Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Kin, Kith & Kahwin - December 11, 2007

My very first major school examination was the Lower Certificate of Education or LCE.
Like everyone else, I was nervous.
So was Bapak although he never showed it.

I never showed it either so much so that Bapak thought I was too relaxed. Actually, being relaxed was the only way I knew to deal with my nerves.

Many times Bapak caught me reading my "Archie", "Princess Tina" or "June and Schoolfriends" comics.
Bapak was all for Kak Eda and I taking a break from studying but he caught me far too many times reading comics than reading my school books.

One day, during dinner, Bapak asked me:"Dah belajar? Dah prepared?"

"Dah", I replied.

Bapak, perhaps not entirely convinced, said: "You know if you fail your LCE, I'll marry you off to one of my relatives in Banting or Kuala Selangor."
I wasn't sure whether or not he was joking.
But if he was, it was not funny.

Bapak had never said that before.
"Alaah, Bapak," Kak Eda and I said almost in chorus.
He laughed.
What was that suppose to mean?
We decided not to pursue the matter. But, for the rest of dinner, there was silence in between changing subjects.
It was the most awkward situation for Kak Eda and I.

We really did not want to know whether or not he was serious.
What if he already had a candidate for each of us.
No, we were not going to push it.

Later, we asked Mak about Bapak's veiled threat.
Mak was probably in cahoots with Bapak but at the same time she did not really want to frighten us too much in case we'd go into a shock or something.
I think, (on reflection), she really did not like threatening her children with marriage to make them study and pass their exams.
I think she was afraid that it would be counter-productive or have a reverse effect.
But, she played along without giving the game away.
She, however, did not have to worry.

Kak Eda and I took the threat so seriously.

Bapak has always taught us to value family and kinship.
He would be most upset if we did not recognise his uncles, aunts and cousins living in Banting and Kuala Selangor.

We are from Singapore because both my paternal grandparents made Singapore their home (from Java).
One of my paternal grandmother's three aunts left Central Java and headed for Banting where she began a new life.
My great grandmother and her two sisters began their new life in Singapore.
In Kuala Selangor are my grandfather's kith and kin.

I don' quite remember when it was that I knew we had kith and kin in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
I think when I was about 8 or 9.

Where we lived at Jalan Lembah in Section 5, Petaling Jaya in the mid 60s, we had a Banting relative living up the road in one of the government house near Gasing Hill.

He was Othman Dahlan. He was my "nephew" because his (late) mum was my (second) cousin.
His children (then) were Norlin, Liza, Reha and Lina.
I think that was when I knew we had relatives here.

I remember visiting Banting and Kuala Selangor during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, weddings or "khenduri", when we were young.
I remember "pokok kopi" in abundance surrounding the compounds of my relatives' homes.
I remember a pond beside almost every house.
And best of all, I remember being served delicious but sinfully sweet pisang salai.
And we would have all sorts of fruits that were packed for us.

I remember my aunts and cousins.

I liked my cousins. But when I was 14, sitting for my LCE, I was sure I did not want to get married to any of them.

It was an awful thought. Marrying cousins?
Besides, Banting and Kuala Selangor seemed a world away.

So, to cut a long story short. Yes, you've guessed it, Kak Eda and I survived the threat.
Two years later when we sat for our form five exams (Malaysian Certificate of Examination), Bapak never repeated the threat again but we were not taking any chances.

There was a point some time this year when I found Shaira slacking in her preparation for her PMR.
I thought I'd try that number on her and told her that if she failed her exams I'd marry her off to my relatives in Banting and Kuala Selangor.
But I suppose it was just not on. As I said it, I could not stifle my laugh because the whole thing sounded so ridiculous.
And really, they don't make kids like they used to.
It would not have worked on Shaira. Besides, what if, feeling so rebellious, she might just take me on.

Much later, in our adulthood, we reminded Bapak of his little threat and told him it was terrible of him to have put the fear of marriage in us.

He cackled. He roared with laughter. But he never told us whether or not he was serious.

You see, with Bapak, you can never really tell.


Anonymous said...

Hi Nuraina,
Interesting! I suppose the "threat" of marriage to some relatives in the kampong can be quite an effective "motivator to study" for girls in those days? We boys never got such a threat... wonder what an "equivalent threat" could be? Talking about Banting... my wife's family hailed from Batu Laut, further south of Banting. Yes, I remember the thick coffee and cocoa trees lining the driveway to our atok's house... that was a good eighteen years or so ago... now with atok long gone (and the house too), it remains just memories that I sometimes share with my kids... life in a "typical kampong" in Batu Laut... take care & salam.

Old Fart said...

Why is it the threat of marriage if you fail was applied even in my Indian home? Some uncanny conspiracy or is it the similarities in Malaysian families? with us guys, the usual was, he will buy us a herd of goats or cows to look after! Many times almost visualised myself herding cows. I can still crack my mouth the sound that is used to herd cows! I actually practiced!

wanshana said...


This is such a cute posting :D

Anyway, with kids nowadays, we have to find a different kinds of "threats" to "motivate" them, e.g : no internet for a month (at least), no sleep-overs at friends' houses, or no friends coming over to the house, confiscate handphones, etc. In short - "NO" to all their "lifelines"!

Even then, not sure if that would work, too! They just don't take us parents seriously most of the time.

Mior Azhar said...

Kak Ena,
Oooooh this one was used by our parents dulu-dulu. In fact one of my aunts was married off after she flunked her LCE. I was in primary then and still remembered she was crying her eyes out even waktu bersanding. Hahha... tapi nasib baik dapat kahwin engineer LLN. But she was far too young to be bothered then.
Anyway, like you, I tried this threat on both Alia and Asma during UPSR (yes UPSR) and they treated it as "angin yang lalu" not to be taken seriously at all. My mistake kot, I started too early and should use this during PMR, instead. But then, like Shaira, they too are clever enough to take this kind of thing seriously.
Tapi dulu, kalau kita fail LCE, kita tak boleh pergi Form 4 kan, that's why the threat is even more "real" kan? kan?

Faten Rafie said...

I was positive that my dad would marry me off to one of his 'older' Arab friends if I flunked my SPM. The moment I heard that the result was coming out the next day, I was shaking and sweating, no one, nothing could convince me otherwise.

The next day, I insisted that I go alone to get the result. Thank god it wasn't as bad as I deserve - hehhehe, I was being realistic, I know how much effort I put into the exam :) I called my mom and told her she can tell my dad that I'm not available for marriage anymore and that my result is okay.

I didn't get home until late afternoon, there were some former teachers who saw the state I was in the night before and decided to check that I didn't do any thing crazy.

They were laughing their heads off telling my mom about the nite before! Ms. Rudi suddenly said "Eh bukan semalam rambut panjang ke?"

Well, I cut my waist-length hair to a pageboy as bayar nazar! And the nazar was made the nite before!

I too wonder if my father was serious about them proposals!


dhahran: i know batu laut. i went there to cover the independent candidate in the general election in the mid 70s.
i was also there in the middle of last year to cover the development of selangor for a magazine.

in those days, i did not want to exchange my PJ life for a life in the rural area.
But today...mmm for the chamred kampung life???

old fart: i think the threat of marriage worked for me because i simply did not want to get married.
it was certainly like the death sentence.
and to one of our cousins!
bapak knew what would frighten us.

shana: these days, kids are so on the ball. they're so savvy.
we can threaten them, but i think they know they have us in the palm of their hands.
imagine hannah's dewy eyes...when you issue your threat.
tak jalan-lah, shana. they know us better than we know ourselves.

athene: Gosh! you could well have been seorang isteri ber-anak lima now.
but, anak2 dah besar2 and you -- Gosh, mungkin dah bermenantu and bercucu..

.. said...

what a nice reading :) i used to be scared stiff on all my parents threats back then, but unfortunately, with my kids, none of it worked. Children are so much different nowadays. One of my daughters is very rebellious and will challenge me at every opportunity. I am quite sure if I pull a fast one/threat like this, she'll laugh it off and ran off to play. Maybe, I need to think of new threats - more modern ones haahaha

Pi Bani said...

Oh my brother did that to his daughter once. He told her if she's no longer interested in her studies he'd marry her off to one of the Bangla workers. Of course we knew he was joking despite his selamba looks and all... but my niece got the message loud and clear - STUDY!! Now she's in France to further her studies, so I guess no worries of tersangkut Mat Bangla. Not too sure about Mat Perancis though...

zaitgha said...

I just have this paranoid about being in a crowd and one time i accompanied my mum to Globe Silk Store during fasting month i almost did not make it home...since that fateful day i avoided that place and only could enter it again after i started working nearby and only during weekdays...and knowing that my dad used to tell me if i did not do well in the exams i would ended up as a lift assistant in Globe and that did it to me...
my mum did use the marriage thingy but i told her to marry me off with a rich sickly old man ha ha ha...

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

whoaaa...marry me off with someone from either banting or kuala selangor. i'll accept both with arms and heart wide open!

*for the record my gf is from banting and her parents now resides in k selangor...hihi..

Anonymous said...

Talking about batu laut... I wonder whether you've tried nasi lemak at few kedai kopi by the road side? Somehow their nasi lemak is "nicely different" than those in Klang Valley... during your assignment for the mag. on devlpt. in S'gor, I suspect many of the "natural wonders" in batu laut & surrounding areas (vs 1970's & '80s) would have "gone with the wind" by now? Salam.


dhahran: No, i have not tried any of the nasi lemak there but now that you've mentioned it, i sure will.

Batu laut and it surrounding areas have developed.
I couldn;t even recoginse some parts of Banting.

After my "adventure" around the coastal parts of Selangor, I realised there was so much to see.
So, following that, I have been taking my kids on excursions to places outside the Klang Valley.

I think it is so important to expose them to the countryside.
They enjoyed it.
They were so thrilled looking at coconut trees. can you imagine...coconut trees.

sigh.... budak2 bandar ni..


marykate: hmmm...we're in the same boat, i just don;t know how to threaten my kids.
tell me when you think of real good ones.

Pi: Mat Perancis lain, kot????

Kerp: You lucky devil, you...

straycat's strut said...

In the midst all these mess, its nice to read your writings and reminisce about the good old days, when things were simpler. But somehow things changed. My parents used the same marriage threats to my sisters and it worked wonders. When it came to my turn, I threatened my parent that I would go out and marry a bangla if I dont get that handphone. It worked wonders too, all the time.

And my favourite threat to dad; either you bring me to that movie or I'll get someone else (read boy) to bring me...

Rockybru said...

Haha! Ena it was quite common to threaten the girls with marriage if they didn't do well in their studies.Usually they were threatened with marriage to some relatives from some ulu areas. These days it would be more effective to tell your girl that her Friendster or Facebook or Myspace account would be suspended if she ducks up her SPM!

And i can't imagine you in Banting now, 9 kids, half a dozen grandkids and heading the local Wanita Umno branch.

Don't think you dad could live with that either.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the good old LCE. I was packed off to Penang in the early 70’s and without being consulted, was enrolled in an English school in Form 3. My English language proficiency was unquestionably elementary at the time, but this was conveniently dismissed as a minor detail. The English text book I was studying in school prior to my sojourn in Penang began with words such as “a man, a pan, a man and a pan, a pan and a man”, and I was expected to study Form 3 in an English school and sit for LCE in under a year? I could not utter simple English words to save my life and during the first few months, the teachers had to resort to Hokkien (Chinese teachers) and BM (Malay teachers) to get anything intelligible out of me.

I did pass my LCE at the first attempt simply because my pencil had a knack of landing on the correct answers more times than not when I was chanting “Eenie, meenie, minie, mo”, in defiance of probability theory. With the LCE looming, if I was given the choice of either passing LCE or being married off to Timbuktu, I would have gladly and decidedly opted for the latter out of sheer desperation.

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Anonymous said...

I remembered sitting for my SRP in 1982. We hardly studied. Infact, we played too much. Two and half months earlier, the Spain World Cup just concluded and when SRP started, we were still 'dreamy' about the football league.

I remembered doing my math paper in 38 minutes flat and did not even bother to check! Such an arrogant fifteen year old.

Of course, when the results were announced, our school had the best result in the whole of Johor. 60 over students got 5 aggregate, which was NEVER HEARD of those days, in Johor.

We serious thought we owned the bloody world!

Then form four came and the reality of "honeymoon" quickly sank in. By Feb, most of us flunked badly in our first additional math test.

We now know, 'tinggi-rendah langit', as my additional math teacher, who is also the Dept Head said over and over again in class for the whole week (after 2/3 of the class flunked the test!)

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Aunty Nuraina,

Haha...In my house, it's the otehr way around...

I will sometimes 'threaten' my parents with a "Ah, nanti I tak mau kahwin, and will stay with you for life!"


So they told my brother: "You cannot marry until Jie-Jie (me) marries", in hopes that he will pester me to settle down one day, so he can get married!

But all in jest ler...;)


straycat:as i have said, they don;t make kids like they used to..
hmmm....if my daughter is reading your commen...

sesat: unbelievable! imagine that!
oh no! thank God, you were not given any choice!

syed: thanks, syed. i will.

bigdog: i can just imagine you, Your Arroganness.

daphne: pandai-lah kenakan ibu bapa....


straycat:as i have said, they don;t make kids like they used to..
hmmm....if my daughter is reading your commen...

sesat: unbelievable! imagine that!
oh no! thank God, you were not given any choice!

syed: thanks, syed. i will.

bigdog: i can just imagine you, Your Arroganness.

daphne: pandai-lah kenakan ibu bapa....


rocky: i don't know whether that will work. but that's an idea.
actually, het them where it really hurts, huh...

no no no....neither can I....what a picture!
thank god, i had never been interested in being a politician. besides, i'm sure i'd make a terible one.

thanks and take care...