Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Roots and Leaves

When dad got his transfer order to serve in Singapore he decided that it was time that the girls get acquainted with their roots and mix with real children from the provinces. Not only were my two elder sisters and I packed off to go to school in his hometown Melaka  but we had to live in the school hostel as well. I was a mere eleven year old who had just had her birthday on Christmas Eve and a fortnight later in the new year entered Std 6 at the Durian Daun Girls' School.

This was a quaint school with a grammatically incorrect name. Shouldn't it be Daun Durian, I remember thinking but what surprised me more was that there was only one block of it. The KL school had three blocks and a hall with a stage; my immature mind wasn't too sure whether this was a proper school at all.

The school uniform comprised a green pinafore worn over a white blouse with a green bow-ribbon at the collar and a belt buckled at the waist. As if to confirm my "doubt" over the school,  I noticed that the green wasn't a standard shade but ranged from bright-apple to sombre-jungle and it was apparent that the girls' tailors were given free rein on how to sew the pleats on the skirt section. Some were arranged as in those of convent uniforms, some were box pleats, some side pleats and some simple gathers, and I shall not even mention the multiple styles of the bows or even the collars.

Later I learnt to appreciate this variety of the so-called uniforms, making the school unique in it's interpretation of the word conformance. And in the ensuing weeks I observed that a huge percentage of the school population did not come to school by car or trishaw but walked to school everyday, some from seemingly great distances. And I was one of them.

This primary school was actually the feeder school to the nearby Malacca Girls High School where my two elder sisters had been placed. It was a newish school set up to serve the locality as well as for bright young girls specially picked from the rural areas and given the opportunity to study in an urban school. These kids were also provided places in the school hostel which also took in girls from the neighbouring Malay-medium school Sekolah Tun Teja and the brand new co-ed (mixed boys and girls) lower secondary school. With a teachers training college also in the vicinity, this neighbourhood had a nice studenty atmosphere to it,  the roads each morning and afternoon filled with kids walking to their schools or going home.

Yes, from being driven everyday, this time I had to walk to school. But the distance was almost negligible and it took at most maybe 5-8 minutes, two of those were from negotiating the corridors of MGHS from the hostel before exiting through it's main gate.

One particular quirk of the Durian Daun School was the punishment for being late for Assembly on Monday mornings. There was a huge tree at the front of the school block where late-comers had to wait until the Assembly was over. I had always by then suspected it to be a durian tree that did not bear fruit - hence the name of the school. Anyway I was late on one day and after the assembly, late-comers was asked to stay behind to be issued the punishment.

It was nothing really but a friend who was also new to the school went on and on about it saying what a stupid school it was, and that at her old school in Tampin she never had to do this kind of thing. And that we were never asked our reason for being late in the first place.

The punishment was: to pick up the leaves that had fallen from the huge tree and pile them up - the duty of the school-gardener it was. Well, better than running round the field 10 times I must say, but thinking back it would have been more appropriate to call it Pungut Daun Girls' School, wouldn't it?

But the one thing I liked most studying there apart from the very friendly Melaka girls was that while I had always languished in about no. 15 in Std 4A and 5A in MGS KL, I was consistently FIRST in class Std 6B at Durian Daun! You could say I knew a long time ago how it felt to be a jaguh kampung... (this is not, I repeat NOT, a reference to our badminton team)

Back at the hostel, I was the littlest of all the penghuni - as we were known then. Where at home I had 4 little ones to play and have fun with, here I was like everyone's little sister but who still had to do her own washing and ironing. Everybody had to anyway except for one girl whose dad could afford the RM4 per month dhobi fees, which in fact was my pocket money for the month. This was the balance from the RM20 hostel fees which dad sent! And amazingly it was enough since I have no recollection of either being hungry or deprived whatsoever, only that of  being secure in a wonderful sisterly environment of anak-anak dara sunti, ah moi's and tangkachi's from the outback - and of course basking in the thought that I  was really quite "clever" there...

1965 - The puny one in the centre is me

How I've grown! By 1968 I was a member of the politburo
with Madam President cum Warden -  Bien Mei Nien 
 Me in the back row centre off-right ooops right off-centre

and my multi-racial constituency

I think Dad had made a wise decision plonking us at the hostel where our values of mutual support and togetherness were formed, where I improved tremendously in spoken and written Malay, also picked up some Mandarin, and learnt to appreciate the roots (some very humble) of each of our fellow penghuni asrama.

Form Four he decided it was time I lose my hilly-billyness and move back to KL.


Pak Tuo said...

Remember Durian Daud Girls Sch.very well indeed.It is still there.My early morning trip to BHES via To Ngah Jalil in his Ford Escort full with gals from DDGS.All Tok Nagah daughter goes to that sch.We were jam pack in the little Ford Escort,plus 2 gals frm.Kandang.My daily duty then,was being the bag boy.It was the daily trip where I knew someone very dear to me during my ugrowing up years.

Ibu Jakarta too was an alumi of Durian Daud Girls Sch.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

This sums up the story of my life in school…hahaha

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about Science Books
Don't know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don't know much about Geography
Don't know much trigonometry
Don't know much about Algebra
Don't what a slide rule is for
But I know that one and one is two
And If this one could be with you
what a wonderful world this would be

Now, I don't claim to be an A student
But I'm trying to be
Well, maybe by being, an A student baby
I could win your love for me.....kakaka

Wonderful World

Ok lah, I pun jaguh kampong, but I did realised over the years my English standard is very2 much better that the Angmohs themselves.


Tommy ‘Dunce’

P/S - Durian Daun is direct translation from English Colonial Master ;) "Durian Leaf', now u cannot have Leaf Durian as in Daun Durian can u? :))

mamasita said...

Wow your nostalgic down memory-lane story.
Gambar lama2 pun still well-preserved..mine dah entah ke mana.
You did well adjusting to hostel life at an early age.Kalau I rasanya everyday nak balik rumah..hehehe

Zendra-Maria said...

Pak Tuo Will, as you can very well agree all good girls went to DDGS and I remember the sweet Laila anak Pak Ngah Jalil. We were together in the same class all the time until I moved.

So you were the ladies man even when you were a lad eh?

Ibu Jakarta too? I wonder if they ever had to pick up leaves hehehe...

Zendra-Maria said...

Hey Tommy, there's a song for everything isn't there?

Yup I don't know a lot about anything either, just enough to get by but all the biology I knew was picked up from DH ;)

waah steady lah your English - even better than angmohs - pssst I was once told by one of them that I spoke posh... can you believe it?

Zendra-Maria said...

mamasita, HOW R U? Lama tak singgah?

Alah masa tu I ada dua orang kakak masuk asrama sekali so no problemo adjusting :) Tapi basuh baju kena buat sendiri woh hehehe

pakmat said...

..beg to differ, is durian daun..a kind of kelantan its called durian belanda..has good herbal properties..
..and zee, loved your down memory lane trip..and I think those days we are more 1malaysia than today..cheers

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hehehe Pakmat, u caught me offsite there. I’m always wary about u blokes from up the mystical land of ‘budu’ with all your organic ‘herbal remedies’ predominantly designed to enhance your performance in the Paris of the East..kakaka.

Since we r all in this nostalgic down memory lane type of mood, this one is for all of u;Yes Pakmat it's Herman Hermit again!!! :))

My Sentimental Friend

Yes Pakmat, the 1Malaysia love we had back then ‘was way beyond compare’, maybe the time is right, maybe I’ll hold her tight again….kakaka.


P/S - Yes Zen there's a song for every occasion if we listen carefully & talk less....hahaha

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Aunty Zendra,
My Mama once taught at Notre Dame Convent, fancy that. Not too far from where you were, but in a different decade, me thinks. I like that "kutip daun" punishment. Teach you a bit about keeping the garden tiny in autumn especially. purrr....meow!

Zendra-Maria said...

Fancy that Pakmat and all these years I thought it was a "male" durian tree...

and a fifty-something is very much qualified to reminisce about good old times isn't she?

Zendra-Maria said...

Tommy, aiyoh the SSONNNGGG... so feeeling lorr - brings the tears to my eyes just thinking of your once-upon-a-time *winks*

Macam ni lah Mr Yewfigure, I think you are such a fascinating person whom I would love to have as a guest writer on this "Fascinations" blog. Waah can ah? Tell us the story behind that song, pleeeeze. You know my e-mail addy :)))

Zendra-Maria said...

Cat, and that was how I became averse to tending gardens to this day *evil laughs*

There were 3 convents as I remember - 2 along Banda Hilir - Sacred Heart and CHIJ. Notre Dame I can't quite place - was it along Jln. Mata Kuching? I'm also getting flashes of Yok Bin and Pay Fong and St David's as well as Bukit Baru. I was an athlete back then and I remember competing with them hehe

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Haiya Zee, where got story to tell la. Pakmat & the ninja's stories already keep u romance fanatics occupied what. Tommy is just your Average Joe (soory Joe, pinjam title..kekeke), just think of me as your regular Mills & Boon cover leng chai; Fabio.....hahaha.


P/S= What make u think I'd got a story behind that song? Maybe, only maybe if I played this;
Goodbye Girl kekeke

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Aunty Zendra,
Notre Dame is on the Gajah Behrang side, next to the Catholic Boys School. Many fine schools in Melaka, don't forget the SFI and MGS too. Oh, that's where my Mama leans to make asam pedas and Nyonya cooking. And the popiah basah and pineapple tart....oh no...we're drooling. purrr....meow!

Zendra-Maria said...

AWWWW TOMMEEE Average, you are just too shy :)
Neber main lah - shouldn't want to open can of worms kekeke

Actually now that you mentioned Average Joe, i think he left me a note..... poor tyke, he's probably sulking :(

Zendra-Maria said...

CAT!!! Your mama knows Melaka better than I do. Gajah Berang I remember - where the elephant went amok hehe. There's a school by that name too. And MGS, before the gomen standardised on uniforms, the girls there wore sleeveless blouses! Bet the school saved on fans and electricity bills. BTW, my compliments to your mama for learning Melaka asam pedas - it's the only true asam pedas in the whole planet - no two ways about it. Ask your grand-uncle Lee hehe

Anonymous said...

Wow sure went down memory lane. I actually could not remember about the 'pungut daun' at Durian Daun Girls School. I was there since Standard One and was a prefect Std 5 and 6. Maybe the punishment was after I left...MGHS and its hostel sure posted so many memories for me,just look at the pix you enclosed, how 'tiny' I was those days...hehehehhe..

Zendra-Maria said...

Zaiton??? ARRRGHHH!!!!