In 1969 the standard two classes were in the evening session. This means I could sleep a bit late and take a bit of time to prepare for school. Soon it became a familiar routine for me that year. I played out in the backyard with my mum cooking the day’s lunch for us to eat before school. I can tell you the smell of my mum frying the fish was heaven from there. It was just smell nice and enticing for me. Having hot lunch before school was something I looked for. That first day of school my Abah (dad) was to send me as we were not sure of the school bus service yet. Off we went on his Vespa at around 12pm.
I did not expect anything on my first day at Sekolah Kebangsaan Galing but as a shy kid I was ready to be just on my own. But my shyness was compounded by my attire that day. You see I had sore throat for a few days already and my dad decided to put a scarf (US), muffler as they say in UK, covering my neck. It was put on like winter scarf inside my school uniform looking like I am wearing a big tie inside. Of course the entire school did not know what it was. I can’t remember the color but it was a dark color with small dots. Not only I was totally a new kid on the block, I was totally different as well in terms of appearance. I became an instance freak show. Everyone that I came across that day would be eying me in either disbelief or strange. They kept on looking, pointing or laughing at me. They could not make out whether I was a rich kid who had just joined or one fashion crazy dude trying to show off. But I just stood there in one corner quietly looking very embarrassed with the whole thing.
The bell rang eventually signaling for everyone to gather for our first assembly. I was directed by a teacher, I think it was a teacher as it could not be the gardener, to join a row of a rowdy bunch of standard two students, my new classmates or course. I could not remember much about my first assembly but to be honest I did not care as I was anxious to be with my new classmates. The assembly ended and in single file we marched into our classroom.
Ok let me share with you about the layout of the school first before I explain about my classroom. Because of the size of the school the students to be taught and divided into two sessions. The morning session would comprise of standard 4, 5 and 6 and the evening session standard 1, 2 and 3. There were only 6 classrooms in the whole school so naturally there were two classes for each standard. The two classes were named as Puteh (White) and Merah (Red). You do not have to be a brain surgeon to decipher which one is Class A and which one is B. Apart from the canteen, store room and out house (toilet, I’ll share a bit more of this toilet later) there were two block of classrooms. The main block was actually an old kampong style wooden colonial building that was built on stilts housed the school office and three classrooms. If you have been to any old school building you know how high the classroom was of the ground. The second block was a grounded long block on the side that housed the other three classrooms. Because of the flexible partition separating the three classrooms this block was used as well for any events, ceremonies or shows. Of course we loved it when it happened. Can you guess now who got the higher prominent classrooms and who were being honored with the other? Let me just continue from where I left off.
Because of my size I walked in the middle of the row and slowly moved following the leader in front. Knowingly the bunch led us to classroom in the middle of the second block. On nearing the door only I could read Darjah 2 Merah and Darjah 4 Merah. There and then I knew my caste in the school. As a new boy with no academic record the school administration decided to put me there as tryout. I did not complain, in fact, I did not mind at all and after my first week I loved it. I was immediately seated somewhere at the back and being a shy kid I just observed what the others were doing. They were a lot of pranksters in my class and they were very loud as well. I just smiled most of the time and once in a while one or two of them would approach me to get to know me better. The girls we totally among themselves and in terms of ratio there were more boys in our class. From the way they handled themselves they seemed to be coming from different mindset that I used to. One main thing that I immediately realized was that they are a group of them that had this kind of behaviour. Their attires were almost similar with certain obvious identity as well. Later I found out that there were students from the orphanage that happened to be situated across the road of Alor Akar camp, our new home. Knowing that my perception of them totally changed immediately as I understood then why they behaved the way they behaved. In fact from my limited understanding of being an orphan I pity them and wanted to be their friend immediately. One of them, Adnan, became quite close for the rest of my schooling years at SK Galing even after I moved to another class. Adnan was a bit of sportsman and we played in the school football and takraw teams.
The first few hours were totally chaotic where only one or two teachers dropped in to begin our lessons. Of course the teachers familiar with the rest introduced me first and they got to know me a bit more. But I could tell few of them still thought I was a lord’s son, he he he. During our first few lessons I also was aware of their academic limitation. Again I pitied them and wanted to offer my help the best I can.
My first recess came and I followed the rest of my new classmates to the school canteen. It was just a small canteen and the serving counter was packed with students. I joined them. I was given RM0.20 for school and back then it was big value. With RM0.20 I could have a full meal. I am not sure what I had that first day but judging from my old favorite it highly likely a good plate of mee goreng. I was not aware of it first but while eating I realized the boys were actually trying to beat each other in eating their food. Sort of speed eating competition going on. Once they finished throwing their food down their throats they sped out. I just could not keep up with them so much so I was left eating with the girls. Of course at that point the girls were anxious to know more about me. No, not because I was handsome but because I was weird. When I was out of the canteen I could not find the boys any near the school building but I heard a great commotion on the field and I knew instantly the reason for the speed eating contest. In full swing there was a football game in progress. So, what I had in the classroom around me later was a bunch of sweaty, smelly and dirty kids. They were very happy and couldn’t careless how they look like. Soon I was one of them. The other thing that I noticed during recess was that the other students from the other standard two class were a bit detached from us and my first impression on them that they were snobs.
I remember the rest of my first day was more noises and few classes. The end of the school day was an amazing event as most of the boys in my class actually flew out not fast enough for the school bell to end. I just tailed behind them walking anxiously towards the gate for my first ride home on the school bus.