Friday, August 23, 2019

A school orator.

Fri 23 August 2019.

Even my four children don't know this: I was the champion orator twice in my boyhood days. In 1958 when I was 14, I was the champion orator for All NS Religious Schools. 2 years later I was the National Champion Orator for the first "Minggu Bahasa Kebangsaan" held at the Dewan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Ampang, KL.

Through the years, through the rest of school and the university, and the 31 working years, including those as a NS State Assemblyman, I had never brought it up. Like the 2 large cups that came as part of the prizes won, the episode just got lost. I should have bragged a bit about them, but didn't. Not out of modesty. It just didn't occur to me that it should be brought out at all.

Now, 61 years later, I realize that this was something to be proud of. Hence this piece. Better late than never, I guess.

"Champion Orator". There's a nice ring to it. And from 1987 until now I've dabbled in politics, too ! How could I have missed the boast indeed !

(to be continued)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

MES Reunion.

July 28, 2019.

Last week Daud (General, Datok) called out of the blue about a Methodist English School alumni reunion Sunday 27th. at the old school in Tg. Malim. 1 o'clock, he said.

I was there at 12.30 and was among the first 10 to have arrived.

I'd bumped into Daud several months ago at the golf friendly arranged by the Dato' Shahbandar in SIGC. I'd recognized him even after 60 years, because he looks the same. I even remember, and I told him then, the incident in SMC 1 class, when I had a headache and wanted to tell the teacher to be excused from class, and I asked the classmates how to tell her. English was the medium then, for which I'm forever indebted. Daud offered the word "paining". "That's funny, it sounds like only a different pronouciation of "pening"" I told myself, but it worked and I got my excuse. Of course Daud was referring to "pain" but was using the wrong part of speech. I'm sure the General has improved his English since.

I only studied in SMC 1 and II at MES, then my dad got tranferred from SITC back to Kuala Pilah.  The year was 1956. Before "Merdeka". So Sunday was my first visit to my alma mater in 63 long years.

That Saturday I had a fever, but after some panadol it seemed better Sunday morning. Just to be prepared, I took my supply of panadols and my jacket, in case the fever came back. It did. So I quietly left without telling anyone at about half-past two, but I posted a note on Daud's smartphone. I don't think he's seen it yet.

It wasn't the first reunion, but the first one for me, and that only because I told Daud at the golf friendly to let me know about the next one. I was keen to come, even if I felt slightly indisposed, because I wanted to see how everbody looks.


That's how everyone looked.

Which is to be expected. But the great thing was everyone was in high spirits and looked healthy. For their age.

I can't remember how everything was. There has been a number of new buildings. The road into school is now through a grand arch on the town-side of the grounds. I remember it to be on the other side of the school field. The student population must be much bigger now than six decades ago.

Daud said he stayed until form 3, then moved to Tapah until his MCE.  So he had 4 more years than me here, and should remember much more.

The English-medium education brought all the races together, and I think went a long way towards a united nation. Shool is the formative years where values are learned, interracial relations topping the list. In the euphora for Merdeka and nationalism and the use of Bahasa Melayu, the contribution of a common-language education championed by the English schools was lost to the political firebrands, and today the country suffers from it in obvious ways.

I still have non-Malay friends from school that I meet now, from time to time, and we all lament this loss.

In the chit-chat before I left, we were talking about the name changes to roads and places, replacing "colonial" ones for "national" ones.  But this is history we should retain so that we remember. We're not more "nationalist" for it, only more silly.

Daud offered me the ride home, learning  that I'd taken the commuter train, but I declined, giving an excuse, but mainly by then I felt the fever returning and may opt to leave early. As I walk towards the guard house I saw more people coming. The event was supposed to start at 2, not 1 like Daud said, and I told him that, and he just grinned and blamed someone or something else. I saw the stage being setup with hampers and stuff, and I thought they'll have a great party.

My train left at 3.25.

I reached home at 7. Tired and feverish.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Akbar Baba, an epilogue.

Sat 6 April 2019.

My last posting on "A.K.Bear" was on 27th. January, slightly more than 2 months ago.

2 weeks ago, sadly, he passed away, at 6.45 am.  

We Malay Muslims in this country believe that Friday is the most blessed day of the week. We also believe that the larger the congregation for a funeral prayer, the more supplications poured for the dear departed.  And we also believe that a son leading the funeral prayers is a great gift for a departing father. Akbar died on a Friday, and his son, tearfully, led the final prayers, with the whole Friday congregation of no less than 1,000 worshippers behind him.

Without any intent of trivia, I looked up the life expectancy in this country. It's  72.7 for male, and 77.4 for female.  Akbar was 75.

When Hank called that Friday at around 12 noon from S 2, I was already at the NS State Mosque. These last few hot months I'd chosen to do my Friday prayers here, because of the air-conditioning, and my house is only 15 minutes away anyway.  So Hank and I decided that both of us could still make it to the Paroi Jaya mosque, and we did.

I made sure that I was in the first row, when we stood and prayed for Akbar. When we finished, it was only natural that I grabbed one of the handles of the pallbearer  containing the remains of a dear friend.

It's always sad when we watch the departure of someone we know well. 

I was in  Form Four  when we first met. We were together when interviewed by the MB himself for the NS State scholarship for university. We were together for the three years at the university. We were together in Felda in 1969, though he left after a few months to join the Civil Service. But he did help when in JPA to get the JPA's o.k. for about 40 of us in Felda at that time to be put into the "pensionable scheme" in view of Felda being a statutory body, when the Harun Commission made this particular option possible. For that alone I'm forever grateful to Akbar for as long as I live and draw that little pension.

I remember meeting his father at his father's house not far from his present house in Gedung Lalang. That was just before we went to the university. Azam, his younger brother, was also in Felda, who married another Felda staff. Azam was also a tennis player. He was the one who informed some of us about Akbar's passing that morning.

Akbar's house is away from the main road. But maqam Tuan Hj. Said is just off the road to town. I have several family members interred there. Now when I drive by, I have also dear old Akbar, "A.K.Bear", somewhere among the white marble markers. Rest In Peace my friend. 


Friday, March 15, 2019

Losing values.

Fri March 15 2019.

My poor country seems to be getting sold down the drain, in as far as common sense and civil decorum go.

The Judicial arm of the government is supposed to be the bastion of justice, the last course of salvation for those seeking legal retribution in an unjust world.

The burgeoning bureaucracy Mahathir has talked of seems truly to enable the harbouring of little napoleons who are always up to their usual mischiefs.

How can you talk about meteing justice to the large general population when you can't do justice to your own tiny departmental one?

A transfer order is supposed to have considered all angles before the Big Boss puts his stamp on it.  How can the Big Boss be  sabotaged by the small boss who quietly issues his own internal order?

Then there is the question of a Sports Club EGM. This is not an instrument to be trifled with.

Seeking an EGM over the rights of members to their legal enjoyment is wasteful, when good sense should have prevailed.

The President is not only new to the Presidency, but is new to the Sport. Some naughty insiders must have influenced him. The activity of the Sports Club is around the socialising and sports of its members. Anything detracting from that should be rebuffed, pure and simple.  The sale and consumption of alcohol is subject to specific legal conditions in this country. The Club has been dealing with it from its inception. As long as the laws are not broken, an EGM is not required for that determination. In fact, an EGM might produce the worse effect of an creating an overblown cultural quarrel that was never there in the first place.

We are losing values.


Friday, March 8, 2019

RMC Art Club.

Sat 9 March 2019.

There were not many of us who frequented the Art Club on the 4th.floor of the classroom block of the old Sg. Besi campus on Sundays, our normal activity day. In fact Hank until today didn't know it existed. But I remember Razak Samad. He was the one who would tell us to mix some turpentine in our oil paint to give it a shine, and I'd do that. Not because getting the shine was what I wanted, but because Razak said so ! The other frequenter was a Kelantanese whose name escapes me now. It was Rahman or something. And maybe because he was from the East Coast, he was always painting sail boats.

It was the first time that I dabbled with oil and acrylic, and there was plenty of supply. There was no canvas, though, so it was large drawing paper and hard boards to the rescue. I think there was one easel, but plenty of brushes and some palette knives that I came across for the first time. I also saw my first bottle of fixative. I think Michael Loh was the teacher-in-charge, though no lessons were conducted. We just brought with us what we knew of "art", and a lot of enthusiasm. We didn't learn about technique, medium and painting styles, like "Chinese".

The Club was one-classroom size, with an adjoining store fitted with broad shallow drawers the boys could store their work in. It was one place I could "escape" to on Sundays.

I'd been keen on drawing since SMC 1 & 11 at Methodist English School Tg. Malim back in 1954-55. I even got one drawing printed in the School magazine. The Art teacher even asked me to join the school art club, which held sessions on Sundays. I was staying in the S.I.TC. residential compound just across the road (the original trunk road from KL to the north) from school. I could have easily attended the class, but unfortunately never did. One year later we moved back to Kuala Pilah. So that was that.

In Tuanku Muhammad School, Kuala Pilah, my Std. 6 teacher, Mr. D'Cruz, asked me to submit a painting for some inter-school competition. I did, but never heard of the fate of the painting.

Now painting is described as a therapy for "senior citizens" against Alzheimer's. Winston Churchill is famously known to paint a lot in his retirement years. Hank and I in our retirement years have been talking about taking lessons and painting. So far action hasn't followed words.

When I was in Damansara Utama in the 80's I met OP Zainuddin who had been a Military Attache somewhere. He said one of my oil pantings had hung in the College dining room, and the outgoing Commandant had wanted it. If indeed the College gave it to him, my oil painting of a jeweller at work now hangs in England, somewhere. The painting was oil and palette knife on hard board, copied from a magazine I found lying in the Art Club. That's an OP's contribution from Sg. Besi across the waves to the English.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Visiting A.K.Bear.

Sun 27 Jan 2019.

I'm sure I've written about Bear before this, but I'm writing now about our visit this morning.

Hank said earlier that a group of OP's were  to visit A.K.Bear yesterday, but I said I couldn't join them because of a prior engagement in Kuala Pilah. We agreed to do it today. Last night Hank called saying Razali wanted to join us, but to make it in the morning. So we finally met at the club around 9, and a 'phone call from Razali's wife got us the 10.30 appointment with Bear at his house. There were 5 of us - Razali, his wife and pilot-son, and Hank & I.

Bear said he's 75, same as Razali. Bear had been a national tennis player since Form 5, even representing the country at that young age. We met after university because he joined Felda before the Civil Service. Through the years we would bump into each other. He frequently joined the OP's outings, often arriving late because he would always take the train to KL, which is the logical thing to do. I do it all the time, only lately preferring the bus, because it's faster. 

Bear had always appeared to be in good health then, if somewhat on the heavy side. I'd meet him at SIGC, of which he's a member but not a golfer. There are 2 hardcourt tennis courts, but they're hardly used, and lately even the nets appear abondoned. I've never seen Bear anywhere near them. He'd have his LTAM meetings at the club, and before this, often attended our club's AGM.

Sometime in 2016 or thereabout, we met at "the Giant" Ampangan. I was coming, Bear leaving. Then suddenly he fell near his Volvo, parked on the side road. I rushed to him, and so did, would you believe it, Kamariah Sabeh ! As I tried to put Bear up into a sitting position on the kerb, I instructed (yes, "instructed", and I lended the appropriate tone) Kamariah to fetch a glass of water from the nearby restaurant, which she quickly did. When Bear appeared recovered, I asked if he could drive, to which he said "yes", and we saw him drive off home. 

The last year or so, some friends at the club said Bear was not well. Dato' Sulaiman also related about Bear getting into bad mood and tearing off his tubes when he had them for treatment. This story was borne true at his house this morning.

These were the news about Bear's ill-health. Hank and I went to Bear's house twice before this, but failed to meet him because he was in hospital both times. 

We met Bear sitting in his easy chair. He didn't get up. But he recognized us, and said he is ok. But obviously he isn't. His face looks shrunk, his large frame is smaller, and the big tennis thighs have lost their girths.  Mostly, his eyes betray the illness in his body. And he didn't say much, although he was following our talk.

Bear, Halim "Rock Foundation" (Bear's name for Halim),me and one more guy (not an OP) were personally interviewd by the MB, the late Dr. Said, when applying for the NS State Scholarship after being accepted as undergraduates at the University of Malaya. Bear stayed at the First College, although, like us, he was from Seremban. Rock Foundation, Hank and I became housemates at the Malay Settlement, PJ, because we couldn't get into the Residential Colleges. Must be the "tennis" on his application form. Bear once had his Honda 90 motorcycle hauled up by some students all the way to the 4th. floor from the ground floor. There was no lift. I wonder to this day how he got the motorbike down.

Bear was also very briefly the GM for PKNS , on secondment from the Civil Service. But the adventure didn't last long. To put it simply, Bear is no politician. All his old friends know this. But we don't mind one bit. This is friendship lasting more than half-a-century. Friends can take anything.

Gratuitously I offered Bear's wife the suggestion that he reads one page of the Quran every day. It's food for the spirit, as taught to me by a religious teacher. I remarked to his son as we walked out, "look after your dad". I said to Hank as he exited my car, "pray for him,Hank".  We should supplicate for our well-being from the Merciful.  Friends can only show support and sympathy - that's what friendship is all about.


Friday, January 18, 2019

FMC, the continuing story.

Sat 19 Jan 2019.

The FMC college gates in PD closed 57 long years ago. But the young boys, now old and many less than robust, remain in numbers, and the memories linger. Friends who got together to collect jottings of the years gone by surely are not penning the epilogue of Old Puteras of old ? For the journey continues. We were merely holding up the torch  for those coming after us.

Being the one premier education experiment for the nascent nation, FMC and its subsequent successor RMC didn't fail in producing champions in all fields as was expected of it. The heavy mixture of British staff that inevitably gave way to a fully Malaysian one did not lessen the sowing of the national spirit beating in the hearts of the boys. We were proudly multi-racial, and a few have even left our shores following destiny, but the spirit of comradeship and the bond of nationalism have never lessen with time. Something was right in the approach to the education system  then. Or maybe it was us, the raw material. It's sad to see that the educational experimentation that continues to this day has not produced a stronger, more cohesive youth to take over the management of our beloved but often unnecessarily divided nation.

From champions in all kinds of sports at national and international levels, to prominence in medicine in all fields, all disciplines of engineering, the teaching and  managing in universities, the practice of law, both on the bench, before it, as well as teaching it,  company management, the Civil Service and, of course, the Armed Forces and the Police, our OP's contribute a sizeable number of the personalities. And that number is not lacking in politics, either, though with varying shades of colours and degrees of success. The Cabinet has a very young OP, the Speaker of Parliament is a not-so-young OP, the Secretary-General of the rejected UMNO is an OP, many of the counsels for the different and opposing litigants in the flux of investigations by the authorities are OP's - even one of the prominent counsels now finding himself the subject of legal scrutiny of his own is an OP, plus that 1MDB guy. And the President of the Former Legislative Members Association of Malaysia, of course, has to be an OP.

To tarry a bit on the subject of politics, maybe OP's don't make perfect  MP's and State Assemblymen, and by that I mean the quiet and obedient ones. I've seen enough examples, and that includes yours truly, where when it comes to the question of principles, perhaps the OP's upbringing puts him in a bind. Politics requires flexibilty. Principles are not so flexible. I know principles also kept my Terengganu "socialist" OP friend from entering the gory fray of party politicking. Maybe that's why his head is still full of black hair.

There's also "office politics". But it's still politics, and OP's, in my mind, also don't always do well here. I had my problems with one of my bosses, and I can assure you that it was about principles. We had a large number of  Chief Secretaries to the different Ministries, and some Chief Secretaries to the Government from among OPA's. But there are also cases where OPA's assigned to State bodies don't last long because they cannot align their styles with the MB's style. 

In my less-than-starry career, I'd move to Melaka, to KL a few times, to Seremban, also a few times, to Port Kelang, to PJ, and finally Seremban again, and met many OP's at work or play.  When "The Weld" first opened, I bumped into Gnanalingam, who was with MTC, Kuantan. When I was in Port Kelang decades later, I bumped into him again. This time he'd move to West Port, although he didn't tell me then that he owns it. I believe another OP helped. In Felda there were several of us. Attending various conferences locally and abroad over the years, lo and behold, OP's were there. Why, one OP even managed to marry into my large extended family, he all the way from Kedah to Kuala Pilah! Then of course there is my golf. All these had kept my OP's memories fresh.

We've been through 14 GE's. That's not too much, and 60 years are not long in politics. Bigger political changes have taken place around us - Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, even India. Singapore is the exception in this respect. We saw a drastic change on 9 May 2018, but that's only the first change in 6 decades. What is drastic is the cause of it. One man largely contributed to a refutation of a proven brand, not because of what he did (in the eyes of the public - his numerous cases are  still  pending in court) but the quantum of his act. What sort of education did he go through? A bit of military training in his schooling would have done him a world of good. 

Now they are changing the method of selection for boarding schools again, weighing in favour of the "B 40" group. Which is honourable. But I hope quality is not spared, as OP's interviews stressed then (and now?). School (our college) is the place to nurture the nation. Old smokers just can't kick the habit. 

I don't know how many more reunions we can attend. Time is ponderous but unrelenting. But we have our families and our memories.We can only hold on to these two for dear life. One sustains our worldly needs. The other sustains our spiritual needs.
They say we should look to the future. But shouldn't we learn from the past? My FMC days have long gone. But one or two lessons picked, and one or two friendships made, sometimes bring a smile to my old lips, and for a moment lights up my old heart. That RMC remains means others are also building up their experiences. No, my FMC story is a continuing story, not an epitaph.