It always feels good to be around Professor John Hajek. He has taken a special interest in my work since he became the Chair of my PhD Advisory Committee three months ago. He has been a great mentor who sees my linguistics studies very differently from Janet and Celia. He said that he was personally interested in the investigation of Kelantan dialect and there would be bigger chances that he and I could end up producing some papers together in the future. I was beyond belief when I heard that.
Being blessed by the motherly gestures from my two mothers, things will of course be more colourful to have a “masculine” voice injected into my work. And it is now official - John is my co-supervisor working directly with Janet. But sadly, Celia has to go. Janet said that it wouldn’t be practical to have three supervisors at the same time. So I was left with no choice but to “sacrifice” Celia for the sake of welcoming John into the team (I’ll definitely miss Celia’s presence in my next formal fortnightly meeting!).
Having established a common ground, John and I agreed to meet up every week to explore the many idiosyncrasies behind Kelantan dialect and find some reasonable patterns behind them. Instead of having a discussion in his (messy) office, John normally takes me to the University House, a private club house for the University staff. Being surrounded by pleasant surroundings of Victorian buildings and beautiful gardens, I am always proud to be sipping cappuccino with John in this member-only club house.
Things really got heated up when I showed John one book on Kelantan dialect that I recently bought in Kelantan. I was quite sceptical when John wanted to borrow it. It was written in Standard Malay – would this Aussie professor understand it? I learnt later that John was formally trained in Indonesian language and, to my surprise, he can speak and read the language pretty well (but his heavily-accented Malay sounds so awful!).
During the meeting, John and I will go through the list of words or phrases in Kelantan dialect. Having done some excellent works on Pattani Malay, he always looks at me with amazement when I pronounce certain words in Kelantan dialect and translate them into Standard Malay or English. His inquisitive mind about languages always thrills me. He makes me wonder about the intuitive knowledge of my own dialect.
“What does ‘cuek popek’ mean, Hilmi?” John asked me once.
“Ops, sorry John. I didn’t remember learning that particular phrase!”
“It must be a bad word!”
I love to have John around. He makes me fall in love again with my PhD world.