Although there were 3 of us from the same school living together in the house (in different classes), somehow I felt alienated when it came to matters of the school. And it was not the studies that I’m talking about. It was about what to do and what not to do. There were many occasions when I had gone to school with a bag-load of books only to discover that I needn’t have to as it was ‘prize giving day’…. Or it was ‘exhibition day’ or ‘school concert’. Until today I still wonder how the information didn’t flow to me or was it because I was a dreamer. I remember going to year 2 in 1965 in the morning only to be told that I had to come back in the afternoon as they had placed me in ‘express class’. I didn’t have any inkling on what it was all about but went along anyway. Unlike other kids my age, I didn’t have anyone to chaperone me to school or seek clarification from the teachers. My folks were far, far away in a God forsaken estate, working hard to put food on the table for 6 kids. With my Dad’s meager income as Hospital Attendant cum Dispenser and my Mum as a Ward Maid cum midwife, it must have been financially tight to cater to my needs too since I was living away from home and I am sure they had to pay something for my board and lodging. But they never once complained. My orthodox parents always gave priority to education at any cost.
I went on to spend another 3 years in Butterworth with my uncle’s family before finally being transferred back to a school in Kulim after my Standard 5 in 1967 having gone through Standard 3 and 4 in the same year in 1966. Doing 2 standards in one year might have been a novel idea catering for bright kids but it didn’t quite work out for me as I struggled through Standard 5 as the express class syllabus of year 3 and 4 didn’t quite cover many of the subjects leaving me sort of lost and confused the following year. But after Standard 6, I was ok though. In later years, I would return to this place where I spent my early school years namely to my Uncle’s house at No. 88 Kampung Bengali many a time to relive fond memories of my childhood.
Back in the estates after that, I was enrolled at St. Patrick’s primary during the last quarter of my Standard 5. It was a missionary school and I found it strange having to address the Principal as ‘Brother’. Once again I didn’t expect this as my brothers who had studied in the same school hadn’t mentioned about it before……or maybe they had but it hadn’t quite register in my mind since as a kid, I was always preoccupied and drowned in my own thoughts (we know it as ‘day dreaming’ now). And there were a lot of Christian boys in my class too. There were Raymond, Ruban James, Andrew, Victor, Peter S, Albons and a few more who I cannot recall. From this list, only Raymond and I went on to foster a close relationship…… (He has been mentioned in many of my other stories). Although he has since settled down in Norway, we still keep in touch.
After the December holidays, I prepared to start my Standard 6 and as usual found a seat beside Raymond until an hour or so later when the Principal appeared in the class, said something to the class teacher (Mr. Chinniah) and soon led me away to his office where he informed me that he had not received the green light as yet from the Ministry on whether I could go to Standard 6 as being younger by a year, I was under-aged to be in Standard 6. Disheartened and disappointed, I was sent back to Standard 5 again where I remained for another month until I was cleared by the Ministry to continue in year 6. Wow! What a relief that was!