I stole a look at Noraini to see how she was accepting the content of her letter. We exchanged notes and made our way back to our block.
Understanding that we had been evaluated as mediocre members of the academic staff was difficult but we didn’t allow our inner turmoil to alter our expressions.
We cheerfully greeted other colleagues who were on their way to collect their letters.
I only allowed my facial muscles to relax when I reached my cubicle, a safe haven that I had created for myself.
I took the letter out of the envelope and began to read the content again carefully.
Then I got my calculator from my bag to work out the percentage that I had received as an increment and annual bonus.
It was after a while that I realised the commotion around me. The younger staff members were declaring loudly the percentage they had received and some were complaining while others commented that they were lucky to get a bonus in the first place because the organisation was not doing too well.
Only Noraini and I didn’t participate in the discussion. It was not because we didn’t want to; we just couldn’t bring ourselves to inform the others that we had received the same amount after serving the organisation loyally for more than 15 years.
I started to wonder if I had considered myself to be more valuable than I really was. I also began to question how I had evaluated myself so highly.
It was painful to admit but I truly believed that I deserved more than what I had been given.
As a lecturer, I gave my best to my students without being calculative of the amount of time or energy I had to sacrifice.
I never reported to work late or had unnecessary class cancellations. My classes started and ended on time.
Students’ assignments and exam papers were set and graded in a fair manner.
I understood that most students considered me a tyrant for making the choice to be right rather than popular.
I understood what my strengths were. I also understood my weaknesses, the first one being my inability as an apple polisher in order to enjoy career advancement.
The second weakness was that I worked hard silently without marketing myself well.
These negative attributes, combined with my mildly arrogant character, made it nearly impossible to get into my superior’s good books.
Noraini walked into my cubicle and held my hand. She smiled and said in a comforting manner, “Please don’t look so disappointed. God is fair and His rewards come in different ways.
“You’ve got wonderful children. Remember how you rejoiced when your daughter secured a scholarship to study overseas? Isn’t that more valuable than this? It is best for you to go back home now and concentrate on your son who will be sitting for his SPM exams.”
I smiled and agreed with her. Noraini’s famous words were, “God’s rewards come in other ways.”
It was very necessary for me to listen to this as I needed to remind myself to be thankful.
For the next few months, I continued to work as I always did.
I tried my best to ignore the tiny inner voice which kept whispering that I should learn how to take it easy and enjoy life a little more.
After all, the staff members around me who taught for an hour when they were supposed to teach for two received the same increment.
Many of those who waltzed in and out of the university as they wished received a better bonus than I did.
Noraini continued to motivate me with her powerful words whenever she heard me saying that I should learn to be like the others who took it easy.
It was a magical coincidence that Noraini was beside me when I received a call from my son one afternoon. I stood up as I listened to what he had to say.
Noraini had overheard me informing my son that I was about to make my way home so she stood up and gave me a worried look.
I turned around to give her a big hug and reassure her that it was good news.
My son had received a call to inform him that his application for a scholarship to study engineering overseas had been successful.
I whispered in Noraini’s ear, “God’s rewards come in other ways.”
Manju Kanaran Nilai, Negri Sembilan The STAR Opinion Letters 8 Jun 2017