Walking on thin ice during summer

Eerie feeling of racial doom continues to cast a dark shadow

pic by TMR FILE

REV Brother Brendan was the headmaster of Sekolah Assumption in the late 1970s and early 1980s It was a primary school in Bagan Dalam, Butterworth.

He was a doll for a headmaster, donning his white robe to school and strolling down the corridors with utmost power. He would pop into classes without teachers and did his thing.

He asked those dreaded multiplications — 9 X 7, 12 X 6, 6 X 12 etc — to random students. It was a scary moment. There was punishment for the deceivers.

A multiplication book became a student’s best friend. Knowing your basic maths became more important than those 20 minutes of recess time.

Sundram was the football coach of the school. He loved football as much as Sir Alex Ferguson’s love of Manchester United. He ensured the school’s football pitch would be as perfect as the putting hole of a golf course.

The brown leather stitched balls, which added a kilogram or two when it rained and would feel like a tight slap when it hit your head, were always cared for.

Football was everything for Sundram and players like Kok Soon, Tian Jin, Zakir, Iskandar etc. They were the “stars” of the school during an era when the most high-tech computer game was “Space Invader” at the arcade.

Being on the pitch and wearing the school jersey were all that matters. Plus the fact that players got to go back right after recess on match day, much to the envy of those who were glued to the chair in the classroom. You somewhat felt privileged as you walked out of the school’s gate.

Each time you stepped down from the rented beat-up school bus at the gate of the opponent’s school, it felt like an EPL team arriving at a stadium.

You could feel the staring eyes. It was not much of arrogance, but pride, dignity and the honour of the school you represent.

It was all about winning each ball, defending every attack, making that crucial pass and scoring that winning goal. Wearing a RM1.50 ankle guard back then felt like you were putting on a RM450 Copa Mundial boot today.

Sekolah Assumption went all the way into the state Under 12 football final only to lose to the team from the island who looked like they had steroid with their Nasi Lemak. Losing was painful, but the team stood as a group.

There were no race, religion or colour.

There were no Malay, Chinese, Hindu, Mamak in the team. Nobody cared about your race or religion or your background.

Nobody spoke of their rich or poor background. The players were all the same. It was all about being on the team sheet and winning matches.

Those magical days are long and gone. Today you can’t wake up to a day without reading a headline absent of racial or religious slurs.

A raid on a gynaecologist’s office turned into a racial debate. Let’s ignore the basic fact that the clinic does not have a licence. A petty trader will be fined for operating by the roadside without a licence.

A man who ran amok and killed his victim was relished as a martyr. Did anyone think about the injustice done to the victims’ family who lost a father, a mother, a son or a daughter?

When an innocent bumper-tobumper accident spiralled into a racial chaos. A congress to discuss dignity when indignity was never condemned — at times, the perpetrators were relished.

That is the Malaysia we wake up to everyday. Racial and hate peddlers reign, although the majority of Malaysians deplore their rhetorics.

Many love this country beyond anything.

But the eerie feeling of racial doom continues to cast a dark shadow.

John Steinbeck in “The Winter of Our Discontent” wrote”It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone”.

A fact many fail to realise.


Mohamad Azlan Jaafar is the editor-in- chief of The Malaysian Reserve.