sheets are then put to dry and stored. Drying of these sheet latex may take up to a few days. When it is 'dried' only than it will be taken to the 'peraih gotah' (middleman rubber trader) at the small town for sale. At that time, late 1960s, dry latex sheets would reap approximately RM0.35 sens a 'kati'. Rubber tappers will take a holiday whenever it rains. As if it rains, collecting latex from the cup at the rubber trees will only have more water than latex; which would be a useless effort to carry back. Squeezing it through the machine will only produce so much rubber sheets.

I was a rubber tapper.

Buat Sangkar Burung (Building Bird Cages)

My neighbour across the street where I lived, Abdul Aziz Hashim (Ajih Baroh) is a master in the building of bird cages. I have no idea where he got that skill from. However, his creativity and neatness in building the bird cage amazed me even until now. I believed he must have learned it from his father, Pakcik Latif. He has a younger brother, Zainuddin (Ajai).

All three of us will head to the jungle and look for the 'pokok bertam' (small palm trees) those that only grow in the jungle with torns all over it. We will also need 8 pillars made from bamboo (the bottom is left wider, to create the base). Small bamboos cut into 3 inch length are also required to create the space between the upper and lower space for both levels. Our bird cages are normally 2 storey with 3 compartments in each level. The top of which are made into traps (one on each side). The wall is normally made of small coconut sticks (lidi) pierced through the bertam pillars to cover the whole bird cage.

With a live bird in the lower level and with the traps on top, our bird cage are hung on a tree to trap other birds of the same species. We do catch a lot of birds. Those consumable birds (there are poisonous ones too) caught are normally slaughtered, cooked and eaten. They are normally grilled over fire with some salts. One of those times; when small birds grilled over fire, sprinkled with salt; is regarded as one of the delicacy living in the village. These traps are used to catch birds that pry the rambutan plantation and those places over land. Birds that normally pry the padi fields are trapped and caught by a different method. That's another story!

Ambik Pencen (Collect Monthly Pension)

My grandfather, Atok Usop's pension is normally paid on the 11th of each month. According to stories, he was in the armoury division of the Army; even though he was a Singaporean citizen. Apparently he enjoyed his pension benefit longer than he had worked in the Army, as he lived to a ripe old age of 102. Calculating backwards, he most probably had worked for 30 years or so, but enjoyed his pension benefit for over 40 years or so.

In the morning, Haji Maadin will pick us up from the house and we will drive to Post Office Kuala Pilah to pick up their money. After waiting for a few minutes, when his name is being called, he will collect and sign for his monthly pension of RM87.78. Then we will all adjourned to Kedai Ali (a mamak shop) in Kuala Pilah and order our usual 'roti canai' with chicken kurma gravy. It was one of the special times especially the good food that I look forward to eat every month; but will enjoy ti only when he goes to pick up his monthly pension. And Haji Maadin, who also pick up his pension will normally go with him. Sometimes he would also take his grandson, Nasir, along. We normally go to Kuala Pilah in his black Austin Minor.

The 11th also marked the time when I will pay my monthly school fees of RM7.50 to my form teacher, Mr Ganeson (Form 1). As school fees collection was something difficult to do collecting from the 'kampong folks' those day; it was actually mentioned at the assembly once that our Form 1A is always the first to have monthly school fees collected from all students - normally by the 11th (you know who pays last). The school fees of RM7.50 per month was once the hindrance for the 'kampong folks' to send their children to English School.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Became a Banker

I sent all 10 application letters to various banks applying for a banking job. As I was an MCE 2nd grader, if I am not continuing my studies, I would be eligible to work in a bank. Working in a bank was a more glamorous job than other industry and the money is a lot better than any other working place including working for the Government. I got 3 calls for interviews. Malayan Banking, Banque de L'Indochine and Oriental Bank. I got the clerical job in Malayan Banking and Banque de L'Indochine. As advised by friends who commute with me every morning, working in a foreign bank would be a better bet. So I accepted to take up the clerical job at Banque de L'Indochine et de Suez Indosuez, after all the office is across the Pudu Bus Station (where my commuting bus - Foh Hup ends it journey). I joined the Bank on 1st September 1974 - I became a banker!

I was assigned to the Bills Department. Had to do a lot of typing, mostly to foreign banks that I have never heard of. The trick is to make sure you follow closely and exactly how it is as one word mistake may meant another correspondence bank. I told colleagues at the bank that I also got the job in Malayan Banking. When they heard that I was strongly advised to go work in Malayan Banking. If I were to continue working at the Banque de L'Indochine; since it is a one branch bank; for anyone to get promoted, we have to wait for our bosses to either died or resigned from the bank, which is very unlikely. They said, 'Malayan Banking has more future, more branches and bigger. The chances are better there as they are expanding'. Following their advise I sent in my 24 hour resignation notice and left the bank after 1 week. I am moving to Malayan Banking.

I reported work to Malayan Banking, Personnel Department on 9th September 1974. After my medical check-up, Mr Tony Chiam assigned me to Securities Department. Encik Mahadzir walked me across the Jalan Bandar (from Kwong Yik Bank Building) to the Malayan Banking Head Office at 92 Jalan Bandar, on the 2nd floor and I reported to the Manager, Mr Chan Chong Moo - Securities Department. I was assigned to handle all insurance matters (renewals and coverage) and indexing of all loan applications; assisting all other officers in the Department for typing letters and other jobs that may be assigned from time to time.

My Personal File (PF) No. was 3965, with a starting clerical salary of RM235.00 per month. I left Maybank in July 1992 (after 18 years), after I just came back to Malaysia from London Branch.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Beli Getah Cair (Latex Purchase)

When I was spending my holidays, after MCE (1973) in Kampong Senaling, I was helping Abah Rahman who was responsible for the purchase of latex from the small holders as a Cooperative at the Rancangan Tanah Pinggir Rubber Plantation in Sungai Layang (on the Kuala Pilah - Tampin Road). At approximately 10:00 am every morning, we will bring our scales, concentration measurement tool and cash to the collection centre. We are the agent to MARDEC Berhad. MARDEC would by then already got ready the latex container at the centre - to fill-in the latex to be purchased.

One by one the rubber tappers emerge from down the hill. Each would normally have 2 pails or 1 5 gallons container of latex to be sold. Depending on their effort, the amount of latex brought to the centre varies. One by one, we will pour out each tapper's latex into the weighing container. Then a small sample of the latex is taken and poured into a small container where the concentration level ('the chi') is measured by a tool. This is necessary as some may have more water or other liquid or other substances added or mixed into the latex. The concentration level is then aggregated against the weight which will determine the actual latex volume sold. The calculated latex volume figure will then be multiplied with the 'price' of latex for the day. The rubber tappers are then paid cash for their latex sold.

Everyday, we serve and purchase from approximately 30 small holders. It would normally fill up to almost half the MARDEC latex container. By 11:30 am, all rubber tappers would have already sold their latex. The container is then sealed, pending collection by MARDEC. By the end of the day, MARDEC will collect the latex container and transported back to its factory in Kuala Pilah. MARDEC would then determine the concentration level of the total latex in the container, multiplied by the price of the day. Abah Rahman will get paid by MARDEC. As this is run by cooperative method, all gains or losses will then be distributed to the rubber tappers.

Price of rubber was quite high, comparatively to other local village products. The villagers had a comfortable life tapping rubber then. However, now the price of rubber is at an all time high. It has been 35 years anyway!

Friday, May 16, 2008

I worked in Sri Jaya Bus Company

After failing through two 'further studies' interviews, I have to go to work as my parents needed help to sustain my 4 other younger sisters and 1 brother who are still in school. I was expected to contribute to the household, to ease my father's burden (the sole bread winner). My first job was at Kementerian Pelajaran. The office was next to the Stadium Negara. I was employed as a Temporary Coding Clerk earning RM5.00 per working day. For 1 week when I was there, everyday I sorted cyclostyled (printed) documents. The next week, through the labour office where I registered earlier, I got an interview - with Sri Jaya Bus Transport Company.

Besides personal and the normal 'what can you contribute' questions, I was asked to solve an oral mathematical problem; since the position in question is as an Accounts Clerk. The question was asked by Encik Hamdan, the Accountant. He asked, 'as fast as you can, what is the total if you add up 1 to 5?'. As fast as my brain works, 3 and 2 is 5, 1 and 4 is 5 and plus another 5 equals 15. He nodded with approval on the speed I answered the question. So I was employed; as a permanent staff, reporting to Sivam, with a starting pay of RM170.00 per month. But since I work with Sri Jaya Bus, I travelled free on all Sri Jaya Bus routes, except to Port Klang. Sri Jaya Bus Company (the big blue bus) was the premier in-town transportation; if not the only one. Their soccer team was in Div II and that time and I played for the team. The office was at the end of Jalan Sentul Sehaluan, in Sentul.

Everytime I take Sri Jaya Bus, I travel free. I felt grand about it as we carry the Company's Staff Bus Pass with my photo on it. However, being an MCE 2nd grader (which I am expected to get a better job), the lure to the banking industry was great. They pay good money, not to mention the overtime payments; which are normally twice than the monthly pay. So I prepared my letters, open up the Yellow Pages and wrote to 10 banks (local and foreign).

Ngoca (Catching Fish @ Padi Fields)

I have no idea where the word 'ngoca' comes from, neither have I any idea from what base word it is derived from. I have always known that 'ngoca' is a happening where we all get together, get into the padi fields or the stream that meander along or within the padi fields and to catch as many fish as you can - using your bare hands, without any equipments. It is an adventure, where there will be food and drinks served. Not much, but enough for all those that came.

Every year, before we start preparing the padi fields for planting, there is always this 'ngoca' function. A few families from the area will get together. We start by cordoning an area where fish may be an abandunce. Then the water in cordoned area is slowly released, but controlled so as to ensure that no fish escape during the release of the water. Once the water have been drained out, either by releasing naturally or by shoving buckets and pails, everyone would then congregate into the designated area to look and catch as many fish. These fishes caught are put into a common pail. Sometimes, the stream is blocked and the water detoured. The dry stream would normally produce an abundance of fish of all kinds (fresh water ones).

Types of fishes caught are normally Ikan Semilang (cat fish - order Siluriformes), Puyu (anabas testudineus), Patin, Putih, Haruan (channa striata) and Lampam. At the end of the 'ngoca' the fish are cleaned and cooked at a nearby house. Accompanied with rice and vegetable greenies, the fish (normally cooked 'lemak cili api') are then served under the tree shades at the edge of the padi fields. I believe the 'ngoca' idea was to 'break the ice' for the start of the preparation of the padi fields for planting! During 'ngoca' the shrubs and growths in the fields are being turned over, stepped on, cut, turned, pulled out and sinked in. In the next few weeks to come, the whole community will be in the padi fields; preparing and planting of padi. And I will be enjoying my next few weeks getting free food and being paid for assisting.

Preparing, Planting, Moving and Replanting, Weeding, Harvesting, Storage & Extracting Rice from Padi (by machine) - thats another story to tell.

Hitchhiking to Johor Bharu

After MCE, in December 1973; Ahmad Nawawi (now in Maybank HQ) and me decided to hitchhike to Johor Bharu (to visit his brother, Abang Pendek). Ahmad came to my house in Taynton View, Cheras and we walked out to the KL-Seremban road putting our finger out to the traffic bound for Seremban. We got a crazy driver; two young men. Got in the car; they drove like crazy, but we made it to Seremban and he dropped us at the Seremban-Kuala Pilah trunk road. We managed to hitched another car that took us all the way to Tampin. From Tampin, we got to Muar; in a car driven by a teacher.

We stopped in Muar as we wanted to taste the famous 'Mee Bandung Muar'. The teacher took us to 'the' famous restaurant (how nice of him) and we had two plates of Mee Bandung Muar each. After the sumptuous Mee Bandung Muar, we walked out to the Johor Bharu trunk road. As Muar town was full of cyclists, it made it difficult for us to hitchhike, but we managed to get another car; an Austin Mini (Car No : JL718 - I remember this very clearly) who was going to Johor Bharu.

It was raining heavily as it was during the monsoon season. When we reached Bakri, water level has already risen. Driving through the water, the car stalled and died and just refused to restart. After pushing it a few miles, it still won't restart. The driver even ask us, 'Why do you care, you can go if you want'; but we didn't. Passing motorist from the other side advised us that the distributor cap is wet, thats why the engine cannot start and run. We opened up the distributor cap, wiped it dry and even uses matches to 'burn' the contact points to make sure it is dry and to also warm it up. After reassembling back the distributor cap into place, we restart the car, which starts, purrs and run! The driver sent us until Abang Pendek's house in Johor Bharu. We said thank you and our goodbyes. What a nice man!

We reached Johor Bharu in the evening and stayed at Abang Pendek's house for 2 nites. In the evening, we walk to Lido Beach and look at Singapore across the causeway - how we wish we had passports to cross over. At that Lido Beach was the first time I had ice cream sandwiched between a bun. Superb!

We came back to Kuala Lupur on the third day, hitchhiking too, but an easy route. We had a Doctor in his Mercedes S280 driving us all the way from Johor Bharu to Kuala Lumpur. Hitchhiking days are not in fashion now. I do have friends who have hitchhiked all the way to Europe! This is the only time that I hitchhiked, except small trips from ITM Shah Alam to Kuala Lumpur on the Federal Highway - that's another story to tell.

Getah Kahwin (Bud Grafting Rubber Trees)

Abah Rahman is the Field Assistant (Mandor) for one of the "Rancangan Tanah Pinggir" in Sungai Layang. Being an expert in rubber planting and plantation maintenance, he takes order from small rubber holders to bud graft rubber trees to ensure that the yield is of superb latex production. I was his 'assistant' - at the age of 10 years old. Whoever wants to replant their rubber plots, there is a 'rancangan tanam semula' scheme which is subsidised by the government. The rubber plot will need to be cleared, the 'pelan' (terraced) done and the small rubber trees planted in its designated position on the terrace.

When the rubber tree is about 3 feet tall, it is now ready to be bud grafted. We request and receive cloned rubber branches from the government. Equipped with a small sharp blade, plastic roller and the skill to bud graft, we will go from tree to tree to 'kahwinkan gotah'. You cut a small portion of the skin from the base of the small rubber tree - approximately 5 inches high and approximately 1/2 inch wide; peeling the skin off, leaving a small portion at the bottom to receive the new clone skin. You slash a portion of the clone rubber skin, peeling it slowly from the branch; the ones with the 'eye'. The peeled cloned skin will now be inserted into the base portion - attaching it to the peeled tree. Once it is in place we use the plastic roller to cover it all; and we move on to the next tree.

About 5 weeks later, we will inspect each bud grafted tree (still with the plastic roller covering it). If it is green, the bud grafting was successful. If it is not, it has to be redone. For all the green ones (bud grafted alive), we will slice off the plastic covering and let the 'eye' grow into a branch. A few weeks more, after the branch has grown to about 6 inches out and up, we can now cut off the old tree leaving the new branch to grow! If you see an 'elephant leg' at the base of a rubber tree, that means the rubber tree is a bud grafted (with excellent clone) rubber tree - which will produce excellent and high quality thick latex.

For all these work, we are paid RM0.07 sens per tree (after the new tree has grown to about 2 feet tall). No extras are paid for redoing any dead clone. With the guidance from Abah Rahman, I eventually became an expert in rubber tree bud grafting. I would sometimes get orders from the kampong folks to bud graft their new rubber trees, which I do after school. You cannot make a living out of this job, but the experience is superb.

How many in this world are lucky enough to have the chance to learn and perform 'bud grafting'? I am one in the few millions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Help Built KL Hilton

It was right after LCE (Lower Certificate of Education - Form 3) examination - end 1971. My father thought that it would be a good idea to go to work and earn some money. He wanted me to be a Caddy at RSGC, but my mother disagreed as the 'bags' are too heavy to carry and the sun, especially in mid-day, would be too hot for me to bear. So he found me a job, through his friend as a contractor worker - building KL Hilton. Building of KL Hilton has reached the 6th floor then! As agreed, for '1 kung' (a 8-hour work day) my wage will be RM5.00.

On my first day of work, I was requested to unload the bags of cement that just arrived. We lined up to receive the cement bags from the lorry. When it was my turn, I bend down halfway to receive the cement on my back. As soon as the cement dropped on my back, I slumped and I could not move, as I did not realise that the cement bag weigh over 20 kg per bag; and I would not be able to carry it. I slumbered, but found my strength, composed myself and carried the cement bags to the designated store area, which was not very far away. We moved and carry all the lorry load of cement bags. There were 5 of us. My other tasks invoved shoving crinkle stones or sand into the cement mixer, adding cement into the mix and move the ready mixed cement to the hoist (goods lift on a crane) for it to be taken up to the top to continue laying the concrete to the building foundation. When we were required to work late, we would jump with joy due the extra money that we could get; where I earned an additional '1 kung' for the additional 4-hour job (2 times rate than normal).

Wages were paid on a 2-weekly basis. I was 'helping building KL Hilton' for about 6 weeks. It was an experience. Whenever I go to KL Hilton (now Crown Plaza Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur) I will tell people whenever I go to the Crown Plaza Hotel; that I used to 'help built this hotel building in 1971'. After the LCE results were announced and school reopens in January 1972, I went back to school, a new place; Cheras Road School - the locals call it "Sekolah Cap Kunci".

I was a contractor worker.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIb (Application into ITM)

I was working in Maybank London and the year was 1990. I decided to take the bus home from my office in Moorgate and wishes to window shop in Oxford Street. As I arrived in front of Selfridges, I jumped down from the London Double-Decker bus. As I landed on the streets, I saw Encik Salleh Majid coming out of the Mothercare Boutique. I went over to him and greeted him; and he remembered me! After saying our hello and small talks, he told me he is on a course in London and that he wanted to buy things from Mothercare Boutique for his children, but the store does not accept any Credit Cards; but only cash and Mothercare Boutique Cards. And he seldom carry that much cash on him.

I happened to have a Mothercare Boutique Card and offered to 'sign' for him so that he could buy and take home to Malaysia the things that he wanted to buy from Mothercare Boutique. We went back inside Mothercare Boutique - he selected the things and I paid the bill with my Mothercare Boutique Card. He thank me and said that he will send me a draft to the amount when he is back in Malaysia.

Would I think twice of 'signing' the bills for him? For what he has done for me? I would not blink an eye to help him! Nevertheless, a week later, I got his 'bank draft' for the amount paid to Mothercare Boutique. What goes around, comes around! It is a very very small and a very very round world!

[You must also read 'Nak Masuk ITM - Part II' and 'Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIa' postings]

Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIa (Application into ITM)

No matter how much I wonder why Encik Salleh Majid changed his mind; I couldn't care less. I am now studying in ITM pursuing my Diploma in Banking Studies. Encik Salleh Majid left ITM in 1977 itself before I had the chance to meet and to thank him for all that he had done for me!

When I had the courage, I went over to the office to see Kak Azizah (who was still a Steno, this time to Encik Amir Zainol Abidin - the then Head of School, School of Business Management) and asked if she remembered me and what actually happened. She said, "Of course I remember you! When you called, Encik Salleh was in a bad mood and had other serious problems on his head. You called at the wrong time; he took it out on you. Sorry laah ... but that was it! Forget it laah!" She continued, later that day, Encik Salleh asked for your name to be checked again and said, "that this boy looks very interested and determined to study, even though he is already working; lets take him in, after all he may have a scholarship from Maybank". She added, that "Encik Salleh even went to the Registrar's office to make sure that you are in the 2nd intake list".

I graduated from ITM with a Diploma in Banking Studies in May 1980 and continued my studies in the United States for my Bachelors and Masters degrees. I graduated B. Sc in Business Administration (Financial Accounting) and an MBA (Accounting) both from University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut, USA.

My wife was lecturing at ITM, after she graduated from the United States. One evening, she was invited to Puan Zulaiha's house for a small gathering among the School of Business lecturers and hey presto ... Encik Salleh Majid was there. I called him aside, introduced myself and told him the story of 'how he helped me got into ITM' and then held my hands out and said, "I want to shake your hands and thank you for all that". He shaked with me, smiled and said, "you really wanted to enter ITM, so I realised that and gave you that chance. And for that I am glad, now that you have achieved not only your Diploma in ITM but a B.Sc and an MBA from US".

[Read 'Nak Masuk ITM - Part II'; first, before reading 'Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIb']

Nak Masuk ITM - Part II (Application into ITM)

I was working in Maybank Sea Park Branch (already into my 3rd year with Maybank) and this was mid 1977. After failing to continue my 'Kajian Luar Kampus' classes in ITM Jalan Othman, I wishes to continue my studies full time; after all Maybank has offerred scholarship to deserving staff who wishes to continue their studies at any Universities including ITM. I got the required forms and applied for Diploma in Banking course at ITM. After being short listed, I was called for an interview at the School of Business & Management at ITM. With burning desire to continue my studies, I went for the interview, which was chaired by Encik Salleh Majid (now Dato').

Encik Salleh Majid was flanked by a few other lecturers and his office staff. He started by telling me, "You are already working in a Bank with good pay, why do you want to study some more? ITM is far from people and people are far from us. The food is lousy and the bed is uncomfortable. Life as a student is not easy. This is the place for 'Jin Bertendang'. There is no money and studying is harder than working and not getting paid like now". I told the committee, "I want to study and would not mind working harder than I should now. If I can get a place, maybe Maybank will award me with their scholarship; which I am already eligible." He said okay! We'll see.

Two weeks later, as announced in the newspaper, student registration in ITM is 2 days away, but I have still not got my offer letter; and the Bank is waiting for my ITM offer letter in order for the scholarship to be awarded. Gaining all the strength and courage, I got to the phone and called Encik Salleh Majid! Not knowing what circumstances he was in, I asked him about my application and mentioned about the interview. He remembered me, however; was screaming into the phone. "You think you are the only 'Melayu' in this country and that we have to accept you into ITM. Even though you may have Maybank scholarship, so what! There are thousands of other 'Melayu' applicants who have better grades than you that have been offered". Could not remember what else Encik Salleh was screaming further into my ears - he slammed the phone down! I was left in awe and sadness and deep in my heart I realised that calling him was a mistake and there goes my chance of getting into ITM again ... (even though I may have a Maybank scholarship). I may be destined to work in Maybank for the rest of my life.

Two weeks later. I got a call from a Kak Azizah (Encik Salleh Majid's Steno). She said, "Encik Salleh Majid said even if you have not received ITM's offer letter, Encik Salleh has asked you to register during the 2nd intake and that all paperwork will be done by Encik Salleh Majid to ensure that you are accepted into ITM as a student". As soon as she put the phone down, I was left in awe again, but was also damn bloody happy. Immediately I called Maybank's Personnel Department and inform that I have been accepted into ITM and wishes for the Maybank Scholarship to be offered to me (as I have fulfilled all other conditions including going through the interview). I registered into ITM during the 2nd intake July 1977.

After all the paperwork and logistical arrangements were done with Maybank, I packed my things and left my rental house in SS2 to start my new life as a student in ITM with a scholarship from Maybank.

[Stories in relation to Encik Salleh Majid - see following posts - "Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIa" and "Nak Masuk ITM - Part IIb"]

Nak Masuk ITM - Part I (Application into ITM)

After the MCE results were announced in 1974 (for the MCE exam taken in 1973), I wanted to further my studies. As most Universities are expensive to go into and my family cannot afford to spend much money, I decided to only apply to ITM; as somehow or rather ITM appeals to me for the place to further my studies. At that time, I was spending my after MCE holidays in Kuala Pilah. So I applied, filling all the necessary forms for application for the Diploma in Business Studies course.

As Abah Rahman has a relative in ITM; that was Encik T.... M....., the Timbalan Pengarah (2nd highest ranking) of ITM then, he suggested that we go and see him if he could 'assist' me to gain entry into ITM. After all I scored Grade II in the MCE exam (which was quite rare at that time as Bahasa Malaysia became a compulsory subject for purposes of calculating our aggregates). My aggregate was 33, 1 before being thrown into Grade III. So we called and arranged with another relative, Abang Jaafar; who knows how to get around in KL and Shah alam and off we went to Encik T.... M....'s house in Shah Alam.

We took the bus from Kampong Senaling to Kuala Pilah, from Kuala Pilah to Seremban and from Seremban to Kuala Lumpur. We then took the local bus to Jayapuri (now PJ Hilton). At Jayapuri, abang Jaafar picked us up and took us to his house where we stayed the night. The next morning, Abang Jaafar drove us to Encik T.... M....'s house in Section 4, Shah Alam - which was a weekend.

As we sat down for coffee, Abah Rahman spoke of my desire to join ITM and have applied for it. Abah Rahman asked if he could help me get into ITM as competition was already great then, even though I scored Grade II in MCE. However Encik T.... M.... subtly said, "apply laah..." and that was it. I was holding a copy of my application. It broke my heart. After travelling on 'bas loncat' all the way from Kampong Senaling to Shah alam, looks like he is not going to do anything to my application into ITM. As the case may be, no string pulling; nevertheless, I was heart broken and deep in my heart I felt that my chances of continuing my studies in ITM comes to nought. And it was true. I never got accepted into ITM that July 1974 intake. Maybe my MCE results were not good enough to qualify to enter ITM then anyway.

I went to work!