4 days before Valentine's, I received the news of my headmistress's passing in the very cold and clumsy form of a sms. I couldn't quite identify what is the feeling within my gut when the realization sank in. A woman who had stood in front of the whole school giving speeches every Tuesday morning, a woman with a permanent kindly smile on her face, a woman who (patrol is not the word) strolls the corridors of the school, peeking in on the students, and letting the matter pass in good sport even though the student might not be paying attention, a woman who did everything with students in mind, a woman, not strikingly beautiful, with frizzy hair, with thick ankles and a conservative sense of fashion, a woman, who dedicated 40 years of her life to education.
Chinese education in Malaysia, is a difficult task indeed. Turns out that back then they still attend school even when the place is flooded. Given the battle that the older generation fought for the basic right of education in our mother tongue which is still ongoing today, i have to take my hat off to this woman. Being the ignorant and selfish brat that most adolescents were, I have never given much thought to my headmistress's story. Where did she come from? What was her favorite color? What schools she taught at before coming to my school? After her passing, I found out that she was part of the movement for the rights of chinese education, became the headmistress of my school when she was 28 years old. And never left since.
My most memorable and (sad to say, shameful) encounter with her was when I'm Form 4. Being the rebellious ah lian back then, I always left a few strands of hair framing my face, which was against the rules. So i was hanging out with a bunch of band mates in the school cafeteria, when she came up right behind my and tugged at my hair, quite strongly in fact. I was offended yet i didn't know who was doing that to me. loudly i demanded, "who is that?"and herng who was sitting opposite (who obviously knew who was tugging at my hair) gave a very comical expression and said in a very not serious way :"it's the headmistress!". and i didn't believe him.
famous last words.
so i just said some swear words loudly and swung right around to face this annoying hair-tugging person.
thinking back, i do hate myself for doing that.
of course i shut up right after that and listened to her tirade against ah lian hairstyles.
it's hard not to love someone who loves your school so much. news of her passing sent staggering waves through the 40 years of hin hua alumni. And for a week after that, all i could see on facebook (apart from declarations of love for valentine's) is of the headmistress of hin hua high school, Chang Sa Yeok. When my friends heard news of this, they just exclaimed that it is totally a reason for celebration, and we should be happy about it. wtf. i can't put my finger on the exact reason why did this affect all of us so much. friends were crying and lamenting and wanting to purchase air tickets back to attend her funeral. onlookers might comment on the unbelievability of it all. Is there a need to be so affected by someone who droned on for hours in the assembly every week? It's not just that. Here is someone that we truly love and respect. If not for an important presentation on the very day itself, i would have returned home just to attend her funeral. In my high school band days, sometimes the band is required to march for funeral processions. I've always considered it a horrible waste of time. Sweating in the thick uniform in the sweltering weather, maintaining a disciplined posture at all times... .. truly a test for one's patience and stamina. would've refused it if it weren't for the valid reason to skip classes. A waste of time indeed. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be part of the band for the funeral procession so badly. I envy my juniors.
i give up trying to explain this. i guess xue jiun summed it up pretty well:
2004087， my final tribute.
rest in peace.