This is a sequel from The Outsider In SIS from Mr. Thanda
The turning point in my life
Thanda Govindasamy/Wan Faridah Wan Jaafar
Big brother approach
As earlier mentioned, I grew up in a multi-racial kampong, and studied in a similar environment in school and college. When I became the Hostel Master I was in the same environment as my growing up years. Race, colour, religion were no obstacles in performing my duties. All I saw were boys from poverty stricken areas of poor families. This made me decide, that I am not only a Hostel Master but an elder brother too to all these growing up kids. I vowed to help them grow up into responsible and useful citizens.
Food, their basic need, was there and taken care of. Guidance was what they needed most. Fortunately the hostel prefects were a great help. They helped to maintain discipline and made sure that the residents abide by all regulations and maintain regular study hours. In these aspects I supported the prefects whole heartedly. Our priorities were discipline and studies besides sports and games.
When I faced no problems with race and religious issues, I brought along my younger brother to study in the school and stay in the hostel. He too never had much problems in integrating with other residents, though food was a problem for him. Minor problems yes but never on race and religion.
Kelantan bomoh debunked
My parents came over for a visit during one of the school holidays and stayed for two weeks in the hostel. They too were very impressed with what they saw and felt the simplicity of the people in Pasir Mas, very much similar to the experience they had in our kampong back home. All the talk of charm and bomoh were hearsay and mere stories of the past. They found the people very friendly and welcoming. Possibly Pasir Mas folks knew me as a school teacher and that was indeed a big plus when my folks went about in town. The local people had a real big respect for teachers in those days unlike nowadays.
I was often called up by Mr. Ghouse to answer to the hostel management issues; why the electric and water bills were suddenly too high, why the hostel boys were too involved in so many games and school activities. He would from time to time request for students’ school performance. Normally I had some ready-made answers to each of those questions. Yet one morning, I was called up and asked, "Who put my son’s bicycle up on the tree. It must be your brother. I want it removed, now". Of course the bicycle was removed but no one mentioned who did it. Till today I still don't know who did it. When asked, my brother’s response was, “No, I didn’t do it”. The hostel boys never snitch on their friends. Should any severe punishment be meted out, it was always the guilty party that owned up to their wrong doings or being caught red-handed.
There were times, the teachers staying in the hostel, found their biscuit tins emptied and fruits or some food missing. We teachers in the hostel, made no big fuss over the matter. Siapa lagi?(who else did it?). It was years later when the culprit owned up. Mohamad Zawawi Ahmad, in his essay, did mention quite a bit of things that happened or things committed by the hostel boys. But all were done in good spirits.
Pranking the boss
I have not told this incident to many but Iam sharing it now for us to share a good laugh. During the year end long November-December school holidays only the Form 5 boys stayed back because their examinations were on. I too stayed back to help supervise them. One weekend, it was flooding and Mr. Goh, the Officer In Charge of Police District (OCPD) of Pasir Mas, used to go to flooded areas to help rescue flood victims and take them to safer areas. One evening we went out to the Rantau Panjang area. We could not differentiate the road from the river, but the boatman was real good steering us away from potential problems. We rescued some people who were desperately waving from roof tops.
After the rescue operations we returned to the police station. By then it was about 4 am in the morning. We were resting in Mr. Goh's house with hot coffee and having breakfast, when I decided to pull a fast one on the headmaster Mr. Yusoff Ghouse..
The hostel was supposed to be a relief centre for flood victims. I picked the phone and said, "Ini panggilan dari Bilik Operasi, Pejabat Daerah. Kami akan hantar lebih kurang 30 mangsa banjir ke asrama sekolah tuan. Tolong bersedia untuk tempatkan mangsa di asrama tuan”(This is a call from The Operation Room of The District Office. We are going to send over about 30 flood victims to your school hostel. Please be ready to place these victims at you hostel). Mr. Yussof Ghouse of course answered the call at about 5.30 am in the morning and said, “Ia boleh”(Yes, you can). We knew that the hostel was supposed to be a flood relief centre.
After the call we went back to the hostel. I was reading the papers at about 6.30am, when Mr. Yusoff Ghouse came and said, “Thanda, about 30 flood victims will be sent here shortly”. So we walked through the hostel and he gave me instructions, “Lock your area and do make sure that they only stay inside the hostel. We don’t know who they are or where they are from. Anyway be careful. Am not sure what time they will come, be prepared to direct them”. When he left after a few more instructions, I went straight to bed, feeling sorry for the old man. May his soul rest in peace.