Coffee Break: A happy song, from a happy place a long time ago

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 28, 2021 - July 04, 2021.
Coffee Break: A happy song, from a happy place a long time ago
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More than 40 years ago, in St Joseph’s primary school in Kuching, the Standard One and Standard Two kids in blue shorts and stitched-on badges would sing songs together. Sometimes, we were required to do a stiff dance as well.

Anyway, the song went, “Di sini senang (point downwards with left hand, to indicate ‘here’); di sana senang, (point with right hand a yonder, like far away); di mana-mana,

hati ku senang (while doing some circular, propeller type movement with hands).” Then you repeat the two verses, and go la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la for a very long time and then repeat.

Leading the singing was our teacher, the late Cikgu Nazari Alek. For whatever reason, he had a look of immense pride when we were singing the song, and all the while he mimicked us, singing along with us, but only his lips were moving, with no sound proceeding from his mouth.

Some years later, in 1990, a German-French duo from Munich, Germany, who possessed similar talents as Cikgu Nazari won a Grammy for Best New Artists and achieved international success, but that is another story for another time. (Hmmm … could it be that they had been in Kuching under Cikgu Nazari’s tutelage? Note to self: Must remain focused. It does not matter; no one cares how much of that malt beve­rage you have consumed.)

Sometimes, Cikgu Nazari would get emotional even; he would get teary-eyed. We would see him swallow his saliva, making his Adam’s apple bob a little. Come to think of it, maybe it was our (bad) singing that made him emotional.

He was cool: He rode a light-green Vespa and wore bell bottoms. He smoked too — Lucky Strike without filter … but, those days, everyone smoked.

Back to our happy song. If anyone sang it in public now, chances are they would get a beating — or, in cartoon parlance, Wham! Bam! Kapow! — and the offending singer may never speak, let alone sing, again. (If the stiff dance were included, the beating may be worse.)

The way things are going these days, a police report would be lodged as well, and the police would say they were looking into the matter, stern and stone-faced during the press conference. Sorry, during the virtual press conference.

The bottom line is, it is no longer a “hati senang” feeling whether “di sini” or “di sana”, as the times are challenging. And there are many angry and upset people around — quite understandably so, too.

Problems these days are different.

For me at least, work revolves largely around finding out whether a company’s accounting woes are real, trying to figure out why some companies’ stocks melambung and then terus menjunam. It entails speaking to starchy corporates who request anonymity while complaining about everything, including the government of the day and the authorities, and then we have to speak to government officials who get defensive but do not want to come on record defending themselves.

These are difficult times, people, very different from the days in blue shorts, when showing your report book to dad and wondering whether it was going to be a tongue-lashing or worse was THE problem.

A close second was trying to figure out who was who when watching black-and-white TV. When Liverpool in red and Chelsea (which was not a big club then) in blue played, it was difficult to differentiate the teams on the black-and-white Grundig TV. The offending TV became an aquarium after its useful life ended … sigh, the problem with focus persists — perhaps it has been one too many of the favourite malt beverage! The joys of working from home ...

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