Tuesday, April 5, 2011
When is enough...enough?
i went into the class one day and my students started to share their dissatisfaction with the service provided by the university. Their complaints range from not having enough computers in the library to how slow the internet connection was and to how unpalatable the food in the cafe is. As a lecturer, my heart reaches out to these poor students. Soon, the debate grew hotter. More students joined in to express their emotions. Even the quite ones, from time to time, blurted their concern in one or two words or simply nodded in agreement. This heart-to-heart session suddenly triggered memories of my olden days. Taken back to the time when i too was a student- young, naive, but filled with vigor- I remembered that things were not a piece of cake for me either. Back in those days...we did not enjoy the privilege of having our own transportation to take us places. the only option was the public transportation- more specifically- the infamous mini buses. they quickly became our carriers as taxi rides would prove to be deemed luxurious! a trip to KL means waiting for long, grueling hours under the piercing sun for the mini buses to arrive. if we are lucky, the mini buses will arrive with only one or two passengers readily aboard. but lucky was not always on our side...it was so rare that it absorbed to become part of us. so most of the time, the queue would seemed endless and we had to wait for hours and hours to board the bus. The lucky ones would be able to squeeze themselves in while the rest had to wait for the next bus to arrive. at times, when we couldn't afford to wait for the next trip, we would risk our lives by just clinging tightly to the bars beside the bus's door, which was purposely kept ajar due to the large crowd. this "sardine-can" scenario was a common sight when the buses were too cramp with passengers. if we were more unfortunate, we would get shouted by the conductor to squeeze ourselves in to the back of the bus as to allow more people in. i say it was unfortunate because 1) we would be squashed and be squashing others to the verge of suffocation (imagine having to endure the unappealing smell of sweating bodies!), 2) it would be difficult for us to exit the bus as the pathway to exit was blocked, 3) some even was harassed by naughty hands of perverts! Those were the days. Then, there was also the challenge to complete assignments. we often had to bang our poor fingers on the-what now seemed obsolete or antique- the conventional type writer. imagine having finished one page and suddenly realising that you have missed one important point! we had no other option but to retype the whole page. sometimes, the ink ran out and we had to go out to purchase the ink ribbons. highlighting simply meant using the pink liquid that looks like nail polish or even adjusting the ribbons to have red ink facing upwards. After that, the ink ribbon had to be readjusted so that the black ink faces upwards. then, we were introduced to electronic typewriters that ran on electricity and batteries. this device was better since they keyboard is softer and quieter. it also allowed us to delete our mistakes through the use of the erasing tape installed in the typewriter. but the electronic typewriter was not that popular as the ink and eraser tapes were too expensive. when the computer was initially introduced, only the financially well-endowed was privilege to own one. PCs were so expensive that even the university cannot afford to purchase enough for the students. to add to the challenge, there were no microsoft windows. instead, we had to stare at the green writing of wordstar which was not a user-friendly software. we had to memorize all the keys and shortcuts. so with the introduction of windows...we were so relived. when the mouse was introduced...it was heaven! though many students still prefered the old typewriter, I have decided to give this so-called new, sophisticated gadget a try. as excited as i was, the scarce number of computers could have easily dampen my enthusiasm. however, instead of giving up, i persisted. i remembered having to wait in front of the computer lab as early as 7am just to secure a PC to complete my assignments. there were less that 20 PCs in the lab and whenever we had to attend class, we had to pack our things and let other students who was already by then queuing behind our back. Waiting for an available PC soon became the trend. we endured but never complained for having the chance to use computers for assignments was enlightening enough though at times, we run the risk of loosing unretrievable data or be annoyed by the printer that simply refused to print with correct alignment. then came the era when students can afford to purchase their own PC. yet again, the ratio was very little. Students PCs were highly sought after especially when your assignments were still not ready but the computer lab was already closed. We often had to scout for someone who owns a PC in the hostels. if we are lucky, the queue won't be long as no one else would be using the PC. of course, nothing comes for free so we had to pay the students for the time spent on their PC and for using their printer. i can't remember clearly but if not mistaken, we had to pay RM1 for every page printed using their printer. the funny thing is...at times, when the queue was long, we had to sleep first and be waken by the last person who had just finished doing their assignment. this meant that, we would start doing our assignment at 3am or so. to speed up our turns, the owner of the PC would set the rule that all users were to have everything written down before using the PC. in other words, we can only type the assignment and not waste time thinking about what should be written only when we were in front of their PC. Yet again...who are we to complain? We endured and embraced the challenges. Our top mission and priority was to ensure the assignments were submitted on time. even the bravest student would dare not ask the lecturers for an extension of dateline. Though life was quite tough back then, we survived. In fact, the challenges have rewarded me with a priceless lesson and experience. Despite the constraints, i enjoyed my life as a student and amidst all the calamities, i made many true best-friends-forever. though i was always on my toes, i made time to get actively involved in societies and clubs as well as scoring As in my favourite subjects. so on looking back at my own experience, i asked myself...when is enough ever enough? people can never be satisfied and will always be wanting more. so by sharing this experience, i hope that the new generations can learn to appreciate life no matter how challenging it is at times. if you spend time complaining, you won't have the chance to appreciate the abundant of joys that are already there for you. imagine the days when the stove was not invented yet...or the days when there was no electricity or proper tap water, the days when no one has ever heard of the washing machines or even any means of transportation. C'est la vie!