I spent some time with dad while fetching Alya from Seseri. It’s always timeless. Dad is one heck of a guy. Not only is he intelligent, he views in profound perspective that amazes me every time. Even though I disagree with him every once in a while, he takes the time to articulate a particular angle. Then he inserts a few different angles to spin the bottle. The bottle stops. Then it all becomes very clear.

Since we arrived a bit early, we walked down the PWTC corner to the nearest mamak stall near Jalan Ipoh. As we passed by the recently painted and shiny Maxwell School, I gazed at the incoming vehicles near the roundabout. Traffic was a little light but dusts still infested the curbs and road patches. Each stride from an automobile thrust the tiny particles up and away even more. The city is hazardous, somehow. But we keep on driving in and out the urbanization without considering the aftermath. Isn’t this the kind of act to survive and to comply with job and life requirements? Don’t we all long for the good old days? I think we all long for the walk to the serene river where geese are gracefully sipping the water, the sun is shining and the birds are singing…

Bing! My mind quickly recovered from the three seconds dream while I was talking to my dad. A conversation outdoor in the city couldn’t be too engaging — we had to watch out for motorbikes and vehicles passing by. I woke up from the dream as we entered a mamak shop. A few customers were busy consuming their late breakfasts while some preferred to chat over a glass of teh tarik. The restaurant had two rows of tables with one edge faced flat to the left wall. The front entrance like other regular mamak places fit in one huge round-flat-pan booth, an entries booth, and a cashier counter with shelves of cigarettes on the backside. There was nothing too special about the place and it wasn’t too gloomy either. On one side of the shop stood an opening to a view next door where a hotel whose name I didn’t bother to find out seemed alive from a distant. Hopefully the food wouldn’t be too pricy. Quickly ordering roti canais and teh tariks, we settled for a 4-seated table right in the middle of the row.

As I had anticipated, the CB issue came up. During his earlier days at Alam Shah Putrajaya, everything was great. CB didn’t complain therefore mom and dad were more than glad. Until the inter-school co-curricular competition ended, the nightmare began. Six form one students wanted out and a lot more suffered the same fate later. Fourth formers had revealed their wraths upon unsettled juniors and being the idle seniors – no more competition workload and the big exam wouldn’t come until next year – it was the time for them to unlock their inner beasts. I was once in their position about 6 ago and I don’t remember being cruel to the juniors? That’s clearly not the way to earn respect. Being a senior means helping out the juniors to start up, not beating them up for no reason.

This conundrum has long been brought up ever since I came back from the U.S. Life at boarding schools today is far worse than it was twenty or so years ago. Boarding school was more comfortable than home and to get enrolled was a privilege in itself after showing an outstanding performance in the elementary school. In the present days, it is the other way around. Big tycoons put their children in well-known schools via underneath-the-desk-agreements just to obtain the school brand on the certificates. Dormitory is less comfortable home and the food quality is debatable. Even dad agrees that teachers nowadays lack the minimum integrity to be the gurus. There is no more passion in educating the pupils. Teachers are no longer educators. They are merely tutors in for income.

I chewed and swallowed the last bite of the ‘bread’. Dad was taking his time to finish his as usual. He was enjoying the teh tarik even more. The ampleness of time we had while waiting for Alya gave us the time to slow down and reflect. Perhaps the issue is not going to be resolved there and then but it has to be addressed in the interim. Each Friday brings a dilemma to dad when he visited his third son after the prayer at the school’s mosque. CB would always want to go home for the weekend and the difficult part is to get the permission. I don’t understand this myself – parents visit the school to bring home their children and the school overrules it? “Wouldn’t that ease up your responsibility in taking care of my kids?” ask the parents. Perhaps it is against the principle of boarding school if students go home everyday, but if you go by the case basis, shouldn’t there be an exception? I remember those days when dad had to bring me home for an important family function. There was no issue – he faxed the office an official letter, the principal looked at it, and then signed my outing card.

Dad and I have been giving the utmost support to CB even before he started. We were also the students of SAS some five and thirty five years ago, thus we have a fair amount of knowledge in all-male boarding school particularly Alam Shah. My situation is probably more relevant since I graduated more recent, but dad’s got more impact on his psychological stability. CB himself is quite reserved and quiet. Unlike any other siblings, his seemingly melancholic character proves to be the key that enables him to compose songs and play some musical instruments. He may lack the extroversion but there’s quite a genius in him. He saw me hooking up some speakers, subwoofer and a receiver and instantly picked up what I was doing. I was poking some buttons on my laptop and he immediately recognized the function.

Due to the difficulty he is having right now, he might not be able to fully utilize his talents. However, this is only temporary: he is a late bloomer. Even if he has to transfer to another school, I still have faith in him. This brother of mine sets his own standard. He upholds a certain quality discipline, diligence, and perfection. He’s only a victim of the situation, with all the contributing factors hitting him all at once. I hope he is going to be fine… (to be continued…)

Alya on the other hand is a different story. She was appalled only at the earlier stage but has now become more stable. She’s already part of a nasyid team that represented the school and the federal territory to the national competition. Although she is being recruited as a prefect, she still needs a little push in academics, and dad’s already on top of that with his special tutorials and lessons.

Dad finished the last sip of his tea. It was nearly twelve and we had to go back to Seseri right away. Back-tracking the path we just walked, I glanced over Jalan Ipoh and the roundabout again. It used to be a simple cross-junction as dad described it. He recalled the moment when he gave mom fifty bucks to shop there and it would last for a month. Ten Ringgit would literally fill up the boot. But time passed by and only the memory remains. We reached the entrance as some vehicles lined up to enter the school. Alya walked out the gate shortly and moments later, we were already on our way home.