Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesdays With Bapak

Back In '73 -- January 22, 2007

Years ago, I enrolled at Institut Teknologi Mara (now Universiti Teknologi Mara or UiTM) in Shah Alam for pre-University studies.
It was not my plan actually because all I had wanted to do was the the regular thing most kids did after their form five -- do sixth form.

Since Kak Olin wanted to study for her LLB (law) after her HSC and Kak Eda, architecture -- both at ITM -- Bapak thought it best that I applied there as well.

You see, studying at ITM was not in my scheme of things, It was in Bapak's.

I was not interested in doing a professional course. I wanted to continue sixth form, sit for my HSC and do a degree.

(Kak Eda and I had both sat for our MCE the previous year.)

Bapak knew that, of course. But I think he wanted to support ITM, in his own way. Kak Olin had also applied to University of Malaya to do English Literature for which she was offered a place. After some discussion with Bapak, Kak Ton and Abang Ani (Kak Ton's husband), she opted to do an external degree in law at ITM. Kak Eda and I both got a place in a Petaling Jaya school to do sixth form. But Kak Eda opted for ITM.

There is sixth form at ITM?
Bapak knew about ITM's pre-University course that prepared students for HSC and about how good the lecturers were.

He asked me whether I wanted to do my pre-U at ITM. I was at first reluctant because the idea of having to stay in a God forsaken place like Shah Alam was not appealing at all. Eventually I agreed after reading about the course in the ITM prospectus. But mostly, I think Bapak convinced me about the merits of studying there. Also Kak Eda had impressed me on "campus living".

You know, campus vs school.

"You'll learn to be independent...make your own decision. Anyway, Kak Olin and I are there," she said. And did I mention that I had three cousins and a few close friends from Singapore there as well?

The snag was that I had not submitted my application early enough. Kak Olin and Kak Eda had already submitted their application to ITM. I hadn't because studying at ITM did not figure in my (own) academic plan.

I was late in sending my application although I did not miss the deadline. The reply also came late. Actually very late because I missed orientation week.
In fact, I thought my application was rejected. But I was called just at the end of the orientation week for freshies.

In those days, there was orientation which was akin to "ragging" but I think a little milder. At least for the girls. I don't know whether there is still now at UiTM the kind of "orientation" that "siswa-siswi ITM" had in my day.

Kak Olin and Kak Eda came home the weekend after Orientation Week and told me stories about what they had to go through the whole week. Real horror stories although it was easy to see the funny side of things when they were well and over.

Kak Eda seemed to have got more "teasing" than Kak Olin.

During Orientation Week, the "siswa" and "siswi" were made to wear "uniforms". The boys in batik and songkok and the girls, also in batik baju kurung and scarf.

They had to wake up for the "kuliah subuh" and attend talks at the lecture theatres all day long (with solat breaks) during which they would be at the mercy of the "senior ladies and gentlemen". Which means that the hungry seniors would pick you out from the whole mass at random or otherwise, for several reasons -- 1) they liked your face, 2) they didn't like your face 3) you looked like easy game and 4) you were from PJ or KL, an "anak Lord" or royalty.
Or for all of the above.

If you were smart like Kak Olin was, you'd try to be as inconspicuous and invisible as possible. Be a mouse. Be nothing. Be quiet. Boy, if they only knew......

So, Kak Olin got away with the not being "ragged" while Kak Eda got pretty much the routine treatment although the seniors weren't sadistic or mean to her. She was lucky.

One thing that came out of the Orientation Week was that my two older sisers were called Jawa Murtad or JM for short. Kak Olin was JM1 and Kak Eda was JM2.
I think this happened because we had some "saudara-mara" who were already senior students there.
Some of the seniors also called my sisters Jaling (acronym for Jawa and Mendahiling).

Let's just say I was quite prepared for the full monty when I finally went to Shah Alam to begin my pre-University studies. But that never quite happened.

However, before long, the very same seniors who called Kak Olin and Kak Eda Jawa Murtad found out that there was another JM. And that was me. So, I was JM3. But since orientation week was over, I escaped the hard stuff.

But not so at my hostel (hostel 2C) after some seniors saw me arriving by car. Nothing serious, though. One "garang" senior lady named "Sam" who was doing business studies, decided that this new freshie must be easy game and"summoned" for me.

Oh...I played the part of the new kid on the block pretty well. Speak when spoken to. Don't be a smart aleck. Just be sweet. Before long, I was "declared a junior".

At that time (in 1973), Bapak (then managing editor of NST) was one of the "professional lecturers" at the School Of Mass Communication which he had helped set up.
He'd be at the 13th floor (the MassComm floor) of the multi-storey building some week mornings to lecture news reporting and language translation.
I think he was a hit with the students for very known (not unlawful) reasons but which I cannot mention.

Now, how could I have known that some of the MassComm students would actually know the three of us.

In my first month there, a certain guy (son of a then sitting Ruler who shall all remain unnamed) got to know me and we became friends.
According to him, we had actually met in my neighbourhood which apparently also happened to be his neighbourhood. He was not lying because I did remember the incident but not him although by the time he related it to me, it all came back. So, we were actually neighbours.

It was pretty innocent as far as I was concerned. But he must have had casual conversations about me with his classmates who happened to be my hostelmates. I suppose, him being who he was, an exaggerated version spread around like wildfire.
The story was that we were a couple. Which was not true.

Someone or some people in the School of MassComm must have mentioned this to Bapak.

When I was home that weekend, Bapak asked me if I was "going around" with a certain anak Sultan. I told him the truth and said that there was no such thing.

He did not press further. I did ask him who had been telling him this tittle-tattle. He didn't name anyone but told me that I had been seen with this guy in question.

"Just friends. Nothing to it," I said. But, really, what was wrong with being seen with anyone. It was campus. I guess, as far as Bapak was concerned, anyone was not just anyone.

The following week, he sent someone to fetch me home from campus and got Kak Piah to take me shopping for material to make baju kurung.

"Bapak wants you to wear baju kurung in campus. He has given me some money and instructed me to take you shopping to buy materials and then to take you to my tailor to make baju kurung," Kak Piah told me when I reached home.

I was, to say the least, stumped. What was all this about? What was wrong with wearing t-shirts and jeans. This was college, after all. Besides, I had a few sets of baju kurung. In fact, really nice ones.

Kak Piah said I needed some for daily wear not formal silk ones.

"But why.....what have I done?" I asked, so bewildered, so despondent. I felt I was being punished for something I had done but I had no inkling what it was.

And then I asked: "What about Kak Olin and Kak Eda? Aren't you getting for them as well?"

Kak Piah shrugged her shoulders and said she had no idea why Bapak's instruction to her was to make baju kurung for only me. Only moi.
But I knew that she knew why.

I was a little upset. How could Bapak curb my dressing? What was wrong with jeans and t-shirts and skirts?
I was only 17, fresh out of secondary school. It was 1973. It was the era of James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne and ...Led Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash and Young (CSNY), Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple.....

Baju kurung in campus? What will Bapak make me wear next, I shivered just wondering about it.

Most importantly, I kept wondering "why, why, why...."

When I told Kak Olin and Kak Eda, they tried to console me.

"Maybe just for a while," Kak Eda remarked.

So, the obedient me did as I was told. I had five or six "pasang" of baju kurung made and I wore them over two weeks.

Bapak still had not told me why. I had figured out but I was not entirely sure. Mak, however, confirmed my suspicion. It did not make sense at all to me then. Was I supposed to be making a statement with my dressing?

"You did nothing wrong. He just feels that you need to be less conspicuous," Mak reasoned.

So, I reasoned that everybody else was wearing jeans and t-shirts and very casual clothes.
Mak said that Bapak thought it best that I dressed in a way that would not attract anyone's attention, so that I would not be distracted and I could concentrate on my studies.

"Itu punish-lah," I told Mak. As far as I was concerned I had not caught anyone's attention, I was not distracted by anyone or anything and I was able to concentrate on my studies.
I told Mak that if I wore baju kurung, I would really stand out in a crowd of jeans-and-tshirt students.

"He wants me to dress modestly.....," I thought aloud. Mak smiled.

I was prepared for further instructions to make more baju kurung when at the end of the second week of my "punishment", Bapak took me aside. I was home for the weekend.

He told me that I did not have to continue wearing baju kurung in campus if I did not want to. He said it would be good to wear them occasionally. I nodded. But I needed to make one thing clear to him.

"Ena tak ada boyfriend di campus," I said. He leaned back on the chair, and, well....chortled. It was not a mocking chortle but more like telling me "yeah, yeah....maybe not now.."

Well, I did not have a boyfriend and that was the truth. At least at that point in time.

I had always liked wearing baju kurung. Even then. It was having to be forced to wear it that bugged me. If I were forced to wear t-shirts, I'd just as much protest. Besides, I was aghast that anyone would even think that my dressing was in any way responsible for anyone's reaction to me.

I was all of a youthful 17, remember?

Needless to say, I continued wearing baju kurung. Only on Fridays, though.

I might have not understood Bapak's intention then. I realised that he was a little worried for me although he really did not have to be. I learnt to appreciate his act of being fatherly but never stopped wondering why he handled his "fears" -- whatever they were -- the way he did.

So, one day I asked him whether we were still living in a feudalistic world...


Anonymous said...

Your Tuesday's today brings back nostalgic moments for me too at ITM then.

Although it wasn't funny then to be awaken up at 12 midnight by these seniors to be 'drilled', they pretty much later became good friends indeed.

And that Cempaka hostel provided a good hill view for us to admire those cutie senior boys walking through to go back to their Perindu hostel (was it Perindu?). We girls all whistled and 'kacau' those cuties boys. hehehe.

My years were in 79 till 81. 3 of my best years in college.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

I imagine all the jeans were bell-bottom cuttings and most students then proudly showing off their afro or beehive hairdo.

Accia said...

salam kak ena,
oh yes, i had to do syair with whats written behind our 'kad makan' during orintasi. silly memang!

Anonymous said...

i, must say amongst the three of you i reckon, kak olin dressing was the most fashionable and trendy, allahyarham, eda was quite rugged, mostly in jeans and tees. however you're mostly seen in pants or jean and blouse, always carrying an umbrella around.

WY said...

I don't think your Bapak was punishing you. He was probably ahead of himself and everyone else, in trying to avert the possibility of you and the anak sultan being together - through the only way he can control - which is your appearance. We all know how "good" are the tengku2 around.

zorro said...

Ena, always a father's concern about her little girl....you may be youthful 17, but I am sure you were refreshing and stunning. You still are! YES?

Mat Salo said...

Dunno what to say... can get TWB get any better? YES! A resounding YES! With this post Kak Ena you have led us back to the early Seventies (when hormones has yet to surge in yours truly --I was, after all taking my Std 5 assessment then) and into the mind of sweet 'ol Bapak.

You might've have been my demure, pet sister extraordinaire in baju kurung, conspicuously salacious with a capital C, but I also know how it must've felt to be the odd one out. You must have been quite a sight in them florals and attracted quite a following (I know, I've checked-- I've got nothing better to do you see)... but what a sight it must've been. Oh Kak Ena!

But your Bapak had your best interest at heart. He meant well with the baju kurung decree but that only made you more alluring. Jean, blouse, umbrella (ella ella, eh eh) or BK, I am, an unabashed "open" admirer...

Please keep these stories coming...

Anonymous said...

Sis Ena
This TWB is so woohoo. Got to see woohoo Maria Sharapova live now. She was leading Justine Henin 6-4, 1-0 when I left her for TWB minutes ago. Hope she still is.

Bailey said...

hai kak ena. nice meeting you, rocky and few other bloggers at the loaf today. =)

Anonymous said...

Sis Ena
The babe with brain played stunning tennis to annihilate the World No. 1. What a stunning day!

Don't heard much about "professional lecturers" in our institutions of higher learning these days. It should be the way and resurrected. For example CEO/CFO/Senior Audit Partners/Fund Managers/Star Analysts/etc giving lecture to accounting/finance undergraduates, not just in Klang Valley, but all over the country. Teaching and Learning will be greatly enriched by it. Another form of national service by giving something back to the country.


Anonymous said...


yes..yes..the ragging thing, even super-duper juniors until my badge suffered that kind of orientasi, and of course, a bit of 'aspirasi' being infused (shhh!must i?)

WE the freshies would be shouted again and again, even we chuckle a bit if there's any joke. luckily
it was only 6 days 'in prison, brainwashed'.

after the "Minggu Mesra Siswa" which was AT ALL tak mesra, freshies would be inducted at the dorm, and angkat sumpah, hakka dancing and all. Sheesh. In branch campuses, it is even harsher than one in Shah Alam, i was told by a senior there.

but somehow, the seniors are nice.

the nicknames- oh dear, worse. the nickname was created during the induction, and the name is based on the short form of any bad things to say in life. you know what is it.

during your time, were lecturers there still 'orang putih'?


fenway: ooh..you were very much my junior. and during my time, the hostels were identified by "numbers": hostel 1 (a,b & c),2 (a, b & c) and 3 (a,b & c) were girls' hostels while hostel 4 was for boys, The junior boys also stayed at the terrace houses.

yes...it is for me too -- my years at ITM. It was also there that I first met Dayaks and Ibans. I realised very quickly that, when given opportunities, people can progress. My Dayak and Iban friends/classmates were very smart and intelligent.

by the way, you didn't study at Boston, did you? Because there's a Fenway Park near where I used to stay.
and thanks for visiting.

kerp: yes yes....how di you know? cool bell bottoms. and i almost had my hair afro-ed. the hairdresser refused to do it.
"apa you mau perm rambut you?" she said as she stroked my hair.,

accia: really....memang. kadang2 silly betul.

secret admirer: yes, you are right. kak olin was very stylish. Arwah Kak eda was rugged and I was er...quite normal. like the rest of the students. and alamak, you notice my umbrella...i went everywhere with it.

rational thinker: i had thought as much...but really, he didn't have to be worried.

zorro: aaawww, shucks...

mat salo: demure? hahaa. thanks, bro,

aMiR; wowww..multi-tasking I see..


mutalib: some things just don't change, ya?

yes...during my time, we had american lecturers -- some of whom were from te Peace Corps.



it was really so very nice to have met you today..
thank you for introducing yourself to me..
Now I can put the face to the name...

hope to see you again...

take care..

Anonymous said...

I went to ITM thingking I was very 'rugged'.After seeing Potatos, Ponti (pontianak hairstyle),Long (Carlos Santana lookalike),Len(the Dayak with waistlong hair),Alam (perpetually stoned) and many other seniors, i felt like a nerd and just like Ena ,tried to be as inconspicuos as possible.
Ena was being modest when she didn't mention that the Samad sisters were among the 'anak Lord' of that time...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Bapak was trying to circumvent bad press, Ena. ;D


anon@10:50PM: hmmmm....we do know each other, don't we?
i think at that time any fee-paying student was an anak lord, kan?
after Bapak was detained, Kak Eda and I appealed to have our fees reduced.
and when and after Bapak was detained, (from anak lord), we became anak komunis.


mekyam: yah-lah. it looks like he was trying to do that.

once a Press man, always a Press man, whatever the situation, and whoever it may involve...

but...come to think of it. no harm or damage done for all that..

Anonymous said...

Were you bell bottoms low slung hip huggers type. baby tees too? upload some pics please hahaha


hell's engine:
no no no..... not those kind.. ours were the original bell-bots. and i think in those days we call our denim jeans -- "dungarees". I love my Lee's and Amco (an Australian brand).
And I wore those denim over-alls, you know, like the workers overalls. very in, then. i got them free as part of the "payment" for a photo spread i (and 4 other students) did for a magazine "Kancil" featuring one of those brands -- can't remember what - Lee's or Levi's or something else. tak ingat.

baby tees -- not in then-lah. halter-neck tops -- yes. Very the thing to wear then.

Anonymous said...

Kak Ena,

I was much younger than you when my father shipped me into a boarding school in Kuantan (I actually got an to go Mat Salo's BIG SCHOOL!), Jan 1980. I was barely 12 years 1 1/2 months old then and had to fend everything for myself, tolerate the ragging and 'waterless' situation and urrrghhhhh; horrible food at the Dewan Makan and ultra dirty toilets!

I had to learn to fist-fight there and then, especially when there were 180 boys in my form; ALL as immatured like I was. There were 150 boys in second form and the 100 boys third formers must be disciple of lucifer in HELL!

Most of all, I had to leave my collection of Airfix and Tamiya models that I painfully worked on, since I was ten. Also, I have to let go of my new found craze then; Subbuteo table soccers!

Well, I stayed on in the system for a good 8 years there on. Look what I turned out to be!


On a personal note, my family was involved in a few programs in ITM, especially in the late 60s and early 70s, which include the Pre-U and Pre-Science/Pre-Commerce programs.

Then the development of the sixth form, (your time, it was the HSC) and later morphed into GCE A Levels and South Australian Matriculation (my time). Of course, an American Associate Degree program was added too.

Personally, after coming back from England, I was involved in the Accounting School off-campus program, in the mid nineties (just prior of starting my family). There were many aspiring much older men in class then, some twice my age and assuming position such as Director/Dep Director of Govt agnecies, doing their DIA.

You and your sisters were in good company. I believe, Lalin was in KPP/ITM too, wasn't she?

Rockybru said...

Heh, the baju kurung must have been meant to keep the anak raja away. Kings and princes were powerful those days and some of them would think nothing of taking sweet young daughters away from their daddies if their hearts so desire. Pak Samad may have been a powerful man then but I suppose he wasn't taking chances with members of the Royalty. And I believe you'd do the same if some anak raja starts showing interest in Shaira. Betul tak, Ena?


BigDog: Thank God I never agreed on boarding school for kids below 15. Adel oould have turned out like you!

In those days, you have to sit for a test to enter Tengku Khursiah.
There were four Malay girls in my standard 6 class. We were in the first class. Zalina Ismail, Fatimah Wahab, Noraida Samad and Nuraina Samad. Three of them sat for the test. I did not want to because I found out that Tengku Khursiah was not like Malory Towers or St Clare's (Enid Blyton books) -- they didnt have swimming pools or bicyles etc etc...
Seriously because I was a ballet student and going to boarding school meant I had to quit ballet. Of course, i could've sat for it and then turn it down. But...I didnt know any better.

I think they all got accepted but only Zalina accepted the offer.


rocky: you maybe right. but well,if the anak raja was seriousit would not have mattered what I wore, would it?

oohb...i that happnens to Shaira I'll let her Bapak dea with it.,

Anonymous said...


What do you mean "Adel might turn out like you"?

What is wrong with me, that you don't want Adel to turn out, like me????

Remember, I wasn't the 'darling' of prefects board LONG BEFORE I was shipped to a boarding school!


zaitgha said...

thought of not leaving footprints this time but the malory tower reply to Bigguy made me smile he he

that was why i didnt go to boarding school too its was not like enid blyton's ek...

jeans and tshirt were sorta my uniform from young....when i started my first job i had to borrow a few pairs of my sis baju kurung....