I walked towards the door exiting the old construct. Passing on my left and write those old school tables made from wood. There are no metal tables with a plastic surface here. There are no plastics chairs. Every chair is made of wood. Most have been fixed using available extra wood taken from "unrestorable" chairs. I walked towards the blue painted door equipped with old shackles and locks. The smell of old wood, filling the air in the room. I like it, it makes me feel nostalgic. It makes me see in black and white or at least agfa gray. Reminds me of the smell of home. I turned myself facing the structure, locking the door behind me.
"Cikgu Huzir!" a small soft voice said from behind me.
I turned around to see Aishah standing in front of the gate with an old man. In her hand was a container wrapped in red plastic. While the old man was holding on his old bicycle. The old man, looked weary, not tired. It looks like he's been tired for quite some time now. But still, he smiled. With the white kopiah on top of his head, faded long pants folded up to just under the knees and slippers on his feet. Somehow, his hands caught my attention. Tanned hands with veins and bones of his knuckle obvious.
His hands somehow radiated in strength, silent strength. His face was clean, clear, dark skinned and yet he shone like the sun. Aishah ran towards me held my hand and pulled me towards the direction of the old man. As soon as we got closer, she stopped me and stood facing me close to the old men.
"Cikgu, ni mak bagi, lauk makan malam ni... eh silap, teacher this food my mother want to let go to you." Aishah said uncertain. In her eyes I saw the words i uttered in class. "Nak belajar Bahasa Inggeris kena guna selalu."
Moved by her, i reached down for the container, placed it on the fence together with my bag and lifted her up.
"That my student!" I said while making an excited face. To show her that what she is trying to do is a positive thing. She smiled. Broad, beautiful but most of all innocent.
"Ni saper?" i said to Aishah.
"Ni abah!" she said whispering into my ear.
I placed Aishah on the ground and shook the hand of the father of one of my brightest student. He smiled. He turned to Aishah and said;-
"Sha tolong tolakkan basikal abah ni pegi tepi pagar tu." Aishah nodded and pushed the bicycle to the edge of the fence around 10 meters away.
His father quickly turned his attention to me and pulled me close.
"Cikgu, saya nak minta maaf cikgu, saya takder duit nak bagi cikgu untuk kelas tambahan yang cikgu buat untuk anak saya ni. Boleh tak cikgu tunggu sebulan dua lagi, sekarang musim hujan, menoreh pagi, getah rosak, menoreh petang, getah rosak. Saya minta maaf sangat-sangat."
Teachers nowadays are often mistreated. I too have over time, encountered some really nasty parents. But here was a man, twice my age, asking me to forgive him. I looked into his eyes and saw in them remorse, regret, guilt and it killed me. It twisted my stomach, and crushed my heart. This old man who has seen so many things in life, would stop ask for forgiveness from a young man who was young enough to be his son. What was even worst was the more i thought about it, the more it killed me.
"Macam ni lah pakcik, takkan lah saya nak keje percuma je kan? Saya pun nak hidup jugak, so kita tukar lah..." i paused. I saw worry in his eyes.
"Kita kira lauk ni lah sebagai pembayaran saya. Sebulan satu lauk boleh pakcik?" I said.
The strength in his eyes grew weaker as I saw the tears begin flooding his senses.
"Dan kalau pakcik tak kisah, pakcik benarkan saya salam cium tangan setiap kali saya jumpa pakcik." I held out my hand to grab his and bend over to kiss his hands.
As he slowly lifted his right hand and placed it on my head and rubbed my hair. I lifted my head to look at him. "Terima kasih cikgu." he said, his voice shivering.
"Sama-sama pakcik!" I said as I watch him walk away slowly, towards Aishah.
Aishah hopped on the bicycle turned towards me and screamed. "Bye Teacher! I lob you!"
"I love you too!" I said smiling.
An in a minute, they were gone around the corner.
Living in KL people have told me that more often than not, you will have to earn your respect. You cannot demand it. Tapi di kampung, orang berbudi kita berbahasa. Biarpun cuma lauk sebagai bayarannya.