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.