Saturday, October 26, 2013

Short Story 4: The Healing Heart



Short Story 4: The Healing Heart
My heart was beating faster and faster. I was very nervous as the time for me to move from my seat drew nearer and nearer. I told to myself that it would only last for a few minutes so I did not really have to make a fuss of it. I did not really have to worry about it. “I can make it, I’m sure I can make it,” I told to myself times and again.
Not far from my seat, I could see my dear parents, my father and my mother. The two familiar faces penetrated my nervousness and somehow managed to neutralize it. My father always carried the stern look wherever he went. There was no exception for this moment. I saw my mother whispering to him. His indifferent look did not reveal any of his feelings. Yet I was very confident on how his state of mind now. I knew it deep in my heart that he really cared for me this time around. How I wished for my younger sister to be around to witness and share this moment of glory.
Soon, my name would be announced. My eyes met with my mother’s eyes. I could see the tears sparkling in her eyes. The tears signified the joys within her. “Go up to the stage, my dear. Go up there confidently. I’m really proud of you!” Somehow I could sense these words through my mother’s eyes. My father was just right beside her, looking at me too. I was now pretty sure that both of them were really proud of me. There were no more reserved feelings from the two of them. I was more ready to present myself to the crowd now.
As I stood up from my seat, at the right back corner of the hall, I saw my teacher sitting there with her broad smile. Mrs Moorthy was clapping her hands to cheer me up to the stage. I knew that without her encouragement, I would not be here to receive the honour. Without her persistence, there was no existence of me sitting in the grand hall waiting to be called up to the stage. Without her determination, I would long be drowned in the crowd. I smiled to her and deep in my heart I whispered my genuine utterances, “Thank you so much my dear teacher, without your interference there is no real me in this world. Thank you very much, teacher for being such a Good Samaritan for me.” Suddenly, the past incidents were seeping slowly into my mind.
I did it purposely but it was only for fun. The dreadful disaster was not what I could predict. It happened so sudden and then changed everything. “Kak Lin, please stop it. This is totally wrong. Please don’t do it again and again. We might get caught,” my younger sister, Ita kept on advising me through her soft voice. I ignored her unduly worries and I continued slipping the glittering items into her bag. I had more than enough money to buy all those things yet I desired for the excitement. The feelings were indescribable. The thrills were beyond words. Picking up things from the various stores had become more like a routine for me. It had become a habit and it had become a part of me. My sister was more like a helper to me, involuntarily.
That day as usual we walked into a store near to my house. The moment I stepped into the store, my eyes were glued to a pair of earrings which glittered so much that I could not keep my eyes off them. The more I saw them the more I desired for them. They were rather expensive but undoubtedly I could afford to buy them. My sister was just right beside me and I knew that it was the moment to strike. Without wasting anymore time, I stretched out my hand to touch the earrings .They were indeed beautiful and I must own them this moment. I put them into my sister’s bag and both of us walked towards the main entrance of the store. I smiled to my sister to signal the victory that we had achieved. She somehow looked anxious and worried.
“Hey, girls! Stop! Stop!” I heard someone screamed from the back. I turned around and saw a tall middle-aged man. He was asking us to stop! I knew that we could wait no more. My sister and I ran as fast as we could in order not to get caught. If we were caught we would have no face to see my parents. All the while I was an obedient girl who had excellent academic results in my parents’ eyes. In addition, I was a big good elder sister to Ita. Me and Ita always stick together. My parents had no idea of what I had done all the while. “If they know that I am the one who have taught Ita to do such a thing, I am sure they will not forgive me. Oh my God!” I murmured to myself. The regretful feelings just came too late this time around.
I ran as fast as I could. My sister was right behind me. Suddenly, I felt that someone pushed me to the side and there was a loud bang after that. I fell to the ground by side of the road. What had happened? I saw stains of fresh blood on the road. A car stopped in the middle of the road with the emergency lights on. The crowd swelled and became bigger. “Ita, where are you? Why are you not behind me?” I searched for her yet there was no sight of her at all. Suddenly I sensed a bad omen. “No, this could not be. The person could not be my sister!” I prayed that the bad thing would not happen to her.
I pushed through the swelling crowd and finally I managed to get to the front. I really could not believe my eyes. I kept on blinking my eyes so that the view in front of me would change but it did not change at all. It was still the same. I was hoping that it was all but a nightmare yet it became clearer and clearer to me that it was not. The thing which I dreaded so much had happened anyway.
The person who was lying breathlessly on the road was my dear sister! Ita was not moving at all and her eyes were closed. There were blood stains here and there. Her clothes were soaked in blood. “Oh my God, this cannot be true! Please! Please! Tell me that this is not real!” I rushed to my sister’s side and hugged her as she lay motionless in my lap. I screamed and yelled loudly for her name again and again yet she did not reply me at all. I cried bitterly for her departure. She had left. She had left me and my parents forever.
Three months had passed yet the incident remained vividly in my mind. It was a cruel reality which could not be erased. My whole world had changed. I was not the once cheerful girl anymore. My academic result dropped tremendously. I had no mood to indulge in my interest anymore as my helper was not around by my side. I started to realize that it was wrong for me to do that and the worse thing was that I had implicated my innocent sister. She did not know anything yet she had to face the retribution on behalf of me. It was not fair at all! I started living in my own world with my own indulgence.
Every morning, how I wished that I would not wake up from my sleep. How I wished that I could sleep all day long. The sweet dreams vanished the moment I saw the dim ray of sunlight breached into my tiny room. I tried so hard to immerse into illusion yet I was still plunged into the cruelty of the reality. I hated to face it. The more I wanted to run away from it the more I suffered. My vision was blurred. My body ached so much; however, it still could not be compared to the endless pain which surrounded my heart. The pain kept on piercing into my heart like thousands of needles leaving my heart with thousand holes which bleed profusely.
Although my parents had begun to forgive me as time passed by, yet deep in my heart I knew that they still suffered endlessly over the lost of their precious youngest daughter. It was indeed tough for them to accept the fact that I was actually the murderer! I was the culprit! I could not bring myself to face the reality. At the same time I could not forgive myself on what I had done towards my sister. It was all because of me. It was all because of me that she had to leave all of us. Nothing I could do to atone for my sins! My actions were unpardonable!
The pressure and stress slowly became a burden to me which I had to carry on my shoulders. It became heavier and heavier and I could hardly cope with it. Yet I let myself drowned in the bottomless pit. I deserved all the punishments for the wrongdoings that I had committed. I let myself giving up on my life. Sometimes, I felt that I could not carry on living in guilty. I could not forgive myself for what I had done. I was more like a living corpse walking in the world without my soul attached to it. How I wished I could end my life and all the troubles would vanish into the thin airs! The inner voice within me kept on persuading me to give up all and leave the miserable world.
If it was not for her existence, I would have left the world long time ago. She was Mrs Moorthy, my beloved teacher. Mrs Moorthy was my English teacher since two years ago. She was a sweet, compassionate lady who cared more for her students than herself. One day, she approached me with a calm tranquil voice when I was idling my time away in the school library. “Lin, what had happened? I have been observing you for some time. You’re no longer yourself anymore. I don’t see the Lin that I used to since three months ago. There is an extreme change in you. Would you mind sharing your woes with me? Maybe I can be of some help to you,” Mrs Moorthy uttered the words sincerely. I remained silent for a long time but Mrs Moorthy would not give up. She kept on approaching me in a soft tender voice.
Finally, I could not stop the tears from rolling down on my pale cheeks. I cried and continued crying generously. My eyes were swollen yet my warm tears kept on flowing non stop. I cried for at least one hour before I uttered my first faint word. “I… I…” “Come on, Lin Now, let me ask you. Do you know why we are given only one mouth but two ears? We are asked to listen more. If you don’t mind, would you like to share your problem with me? I’m very much willing to listen. Just listen.”
I knew very well that I could not communicate with my parents anymore as the incident had left a big scar within the family. The talks were always ended with arguments and everyone was in a more despair state after that. It did not work at all. Meanwhile, all my friends had begun to avoid me as days passed by. I always shunned them whenever they tried to help me and in the end they finally gave up on me. They labeled me as a hopeless case. I was beyond cure. There was no potion or remedy for me at all.
Now, Mrs Moorthy was the only one who was willing to listen to me. Also, Mrs Moorthy was the only person whom I was willing to pour out my woes to for the moment. When I looked into her eyes I saw the sincerity within her. I started to believe that she was the one whom I should share my problem with.
I started to tell everything to her. How I long for someone who was willing to listen to me. Just listen to me and did nothing. Mrs Moorthy was certainly the one. I told her my predicament from the beginning until the incident that had changed my life totally. I told her that I was plagued by the guilty feeling and I was unable to lead my life as a normal person anymore. I would want so much to end the misery. I would want so much to end the meaningless life. I would want so much to escape from the life which was full of nothing but guilt.
Mrs Moorthy looked calm when I had finished relating my mess to her. She looked deep into my pathetic eyes. She did not say even a single word but hugged me tightly in her arms. That day I cried with all my heart. She was just listening to me. Indeed, she was just listening to me and nothing more. And I thanked her so much her kindness towards me.
The day after, I received a call from Mrs Moorthy and the calls poured in for months although I kept on rejecting her. She asked me to go for social work in an orphanage in the town. It had been a long time since the last time I went out. I was reluctant at first but after some time her determination had moved me. I went with her to the orphanage. There I was given a chance to mix around with small children. The small children in the orphanage were indeed very pitiful. Some of them were abandoned by their parents since their birth. Some lost their parents in accidents. Some did not even know their own identity. I felt luckier as I still had my parents with me until this very moment.
“Lin, do you know the reason why I bring you here?” asked Mrs Moorthy compassionately. I had no idea at all and I just kept quiet. “Although your sister; Ita is no more in this world, please do not stop caring for the others. Don’t keep the love for your sister to yourself. There are others out there who need the care from other people. There are others out there who want the concern from the others. Maybe your sister’s departure was meant to divide the love from you to the others in this beautiful world so that they also know what love is. I’m sure your sister will be most willing to share it.”
The moment Mrs Moorthy finished her words, I was suddenly awakened. I was indeed a lucky person to have Ita as my younger sister. She was truly a selfless person. She gave up her precious life in order to save her elder sister. She gave up her life in order to share the love for her with the others. I regretted spending the past many months doing nothing but only causing trouble for the others. I even thought of ending my life. It was undeniably very foolish of me! I cried heartily and hugged Mrs Moorthy tightly. I thank her for preventing me from committing any further mistakes in my life.
In the blink of an eye, two years passed since the very first time I followed Mrs Moorthy to the orphanage. Doing social work had become a part of me. Shoplifting was no longer my interest. I had more than one “sister” now, in fact I had many and they were getting more and more. However, my dearest sister would always be Ita who remained alive forever in my heart. My life became more meaningful. My relationship with my parents improved tremendously. Mrs Moorthy told me that all parents in this world loved their children and there was no exclusion to my parents and she was exceptionally right! Although the incident could not be wiped out totally, my parents had begun to accept me more keenly compared to two years back.
“Let us welcome the best student of the year 2007, Noraslin bt. Kamal from 5 Ambar to come up to the stage to receive the award,” the master of ceremony pronounced my name loudly. I walked proudly up the stage to receive the honour bestowed to me. Deep in my heart, I thanked Mrs Moorthy for walking into my life. “Thank you teacher, for grabbing my hands the moment I fall down. Thank you teacher, for listening to me the moment I need someone to lend me her ears. Thank you, teacher, for guiding me to stand up again on my feet. Thank you teacher, for everything you’ve done for me.”

                                                                                                                                            (2851 words)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Short Story 3: Second Chance



Short Story 3: Second Chance
The insignificant classroom of 6H was scorching hot. It was like a melting pot and I could wait no longer to flee from it. The noise was intolerable. It was the last period of the day yet time seemed to creep so slowly. From faraway, I could see a lady figure walking towards my class. She looked unfamiliar and the idea immediately struck me. She must be the new English teacher for my class. “Stand up!” the class monitor called out weakly. All of the students stood up. “Good afternoon, teacher!” the students wished the new teacher unwillingly. “Good afternoon, class. Sit down.” “Thank you, teacher,” replied all the students lazily. “I am not going to give in to her,” I told myself consistently. “Nor am I going to cooperate with her.” She was the fourth English teacher since I was in Primary One. None of the English teachers impressed me so far and I doubt this one would.
English was a total turn off for me. I detested English. I loathed English. Since Primary One up to Primary Six, I perceived that English had become tougher and tougher for me. I still remembered that how a brilliant student I was when in Primary One. Names of fruits were on my fingertips. I could name at least five types of transport at a time when required. When teacher asked me about the numbers I could give all to her, from one to ten without blinking my eyes. “Am I not a genius?” I was always so proud of myself then for being such a gifted person. Yet things did not remain the same all the time.
I started to lose focus when I went to Primary Two. “Come on, Din. Let us go to GP-Gamers Paradise. Suresh is waiting for us there.” Insomia, Glow, GT and Galaxy were the cyber cafes that we went frequently yet GP was our favourite spot. “I discover a new online game, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it,” Siang Yee kept on persuading me. The invitation was irresistible. The temptation was so overwhelming for me. I could hardly resist to it. The entire evening was spent in cyber café indulging in the online game my friend had recommended to me.
The addiction had lasted for four years and I was still sticking to it. The longest time in cyber café was about 13 hours a day. It was full during weekends especially on Sundays; the 72 computers were packed with people mostly teenagers between 14 and 18. I was the one who matured faster as I joined in the community much earlier compared to my schoolmates who were still kicking football in the field. The most popular online game among us was DotA. I was obviously obsessed to it and the best part was when I was combining forces with my other four teammates opposing the other five in a competition. It was simply superb! We always went for 10 hour 15, meant paying RM15 for 10 hours time in GP.
I worked part time during Saturdays helping in the grocery shop so that I had enough money to pay for the numerous hours spent in cyber café. Sometimes I gave a treat to Siang Yee and Suresh and occasionally they paid for my indulgence. We shared joys and woes in cyber café most of our evenings. Thrills were when we managed to triumph over certain territories and destroy the opponents. All of these really turned me on. Woes were when our gold was scarcely enough and we were incapable to buy equipment during the mission. It was indeed provoking as gold was needed to buy items to strengthen our hero and gain abilities.

The long time indulgence landed me in hot soup. My studies went down the hill tremendously. There was no turning back for me. I was helpless about my schooling and I was prepared to let go at any time. Well, scholar, I was just not cut to be one; this was what I always prompted to myself. Well, study was not that significant for me after all. Many people did not know how to read and write yet they still could become big boss. I was one of them, of course!
I kept on hanging around in GP with my best friends until one day when GP was raided by the RELA people and also the teachers from school. One of them was actually the Senior Assistant of Students’ Affairs, Mr Balakrishnan. Suresh and Siang Yee were passionately flipping through the Playboy magazines. I was busy occupying myself with DotA at that time when they barged into the cyber café. I was sent to the Batu Pahat Police Station as I did not bring my identity card with me and after a few hours my elder sister came to take me home. My friends and I had to face the music and we were punished severely for playing truant and frequenting cyber cafes. We were giving a warning too. It was a disgrace and humiliation to me being landed in such a sorry state. I was sure it was Miss Lee who tipped off the Senior Assistant. We kept on having disturbances on and off. “I’m not going to let her off lightly! She is sure to get it from me!” I was overcome by my discontentment towards Miss Lee. I pledged to seek revenge to redress the injustice.
“Amirrudin, would you like to try and read the passage?” Miss Lee asked persistently.
“What?” I asked her nonchalantly.
I despised Miss Lee for asking me to read. She knew very well my proficiency of English yet she was still making things difficult for me. I kept silent for a long time. In the deep core of my heart I told myself that she could not do anything to me if I maintained silent. The war went on between Miss Lee and me.
“I will go opposite of what she wants me to do, let her have a taste of her own doing!” I told to myself.
Indeed, she gave in as she had asked another student to replace me in reading out the passage.
“See, you can do nothing to me, right!”
I laughed heartily deep inside my heart as I had won the match. I was so glad that she was embarrassed and disturbed. It happened many times in class through numerous “deeds” of mine. I was out to make sure she suffered and got her own dessert. However, Miss Lee seemed to be exceptionally patient with my bad behaviour.
“Today I’m going to start a competition. Those who do the exercises correctly every time will get an “apple”. Then I’m going to total up the “apples” in the end of the year. Those who are in Top 10 will get prizes from me!” said Miss Lee enthusiastically.
I saw Miss Lee putting up an Apple Chart at the back of the classroom in the English Corner.
“What the heck is she doing? So childish and silly of her! She thinks that all of us will fall for her cunning trap? Ask her to wait and see, for sure she will be disappointed,” I told to my two best friends sarcastically.
“Well, no one would be interested in the so called Apple Chart. It was meaningless!”
The outcome was not as what I predicted. After three months’ time, the class turned out to be very cooperative. As Miss Lee explained the teaching points to the students many of them lent their ears to her. I was so surprised at the drastic change of my friends. Last year, the English teacher was not able to take us into her hand at all. The classroom was upside down then. I would always idle away with my fantasy; some students were sleeping while some were talking to each other. Only a few would listen to the teacher babbling and it was the common sight all year long. To my surprise, the sight in front of me was indeed a cultural tsunami for me.
“Is this 6H?” I asked myself astonishingly.
The lessons went on without upheaval or difficulties. The best part of the lessons was during the written activity when all students were so engrossed by their work. Even Suresh and Siang Yee had started to go against me. They were so eager to see their red or green “apples” getting more and more in their own columns of the Apple Chart. Suddenly I noticed that I also had many “apples” too yet they were all black in colour! I was very furious and I went up to Miss Lee to question her with a harsh voice.
“Why do you give me all the black rotten “apples”? Remove them at once! You’re making me losing face in front of my friends!” I shouted at her angrily.
Miss Lee’s face looked stern.
“Amirrudin, once they’re up there you can’t simply remove them. You need to replace them by doing the exercises that I assign to you. Once you’ve done with the exercises, I will paste the green or red “apples” over the rotten ones. Do you understand?” explained Miss Lee patiently to me.
Miss Lee challenged me to have all the black rotten “apples” removed within one month time. I always emerged as winner in DotA and why should I afraid of taking up this little challenge?
“All right, I’ll let you see what I’m capable of. But please bear in mind that I’m not giving in to you. I’m only trying to prove to you that I’m not an empty vessel, okay!”
Gradually, day by day I could see that the green or red “apples” were being pasted over the black rotten “apples”. The Apple Chart was not an eyesore to me anymore. My green and red “apples” were getting more and more. I noticed that Miss Lee actually assigned to me the easier tasks at the beginning of the challenge. She was trying to make it easier for me to get rid of all the black rotten apples. Bit by bit I could understand her good intentions. I began to feel that she was not a bad person after all.
“Now, it’s language game time. Today we’ll have an activity called Word Grab!
Miss Lee related the game to the class as she explained the rules and regulations to take into consideration. I was quite reluctant to take part but Miss Lee kept on calling my name until I was not able to decline her request. It was the first time I engaged in the language game in class and I was immediately addicted to it. One boy and one girl were called up to the front of the class and as Miss Lee called out the word written inside the circle on board, both the students would try to find the word and give it a tick. It was the best game I had ever played. Although I managed to “grab” only two words out of the ten words called out by her, I was contented with my performance.
The English classes seemed to be condensed as two periods of lesson always passed so swiftly. Miss Lee taught us numerous lessons; Grammar, Writing, Reading Comprehension, Listening and Speaking and Vocabulary too.
“You must know many words so that you’re able to write a compact essay. You must be able to spell the words correctly,”
Miss Lee always advised us on the importance of knowing all the English words. I was beginning to establish a better teacher –student relationship with her in school. I was particularly into her lessons because she was able to gain all the students’ attention at all time. Her kindness, generosity and cheerfulness had softened me. I was still a child after all. I was not that unreasonable after all. I was not that bad after all.
As time passed by, I started to let her prying into my life.
“I heard your mother is admitted to hospital because of heart attack yesterday. How is her condition now?”
Miss Lee broke the silence that evening when I was busy helping in the grocery shop. She dropped by to buy some colour paper for her cut-out apples. My teardrops rolled down my cheeks uncontrollably. The warm tears dampened both my faces. I dared not look at Miss Lee. She was the very first person who showed concern for me so sincerely. I was the black sheep in my family and most people in my village had labeled me as an ungrateful son to my parents. I dared not deny the fact that I had not done my duty as a son to my parents.
“She is in critical condition now, semi-conscious, Miss. Her lungs are infected by bacteria and her heart is weak. She’s not able to breathe on her own. Now she depends totally on the life support system to keep her life going on,” I said faintly to Miss Lee.
“Yesterday I was with my mother in hospital all night. She was struggling and in discomfort condition constantly. I could get the hint that she would rather leave the world than being tortured endlessly,” I related to Miss Lee as my tears rolled down.
“Come on, I send you to the hospital after you have done with your work,” said Miss Lee.
The moment I finished my work I followed Miss Lee to the Batu Pahat General Hospital.
“Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any help. Please bear in mind that I’m always there to help if you need me. Do you get what I mean?”
I cried silently inside my heart as this was the first time I stumbled upon a Good Samaritan in my life. I stayed overnight to accompany my mother for the last moment. She passed away early in the morning.
“Din, I’m so sorry to hear that your mother has passed away. I’m sure you’re in grief now but you must be strong. Your family depends on you now. We pray that your mother will rest in peace,” Miss Lee tried to comfort me with her soft and tender voice.
My father could not afford to have a grand departure for her. He suffered the lost of his dear wife, I could see from the numb look on his face. He sat quietly in his own-designed wheelchair. My father had both his legs amputated as he was a diabetic. Three years ago he stepped on a rusty nail and the doctor removed his left leg. Five months later his toe was wounded when he was doing gardening and his right leg too was amputated up to his thigh. Out of the sudden I realised that I had wasted my life all the while. I must do something to amend for my past wrongdoings. I had lost my mother and I could not afford to lose my father too!
“Miss Lee, is it too late for me to turn over a new leaf?”
Miss Lee held both my hands tightly and she whispered softly to me,
“Din, I’m glad that you’ve finally realised what your mistakes are. Pick yourself up from the place where you fall. Do promise me; make your father proud of having you as his son,” said Miss Lee as she looked deep into my pathetic eyes.
She did not say a single word after that but hugged me tightly in her arms. That day I cried with all my heart. And I thanked her so much for her kindness in giving me a second chance.
I had only four months more to prepare for my UPSR examination. How I wished I had more time! I was still sticking with Suresh and Siang Yee yet we did not go to cyber café anymore to play games. We formed a study group and asked Miss Lee to be our mentor. I never knew that studying was full of fun until I really experienced it myself.
The UPSR result was finally out. Although I was not the best student I managed to secure 1A 4B. The distinction I had was undoubtedly for my English! My heart was beating faster and faster. I was very nervous as the time for me to move from my seat drew nearer. I told to myself that it would only last for a few minutes so I did not really have to make a fuss of it. I did not really have to worry about it.
“I can make it, I’m sure I can make it,” I told to myself times and again.
Not far from my seat, I could see my dear father. I knew it deep in my heart that he was really proud of me this time around. How I wished for my mother to be around to witness and share this moment of glory! Soon, my name would be announced. My eyes met with my father’s eyes. I could see the tears sparkling in his eyes. The tears signified the joys within him. “Go up to the stage, my son. Go up there confidently. I’m really proud of you!” Somehow I could sense these words through my father’s eyes.
As I stood up from my seat, at the right back corner of the hall, I saw my teacher sitting there with her broad smile. Miss Lee was clapping her hands to cheer me up to the stage. I knew that without her encouragement, I would not be here to receive the honour. Without her persistence, there was no existence of me sitting in the grand hall waiting to be called up to the stage. Without her determination, I would long be drowned in the crowd. I smiled to her and deep in my heart I whispered my genuine utterances, “Thank you so much my dear teacher, without your interference there is no real me in this world. Thank you very much, teacher for your generosity and kindness in giving me a second chance!”



(3011 words)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Short Story 2: Life's Lessons



Short Story 2: Life’s Lessons

          “Here I would like to announce that the proposal of “The Quality of Education Determines the Excellence of Human Capital” by the government is rejected by the parliament.” The immediate cheers came from the audience. It was the second victory after the first where they defeated Muar district in the elementary round. They were elevated as the announcement made confirmed to Li Li that they managed to get into the finals for parliamentary debate for teachers in Johore state. Her team members, Nazira, Teo, Zulkifli and Hanita were so pleased that they shook hands congratulating each other on the success that was not easy to come by. The next battle would be in Pasir Gudang where Li Li’s team would meet Kulai to fight for the winner in state level. The success was just right in front of her eyes. One more stage to go before they could enter the national level! Wow, it was indeed remarkable!

“Well done, guys. We must prepare ourselves for final during the holiday!”

“Oh my, this means our holiday is gone. What a pity.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll try my best to find the evidence for both government and opposition to support our argument”

“Okay, set!”

Although Li Li did not directly taking part in the debate, her contribution towards the success was indeed not insignificant after all. As the reserved debater she was somehow pretty sure that she would be given the chance to stand on the stage and present her point of view on the topic given some day later. It was only a matter of time before she would be standing right up there on the stage to fight for the victory of her debate team. The waiting is worthwhile without any doubt. Li Li gained a lot of experience in these two years’ time and the experience that she secured would be the essence for her success one day when she was given the chance to take part on stage in the parliamentary debate in the future. Deep inside her heart the feeling of success was sweet yet it did not come so easily. The fact of being an English teacher and at the same time was able to participate in a Malay Language debate for teachers in the district level mesmerized her heart. If her parents did not send her to the remote primary school in the very first place, she would not have gain such a sound proficiency in her Malay Language which enabled her to take part in the debate. It was indeed an honour given to her. Only five teachers were selected to represent the district level and she was actually one of them! However, only God knew the many obstacles that she faced at that time when she was still a seven year old young innocent girl. Those memories in school lingered vividly in her heart till now.

“Mama, is it true Pa is going to send me to a Malay school?”

“Yes, Amei. We’re too poor to let you study in town. Moreover, there is no transportation to the school. It is so far from our house.”

“But I don’t understand Malay. How am I going to study there?”

“It’s okay. Your cousins are there. They will take care of you. Slowly you can pick up the language, don’t you worry about it.”

Sitting beside her elder brother Li Li paid no attention to what was happening all around her. With a copy of Doreamon comic she pampered herself with the fascinating stories of Doreamon and his friends exploring the amazed creativity of the world’s inventions. It was already one week in school yet Li Li was still not able to penetrate into the classroom’s culture. She did not feel secure at all. The surrounding was like an alien to her. She was a weak and vulnerable girl and she would burst out anytime if she could not deal with the blow which came too hard for her. Li Li’s grandmother had accompanied her for one week sitting on a wooden stool under the tall bamboo plants yet she was still not sure of herself in handling this catastrophe of hers. Li Li would keep looking out of her classroom looking for that old slim figure sitting on the stool under the bamboo plants.

One week passed and Li Li’s grandmother was not there for her anymore. Immediately, she lost her pillar of support. She was in her comfort zone for all the years and suddenly she noticed that she was landed in such a hostile environment. It was just too cruel for a young girl like her. She just could not adjust herself adapting to the situation right in front of her eyes. She needed familiar face or faces to accompany her in this unfamiliar environment. She cried dreadfully and her class teacher had no choice but to let her move and sit beside her elder brother in Standard Four. Li Li moved to first floor and the teachers teaching her elder brother were always looking perplexed at her as though she was not supposed to be where she was. His elder brother’s friends seemed to like her and they tried to speak to her. However, Li Li did not understand even a word. She just kept quiet and once in a while she would show her comic book to her elder brother and tell him about the interesting characters in the comic. That was so many years back.

Looking at her students in Year One, she could not resist herself from recalling her past experience. Nowadays the phenomenon was so different. Her students were so active and they could mix so well in the classroom. However, Li Li’s situation was very much different from them. Li Li came from a typical Chinese family. Her family was rather poor and her parents could not afford to send her to a national-type primary school to pursue her early education in Mandarin. In the end they had made the decision to send Li Li to a national primary school in Kampung Padang Sari. It was a small school not far from her house in Kampung Parit Separap and furthermore a few of her cousins were studying there so she would not be deprived of company. Though she did not even know a word in Malay her parents eventually enrolled her in this school as they were left with no other better choice and there her education started to be a brand new page in her life.

The images transfixed lucidly in Li Li’s mind. It was the bitterest journey of life in the beginning yet eventually turned out to be the most astonishing chapter in her life too. If Li Li’s parents did not send her to the remote national primary school in the first place would she be able to stand proudly in front of her class and engage her students in the instructions that she had designed for them? Would she be given the chance to explore the amazing world of knowledge together with her potential students now? Her parents’ decision to let her stayed in the school left her an opportunity to carve a new chapter in her life. This was indeed awesome. All thanks to her parents’ initial decision!

Li Li was lost in the school. She was not able to communicate with the people around her. Her dialect was Hokkien yet no one in the class was able to communicate with her using this dialect. All of them spoke Malay Language. She could not understand a single word that they spoke. Li Li was feeling terrible. She was a small size timid girl and landing herself in this situation she was indeed helpless. Her world was in a blank. She did not know what to say and what to do. She could only sit silently and cry inside her heart.

It was indeed a tough life surviving in such an alien environment. Li Li’s classmates around her were hostile towards her existence. It was maybe because she looked very different from them. Her complexion was fairer and she did not wear tudung. She was in her blue pinafore whereas the girls were in their baju kurung. Li Li always asked herself why she looked so different from the others. It was a question that kept lingering in her mind. A young child by the age of seven was placed in such a situation where she was bombarded with so many questions and hostile treatment from the elements of the environment surrounding her. Li Li could hardly cope with it and she lost control of herself when her grandmother was not there to accompany her after one week. She cried and cried and how she wished to return hoem and never came backto the school again.

Luckily Li Li’s elder brother was there to accompany and comfort her. With his existence she did not feel alone in the school. She felt that there was someone who was the same kind with her, so familiar and so secured. This kind of feeling ended her about two weeks staying in her elder brother’s classroom listening to the same lectures with him where she was not supposed to do so as she was only a Standard One student. The syllabus was too difficult for her and she did not understand a single thing the teachers were talking about.

Two weeks passed and Li Li slowly noticed that she needed to go back to the place she belonged and it was no where else than her own classroom. Her brother managed to convince her that it was the place where she should be and not sitting beside him. Life still had to be carried on and Li Li should not just sit and do nothing except flipping her comic book. She gave in and moved back to her classroom. The moment she made the decision was actually the turning point for her. She did not even notice that time passed so fast. In the blink of an eye, six months passed without leaving any trace. She brought back her report card and showed to her parents. She managed to secure the sixth place in the class out of 18 pupils and she reminded herself that it was indeed a very good achievement of her.

“Mama, I get number six in my class!”

“Good, Amei. You must work hard. Mama sure you can get number one.”

“Okay, Mama. I’ll try my best!”

Li Li would always do her revisions in the evening. Whenever her siblings were playing she would sit on the steps and did her revision on her own accord. No one needed to force or push her. She could manage the time on her own pretty well.

“Amei, go and play with your siblings, don’t keep on studying!”

“Mama, I’ll go and play in a short while. Let me finish up this exercise first.”

From that moment onwards, Li Li set an amazing record where she was the number one in her class from the second half year of Standard One and right through Standard Six. Not to mentioned that she obtained 5A in her Penilaian Tahun Lima examination. In order to get something meaningful in life, people must be able to pay a price for it. There was nothing that they could get without putting in effort and making some kind of sacrifices. She was amazed with her ability to adapt to the environment. Though she was only a small creature in this vast world yet she was able to turn the things around and they seemed to be on her side. It was indeed incredible!

“Are you sure you want to cycle to your friend’s house?” asked Pa.

“Yes, Pa. I’m going to my friends’ houses for raya puasa. Then we’ll take bus to our teachers’ and headmaster’s house.

“Okay, but remember to be back earlier. Don’t stay out too late!”

Apart from her remarkable result Li Li also showed improvement in the relationships with her teachers and classmates. During festivals she always visited her friends. Once they went from house to house in the village and Li Li was amazed with the relationships among the villagers. Things that remained fresh in her mind were the delicious kuih raya, duit raya and not forgetting the air sirap. All the houses that she went served no other drinks but air sirap. This was so much different from her Chinese New Year where people mostly would serve carbonated drink or packet drinks especially chrysanthemum drink. The duit raya she received was not put into any packet. They just gave her like that whereas for the Chinese they would put the money into red packets or ang pow. The differences among the people whom she encountered had actually enriched her understanding of diversity of cultures. It was the life’s lessons that taught her to be more tolerant towards the others in the society.

“Hello, is that teacher?”

“Yes, I’m. That’s Jie Lie right?”

“Teacher, I want to inform you that I got A2 for my English!

“Well done. You deserve what you get my dear. I can see the effort that you’ve put in. I can still recall the story on the adopting sister that you’ve wrote last time. It was a touching story. And now the news that you’ve got such a good result for English has touched my heart! Congratulations. I wish you all the best and do keep in contact, allright?”

“Of course, teacher. Thanks a lot, teacher!”

Li Li’s student’s call that day kept her thinking on her own success that year when she took my SPM’s result. Though she did not get straight As’, but she was the best student in her school. Li Li always kept on reminding herself, if her parents did not send her to the remote primary school would she be able to get such a good result for her SPM especially in English subject? Li Li’s Year One teacher suddenly appeared in her mind. His name was Cikgu Fadzil and he was the best English teacher she ever had. His style of marking was imprinted in her mind forever up to this moment. Although she had been a teacher for almost ten years yet she still could not mark her students’ work as nicely as his. His style of giving ‘tick’ was the one and only that she had ever come across. It was like putting a signature at the end of every student’s work which was right. In her ten years of teaching none of the teachers possessed the unique style that her English teacher had.

Because of his unique ‘tick’ it became her objective for every exercise that she did. She remembered for the items that she did wrongly she made it an effort to do correction and in the end she would still get the ‘tick’ that she liked so much. She remembered once she did the correction twice. The first attempt was failed yet she did not give up. She tried the second time and finally she got it. It was this kind of motivation and commitment that she managed to secure such a good foundation in English and eventually she managed to further her studies in the field of English Language. The inspiration was actually a mere ‘tick’ from her Standard One English teacher, Teacher Fadzil! Although it was an insignificant thing done by her dear teacher, it actually created such a big impact on her who was his student!

After SPM, Li Li continued her studies to Form Six. Though she enjoyed the feeling of staying on the top of the world right from Standard One up to Form Five, her STPM turned out to be a very big setback for her. After Form Six she was denied the entrance to public university as she did not get a good result in STPM. She was suddenly drowned in the sea of doubt. She did not know where she should go at that time. The sadness was very overwhelming. Was it the end of her education life? Did it mean that she was not able to study anymore? Li Li continued her work in Southern Hospital in Batu Pahat as a Registration Clerk cum Cashier. Without noticing the hospital eventually became a place for her to learn and prepare herself for the real world. There she was given a chance to sharpen her speaking skills especially in English. All the while her writing skill was good but when came to speaking she was not able to speak fluent English. No relevant environment to practice at all as school environment was too exam oriented. In the hospital Li Li was exposed to people from all walks of life. From there she learnt a lot of things which she was not able to learn in school before this. The two incidents which happened really changed her life after that.

Li Li’s heartbeat was getting faster and faster as she walked into the doctor’s room. She was called into the doctor’s room and was not aware of what was happening that led to the doctor in calling her into his room. This was the first time Dr Kee asked to see her after about one year she worked in the hospital. It must be very serious or else he would not summon her. Li Li’s steps suddenly became heavy and she had to drag them as she walked weakly towards G.04.

“Good morning, Dr Kee. Is there anything I can help you?”

“Is it you who told to the patient that they can just buy the blood used for blood transfusion? This is absurd! Nurse, please bring Miss Kee to the laboratory to find out what blood transfusion is and its procedure. I could not talk to her about this anymore! Go, please.”

“Dr Kee, I…”

Li Li was denied to chance to defend herself and both her legs followed the nurse weakly and unwillingly and both of them walked towards the laboratory. Mr Burn was there ready to explain to her on what blood transfusion was and its procedure. She was in a state of shocked and words were so difficult to come by. She was helpless and she just listened to the lecture in order to fulfill the doctor’s order. From there, Li Li noticed the danger of miscommunication. Any information should be conveyed in a very clear state. Clarity was of utmost importance if people were not sure of what they wanted to find out. It was indeed the careless part of her causing the patient telling the doctor that if they could buy the blood for their mother’s blood transfusion prior to what the girl at the counter said. RM60 was the payment for a pint of blood. The Initial stage where the explanation was about the procedure of blood transfusion which cost RM60 for a pint turned out to be another story. How frustrating it was to her!

Another day, Dr Jonah walked furiously towards Li Li with a red face though he had a darker complexion yet she could see clearly that he was very angry with her, reproaching her for allowing a patient to go for lunch. As it was already into lunch hour, Li Li registered for the patient who came with a reference letter from a general practitioner and asked her to come back at two. It was really out of her expectation that Dr. Jonah was actually blowing his top after she showed him the patient’s file. She was stunned and she did not know what had happened. Dr Jonah refused to talk to her anymore and he went straight to the matron to inform her about this matter. Later Li Li came to know that it was totally her fault. The patient was a suspect appendicitis case and if it was a critical case her appendix might burst if she was to taken her lunch. She noticed that it was a serious matter and it would cause a person’s life due to her own negligence and ignorance.

The two incidents were both very painful and they hurt her deep into her heart. Up to this moment she could still recall the past as if they were still happening in front of her eyes now. Yet from another perspective, the two incidents thought her valuable life’s lessons. From there she learnt her lesson, she decided to further her studies to better equip herself. She could not afford to make such blunders in her life again. She learnt that for communication to take place clarity was of utmost important. Any mist or cloud of doubt should be cleared in order to get the message conveyed. Working in hospital needed expertise in that field. She noticed that she was not suit to work in such a place and I decided to move on to a place better suited her.

Li Li enrolled in teachers’ training college and obtained a diploma in teaching majoring in English Language and Living Skills. Her best friend, Doreen taught her a lot of things especially about standing on one’s own feet. Doreen was indeed an independent person. They were in the same class, enjoyed their dinner together and had their practical sessions in the same school. They often gave their opinions on the various current issues that they discussed after their dinner that they prepared secretly inside their hostel room where they were not supposed to cook in hostel. The moment that they spent in college was really memorable. The life lesson that she learnt from her was that a person needed to be independent and not to depend on others all the time. It was very important as most of the time people needed to make decisions on their own without the help of others.

The course settled Li Li in a national-type school; a Chinese primary school in Kahang, Kluang. With the title of Best Student for English Language and Living Skills option she embarked on a new horizon. Yet the picture was not as beautiful as she visualized. The students were not easy to deal with especially when she was assigned the last class of Year Six. The first two years was indeed a struggling period for her. However, life after that was easier and it was a mixture of sweet and of course bitter memories. That was what life was all about after all.

“Teacher, now I know the meaning of the word bone!"

This was what her student Pei Pei told her when she engaged the class in a game where she asked them to match the words with pictures in cards form. The game was rather interesting and motivating. The students were able to learn while playing the language game. she was thrilled by her statement. Though it was merely a simple word yet the certainty reflected by her face verified to Li Li that her student had indeed understood the vocabulary through the activity that she prepared for her and her friends. The satisfaction was indeed indescribable. In other occasions, whenever Li Li walked on the street back to her rented house from school afternoon extra classes, her students would always call her name.

“Miss Kee!”

“Yes.”

“Good evening, Miss Kee!”

“Good evening, my dear.”

The appreciation from Li Li’s students was really invaluable. It could not be bought using any amount of money. It just came sincerely from her students and she would always appreciate their respect and acknowledgement.

The failure getting her last class of students to pass their English in UPSR forced Li Li to find new option to upgrade her teaching skills. Thus she enrolled in the PKPG course for teachers to upgrade themselves to degree level. The three years’ course once again was full of unforgettable memories which imprinted deep in her heart. The first year in MPTI itself hurt her so much until she could still relate the whole matter to anyone if she was asked to do so.

“Chan, you better see the lecturer personally when you’re back later. She did mention something about you to the class and I think it isn’t fair to you.”

“What did she say about me?”

“Well, it’s difficult for me to tell you anyway I think there is a need for you to clarify the matter with her on Monday, is it okay?”

A mere concern for a friend who faced discrimination from her class landed her in hot soup. Her friend was so furious until she could not wait and texted the lecturer immediately. This caused the lecturer to be very upset and the next Monday she went up to the class and asked with the intention of finding out who the person was. Li Li was so upset about the whole matter and she talk to her friend and both of them went up to see the lecturer. She admitted that she was the one who tipped her friend off just because she felt that it was unfair to make such a remark of her friend in front of her classmates during her absence. She was not given a chance to defend herself right away and of course the other classmates would cast a negative opinion about her. Li Li did not mean to hurt anyone. Her initial action was to inform her friend who was not around to investigate and clarify the matter and not to receive any unfair treatment.

In the end, the lecturer apologised to Li Li’s friend in front of all her classmates including her. The lecturer did not tell the rest who the person was and she was to let the matter ended at that very moment. It was indeed a life lesson that Li Li had learnt through this incident. Her anxiety of helping her friend landed her, her friend and the lecturer in an argument. It was her who caused the two off them becoming hostile to each other. The courage of the lecturer who admitted her mistake was appraisable. Ways of communication were very important. Apart from clarity, the appropriateness of time, place and people were the factors to be put into consideration. Though it was a bad experience for Li Li, the matter ended quite well in the end of the day.

The second year in university, one of Li Li’s best friends thought her how to be compassionate rather than sympathize. Through Cher’s teaching, she realised that sharing the knowledge was caring for the others too. However, there was a risk where people might face the accusation of trying to show off their ability at the same time. During college time Li Li was more on her own but this time around she opted for collaborative learning. She tried her best to get the result that she aimed for and at the same time she tried her best to help her friends who were weak too. Group discussion was being carried out from time to time. Whatever it was, the fact of not being able to satisfy everyone was inevitable.

“Why is it that you always help her? I also need your help!”

“Oh my goodness! Meow, you’re the best student before this. And you’re of English option too whereas Foo is from Chinese option.”

“Yes, she is weak. But I am weak too. Why you always help her and not me? This is so unfair!”

“Her proficiency is not good. That’s why I’m offering my help. To me you’re very good and independent too. How am I going to offer my help to you as we are on the same level?”

This was what Li Li called life’s lessons. When she showed concern for a good friend, she tended to neglect her other good friend at the same time. It was not easy to act fair to all. Human beings were so unpredictable so were their feelings. These were the life’s lessons which she could not obtain from books. Two years’ of persistent struggling passed and Li Li was graduated with first class honour and the loan made earlier was converted into scholarship by PTPTN. Her mother was very proud of her and her other siblings too. Li Li’s mother often talked about her children who liked to study so much, a level higher after another.

Li Li was posted to a school in Batu Pahat, about 19 kilometres from her house. Last year PMR, her school obtained the highest percentage increase in English where she taught three out of seven classes of form three students. She was pretty sure that her contribution and hard work did play a major role in securing the high percentage. She was of course proud of herself too. Meanwhile, the number of students’ getting the bronze awards for NILAM project in school also increase tremendously. It was a year of hard work yet full of satisfaction for her.

In pursuing the goal in her life, Li Li enrolled in a masters’ course with UKM. In the field she was specialised she was definitely going to create another miracle in her life.



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