Chicken Dance, Sir?
“Let’s dance, Sir!”
“Come on-lah, Sir!”
The students keep begging me for that stupid dance while I try hard to keep my composure. That day, everyone seems to be in their jolliest mood. Daringly dressed up in a white-and-red theme, they are ready for the crazy chicken dance moments. I have learnt to ignore such childish requests – why do I have to humiliate myself in front of these kids? I say to myself. But in this particular morning, I have a special reason not to let them down; I know that this is our last class and, more importantly, this is my last class before I’m taking a long break from teaching for three years. So, I pull myself together and head towards the centre of the class. As I approach them, I hear the deafening cheers and the heads are all now turning my way.
“Listen up, people. I’m trying to have fun here, so why don’t y’all give me a break, okay?”
“Okay, sir! Hooray!!!”
In swift seconds, the boys start making the chicken moves while the girls follow the swaying steps. The cold wind from air-conditioner wipes away my nervousness, and I suddenly feel exposed and naked, standing in the middle of these boisterous kids and trying to figure out the next step. Where do I go now? Amidst this pandemonium, I feel dizzy and overwhelmed. I can’t see their faces. Are they drunk? Is that Brian? Is that Chris? Is that Azuwan?
Or is that me? Standing there, I try to remember the days when I would have been acting like that, full of inarticulate ecstasy and desperate to prove my place in the world. The feelings of righteous joy as I steal my auntie’s cigarette and have my first smoke. The fun that carries me into a loud club, knowing that it is the cool way to fit in, just wanting the world to accept me. I start picturing myself through the eyes of these students, a figure of random happiness, and I know the calculations they might now be making, that if they can’t have the time of their life now, they might lose the once-in-a-lifetime chances of their precious youth.
As I try to pierce those happy faces and put myself in their shoes, I’m thinking that while these students might be weaker or stronger than I was at their age, the only difference that matters is this: The world in which I spent those disorderly times was far more forgiving. I was lucky that, while getting involved in such unbecoming behaviours, I managed to escape the dread consequences that might have possibly entailed if the world was not compassionate enough, or if God did not have a better plan for me. But, with the more outrageous and unpredictable world out there, will these students make it? Are they protected from the ugly truths? Will they wake up tomorrow in that same joyful mood, still full of zest and enthusiasm, still thinking that I am the hero of their life? Will they be able to contain that same spirit as they walk through the unruly and unforgiving state of life?
As I stand there in the middle of these students, I find myself thinking that somewhere deep down the line, we both share a similar sense of order; a sense that is needed to fit in and survive, a wish that yearns for a better place in the world. I suspect that these students will have to search longer and work harder to attain that order and wish. And this epiphany terrifies me, for now I have a place in the world, a career, a certain dream to follow. Very soon afterwards, these students and I will be breaking apart, choosing our own directions and paths, moving into different corners and spheres of life, living different codes and systems. Will they ever find their true dreams and happiness? Will they ever find their places?
The chicken dance finally ends, and the cheers slow down. I turn back toward my seat, feeling relieved, knowing that I have been both stupid and lucky, knowing that I’m still a child after all.
But they look at me again and say, “Poco-poco dance pulak, Sir!”
p.s. I love you, guys.