Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fish Heads and Fish Eggs

Remembering our dinning hall or refrectory in Tanjong Lobang School,is both fun and nostalgic, and sometimes bittersweet,especially with friends in the later years of our life.

Our school was a special training ground for many of us who eventually became principals of secondary school. Mr. Richard Tze was the man responsible for starting a student kitchen committee to look after food ration and checking of the meals. The committee was super efficient in supervising even the cooks! I used such a student committee to check all the food ration coming in when I was the Principal of Sedaya in 1975. The students also supervised the cooking and the whole dining system of more than 2000 students. That year, the boarding students of the school had too much good food. Having a reliable student committee with a teacher in charge is a good system.

I remember that the early years of TLS saw volunteer teachers as the Matron. Amongst them I remember Miss McCormick.

Students were as naughty as can be. In this special episode I recall the Fish heads and fish eggs incident .

We had noticed that our fish dish in the refrectory had no fish head or fish eggs. We were actually eating very good and highly priced fish like tenggiri or duai (pomfret)

Fish heads were highly regarded by the native students as we liked the bite and the taste of heads. Rice would be well consumed if accompanied by a serving of fish head. We would eat the fish eyes, and we would enjoy biting the soft bones of the head. Fish roe was indeed a delicacy to many of us, including the Chinese and Malay boys. So we had to find out what happened to the fish heads and fish eggs of our fish!!

It took us some time to investigate. Heading our secret team was Gilla Baul. Two Limbang Chinese boys who were indignant about the missing fish heads and fish eggs also took part in this underground movement. I was the little small boy who followed them.

We checked the kitchen carefully and noticed every movement of the cooks and other kitchen staff. Then one evening at an appointed time, Gilla prised open the kitchen lock. At that moment, I sort of thought that the leaders were not at all thieves. They were the superheroes who were out to find the cause of missing fish heads and eggs! So we went in, bravely, as if we were Hercule Periot or Perry Mason, or Sherlock Holmes,and we did indeed find what we were looking for! We found a big bag of fish heads and fish eggs all wrapped up properly in the kitchenh freezer. Apparently, the cooks had been keeping them in order to sell to some friends.

We were elated as if we had solved a puzzle. Immediately as if vengeance was in our hands, we cooked the fish heads and eggs. It was a feast or celebration for all of us in the hostel.

However, to our horror, the next morning, Tan, one of the Chinese boys, appeared with his eyes all swollen, looking like a red gold fish. It was both horrifying and hilarious at the same time. He had had too many fish eggs!! But being very good natured and having a great sense of humour, he did not complain.

But the upside of the incident made the cooks realise that the students loved fish heads and fish eggs too. Putting it very mildly.

From then on, we had the whole fish, including the eggs for our meals. Our secret voice was strong and a grievance was redressed for the good of the whole student population. I would never know how the teachers or the non academic staff feel about this as it was never discussed in our presence. Definitely we were not viewed as guerrillas all out to despose the then ruling power of the school!