The Base Commander’s wife I wrote about in my last posting (read here) soon had us eating out of her dainty hands. We grumbled and groaned but we followed her every command. She was always so full of ideas for BAKAT. We had no choice but to succumb to her wishes. She would drive round the quarters every evening after work, busy as a bee. Although in the beginning we would run helter skelter seeking shelter in the safety of our homes at the sight of her approaching car, we overcame our fears the moment we realised her bark was worse than her bite.
I remember the day she returned from attending the BAKAT Udara Central Committee meeting in KL, of which all Base Commanders’ wives were members, and immediately called for a meeting with us. BAKAT was still at its formative stage in1980 and there were a lot of plans, one of which was to stage a cultural performance for some foreign military dignitaries who would be visiting the country in a couple of months. Instead of getting professional dancers, as was the usual practice, BAKAT from all the Bases were required to present something to reflect the culture of the states they were in.
Whether it was part of an austerity drive or just plain ambitious on the part of the people at the top, the show had to go on. An order, a tall one, had been issued, which had to be addressed and delivered in true military fashion, by hook or by crook.
Despite the First Lady’s repeated pleas, not many aspired to be dancers for a myriad of reasons. It was quite understandable for most were saddled with young ones who needed round-the-clock attention. But, for the few of us who dared to take the plunge, (only after much coaxing and persuasion) it was the start of a long and tiring commitment. The journey on the road to stardom had only just begun.
Kuantan the second time around was pretty much the same one we left behind two years ago. It was just like continuing where we left off the last time we were there except that this time I was more willing to embrace the whole package that came with being an Air Force wife. Although my association with BAKAT started on a wrong footing, it gradually developed into an amicable relationship. It was not full of zest and fervour but it was enough to keep me out of trouble. Trouble this time took an entirely different dimension from the ones I was more familiar with. Husbands were not called up by the Base Commander or the OC squadron to answer for their wives’ repeated absence from BAKAT. It was more direct, more hands-on, more lethal.
The Base Commander’s wife was a petite, vivacious, elegant, pencil-slim, attractive and extremely pretty lady but she lacked the finesse and sophistication many First Ladies tried so hard to portray and project. She was her natural self, loud and outspoken, bold and blunt, rough and tough. She chose to be completely unpretentious and made no attempts to hide or curb her not-so-refined ways. Although many disapproved of her style of leadership and found it distasteful, I thought she was interestingly and refreshingly different. She had her own way of tackling problems without resorting to her husband’s assistance. Husbands were thus, spared the awkward session with the Base Commander for their wives’ passive indifference towards BAKAT.
Despite her nine-to-five job, she still had both the time and stamina to chase us tirelessly and relentlessly. There was no escaping her. She would drive round, horn blaring so irritatingly deafening leaving us with no choice but to scramble hastily out of hiding. The stubborn ones would take longer to emerge but there was no giving up on her part. She would step out of the car, dainty hands on slender hips and started bellowing out their names with such gusto that left us clutching our stomachs to suppress laughter. It got even more hilarious when slowly long, grumpy faces would peek out of the windows signalling defeat. When she finally got all of us rounded up, there was barely enough time to do anything but that did not deter her. We would just follow her in our cars. Sometimes she took us to the Air Movement for a bit of traditional dancing, some other times to the hangar for a bit of badminton, sometimes to the BAKAT house for a quick cooking lesson. But, what really won us over was the periodic trips to her house for her home made ice kacang. She was totally forgiven with the first scoop of the delectable dessert! It was also at her house that we got to see the other side of her, the human side.
Her efforts finally paid off when we fell into the pattern she painstakingly drilled and drummed into us. After a few weeks, she no longer had to run after us. Seriously, I think it was the ice kacang treat that did the trick.