"krow is work spelled backwards" and a childhood story

Note: I haven’t fallen into “The Zone” while writing for a long time. Feels good to be back. Please read the story.

Hmm…I feel contented coz today was quite productive by my
standards, which unfortunately, is not high at all. =D I did get chewed
on a bit today by my IE supervisor though. It’s understandable coz our
group seems to be rather behind schedule. There was a semantics issue
involved as well. I had assumed that a non-reply will default to the
affirmative regarding meeting times, but apparently that was not the
case. Well, you know what they say about assuming. I can’t resist
reiterating though, assuming makes and ass out of u and me. There.
Anyway, I was grilled for a while about PHP syntax too. Felt like I was
back in graded school. Heh. Oh, which reminds me. Back in primary
school, we had this Nazi math teacher who would force us to memorize
the multiplication tables up to 13. Now, every time she comes in,
she’ll carry this big ass rattan (flexible wood-like plant) cane and
swish it around a bit. Then, she’ll start to traverse the tables and
rows, asking each one a random multiplication. She’ll give you 1
second, and 1 second the most. If you couldn’t answer correctly by
then, she’ll give you a hard lashing with the cane.

So down she’ll go, asking “What’s 3 times 12?” “What’s 7 times 13?”
“What’s 11 times 10?”. Now, each day, she’ll add one lashing to the
punishment for the wayward ones who couldn’t figure out the
multiplication tables in the head (no tables are allowed). This went on
until the punishment was 50 lashings (!) on the 50th day. She promised
that the counter will reset itself to 1 the next day. I’m not kidding,
this really is true. Note though that capital punishment was acceptable
in Malaysia when I was in primary school. Anyway, I could answer
everyday, right up until the dreaded 50th day. Many of my classmates
has conveniently brought a tube of Colgate toothpaste, which is said to
numb the hands so the lashings won’t hurt so much. Well, the guy in
front of me, an Iban, didn’t get the answer right, so the teacher
started to give him 50 lashes. Right around the 35th lash point, the
cane splintered and frayed, but the teacher kept on going. Well,
besides being not good with multiplications, the Iban guy was
unfortunately not good in acting too. He was smiling after the rattan
cane frayed, because rattan canes don’t hurt much once they’ve frayed.
This is because the kinetic force applied to the cane distributes
through each fray, which then lands on a larger surface area.

Unfortunate. The teacher started to realize this and started
slapping the guy instead, substituting each lash with a slap until the
prescribed 50 were up. The poor guy started crying (we were 12 years
old at that time) and the whole class was in a quandary regarding this
new development. The Colgate Method TM has effectively been
nulled, voided and stamped with a big red NOT APPLICABLE, sorry mate.
Anyway, once the slapping has been dealt with, the teacher moved to the
first girl in my row. We were (rather ruthlessly) hoping that the next
few people will “get it” too, since the bell was 10 minutes away from
ringing. Inferring and extrapolating shows that the teacher can produce
30 slaps per minute (SPM).

[Edit: Replaced original ASCII depiction with JPEG graphical representation.]


Thus, if 5 people in the row of 9 “gets it”, I would be spared from
any questions, since the bell would have already rung. I think we
learnt more math by trying to avoid a spanking than memorizing
multiplication tables. Unfortunately, the next girl was the smartest
girl in our class, so she instantly got the answer right. We were
momentarily elated for a couple of seconds, when the teacher fired off
3 more questions in quick succession, as if wanting to get the girl to
slip up. Unfazed, the smart girl answered all of them with impunity.
And thus it went, until it was the turn of the guy beside me. The clock
still had 7 minutes to go at the time, so I was about to resign to my
fate…until I thought of a trump card. Of course! I’ll go to the
toilet. So,

Me: Cikgu, boleh saya pergi ke tandas? Perut sakit…

[Teacher, can I go to the toilet? I have a stomachache…(which was
only half untrue – who wouldn’t get a stomachache with this kind of

Teacher: Eh, tidak boleh…sudah hampir sampai giliran kamu. Mahu lari kah?

[Of course not…it’s nearly your turn to go. Are you trying to get away?]

Me: …………………………

And thus, it was my turn. “What is 7 times 9?” said the teacher.
“Er…62?” said I. 7’s were always my weakest multiplication tables.
“SALAH!!!” boomed the teacher with delight, glad for an opportunity to
flex her muscles once more. Salah means wrong in Bahasa Malaysia if you
haven’t figured it out by now. I had never gotten the multiplication
tables wrong before. I could hear a sigh of relief from the row behind
me. Infidels. The teacher made me stand up and started giving me a
slap. However, she apparently could not bring herself to do it a second
time and contented herself with giving my cheeks a hard pinch. “Huai
Bin” the teacher said. “Jangan salah lagi, ah, kamu budak pandai”.
(Don’t make any more mistakes, you’re a clever kid).

went the class, voicing discontent at the preferential treatment I was

Oh well.

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10 thoughts on “"krow is work spelled backwards" and a childhood story

  1. I’ve never been caned in my life. Not by my teachers and certainly not by my parents. I went to a civilized school, thank God. I can’t imagine the trauma if I had to face such abusive ‘disciplining’.

  2. Ah the good old uncivilized days, brings back memories, like eating crunchy rust bits from mee goreng in rusty bowls at the school canteen…. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger :) If teachers tried something like that these days they would probably end up getting punched after school or looking for a new job at McD.

  3. Pixeldoll: I went to a government run primary school, so caning was very common back then. :)
    Vince: …and thus, we turned out to be men with cast iron stomachs, able to eat the most unsanitary food and still not flinch or get food poisoning. ;)

  4. i was ur classmate before the teacher is female. the teacher ask me how many day on july.. i just guess 31 then i pass it.. i still reamember this…

  5. Fuck, that brings back memory. Stupid teachers, as if all those capital punishment do us any good. I am working so many hours and so burnt out, I cannot count 1 to 5 corrcetly. That’s what computers are for.
    Here’s a tip:
    What’s 6 x 7?
    Answer: A lot
    What’s 18 x 7?
    Answer: A lot more than the previous answer.

    • Haha! It was multiplication tables that we needed to memorize back then.

      I don’t see the point, I still can’t do math without a calculator although the basics I still remember, such is the insidious power of forced memorization. :x

  6. Huai Bin, I’ve been wondering what you are up to these days and here I am checking on your blog! I had a good laugh reading this. The funny thing is that I have no recollection of this particular event where we got lashes for not getting the right multiplication answer. I do have memories of lots of lashes and slaps being flung around in primary school especially in later years during Maths and English lessons. Lashes and slaps were usually targeted at Iban students though, usually the defenceless ones. It mortifies me to think that such things were allowed to happen in those days and those teachers being adults and parents themselves performed such acts of disgrace. Anyway, those were the old days. Not every teacher was like that. We did have wonderful teachers then, although not many in primary school…

    • HAHAHA!

      It’s good to hear from you Karen!

      It’s Cikgu S** remember? She gave us 50 lashes with the cane if we got an answer wrong. I think she was easy on me for political reasons.

      I can still hear her going “ESOK! LIMA PULUH KALI JIKA SALAH!”.

      The smartest girl in the class I was referring to is Sing Ling. :)

      Well, such is life back in the days, there is a fair undercurrent of racism going on, it’s bound to happen in a town with such a unique racial disposition as Sibu.

      However, it’s not just directed to Ibans, there’s a certain teacher (can’t name him) that beat the crap out of a mutual friend though for daring to stand up to his advances. It’s sexual harassment, bordering on downright molestation, although we didn’t know it then.

      Hey, I’ve always thought you’re in 6B not 6A. :)

      • Yes it was Cikgu ‘S’. I also remember she tried to pull down one of the Iban student’s pants and made him kneel down in the middle of the classroom with both hands up, holding heavy books. He was made to kneel down for the whole lesson. When he got tired and dropped his hands, he would get lashes. Pretty horrific.

        I did hear some rumors some years back about one of our male teachers actually had his hand where it shouldn’t be on one of the girls. Ugh!! The thought of it makes me sick. Would be interested to hear your story about the girl who stood up to him. I ain’t aware of this incidence. We were so innocent then. Had no idea of what’s going on in the adult world!

        And how could you not know I was in 6A?? I’ve known you since we were 7!! :D

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