I was not supposed to go to Sekolah Tun Fatimah in 1981.
Nope. No siree. I was supposed to go to Sekolah Menengah Sains Bukit Mertajam. I can still remember the letter of offer which was sent to me via the office of SRK Treacher Methodist Girls School in Taiping. The clerk, Cik Fazillah, gave it to me during recess on a Thursday morning. The letter was in a brown envelope, with my name neatly typewritten on it. (God, sometimes I even amaze myself with the things I did and the people I met or knew more than 30 years ago which/whom I can still remember so vividly! It's scary, maaan!)
I was so excited when I opened the letter and read the contents, and I couldn't wait to get home to show it to Mommy and Abah! I had dreamt of going to a boarding school since I was 6 or 7 years old, I think. And my dream was finally becoming a reality! There were only 4 students who got 5As for the Penilaian Darjah 5 in my school - Karen Goh Gaik Sim, Ong Gaik Hong, Mageswary Devan and moi, and I was expecting to get an offer to go to a boarding school. I was barely halfway reading through the offer letter, and I was already planning on what to bring with me, and the things I needed to have to survive my stay at SMS Bukit Mertajam. I could already visualize the dorms, etc - just as Enid Blyton described them in her St. Claires', Mallory Towers, Naughtiest Girl series, etc.
But, what greeted me when I got home nearly made me cry. Abah said, "No. You're not going to a co-ed school." Just like that, and my heart dropped, and I remember thinking to myself, "Oh no...there goes my chance to go to 'sekolah budak pandai'!" :(Abah is a man of few words, for a simple reason - he doesn't have to talk much because nobody would argue with him. If 'puteh' kata dia, maka 'puteh' lah dia...)
I remember asking Mommy if she could slow-talk to Abah, and I remember her saying that there must have been a good reason why Abah wouldn't let me go to Bukit Mertajam. And there must be a hikmah if it was fated that I was not going to SMS Bukit Mertajam. With that, I was resigned to the fact that, it was just never meant to be. I was never going to stay in dorms described by Ms Blyton in all those wonderful story books of hers. Ever.
What I didn't know was that Abah had then written a letter of appeal to the Kementerian if I could be offered a place in an all-girls boarding school instead, and lo and behold barely 2 weeks after that I received another offer letter! And I was SO excited because this time it was for a place in Tunku Kurshiah College : T-K-C!!! And I remember thinking to myself - there was no way Abah was going to say "No" this time, because as far as I remembered/knew TKC was an all-girls school. And Abah could not use the same excuse of not letting me go to a co-ed school this time, could he?
Yup, you read it correctly. I could have been an ex-TKCian now if Abah had not come up with another brilliant excuse for not letting me go to Seremban pulak...This time, it was, "There's nobody in Seremban to tengok-tengokkan Shana nanti, kalau ada apa-apa hal, etc...", and my heart sank. Yet again. And this time, I was resigned to the fact that whatever it may be, I was never leaving home until I was old and crumpled at the age of 70. I thought Abah just could not bring himself to let his youngest daughter go and leave the nest at the tender age of 13... But, boy...was I wrong.
I remember Abah going to KL for a couple of days barely a week after that, and the night he came back, he called me up to the living room and said to me, "You're going to Sekolah Tun Fatimah in Johor Bahru." And in his hand was an offer letter for me to go to STF!
I was speechless, and I didn't want to put my hopes up too high, as I didn't want to be disappointed again. And I remember asking myself, "Isn't STF in JB? And isn't that further, MUCH, MUCH further than Seremban?!" But, I didn't want to risk the chance to finally be allowed by Abah to go to a sekolah budak pandai. So, I kept quiet. Tapi, my heart was bursting out with excitement! Finally, I was going off to a boarding school! YESSS!!!
I later found out that Abah had wanted to get me into STF because my uncle - Ayah Anjang, who was a CID with KTM had just been posted to Tanjung Pagar, Singapore, and Abah was hoping that he and his wife, Mak Wan would be able to keep an eye and also visit me in JB every now and then, on my parents' behalf. I guess he felt more confident, and he trusted his own brother to take care of me while I was there. Tanjong Pagar was just a train ride away from JB. And kalau ada apa-apa hal, Ayah Anjang would be there for me. I guess, it was difficult for him to let me go, but, he knew that it was the best for me and the least he could do was to have his brother in his place to be there with me, for me.
I remember pestering Mommy to go and shop for the stuff I needed to bring to STF just in case Abah were to change his mind again. And I remember all the preparations made for me to go to STF! I don't know if any of you remember the list of things that we were supposed to bring with us to STF? The item I remember so clearly was "5 pasang seluar dalam berwarna putih"...and that was how many undies I brought with me on registration day! Mommy had insisted that I brought more, but, I was so scared that it was going to be against the rule, that I refused to bring more than 5 white undies! And you can imagine how stupid I felt when I saw the other girls in my dorm who had more than 5 pairs of undies...and in so many rainbow colours some more!
Luckily for me, Mommy had left the rest of my new undies with Mak Wan. And the first weekend after registering, Ayah Anjang and Mak Wan paid me a visit. And besides the yummylicious macaroni goreng they brought for me, they also brought with them a small bag of my colourful undies...Aaaahhh, bless them. And bless my Mom to have left the undies with them :)
I remember the first friend that I made was Lin Rahman. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw her in the school hall during registration was, "Wow, she's very tall!". And I remember thinking to myself just how confident she was. The second friend that I made was Zarina Sheikh Osman - the girl whose bed was beside mine in B2-13. She must have thought the same thing about me, i.e. how confident and sure of myself I looked, because from the day we met, I was like her bodyguard/minder. She would be following me wherever I went. The Dining Hall, the Surau, 'Round Compound', etc, you name it, and she would insist that we walk to class together, even though she was in 1(1), and I was in 1(3).
And I can still remember how she would always ask me to remind me about everything -
"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita kunci jam, okay?"
"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita pakai talipinggang, okay?"
"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita telefon Mak kita, okay?"
"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita pakai skirt hijau kita, okay?
"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita beli sabun basuh baju, okay?"
And I would remind her to do all those things. She was a very nice girl. But, I guess, boarding schools were just not for her. She would be crying almost every night, and almost every day she would ask me to accompany her to call her parents to take her home. And I was quite sad when her parents finally came a few weeks after that to bring her home to KL. The second friend I made in STF was no longer there...and I never heard from her again after that.
But, of course, I made other friends to whom I became very close after that : Noi, Idah Balquis, Awin, Kala, and Yah who became my dorm-mates for 5 years. We shared so many memories together - sweet, bitter, and of course those horror/horrifying stuff, too, especially about the thing that goes bump in the night ;)
And all my 1(3) and Soc Sci friends : I will not do justice to anyone by trying to list the names of all my partners in crime/my best friends who grew up with me in STF. Some of whom include Yus, Reha, Jo, Sal, Yati Samad, Arwah Ross, Oya, Neetot, Eta, Anne, Tan, Kmar, Mahani "Bo", Masni, Mas, Wan, Jue, Sanisah, Farah, Aida K, Hye, Awe, Zaza. Oh my..the list goes on and on...and you know who you are, dears :) Some of whom I've lost touch with, and some of whom I'm still VERY close to, syukur alhamdulillah.
And some of whom, I was never THAT close to when we were in STF, but, through penentuan Allah, have become my closest buddies after leaving the alma mater until today - Abid, Onair and Ieja :)
And I really treasure the friendship and the memories we made while we were growing up as sisters in STF, and I would never trade the friends I made in STF, and the memories we shared there - sweet or bitter, with anything.
And I shudder to think what could have been if my Abah had allowed me to go to SMS Bukit Mertajam or TKC instead, all those years ago. I might have never had the chance to know all the wonderful friends I made in STF.
And those who know how I got to know my hubby would also know that I might not have known him if I were in Bukit Mertajam or Seremban in 1984... ;)
To think that I was not supposed to be there in STF in the first place, I have indeed come a long way, in terms of meeting, knowing and loving all the special people who hold a special place in this heart of mine until today.
Call it fate, but my Mommy was right after all. There WAS a hikmah when I was fated not to go to SMS Bukit Mertajam all those years ago...
And the hikmah comes in the form of my wonderful STF friends, and the special someone whom I got to know when I was 16 in JB...NOT in Bukit Mertajam. NOT in Seremban :)
GOD works in mysterious ways indeed...
2 years ago