Sunday, February 15, 2009

When puppy love turns life into a bitch

Like many girls, I had a crush on my Bahasa Melayu teacher when I was 13. He was young and just fresh out of teacher training college. He must had been around 22. He was handsome, soft spoken and what probably attracted me most about him was his position of authority. The boys in my class seemed so juvenile and silly compared to him.

Like many girls at that age, I romanticized about a relationship with my teacher. I would listen to him attentively in class and when he caught my glance, I would blush and looked away with my heart pounding violently like a drilling machine about to explode.

I can’t remember much of what happened during that period of time, which subsequently led to an indescribable and vague “courtship” where subtle exchange of chemistry were felt and known only by both of us. At that time, my intention was none other than mere childish fantasies; content with and flattered by the attention given by someone older and of the opposite sex. I was occupied with the thought that this particular teacher liked me more than just a student.

One day, I received something in the post. When I opened it, it was a stalk of flower and a note from my teacher. When you are at that age, the only logical interpretation of such gesture is a declaration of love or perhaps some form of romantic adoration.  I remember that somewhere in between the feeling of being surprised, happy and excited, I was confused and disturbed. Even as a child, I couldn’t help but question the intention of my teacher. Why would he go through such trouble of sending me something like this?  Wasn’t the chemistry enough? I certainly did not expect him to go beyond what was felt in between learning classical prose and writing karangan (essays).

My mother of course asked me who sent me a parcel that same day. Unable to lie, I told her that it was from my teacher. I also remember that what happened next was so fast and yet stayed so vividly in my mind until today. My mother simply went berserk and started hurling all sorts of questions at me. “Who is this teacher?” “Is it a man?” “What did he send you?” “Why is he sending you this?” “Did you do anything with him?”  “Have you gone mad?” “Why is he sending you this?”

Every questions were answered truthfully but not without tears pouring from my eyes, mainly out of fear as well as anger. My mother intimidated me into surrendering that stalk of flower, much to my protest and a lot of “He likes me", that’s all!”

As soon as my mother had her hands on the flower, she ripped it up so fiercely that I thought she might have done the same to me. Then she looked at me in the eyes and said something like, “You think he likes you? He’s a teacher and a man much older than you! You’re 13 and his student. He is not supposed to send you things like this. He’s trying to trick you into sleeping with him.”

All I could do was cry and in the end, my mother made me promised her that I would put an end to this “relationship”. I was never a rebellious child and I did what I was told and that was the end of it.

Now that I am 32, I am able to look back and thank my mother for what she did. I would never know what were my teacher’s intentions. He might have sincerely liked me but what would it lead to when I was only 13? My mother might have been right. He could have been a bad man with bad intentions. I shiver just to think about what could have happened.

Whatever it was, I was lucky for two things; firstly,for having a mother who was there to watch over me  and secondly, I was obedient enough not to do something potentially stupid without thinking of the consequences. Unfortunately, not all girls have the same privilege.

It is easy to understand how young children can be easily lured into surrendering themselves to complete strangers as well as people who are familiar to them. Many child sex offenders understand this very well and adopt precisely this kind of tactics to get children to commit sexual activities with them. All it takes is a bit of attention, flatteries and gifts to ruin an innocent life.


  1. I guess you will never know whether your teacher was sincere or otherwise but at that point of time in your life, I would say your mum acted what any mum would have acted.

    However, nowadays we have parents who are so busy with their careers that they hardly spend quality time with their children. Their kids probably know their maids better.

  2. On another matter, since you're residing in Phnom Penh do you think the former Khmer Rouge chief torturer Duch who is now facing trial should be forgiven for what he did to his country men?

    I am not familiar with the history of Khmer Rouge but isn't the current PM Hun Sen a former Khmer Rouge member?

  3. Whatmeworry,

    Duch apparently embraced Christianity and claims that he is remorsed for what he did and seeks for forgiveness. Since I am not Cambodian, I will never understand what they went through and I don't think it would be fair for me to say he should or should not be forgiven.

    However, being forgiven and being accountable are two separate issues. If he is really remorsed about it, then surely, he would submit himself willingly to the judgment of the tribunal. If he is being sentenced, then he should accept it with his full heart because I think that would prove his sincerity to seek forgiveness.

    Impunity for what he did would be unacceptable because it only means that people can continue to violate other people's life, wait until they are old, suddenly turn over a new leaf and then go on with life as if nothing had happened.

    Cambodia is already a country filled with impunity where often the rich and powerful get away with their crimes. I think it would be major setback for the Cambodians if justice is not served at the tribunal.

    As for Hun Sen, I don't think he was a KR. He was a big ally to the Vienamese forces when the latter invaded Cambodia and kicked out the KR.