Before I enrolled in Bartley, the school had a gangster problem. When I started study in the school, this problem seemed to have dissipated, thanks to the enforcement of discipline by our fierce principal Mr Jesu. He would not hesitate to call for the police if he knew any of his students took part in this nefarious activity.
A case in point. One of my primary school mates named Ah Leng, a Hainanese boy, whose father owned a coffee stall in our kampong, was misguided into a secret society. In fact he was a smart boy doing well in the primary school and when posted to Bartley, things changed. He was caught by the principal for taking part in a gang fight outside school and was referred to the police, ending his school career in a most unfortunate way. Later on, when I was working in the port, one day a stevedore called me: “Lam – how are you?” I turned around, and to my surprise, I found my long-lost friend, Ah Leng calling me. Imagine; a bright kid with a good future before him had turned into a hardened labourer, eking out for a living .. to hell with organised crime!
Me (extreme left) and some of my buddies trying our best to look 'cool' and macho.
One of our most colourful Indian graduate teachers was my Physics teacher, Mr Chettiar. He graduated from Travancore U, southern India, with a science degree. A tall, bespectacled and skinny guy with a moustache, he had a very boring dress sense. He liked to wear white long sleeve shirts, with white pants to match, throughout the year, with an occasional switch to grey trousers.
Mr Chettiar, I must say, was a benign teacher. When he got angry with naughty students, he would grimace, raising his right hand high, pretending to execute a karate chop, not quite reaching the culprit’s neck, causing a ruckus in the process. When coming to his lesson, he was like being charged with a megawatt of energy, moving swiftly from one end of the black board to the other. Just to quote one incident during his physic lesson, acting like an Indian Enstein explaining a theory of the universe, he would enthusiastically expound with a heavy Indian accent : “angalar aaxe + angalar wwhy (angle x + angle y) ….and so on and so forth…One board of calculation not enough, he rubbed off, starting another full black-board of calculations, and finally the answer. Meanwhile, I was in twilight zone. One of my class’ smartest chaps, P Chiew sprang up and said: “Mr Chettiar, I think there is a shorter cut to find the answer!” Mr Chettiar: “Oh, is it. Come and do it on the board”. P Chiew went to the black board and wrote out all the calculations and out popped the answer, done only with half a black board. Mr Chettiar felt embarrassed, and unsmilingly said: “Well the calculation is short, but still quite misleading; and worse not clear!” The class became very quiet after this.
Another lady bespectacled Indian teacher named Mrs Bess, was really a beauty, as pretty as a Bollywood star. She taught us English in the lower form. A very quiet, dignified, composed person who drew plenty of unwanted attention from the male population, especially from the Indian teachers. There was another short, very good looking lady teacher (Chinese) who drove a sport car to work (forgot her name), who one day requested a mini library behind the class-room, so as to improve our English. At once Mr Jesu granted her wish without much query. It was rumoured that this lady was from Penang and was formerly working in an airline. To the disappointment of everyone, she taught only for a short period and left the school.
Indeed there were many stories of my school, but I would like to stop here, and for further inputs, I would like to fill them up in the comments section.
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