“I’ve improved by three spots compared with the mid-semester’s class ranking,” I thought while paddling, convincing myself: “I did better this time, Papa won’t be mad.”
THE longer I stared at it, the wider my smile grew. Soon enough the grin was ear to ear. “I did it!” the jubilant voice inside my head proclaimed.
After tucking the academic report card into my schoolbag, I hopped on my bicycle and excitedly headed home. “I’ve improved by three spots compared with the mid-semester’s class ranking,” I thought while paddling, convincing myself: “I did better this time, Papa won’t be mad.”
I had never cared how my mother would react. I was a mama’s boy and I’m not at all ashamed. In fact poor Amma was as scared as me and my two younger siblings on “Report Card Day”. All it would take was for any of us three to screw up and all of us would get a lashing, yes, even Amma – because she was “in-charge” of everything at home.
I slowed down as I approached the house. I then see a silver Honda Accord parked nicely in the shade of the old mango tree. My heart rate raced and something told me that it was not because of my Lance Armstrong antics.
Reality was creeping in, and it hit me: “Shit, Papa’s home.”
I unlock and unlatch the gate as quiet as I can, somewhat convinced that doing this was going to make any difference to the results on the card.
After parking my bicycle at the usual spot of the house compound, with a nonchalance Don Corleone would have been proud of, I stepped into the hall – where my brother and sister were already seated on the sofa with Papa flipping through their cards with a cane between his legs. Yes, he was shirtless, too. Because who wears a top when you’re going to blow your top off, anyway, right?
All he needed to do was give me this piercing glare and my hand automatically, and a bit uncannily, reached out for my report card from my schoolbag. I pass it to him.
“What rubbish is this?” he asked with such a frightening calm. “Why are there so many Cs and Ds?” My legs were rooted; my body felt numb – all familiar sensations that I would feel all 26 times in my 13 years of schooling on the bi-annual report card days.
Desperately, I looked around ... Amma was nowhere to be seen. Siblings had come home earlier and would have gotten their share of the shelling already. Amma knew better than to stick around for Round Two.
She had probably been in the kitchen at that time in order to avoid being unfairly dragged into this mess.
I was left to fend for myself this time.
“Pa, look, I did better than last sem. Last time I finished 29th in class, this time I got No. 21.”
If that was supposed to be my lifesaving excuse, then it failed big time and did the exact opposite. Until this day, I have never seen any face which had the “Do I look like I give a f***?” expression so obviously painted on it. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed, not a single bit.
Infuriated, he responds: “Don’t ever give me that reason again. Anyone can improve once the person has hit rock-bottom. It’s easy to do better when you’re performing well below expectations.
“Next year you’re going to sit for your PMR. You need to buck up and start fulfilling your potential ... because I know that despite how much your looks suggest it, you’re actually not stupid. If you don’t start changing, I’m sending you to a boarding school!” he threatened.
Papa had a point at that time, a point still applicable today. Papa should have a word with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his administration about their so-called improvements based on the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) report. The Pemandu results are sure to drive him up the wall.