Friday, January 15, 2010

One Fine Evening, Chatting with Rahmat

I heard the sound of motorcycle, and I knew that it must be Rahmat, my Pakistani creditor. I purchased some household goods from him a few months ago. He had come today to collect the monthly payment from me.

I invited him in, offered him a cup of tea, he accepted. After dealing with the payment and making notes in his little 555 book, I thought he was ready to leave. But it seemed Rahmat was in a chatty mood today. He must have sensed my worn out and worry-beaten face when he decided to share a proverb in the Urdu language to cheer me up.  I don't understand Urdu, but from Rahmat's quite vague translation, I think it means, "Whatever goes on inside you, don't show it to the world. Smile and show a happy face, and the world will provide for your worries." Rahmat succeeded. I smiled.

     Rahmat initiated little friendly conversations, asking me about my family, my hometown, myself. I had nothing much to do, it was 5.30 p.m., and my Internet line was down. So I welcomed Rahmat's company. I returned the friendly chat by asking him about his family, his hometown, himself. Rahmat told me that he had been staying and doing business in Kunak for 9 years now. No plan to return to Pakistan? I asked. Rahmat hesitated. He replied, I would love to. But probably not now. Not yet. Do you like it here? Rahmat did not hesitate on this one. He answered quickly, No. I was taken aback. No?

     No. It's good here, I can earn my living and send some money back to my family at Pakistan. But I don't like most of the people here. Why? I asked. People here don't have Respect. They don't show Respect.

     Rahmat is a nice, friendly, Respectful young man. From our little conversation, I learned that he is the fifth child from a large family of 8 siblings. He came to Kunak in the year 2000 with his elder brother to try their luck in business, and they have been staying together in the same rented house ever since. Rahmat is also an educated young man. He had received college education back in Pakistan. A degree holder in Islamic Studies. He had had a job with the Pakistan Ministry of Agriculture before he decided to migrate to Malaysia, he decided to quit the job because the pay was very little.

     Rahmat thought that Malaysian students - my students - are very lucky. When I asked him Why? He replied, because teachers in Malaysia are not allowed to cane or hit the students. I said, You are right, Rahmat. We are not allowed to lay a hand on our students. Rahmat responded, I think that's why people here lack Respect, Miss Teacher.

     I asked Rahmat to elaborate. Rahmat told me that caning was not prohibited in Pakistan's schools. He had been naughty as a child, and he had had his share of canings from his teachers. And we Respect our teachers, Rahmat proudly declared. I Respect my teachers, Miss Teacher. You know, I am a 28-year-old adult now, but if I see my teacher from afar, I would still feel scared. My teacher still has the authority to cane me, or beat me up if he thinks that I don't behave in a way that I am supposed to. My parents, if they know that my teacher hit me, they would not be mad at the teacher, they would not complain. He is my teacher. He could do whatever he needs to teach me. My parents would be thankful if my teacher still has the desire to hit me, to correct me, to teach me, after all these years. They would be thankful. Thankful to God. Rahmat told me.

     I told Rahmat that as a teacher, I am not allowed to hurt my students. Rahmat smiled. He said, I have seen you teach. You teach the children how to read. You teach the children how to write. It's all good. But when the children shout and make noise and misbehave, you don't hit them. You just scold them and leave them alone. Rahmat shook his head. It's not good. You should cane them. Correct them. If you don't cane and correct them are actually Hurting them.

     Hmm. I tried to explain to Rahmat that I could be arrested if I even try to lay a hand on any of my students. As a teacher in a government school, I am bound by the rules and the law of Malaysia. Rahmat chuckled. Malaysia is going to have big trouble in the future. Rascals, disrespectful children will grow up to be
lawbreakers, with no respect for the government and their leaders.

     According to Rahmat, he had never known how a cigarette 'taste' like. In Pakistan, adults do not smoke cigarettes freely in public. They would normally go behind a building or anywhere secluded to have a puff. Although he is already 28 years old, he rarely goes out after 8.00 p.m., not without his elder brother's consent. And Rahmat added, You know, the Chinese and Indian businessmen in Kunak are puzzled by the way we Pakistani conducted our business. They said we trust people too much. We could simply give people credit without doing any background check.

     You know, Miss, that's where people always get it wrong. There's nothing wrong with trust. Trust is good. Sometimes people betray your trust, but if you know how to take care of yourself, nothing can harm you. Trusting people is good. Trusting too much can be risky, but what is life without risk?

     But lack of respect? Rahmat shook his head again. If you don't want to cane your students, it's okay. But Miss Teacher, you need to teach your students Respect. Without Respect, you are nothing. Respect is what makes a person human.

     Rahmat had just finished his cup of tea, and so did I. The sound of Azan from the nearby surau signaled the end of our conversation. Rahmat stood and was prepared to leave.

     Before he left, Rahmat shared some words of wisdom he had learned from his college professor:

     "There's no knowledge without college, there's no life without wife."

     With a wide grin on his face, Rahmat got on his motorcycle and rode off.


  1. Which do you choose? US style or the east?

    We might see the next generation look a like Akon, Flo Rida or Britney Spears;


    We might also see nice white rabbit with a thick black moustache;


    What will you see?

  2. For me personally, teaching my students how to read and write is important, but more important than that would be to teach them how to be 'human'.

    I wouldn't opt for hurting my students physically. I would try my very best not to.

    I believe there are ways. Children learn from what they see. Teachers set the example.

  3. hmm..i tried to find my ground, when i had to choose between these two cane or not to cane..sometimes i really really felt the urge to..but couldn't actually bring myself to commit the ultimate act..
    personally, i understand a bit of what mr.rahmat said- during my school days, my teachers freely taught me in the ways they knew how- if i misbehave, i got punished usually caned..i don't know if there were rules back then about canning ..but then my parents consent to any kind of punishment my teachers gave me- 'as long as it's to educate her, as long as she's not seriously injured..' that was the only rules most parents applied at that time when it comes to punishment at schools..
    and i can't help but wonder, was this why kids those days had a bit more RESPECT for others compared to kids these days..i wonder....


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