Irfan is a funny, happy-go-lucky, kind and friendly boy. I first met him in January 1998 when he was in a class I taught. At first, he hesitated to approach me because of his shyness and lack of self-confidence. But as time passed by, he found me quite fun to be with. This boy is unique among his family members, as he remains slim no matter how much he eats. Almost all of his other siblings are stout and fat. In class, he is famous for making the class lively. If he is absent during my lesson, then I cannot teach the class well as he always cracks jokes and seems to be ready to answer any questions posed to him.
I also know his family well, especially his father, who is now confined to his house as he is so obese that he can no longer get down to the ground. I sometimes visit his house just to chat with his father and borrow some collections of old magazines compiled by his father. Irfan also comes to my house with his friend Atizan for lunch and surfing the Internet. Frequent visits will definitely strengthen our bond.
The second student that I would like to describe here is Melanie. This girl is quite tall and cute. No wonder she won the first runner-up in a beauty contest held in a nearby district when she was 17. Apart from being blessed with good looks, Melan (as she is popularly known among her friends), also excels in her studies. She got straight A’s in her PMR examination and she also proved that she was capable of making her parents proud by emerging as the second best student in the SPM exam last year. I taught her for just for two years but I could easily noticed her good proficiency in English language. Her command of the language is almost perfect. This is clearly shown in her flawless essays and conversation with me. However, she is a procrastinator and seldom hands in her work on time. I think she is good enough in this subject that she takes things easy when it comes to homework. Her close friends are Norliliana, Afflicia and Zuraina and they have been to my house to sample my tom yam soup. Luck was on my side, as they liked my cooking.
Another special girl student that I want to mention here is Azlina who is also good in English. She has been at the top of the MUET score list for two semesters, beating 105 students. Having born of Chinese and Kadazan parentage, she is very good looking although slender in my eyes. She is a responsible, diligent and perseverant young woman who has had to face a few family problems in her teenage life. Her parents always quarrel over financial problems. She has cried when she told me about this situation in her family. She has successfully hidden her family problems by showing a joyful and smiling face almost all the time. But deep down inside her heart, she has to bear this entire predicament alone. Her will power is strong for a girl of her age. Since her only brother suffers from a psychomotor deficiency, she has to keep an eye on him at school, although he seems to be able to fend for himself. Azlina always comes to see me to chat in the staff room, much to the chagrin of the other teachers. I am happy to speak to her, as it will help her practise her spoken English outside the classroom. I also purposely spend some time talking to her in class. I can say she is also a caring person as she makes it a point to give me cards for my birthday and on Teachers’ Day. In return, she asks for my moral support before she takes any difficult exams.
Amisah is a friend of Azlina. She and Azlina help me to carry out all the activities organised by The English Language Society. As with Azlina, I can always count on them to get all their work done. She is so efficient in her work that I only have to give her instructions once. She is quite outgoing and outspoken compared to her other classmates. Thus, she always tries to make herself stand out from them by asking me questions and engaging in friendly conversation. She is also tall, beautiful, friendly, respectful and happy go lucky.
The next interesting person whom I want to describe here is Elias, popularly known as Boy by his family and close friends. But I address him as Boboi, which sounds more boyish. He is of mixed parentage, having some Pakistani, Chinese and Malay blood, so it is no wonder he is quite good looking and charming even though he seems to be slightly dark and short. This boy is quite well known among local chatters on MIRC and has even met with some of his cyberpals in real life. Judging from his looks, I think he could have as many girlfriends as he wishes to, but he just treats all of them in the same way as he treats his male pals.
Being the eldest in a family of seven, he is quite responsible and caring towards his younger siblings. When I first knew him, I got the shock of my life when I learned that his mother gave birth to five children in five years, with him being the first! I later was also informed that he is the only child from his mother’s first husband. Again, I was shocked as he took his stepfather’s surname on his birth certificate. I have noticed that his family is poor as he and his siblings have to work part-time at a food stall at night in order to ease their mother’s burden. They work as waiters and earn RM10 per night for their service. It might not be that lucrative, but they seem to be happy to earn money for themselves. In addition, they also know how to appreciate money, as it does not come easily.
I can say that he is friendly, talkative, obedient, polite, respectful and funny. However, one thing about him that annoys me is that he does not know how to project a good image as one of the handsome boys in school. As a senior, he should look presentable in every way possible. It is disheartening to see him not wearing his socks, badge, or tie. Moreover, he always forgets to tuck his shirt into his pants. His hair is straight but is not too well kept. Once, I almost cut his hair but he managed to run away. I think he might feel uneasy to have me always interfere in his life. But I treat him as my own brother as I find him still looking for an adult male figure that he can look up to. He might not realize this but after visiting his house several times, I become aware that his father is not always around when the children really need him in their growing-up process.
Elias’ younger brother, Iskandar, is another interesting character for me to point out. He is as handsome as his elder brother, but much taller than his older brother. Sometimes, people might think he is the older one, not Boboi. I always tell him that he resembles the well-built, muscular Bollywood actor Salman Khan. From my observations, this boy is less mature than his brother as the topic of his conversation centers on female friends, studies, music and movies. He needs some time to develop his mind to become a better person.
I was disappointed to discover his slow progress in English. He has never passed his English paper since he was in Standard One. If only I had known him earlier, I would have been able to prepare him sufficiently for the SPM examination. However, with only three months left, I will do my best to help him pass this subject, as English language is a ticket for those seeking entry placements at local colleges and universities. He seems willing to learn despite his difficulty in understanding even some easy words. It is quite pathetic to see him looking up meanings for words like “difficult” and “expensive” in his dictionary. During personal tuition, I normally guide him through a reading comprehension passage while holding a rattan in one hand, ready to hit him when he makes a mistake in pronunciation or in giving the meanings of words.
According to his mother, Iskandar always quarrels with his elder brother and abuses his younger one. There was a time when Iskandar and Elias didn’t speak to each other for weeks. Both of them are stubborn and egoistic and will never give in. It is normal to for sibling rivalry to exist in this family as the children are close to each other in age. I realize that Iskandar is the apple of his father’s eye. When his father comes back home once in a while, he will give him some money and this obedient son saves the money until it is sufficient enough for him to spend it for himself and doesn’t share it with his other siblings. He might be economical in his spending but sometimes he can be considered as stingy as well. His dad bought him a mountain bike so he could come to my house for night revision and weekly tuition. He even keeps his parents’ passport-sized photos in his wallet to show that he always remembers them wherever he goes. In all, Iskandar is an interesting character.
To conclude my article, I can say that these students have come into my life and have added some color to it. They come and go but the memories of them will remain. I feel grateful if they turn out to be better persons when they finish their studies and show me that the knowledge I have imparted has been put to good use. I also hope they will always remember me and show their appreciation for what I have done to them inside and outside the classrooms.
12 August 2000