23 September 2012

Lyrical prayers

I think the closest persons to language teachers in the olden days in the Dusun community were the bobolians. To be one of them, one has to go through a few stages of learning and memorizing prayers for numerous occasions. Pronunciation was of utmost importance in saying a prayer. Should a bobolian mispronounced a word, leave out a part, or leave the prayer unfinished, the wrath of the bad spirit would cause her and her family members to be sick. And the length of the prayer ranged from three minutes to one hour! Imagine, saying a one-hour prayer without a single mistake in pronunciation, words, and phrases. I would have failed miserably... Anyway, as I read through old research notes, suddenly I appreciate the beauty of a prayer that a bobolian was kind enough to share. What lyrical prayer! It's the prayer for protection. The ritual involved releasing the bobolian's spirit to soar like an eagle to seek the Creator's blessing, carrying with her a rock, a wooden stick, and some water. Upon reaching the Creator she'd ask for His blessing to be imparted on the things she brought, and the Creator would say: Onuo ilo pampang om puruto ilo dandas (so pick up the rock, pick up the rock) - pampang/dandas = rock (synonyms) pampang turu sonsusun (seven rocks arranged together) dandas walu sonsugo (eight rocks arranged together) - sonsusun/sonsugo = in an arrangement (synonyms) om onuon nu'd poningolig (and those taken to protect) puruton nu'd poningobon (those taken to protect) - poningolig/poningobon = things used to protect(synonyms) There's a lot of meaning repetitions, using different words to emphasise the intention I presume. The rest of the prayer is very long, and beautiful...I like the bit where the Creator said: Ogumu noddi narangkai nu, (you have collected a lot [of blessing]) asapou noddi naraut nu (you have gathered heavy [blessing]) anu 'lo poposdu (get some of the cleansing water) purut dilo lituntug (get a bit of the cleansing water) ... and empowered her to use the water as 'holy water' to get rid of illnesses. Sometimes I wonder how would it have been had I lived in those days...

25 July 2012

Appearance is deceiving

My aunt told us this story yesterday- she went to our small town post office to get a parcel for my cousin. There was an old man queueing up to do a banking (Amanah Saham) transaction. He wasn't sure what form to use, so my kind aunt assisted him. He asked some people to help him fill up the details on the form, but none was willing to. Seeing that, my aunt offered to help. When she asked him how much money would he like to bank in, he said "ten, and 500 for the wife". It turned out that he was banking in "10,000". He gave my aunt a 10 ringgit tips after she had completed the two forms for him. She refused, but he insisted...and I bet those three people he approached to help him earlier were shocked to know he had that much money to bank in. Well, he reminds me of my late grandfather, my aunt's father. He used to go to town wearing simple clothes, and a baseball hat, with his old green kantung (canvas sling bag) that had seen better days. He would sell bahar (coconut sap) at the weekend tamu (open market) and since he was the only one that had a licence to sell 'alcoholic beverages' in the whole tamu then,(bahar is alcoholic!), he would let others sell under his name and taxed them RM1 per day. Being the hardworking man he was, he often managed to bank in quite a large amount of money at a time, just like the old man that my aunt helped. My grandfather was illiterate, unless if you consider being able to write his name and a few simple sentences literate. [The most hilarious thing he ever wrote was "PANABUT (Penyabut) ATAS ATAP" (screwdrive on the roof),on one of the walls of his house, that was meant for his children, but could have easily gotten him robbed if the wrong party saw it. Anyway, that was 'ama' = 'father' (that's what his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren called him)]. Moral- an ugly looking Dusun person might have lots of money on them. (phew, writing this makes me miss my late grandfather very much)

29 June 2012

The boardgame and the flashcards

Before the era of online games in my household, the kids and I played a lot of UNO, Snake and Ladder and Monopoly. There were other games of course, but for some reason, the kids kept asking me to play these games with them. So it was no surprise that these three games had influenced the Dusun Cultural boardgame that my friend and I invented recently. It started in a very peculiar manner. We were trying to bear one of those long, repetitive 'department' meetings, and ended up talking about our research and how we could possibly combine our knowledge in creating a language boardgame. My friend scribbled down some ideas, as we excitedly brainstormed in whispers. We got through the meeting, and ended up with loads of ideas for an ambitious game. To cut a long story short, the end product though wasn't as elaborated as we planned it initially because of time constraints. I decided to take on the task of game designer, based on some of the friend's research findings. We selected a few words relevant to the culture of the Dusun people- of which, some are not in use anymore. We thought it would be great to teach the learners these words (in our case in UMS, the learners are non-native speakers of any Kadazandusun dialects, thus learning the KD language as a third language). Because we didn't even have the time to rope in our friends who are IT experts in UMS, we have (or rather I have) begged Kastumized.com to transfer our game concepts into IT. I am very impressed that despite having less than a week to do it, they actually did a wonderful job. They gave us a wonderful board and rewards/sanction cards. And my son lent me his lego pieces to be the player icons. A dice completed the game. The night before we presented the game for the PEREKA (literally 'inventor') competition in UMS, I had some KD students played it (before, I piloted on my 3 kids-the best critics, twice). When I saw my students having so much fun playing it, I knew we had done something worthwhile. And yes, we bagged a Silver Medal for that simple game. Credits to Kastumized.com team, of course!
Well, another kastumized.com story. I have always been personally impressed with this young company, run by a team of resourceful, smart, and versatile young professionals. Their recent product is a set of English-Kadazandusun flashcards. I have willingly vetted the contents based on my knowledge of 'Kadazandusun'. To those who are not aware of the language scenario in Sabah, there are many labels used to refer to the various ethnic and language groups sharing similar culture and dialects. Kadazandusun is the general term used nowadays to refer to the many ethnic groups who share the same culture and speak dialects of the same language. Many would be familiar with the term Kadazan, most often associated with the 'Kadazandusun' people of Penampang and Papar areas. Dusun, is also quite a popular term. I refer to myself as Dusun, as I believe I should define my ethnicity based on the language of my community. To be specific, I am a Bundu Dusun. Now, Bundu and Liwan are two prominent dialects spoken in most areas (mostly interior)in Sabah. You'd find Bundu in Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Tamparuli, and Ranau, mostly. While you'll find Liwan in Ranau, Tambunan and Keningau, mostly. Among Bundu and Liwan themselves, there are many other labels and sub-dialects. My friend's phd research (the friend who co-created the boardgame) is on the political system of the Kadazandusun people. (and he is not even a Kadazandusun- he is from Malaya). For over 4 years he went to all the places inhabited by the different Kadazandusun people in Sabah, and has come to this conclusion: 'The most widely spoken dialects of Kadazandusun are Bundu and Liwan'. I am quite relief to hear that. Not because I am a Bundu speaker. But because it justifies the merit of basing the so called standard Kadazandusun language taught in Sabah schools on Bundu/Liwan. Dusun Sokid (another referent :)= meaning 'upper', 'hill') or not, these dialects actually count. What has that piece of long info got to do with the flashcards? Well, because in Sabah, any sincere and innocent efforts to add to the existing Kadazandusun educational aids will STILL be CRITISISED. I don't blame people for criticising. It's human nature after all. If one said, for example, that the word 'Kolibambang' is wrong for 'butterfly' because in their dialect it is 'Bambayangan', it is merely a dialectal difference. I did a few months data collection among speakers of Bundu, have been living next door to Liwan speakers most of my life, and know for a fact that 'Kolibambang' means 'butterflies' (you know those beautiful, colourful bugs) in these dialects. So yeah, there's no satisfying people. The only way to be satisfied is to do the research yourself- I am lucky I am in the position to do so. And I always encourage the Kadazandusun people to enrich the standard KD languages by having a lot of synonyms (next project, Kastumized? Kadazandusun synonyms :). So we can have bambayangan and kolibambang as synonyms, and be happy! Anyhow, the intention was to congratulate Kastumized for the flashcards. The size was a bit small for me, but just nice for my son who has been devotedly reading the cards day by day. His conclusion was ' That's all, Mom?". Obviously wanting more!

27 May 2012


This is how they look like. Sinurambi, the dwelling place of the Dusun long ago. (Well, not quite- some Dusun in some villages still live in huts like these). I haven't seen these in my (father's) kampung for years, except in the tumoh (farms). Not in the actual housing areas, in which the houses you can see are the standard brick/wooden combination. This year, the Kaamatan organizers came up with this wonderful idea of having 'most impressive sinurambi' competition. I would say this is not one easy competition. A lot of efforts and time are involved, but the villagers delightedly participated. They were divided into groups, and it took them days to build their sinurambis. Not an easy task at all. Selecting the best bamboos, manata' (flattening the bamboo in order to make the floor and walls), putting the parts together. The architecture might not seem much, but I am proud to see these. To me, this is one of the most meaningful aspects of kaamatan. Popotungkus do koubasanan kumaa doid sukod wagu (passing down tradition to the young generation).
(The winner of the most impressive sinurambi competition) I regret not being able to go back to my kampung (duty call). Thankfully hubby shared these pics. Kotobian tadau kaamatan folks. May the year ahead is abound with blessings and fruits of your labour!

25 April 2012

Thank you for being my Dad

It wasn't a common practice for a Dusun to explicitly appreciate his/her parents. In my household, I didn't grow up seeing family members express their 'thank yous' and 'I love yous'. In fact what I remember most from my childhood is when an older member of the family behaved weirdly (as in starting to be forgetful, or being incoherent) the younger family members would raise their voices to the person. If one is an outsider, one would undoubtedly look at that kind of treatment as 'mean' and perhaps 'ungrateful'. There were times when I got confused, myself. In my mind I often wondered whether I was supposed to treat the older person that way or not. I supposed having gone to school with the mainstreamers (so-called modern people), and having been taught about certain ways to respect the older members of the family in moral and religion classes contributed to the confusion. But I now understand that that kind of treatment was never intended to be negative. From conversations with many people of my mom and grandmother's generations, I deduce that life is perceived as a circle. One starts as a baby, one will end up being 'a baby' too (limited mobility, limited brain capability etc), because that was how it used to be with the community. Just like a little child is 'corrected' by his/her parents' raised voice, an elderly person who behaves like a child is also corrected the same way. I am glad that we do not have to confine ourselves to that culture anymore. I still feel awkward saying 'I love you' to my parents because I don't remember them ever saying that to me. But I encourage myself to say that to my kids and dear hubby because I think life is so wasted without hearing those beautiful words said to you. When I came across this song "Thank you for being my Dad", I feel so much like appreciating my Dad. For all the things he has ever done. Despite the mistakes that he did in the process of becoming the Dad he is now. I feel blessed for still having a Dad. Thank you Bapa, for being my Dad.

12 April 2012

What a song does (re: "Koposionku")

Sometimes when you hear a certain song, you feel that it penetrates deep into your soul. Even if you don't understand the language of the song, it still touches your heart deeply. And when you understand the lyrics, the song is even more meaningful.

Fabian William's "Koposionku" is one such song. I don't speak music, but I feel that the music and lyrics of this song match very well. (And yes, I know this is the third entry on Fabian William that I've written but I just can't help it :). As my students put it, we have caught the Fabian Virus.) But seriously, "Koposionku" communicates pain and strength beautifully using gripping metaphors. By now, after listening to Fabian's 10 songs over and over again, I've started to see metaphors as his trademark. His, are uniquely Dusun, that can only be fully appreciated if you know the Dusun culture well. Here's my attempt to understand "Koposionku" (My apologies that my translation doesn't do justice to the beauty of his expression in Dusun):


Nokito, naratu om nababak
iso ginawo nosungkadan
nosindualan, natagakan
kagarasan di naramit
(What is seen is a heart: fallen, broken, pierced. Lost the strength it received)

Om au tumonob ilo tadau
nung au tumalib kotuongon
ilo gompoton au rumikot
nung gompion ginawo di nosuhat
(and the sun doesn't set, if the darkness doesn't pass, what is desired won't come, if [you] hold on to your broken heart]

kibito nimpusadan
suloko liud tumuka
igitai gamut kotumbayaan
om au noh orulun kumaa id sawa
[don't reject the tears [there's no exact translation for 'nimpusadan'], walk through the flood while holding on to [your] faith, so that [you] won't get washed away downstream]

Oposik, tumungag om mingkakat
mamanau miagal dilo wokon
kosindualan, koinggoritan
uludon, impohon tumindal
[[then you'd be] awake, get up and stand, walk like others do [with pride]. The pain, the suffering, arrange them and step on them to resurface [overcome your pain])

This song is also a bonus to my Kadazandusun class this semester. The verbs exemplify events that one doesn't have control over (accidental action- as we call it in my classroom). What better way to learn than through songs, I'd say.

24 March 2012

Datuk Masidi Manjun- a Dusun guy one can respect

I just came back from the launch of Fabian William's album, Id Pagandadan at the Le Meridien Hotel, Kota Kinabalu. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever attended an album launch. I have loved the experience. Fabian, as expected, performed excellently. In fact his voice is much better live.

Anyway, the album was launched by Datuk Masidi Manjun, the minister at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment. He himself is from Ranau, so it comes as no surprise that he is very supportive of the new artist. But one thing for sure, he is a person that one can really respect. I have attended a few functions in which he gives speeches, and at the end of each function, I always arrived at the same conclusion- his speech has substance.

At the launch, he honestly appraised Fabian's songs. 9 out of the 10 in the album he finds excellent. "Fabian's lyrics are deep (using 'deep' Dusun) and fresh", he said. And he reminded everyone present never to think "I am the best of the best" because out there, there must be somebody who's better than you, but they haven't had the chance to shine as yet. In short, he reminded everyone to always be humble, because humility will take us far.

I'm oblivious to what critics say about him. So far, what I've experienced with him were all positive. Intelligent, witty, humble, non-descriminative, to name some of his traits, I'll remain one of his steadfast admirers.

23 March 2012

The girl who gave me a massage

She reminded me of sunflowers, for whatever reason, but never once did I ask her name, despite being quite a regular customer at the reflexology centre. But I always asked for her because I liked the way she kneaded my feet. In December 2011 she said she was going to get married, and wouldn't be working there anymore. I felt sorry that I won't be enjoying her massage anymore in the future.

I didn't go to the place again, until this month. I was desperate for a massage, so I went. What a pleasant surprise to see her there! We started chatting like old friends ( and I realized then that people often mean more to us than we ever realize). I asked her about her wedding, and she told me everything down to the last details.

Then I blurt out "so, your parents are separated?", having deduced from the conversation that she had the wedding at her mother's place. "Yes, since I was 12", she said matter of factly. Then without me asking, she went on to tell me how, when she was about to sit for her UPSR (year 6) exam, her father 'borrowed' her from her mother, saying that he was going to get her Malaysian Identification made (they are of Philippine descent). He, who then was married to a local and had a newborn baby decided to keep her for good to be their convenient babysitter. She begged him to let her go to school, but he could not be bothered to listen to her. And she ended up being her father and stepmother's 'amah' for 7 years. The only good thing to have been living with her father and stepmother for her was that the step-grandmother was very good at traditional massage, and she taught her to do it.

"So when I turned 20, I stole my identity card from my father, left his home, and went back to my mother (who lives 8 hours drive away)", she ended her story. I admire the girl her spirit. Not everyone would have survived the way she had, and still could make a decent living. I'm glad I know her story- it has made me appreciate more the things I tend to take for granted like access to education.

I came out of the reflexology center a little bit wiser, and I made sure I asked her her name this time. Although in my culture, not asking somebody's name is not rude; it's even encouraged, I'm glad I can now call her name whenever I see her.

13 March 2012

Kadazandusun University?

The first thing that caught my eyes on the front page of Daily Express yesterday was the headline about how a certain organisation in Sabah is going to set up a Kadazandusun University. No further comments were given on the nature of the uni, apart from the fact it is going to be set up in Kaingaran, Tambunan.

At the risk of offending many people, I have to say I cannot see the merits of having a Kadazandusun Uni in Sabah. Of course this reaction is merely based on assumptions, as there are no other known facts on the plan yet. I am imagining a scenario where there is a university that functions like any other univeristy, tucked somewhere in Tambunan, attended by 60% Kadazandusuns. These kids would mostly be from the rural areas whose parents cannot afford to send them elsewhere to study. They would have had attended schools in the localities of Kadazandusun ethnic groups for about 12 years before going to the Kadazandusun Uni. After they have finished their tertiary education, they would come out without much new perspective since all they have been exposed to in their lives were the Kadazandusun things. Would they, I wonder, ever get good employments with such limited experience? If I were an employer, I think one of the things I'd look for would be one's ability to be a team player in a multicultural setting.

I have this nagging doubt about the plan to have this KD Uni. I would even be more sceptical if somebody tries to set up a Kadazandusun Studies programme in the uni. I supposed the people with the big idea wouldn't have much ideas of how difficult it is to come up with grammar books, or any books that describe any of the KD languages. A research takes years to do, even on one dialect of KD. Textbook writings do not happen overnight, that is, if you want quality. Perhaps we shouldn't leap before we look?

08 March 2012

Thanks Tata Jane and Kastumized!

It's quite handy to have an IT expert in the family :). In ours, Tata Jane is one of them. And she enjoys designing things, hence the company Kastumized Kreations. Being a family member, yours truly gets freebies from time to time, like today. Tata redesigned my blog, and I say "yay, I like!". It's too bad Tata was born 10 years later than me, or else I would have hired her to customize my wedding stuffs. But perhaps it's not too late. In this era where everyone celebrates wedding anniversaries, I might just celebrate my Silver Jubilee in 9 years time and get her to design me something sweet.

By the by, this year in December, I'd be celebrating my 16th year of matrimony. Hubby and I are thinking of doing a special family photography session with all the frills. That way the kids will get to wear the bridesmaid dresses and a bridegroom suit. Then they can joke that they are in the pic on my wedding day. (I remember when Sandra, the eldest girl was about 4, she was looking at the family photo taken on my wedding day and puzzling over why she wasn't in the photo :)!)

Anyway,thanks Tata and Kastumized. People out there, if you are looking for something sweet for any celebration, look for Tata. She delivers what she promises!

06 March 2012

Cure for toothache

I must be one of the eldest wisdom-tooth problem sufferers in the world. 38 going 39 years old and still having the problem :(. Those who have experienced the pain before would know how unpleasant it is.

As I looked around for domestic cure, I suddenly remembered my late grandmother. She would have had come up with a solution for any ailments. When I was a little kid, her toothache remedy was the the bark of a mango tree (I still remember that particular mango tree). Pounded till the bark turned into a gooey green paste. Then she would rub it on my gum and filled up the hole on my tooth with it. I'd go to sleep and for some reason, after waking up the pain was always gone. Either that thing was really medicinal, or it was just psychological, it worked anyway.

I have a mango tree outside the house, but I just dare not try doing it 'without the supervision of an expert'. Who knows I might end up poisoning myself? So, *sigh*, I have to make do with gurgling with salt water, and rubbing lots of bonjella gel on my gum. I wish I was a child again, being tended to by grandmother...

01 March 2012

Id Pagandadan

As the Dusun tradition goes, a person who makes the community proud is a celebrity in his own right. We like to fondly talk about the person, even if in actual fact we may never have met him. We'd try very hard to establish some kind of relationship with him, and we'd dig very hard till our mission is accomplished. It's quite amazing what one always discovers- he'd turn out to be a distance relative, a cousin twice removed, a neighbour, a friend of one of the family members, or even somebody that one of one's acquintances knows.

Today I'm basking in this tradition, for I am proud of the person who sings this song 'Id pagandadan' (While Waiting). Fabian William hails from my humble hometown, Ranau. He also happens to be a close friend of one of my brothers (see, I have unearthed one type of relationship :)) and his family is known to my family (another relationship). But best of all, his music is beautiful. I hope he'll produce more such beautiful music in the future. Way to go Fabian!

26 February 2012

"Your bag will get anted"

My daughter had to bring sugar, asam boi powder and guava for her fruit preservation project at school. I prepared the items for her on Wednesday night, put them in a small shopping bag and she was all set. The next day she came home beaming, telling me that the project went well and they (the class pupils) could eat the preserved fruits on Friday. As Friday was a busy day for me, I forgot to remind her to take out the remains of her project items from the bag, and as expected she forgot to do it.

On Saturday, when I finally remembered, I asked her about it. When she admitted having forgotten to put the sugar back in the kitchen, I exclaimed "your bag will get anted", and surprisingly she didn't find the sentence funny. Later she asked me, "Mom, why did you say 'get anted'? Don't you know that 'ant' is a noun?". I laughed and told her the way I think must be becoming more and more Dusun. In Dusun you can almost use every root word as a noun or a verb, depending on how you phrase it. English does that too to a certain extent, like - this is a house, and this building can house 500 persons.

Oh well, I just finished rewriting the two teaching modules that UMS uses for Kadazandusun Levels 1 and 3. That must have affected me more than I realized that my English is starting to sound Dusun. Anyway, I like it that my daughter has this kind of language awareness...perhaps I can still hope that one day she would be able to speak Dusun fluently.

11 February 2012

Metaphorically speaking- body parts

By now when a member of the community says a sundait (riddle) that conjures up an erotic image, I no longer blush. Being much older (and wiser? :)), I decided that I can take it. But long time ago when I was a growing child, one of the most awkward moments was to hear people say such sundaits. Nowadays, I can appreciate the clever ways of language play using body parts that the Dusun people use in their riddles.

I suddenly came across some of them as I was reading a book called Warisan Budaya Sabah: Etnisiti dan Masyarakat, and feel compelled to share them here. Mind you, if you are used to people using polite language all the time, you might experience a minor shock attack as you read some of these!

Sundait 1-

Wangkangonku gakod nu, posuangonku watangku, osonong opurimanan.
(I spread your legs, I enter my log, oh how wonderful)
Answer: Spectacles

Sundait 2-

Kitundu-undu o tulu-
(There's a heart on top of the head)
Answer: Banana blossom

Sundait 3-
Aiso kabang aiso busul
(No mouth, no anus)
Answer: Leech

Sundait 4-
Osodu ko po om rubaon ko do tulang
(From a distance, bone meets you)
Answer: Teeth

Sundait 5-
Milapus-lapus kito, mitirung-tirung kito, au kopikito nga kopilapus
(We penetrate each other, we hide from each other, unable to see (each other) but still able to penetrate each other)
Answer: Ears

Sundait 6-
Iso tulu, onom hakod, kombit-kombiton yi odu-odu yi aki-aki
(One head, six legs, strummed by the grandmothers and the grandfathers)
Answer: Tongkungon (a musical instrument)

Sundait 7:
"Tik" ka llo mantik, panakalamou poo
("Tik", the 'mantik' slides on the thigh)
Answer: Matches

Sundait 8:
Monguni susu di odu
(Grandmother's breast produces sound)
Answer: Sompoton (a type of musical instrument)

Sundait 9:
Iduon garung, okito hulu. Iduon hulu, okito tonsi. Iduon tonsi, okito puun.
(Take off the clothes, the hair is seen. Remove the hair, the flesh is seen. Remove the flesh, the stem is seen)
Answer: Corn

Sundait 10:
Poingundul o tonsilot.
(The clitoris is erected)
Answer: Tobacco chew

(These sundaits are courtesy of Mr Lokman Abdul Samad, a colleague at UMS-translation, my own and the mistakes are all mine!)

If you ask me if I am good at this kind of language, I'd have to humbly admit that I don't. (Once, the hubby said "you are supposed to be good at this" but how can I when I did not grow up in that environment?) I wish I am. As most aspects of the culture slip through my fingers, the only thing I can do now is to appreciate and keep what little I know...

13 January 2012

Small town politeness

My father doesn't read blogs so I have no qualms writing about him :). He is the epitome of polite Dusuns; small town style. He'd greet anyone, known or unknown to him with the typical Dusun pleasantries like 'hombo ngoyon nu?' (where are you going?), and 'hiti ko pama iya ddi' (you are here also). I often find it funny greeting somebody you hardly know in places like hospitals or restaurants, but to my father, it is 'the right thing to do'. "After all", he reasons, "you are sharing the same space as the person, so you can't be just ignoring one another".

Sometimes he goes overboard. Like the day when he was at a restaurant in Kota Kinabalu with two of my brothers. They had breakfast and when they left, my father nicely wished his next- table-neighbours a polite "makanlah kamu" (enjoy your meal) "kami mau pigi bank ini" (we are going to the bank). Needless to say, it was both hilarious and embarrassing to my brothers. They joked about it for many days!

But the worst I've experienced with his over-politeness tendency was when we were attending a session in which my father's land dispute was heard by some officers. While waiting to be called in, he noticed this lone guy sitting opposite him on the bench outside the office. He politely offered his hand to the guy (well, shaking hands is another indication of politeness) and said "hiti ko pama iya ddi" (you are also here) as if he knew him. To my horror, once inside the dispute hearing room, we found out that the guy was the one my father was versing in the case! If I were my father, I'd have been so uncomfortable that I'd have difficulty responding appropriately to the discussion. It's a good thing that my father didn't seem to have been affected.

I suppose his kind of politeness is the simple kind. Words uttered politely and sincerely at that point of time, and even if those words are spoken to the wrong person, he has got nothing to lose.