The saying goes: Don't judge a book by its cover. And I'm saying: Don't ever judge a man by his t-shirt, his pair of shoes, his pants, his hair, and his job. I learned my lesson really well but not after the second humiliation.
The first one resulting from bad perception on a person took place in 1984 in Kuching, Sarawak. I was a teacher back then. While doing my work in the teachers' room, I received a call in the morning from someone from BINA (Nahdatul Islam Bersatu) asking me if I wanted to learn Aikido ( a Japanese martial art).
"Mun kitak minat, kelak pukul tiga ada drebar ngambak kitak situk". (If you are interested, at 3.00 pm a driver will bring you here).
The van arrived on the dot. The driver greeted me. Asked me a lot of questions. I responded disinterestedly.
"Kitak cikgu Ishak kah?" (Are you Ishak, the teacher?)
"Lama dah kitak nunggu?" (Have you been waiting long?")
"Sik" (No) and silence.
"Udah makan tek?" (Have you had lunch?)
"Udah" ( Yes) ... and silence.
"Berapa lama udah kitak ngajar di sekolah tuk?" (How long have you been teaching in this school?)
"Dua tahun" and again dead silence.
That was probably because I considered myself as the boss and that he was just a driver. He was instructed to fetch me and why should he ask too many questions? Snobbish was the proper term and in the Malaysian language it's called sombong. As an evidence to that behaviour, I chose to sit privately at the back and not beside him. It was really an avoidance. I didn't want to be interrogated by him anymore. I was truly, surely sombong.
For the next seven kilometers, there were no conversations. The driver ceased from saying anything. It must be difficult for him to continue asking questions when I was not responding accordingly enough.
As the van stopped at its destination ( a three- story building in Jalan Satok), the driver told me to proceed to the gymnasium, get the Aikido attire from the staff at the counter and wait for the Aikido trainer. I nodded and did as instructed.
There were four other students in the gymnasium and we were waiting eagerly but proudly for the master. But when he arrived, it wasn't the sight I would want to anticipate. Disoriented, I could not swallow the fact of what I saw. The Aikido Master was the van driver himself! I guess you know what happened then.
When the training was over, the Aikido Master @ the van driver was the one who would send me back home. In the van, I sat beside him instead at the back. With sheer heart pain, I apologized to him. I was extremely embarrassed. I suffered the greatest humility in my life. One ugly perception and I was in deep trouble with a 7th Dan Aikido Master. The pleasure was his at that moment.
"Sik ada hal. memang kamek polah cam ia" (It's OK. I did it on purpose) he said, undisturbed.
"Ngapa?" (Why?) I paraphrased.
"Kamek sik mau pelajar kamek jadi lawa gilak kelak sebab mikir dirinya kuat" (I don't want my students to act blatantly snobbish because they think they are powerful and strong with the skills they have) he explained.
At that moment, it was like receiving a shomenuchi from the master. I learned an unforgettable lesson that day. I became a down-to-earth good guy who perceived everyone equally but that equation only lasted for nine years. Before we go to that get yourself a good mug of teh tarik first. It's a going to be long.