Then, Suddenly, I Remember...
Today, many years ago, I was reading Ralph Waldo Emerson. I was big on Ralph then, sage of self-reliance, impressive looking American (in those days when Americans were still impressive), and I was still in my early days at secondary school. I still am in my early days at school, so today I picked up an old copy of the Review section of the Guardian newspaper and read the cover story on Ralph Waldo.
It was many years ago today that a voice asked me, "Buku apa tu?". I heard it again today, as I flipped through the essay by Harold Bloom. Don't like Bloom much now, not since discovering he's a Strausser fellow-traveller, devotee of the cold-hearted, weirdo, unhinged thinker behind the present Neocon marauders. But Ralph Waldo, I can still lend him an ear.
So back to school. I was sitting at a bench in the school canteen, looking through a book I'd just borrowed from the library, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I was probably feeling a bit apprehensive then, as I felt on most school games days. When I looked up I saw a straight-haired senior in the uniform of the Boy Scouts, black horn-rimmed glasses, looking at me. "Buku apa tu?" He picked it up, flipped through it, he probably shook his head, probably nooded in approval. I can't remember.
And then I remember he was known as Ku Ali, the senior chap who stood out in school, his vivacity spreading forth as he rode on his bicycle.
And then I remember now, that was Pok Ku!
Astounded by that sudden flash, I shot him an email (which I'm sure he'll not mind if I reproduce here):
Dear Pok Ku,And Pok Ku's probably still singing now, adult numbers most probably, no more the ging gang goolie-goolie whatever. You can hear him here
Something amazing happened today. I was reading about Ralph Waldo Emerson when a strange memory flashed back. I was astounded. I began to look at it closely and the person in it took better shape, voice, straight hair, black-rimmed glasses, boy scout's uniform, bicycle, Sultan Sulaiman Secondary.
I had just joined the school then. I think one afternoon, perhaps during those dreaded school games practises. I'd just borrowed a book from the library, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, was sitting at the bench in the school canteen and reading it when a senior came and asked me, "Buku apa tu?"
He was someone I knew as Ku Ali. He was a bubbly character, a person I looked up to. You, right?
I only got the name of the teacher wrong, T.P.C****** instead of Mr N*****, who had brown-rimmed glasses (tortoise shell?). One day Mr Lau K*** B*** was briefing us all on the cross country run. "You must drink solt water," he was telling the assembly. What? Solt? Oh, Mr N***** burst out, "Salt!" All that happened in my early days at the school. And there was a boy named Lau K*** B* (also my senior).
But I remember you well, the voice, the face and all. You probably knew my cousin, N** M******* (the one who was knocked down by the Tok Peraih in one of my Growing Up pieces).
Strange how that one got dislodged from the crevasses of memory.
I probably can hear you now singing the Goong gang goolie goolie watcha, ging gang goo, ging gang goo...