The passing of my dear English and Art teacher, Abdul Razak Shafie of MCKK

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Yesterday, a MCKK junior of mine, Ahmad Azman Saaiya (C’82) texted me that said “Tadi Ellina ask for you and Jak Li with a picture of him at the Kuala Kangsar Hospital with Ellina”. He was visiting our old teacher of MCKK who was warded there. Ellina or Yong was the eldest daughter of the teacher. He said Cikgu was too weak and he wasn’t allowed in. Then, today the inevitable message came:

Innalillahiwainnailaihirojiun.

As salaam. Just got the confirmation from Ellina… that our beloved Cikgu Razak Shafiee just passed away at around 3.00pm at Hospital Kuala Kangsar… semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat ke atas roh almarhum, semoga Allah mengampunkan segala dosanya & menempatkan almarhum di kalangan para solihin… insyaallah”.

This was followed by plethora of postings from former students, family and friends on the social media like Whatsapp, Facebook, Telegram and even on Cikgu Razak’s own Facebook page and his daughter’s FB pages that carried the same shocking news.

Sadly to inform that Cikgu Abdul Razak Shafie had returned to rahmatullah around 3.00pm at Kuala Kangsar Hospital.

May Allah shower mercy on the souls of the deceased and forgive all their sins & be placed among the righteous.  Al Fatihah.”

Hundreds of tributes, accolades, kind words and condolences were being posted as I write this eulogy.

The stark reality is Cikgu Abdul Razak Shafie aka Razak Jepun aka Jak Pai, who would have been 81 years old this 21 June 2022, has passed away on 20 January 2022 or 17 Jamadilakhir 1443 Hijri.

A teacher of the English language and Music to the generations of students that passed through the gates of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

I sensed something was not right when I commented on his daughter Ellina’s posting on 16 January 2022 and she said her father has been admitted to the Kuala Kangsar hospital the day before and not feeling too well.

A Teachers Training College Lembah Pantai graduate was kindly yet a strict disciplinarian in his own style for Music and the English language.

He was very particular in imparting knowledge of the language, involving its grammar, punctuations, sentence structure as well as the other aspects for proficient English.

He was equally rigorous in ensuring that his wards make their best efforts in pronunciation. He detested the lackadaisical or “cincai” approach. A cold stare, a blackboard duster projectile and blackboard ruler thump were the repercussion of your foolhardiness.

He taught me in Form 1, Form 2 and Form 3, but his lessons last a lifetime.

In addition, he was also a good tennis player, and tennis coach. He used to play a lobbed ball from baseline to fool his opponents who were waiting in front of the tennis net so much so the lobbed ball or rather the technique was dubbed “bola Ajak Pai”.

Cikgu Razak Jepun was equally adept at musical instruments including the saxophone, and trained us hard blowing the recorder for music classes though to this day, I can’t really understand the rational of learning music using recorders. He was also the master in-charge of the Cadet Band of MCKK.

He was also an enthusiast of racy sport cars. Cikgu Razak Jepun drove a Ford Capri, a sports car which says a thing about his life on a fast lane. His house would be the place where the Malay College dancers would practice their ‘joget, zapin, belly, jazzy or hula’ steps whenever there was an upcoming performance in concerts organised by the school. His lovely wife Zalehah Mohd Soom, would be the dancing coach.

I used to be terrified of the man, Cikgu Abdul Razak Shafie aka Jak Pai or Razak Jepun. He was a teacher at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (1965 – 1995) and he taught me in the early 70’s. A true disciplinarian with an extraordinary sense of self-assurance. One would pass him in the corridors with trepidations and greet him with ‘Assalamualaikum’, to which he will reply, “Good morning to you too!”

Not many know that Cikgu Razak Jepun was the one who wrote the original musical score for the school’s anthem Oh Kolej Melayu in 1971 after it was penned down by MCOBs Sallehuddin Hashim (C’68/69) & Abed Onn (C’69) a few years earlier. Credit should be given to this beloved long-serving music teacher, and he always told the students that it was written by some Budak Kolet but he did not know who, and this kind of perpetuate the whole thing into a music score like no other…only to realise it is a melody you’d once learned by heart, one can play without even trying.

He was a self-taught musician whose two daughters rose to musical fame; Ellina (a Juilliard NY graduate who sang with Anuar Zain (Kain Pelikat & Suasana Hari Raya) during their pubescent years and Elliza who was in the finals of Akademi Fantasia 3. He loved music and anything relating to it. Any MCKK school band or cadet military-band member will automatically be in his good books.

During my time in MCKK, I knew little and would be making many mistakes of all kinds during the English and Music classes. For those years, I would be asked to stand on the chair for most of his teaching hours. Another favourite was to have chalk dust all over my hair, for Cikgu Razak would test his accuracy with the blackboard duster to every little sign of sleepiness or day-dreaming. He was good at aiming most of the time; sometimes an innocent bystander who would walked back to the dorms covered in chalk dust.

Another favourite punishment of his was to hit you with the big long blackboard ruler if you blew the wrong notes on the recorder during his music classes… yup, really a small man that carried a big stick. The idiomatic phrase the School of Hard Knocks – brought a new meaning about the education (sometimes painful) one gets from learning about life in MCKK.

But there was no malice on his part or hard feeling (no pun intended) on my part but those little incidents were wonderful memories for me to this day.

During the last Old Boys Weekend on Saturday 13th, 2019, his daughter Elle had texted earlier that Cikgu wanted very much to meet his former students at the OBW and I made a personal phone call to him at his house at Bukit Chandan and invited him over. He was given a standing ovation when the MC of the night Azmi Shahrin (C’87) introduced him as “…our old music teacher who wrote the musical score of Oh Kolej Melayu!”. How Cikgu stood proudly that night. He thoroughly enjoyed himself that night when the performing bands played a repertoire of old songs and he was seen swaying to the groove like a jury out of a reality entertainment show. He was also seen scribbling on his notepad requesting songs to be played by the bands. I shall easily forget that moment.

I and a couple of batchmates have always found time and ways to meet up and reconnect with our old teacher Abdul Razak Shafie or JakPai for informal and impromptu chat when we come back home to Kwaler where it all started. We’ll take him from his home at Bukit Kerajaan and bring him out for a ‘teh tarik & lepak’ session at his neighbourhood Mamak joint, D’Rahmaniah.

Though Cikgu Jak Pai had few words to converse due to his stroke and heart bypass but we still understood each other beyond words. His grunts and murmurs are music to our ears as we deciphered the whole story from his excited recall of memories in MCKK.

Our relationship goes beyond words and music.

When we lasted visited him in Kuale on 27 March 2021, he requested us to bring him around to the old school for a drive-round to re-tell his recollections. That day we spent the whole evening together at the almost deserted Malay College grounds rekindling his old memories through his sign language and grunts.

There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’ for Cikgu Jak Pie. He simply made up his mind, he was the voice of effort and reason for those who don’t have the strength to give it a try. His determination was his courage.

I really think music in school is vital. Some pivotal moments in my life were my childhood scholastic experiences with music – teachers who found out that I was tone deaf who could not sing or play an instrument, and encouraged me, or teachers who turned me on to understand music or appreciate bands I hadn’t yet heard.

And maybe that is where rhythm comes from, I think. My earliest understanding of rhythm. The sound of my own breath, the beating of my own heart and the cluttered foreign language of music.
(Source: The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall)

Music teachers can either inspire or make you loathe your instrument and the musical notes in the early years. A wrong note gets you into trouble to the sharp ears of the music teacher and a thumping of the big and long blackboard ruler.

But I have learnt that life is like music notes on a page: ups and downs with a beginning, end and dancing in-between, waiting forever for the song to be sung.

It has been like that for a while since our visitations. If Cikgu Jak Pie comes down from Kuale, we make it a point to see him. And if we are in Kuale, we still make it a point to see him. The last time I met Cikgu Jak Pie was at her daughter Ellina’s house at USJ 20 on 16 October 2021 when he came down for his scheduled medical appointment.

But every encounter with him brought different stories and nostalgic memories…but always brought magical moments.

He smiles, talkative through grunts and sign language.

Ironically, 8 years ago, it would be hard to imagine the smile and strength coming from him as there were medical issues that landed him in hospital. Open heart surgery, stroke etc. to name a few.

But by the grace of the Almighty and skills of surgeons, doctors, nurses and physiotherapists in IJN, pulled through, returned home and regained his health, appetite and zest for life…though the aftermath he lost his voice but remains a feisty and gutsy fighter.

Ageing was tough but Cikgu Abdul Razak Shafie makes it look like a breeze, if not a wheeze at times.

I wish I could freeze time or go back in time and watch how I grow up all over again under his tutelage because it is just going by too fast and now sadly, he is gone forever.

I shall love him always, though I was not one of his finer or brilliant student. I was not a musical inclined person, tone deaf and I loathed his music classes. I always remember getting the end of the big stick when I tried or faked blow the recorder. I wasn’t in the Cadet Band under his stewardship and I can’t even play the cymbal or the triangle.

But I guess it’s the admiration for a teacher of MCKK who I’m indebted for educating to be what I am today. Cheers for a teacher who helped make us boys into men, and for a life-long friend beyond school days. He is still that old school teacher from our old school in good old Kuale.

One looks back with appreciation to those brilliant teachers we had but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.

Sadly, Cikgu Jak Pai is the last of the surviving teachers of the 70’s and 80’s that we still keep in touch and remember. With him gone, the goes the last teacher but, Mr. A Amirthalingam, Mr Tan Physics, Mr Wak Tapo, Cikgu Shahril Karib and Mr Lee Choo Sik that has taught me in MCKK.

In time, we might forget what we’ve gone through, been at, with whom, done what and what for.

In time, we might forget all that we remember.

In time, we will cease to remember…but as for Allahyarham Cikgu Abdul Razak Shafie, I shall always remember you.

At times like this, we question what makes a good teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of their best in order to discover what he already knows.

Innalillahiwainnailayhiroji’uuun. Allahummaghfirlahu warhamhu wa’afihi wa’fuanhu. Al-fatihah!

Salam takziah, and commiserations to his daughter Ellina Razak, Elliza Razak and family.

Allahyarham Cikgu Abdul Razak was buried at the Jalan Baru Islamic Cemetery, Kuala Kangsar right after Isya’ at 8.30pm. His last rites and ‘sembahyang jenazah’ was performed at the Masjid Ridzwaniah, next door to his beloved MCKK that he taught.

I shall miss visiting him at Kuala Kangsar, ‘mengeteh’ with him at Mamak joint, D’Rahmaniah, Bukit Kerajaan and chatting with him at Yong Ellina’s house in USJ 20 and I shall definitely miss my old English and Music teacher.

May Allah confer His Rahmah and Barokah on him, and reward him for his good deeds.

Thank you very much sir, dunia & akhirat. (In this earth and the Hereafter).

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