My Home For 5 Years

Big School, Overfloor, and the Big Tree - Malay College, Kuala Kangsar

Sekolah Kebangsaan St John’s (1), 1978. That was when I got the offer to enrol at the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar. Given the life I had at home, I accepted the offer without giving any thought, except to show the offer letter to my class teacher, Mr Tham Kam Peng, and classmates Rafidi Aris (who is now a Taekwondo instructor), Zamri Ridzwan (Hj Zamri now, a businessman, and an UMNO branch head in the Cheras division), and Andri Aidham Ahmad Badri (co-founder of Kadir, Andri and Partners, a legal firm in KL somewhere). Only two of us got the offer (the other person was Megat Kamil Azman of Darjah 6 Kuning), one got to go to RMC (Mizan Yahaya), a few more to MRSM Pengkalan Chepa. The others like Harith Iskandar Musa (yes, that Harith), went on to do their secondary at SMK St John’s across the road.

January 1979 – armed with new stuff like my own pail, black “leather” shoes, new games shoes, PE attires, school uniforms, kitchen sink, I reported to the Prep School, a hostel reserved for the First Formers (isolated from the rest as this would be where we were to be shaped by the Prefects and Wardens entrusted to mold us). My parents sent me there – a long 6-hour drive from KL. I got there, andwe were met by the District Special Branch Officer, Uncle Ismail Ibrahim (retired as the Kedah Special Branch Head later in the 1990s). After having arranged my stuff at Dorm ‘A’ of the Prep School, I went for a bath at the gym (the bathroom and dining hall was not ready yet then), then went for mass Maghrib prayers. That was when my parents left me to go back to KL. I was chucked into Form 1D (Commerce) with the late Johan Ismail (of Joeblogs), while Megat Kamil went to Form 1C. Form 1 life was mostly uneventful except for the frequent visits by Special Branch officers to ensure I was okay, or the occasional hideaway I had to undergo at the house of the Commandant of the Northern Brigade, Police Field Force (now General Operations Force) in Hulu Kinta. Those were the times when communists activities were rife in Perak, and Perak had its own electricity company called Perak Hydro (Perak) Sdn Bhd. For extra-curricular activities, I joined the Pasukan Kadet Bersatu Malaysia and we were trained by the 26th Battalion Royal Malay Regiment, then based in Ipoh. It was also in Form One that I challenged a senior to a fistfight – but I was no match against 5 Form 2 boys then. I had to learn a lot of things by myself and I had to learn them fast. I didn’t know how to tie the sarong, or samping, or even the necktie then, and I always looked silly.

When I was in Form 2, I was in Dorm 9 of the New Hostel. Saifuddin Abdullah (now YB Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, a deputy minister and MP for Temerloh) was my Headboy. There were some Form 3 students there as well, sharing dorms with us, as a preparation for us to assimilate with the rest of the senior students. Ragging was there, but the Prefects, mostly 5th Formers and in Lower 6, made sure that the ‘naughty’ seniors were kept at bay. We also made sports headlines that year because all of us ran amuck when a cheerleader was beaten up by supporters of STAR (Sekolah Tak Ada Reason) when we beat them at rugby during the state finals. Apparently, the reporter who wrote the article is also a loser from that losing school. At the end of the year, I got to go on my first round-the-world trip with the family.

The following year, I was again at the New Hostel in Dorm 3. Those from my batch were Farid Nawawi (now CEO and ED of MIMB Investment Bank Bhd), Shahrir Md Noor (a partner of a legal firm in Jitra, Kedah) – I cannot recall who the other person was. Those in Form 2 were Niju, the late Azam Tot, Cerpelai, Zulbokh, Azizi Siang-Siang Di Malam-Malam, Shahril Azwar Jimin (Paqia), Mas Adi and a few others whose real name I cannot remember. This was probably the starting of the best year because from this junior batch, I made friends with Gemgem, Badak, Bawang, Jawa, Adlan, Droid (with the latter five then joining the college’s swimming squad). We all had a common enemy and nemesis in the form of a prefect called Hj Adlan, who was probably disliked by the whole community of Collegians during that time, save for a few. It was also the year I broke my left arm during rugby, two weeks before a swimming meet in KL. At the end of Form 3, my father thought of sending me to the UK and had me packing ALL my stuff, ready to leave for the UK. However, the plan came to a halt and I went back to the Malay College for my fourth year.

1982 – the best year ever. Droid, Jawa, Adlan, Bawang, and myself, got closer because of swimming. And once the overlooked or forgotten, both the swimming and water polo squads (they were the same people as there were about ten people doing both) became the State champs for the first time, beating giants like St Michael Institution and the Anglo-Chinese School, both from Ipoh. Not only once, but twice – once during the MSSPk, and then the Age-Group competition. I remember how we all had stacks of medallions to show. It was also the first time I had won a Gold for 100 meters freestyle in a competition that ran during the second term holidays. All of us did not know where to store the medallions that we had to make a trip back to KL to send them back home for safekeeping. This was also the year I first scuba dived – in Tioman.

Form 5 – the critical year. We again excelled in swimming but came 3rd in water polo. This was also the year we had to train juniors to take over and some were literally forced to join the team. I became the President for the Lifesaving Society, and captained the Ahmad House swimmers to victory in during Sports Day. I led the Speech Day parade, commandeering the various guards-of-honour contigents. On that day, the school administration recognised our efforts and three of us were awarded the College Colours for excellence in the fields of swimming and water-polo; the only sport to have had more than one recipient in the same year.

I left the Malay College two days after my last SPM exams paper, and ten days later was on a flight to England to further my studies. It was sad to leave my alma mater when the rest of my batchmates were still holidaying after the exams.

The Malay College is still very much in my heart, only that I would prefer to stay away, not wanting to get caught like some who cannot leave the college and have to return to the college, or attend every single do related to the college, or to the old boys network. No, I am NOT a MCOBA member, because I prefer my private life to remain private – not subjected to being the subject of discussion amongst old boys. I only returned in 1985 to get my SPM results, then in 1996 (we beat the college team at waterpolo during the Old Boys Weekend), and last in 2003 when my batch celebrated its 20th anniversary of leaving the Malay College.

The Malay College shaped me into what I am, mostly, and as I was in the swimming squad, I was exposed to girls much earlier than the other boys were – so, no, I have always been straight, unlike some. Thank you. But the best part is, our local rival, Clifford School, wanted to emulate us and went by the acronym SMCKK – Sekolah Menengah Clifford Kuala Kangsar.


Jejaka Kepala Batu

Hari ni aje dua cerita yang menggoncang telor.

Mula-mula Keng Yaik kata BN teruk haari tu pasal ada beberapa tokoh UMNO yang menyombong dan sebagainya. Yang kedua, amaran daripada ahli-ahli parlimen Sabah mengenai nak cabut lari masuk PR.

Kalau Jejaka Kepala Batas masih lagi buta dan tuli serta bodoh sombong, maka pada penghujung tahun ini kita akan ada kerajaan pusat yang baru. Ahli-ahli parlimen Sabah masih tak puas hati sebab Jejaka Kepala Batas masih tidak banyak berganjak dari kedudukan asalnya dan mungkin masih mempercayai bahawa ancaman keluar parti oleh ahli-ahli parlimen Sabah hanyalah khayalan belaka, sepertimana dia berkahayal mengenai kemenangan BN semasa PRU-12.

Berhentilah wahai bodoh! Cukup la dengan kebodohan dan kesombongan engkau tu. Letak jawatan elok-elok, kasi orang lain cuba memperbetulkan parti. Macam mana engkau nak betulkan parti sedangkan engkau memang tak betul dari sejak azali lagi?

Memanglah Jejaka Kepala Batas ni nak kena tukar nama kepada Jejaka Kepala Batu.

Bodoh nak mampus!

Nasi Air Berlauk Session

Nasi Air Berlauk

We went for nasi air berlauk (rice porridge with condiments) or, in the language of my compatriots, khao tom, in Kampung Baru last night. I did not go to the one I went to for berbuka puasa last year, but to the one I last went back in February of 2005, right after performing wayang kulit at MATIC.

Nasi Air is also what I would usually have in Gua Musang enroute to Pulau Perhentian. The last time I had that there was in October of last year. That was on Hari Raya itself when I tried to undo the heartache of having to spend Hari Raya alone, and also being totally neglected by someone who thought I should accept and understand why I had to be neglected during Hari Raya itself. Luckily, Forlorn Soldier did not have the usual Hari Raya delicacies at his open house session, otherwise it would have made my life much more miserable. That was also the trip where we did not dive at the usual dive sites and found seahorses – but that was also a dive in a storm. It was stormy and miserable inside and out.

Anyway, this time around, the nasi air berlauk session was with the best company I could ever ask for. Maybe that was why I woke up with a poem for her. This feeling is just so wonderful…when you think you’ve peaked, there is still another positive emotional summit to climb.

Budak Boy

Budak Boy.

That’s the name you give to the boys from the Boys’ Wing, of the Royal Military College. My former classmate at St John’s became a ‘Budak Boy’ and is now married to a member of the Johor Royal Family. When he came over to where I was at (Sekolah Melayu Jalan Stesen), he was a Senior Under Officer.

When I was an Officer Cadet, there were Budak Boys in my squad. One of them was far older than we were because he went AWOL in Australia while being a MINDEF scholar – so he was given a choice to either pay back the scholarship, or join the Armed Forces. He chose the latter. But being a Budak Boy, he was the King of Dodgers.

Budak Boys are famous for dodging. Apart from this old Budak Boy, there were at least 5 other Budak Boys. We also had 5 Other Ranks amongst us – all were Corporals who made it as Officer Cadets. So, we had 11 dodgers. They can have conjunctivitis, swelling of the feet, and all the illnesses mentioned would appear everytime there is a Road March, Forced March, Jungle Exercises – and I learnt quite a few tricks like: how to use the same drill attire daily, clean, iron and reuse, without using the other pair which is being laid-out for daily inspection. Yes, we were only given two Number 4 uniforms (drill attire), one is permanently laid-out inside the wardrobe while the other one gets used more often than a popular cheap whore. So, there is a trick on how to wash the uniform without causing much crease for easy ironing later. We would use the same one day in day out.

One of my squadmates, a Budak Boy, is a true champion. During the 14 months that we were undergoing training, he was the only one who could occasionally go back to his hometown, or be in an out-of-bounds area without getting caught, or escape when caught. Upon joining the service, we all had to surrender our identity card, and assume a military ID (called BAT C10A, a temporary ID). This guy had reported the loss of an IC and had a new one issued to him. So he surrendered one and kept the other one. He would also get his mother to send telegrams to the Officer Cadet School to inform of the deaths of his grandparents (all four, one at a time), and of uncles and aunts. The thing is, they have all died years before he joined the service. So he would have a jolly time back in Penang for several days while we go through our daily tortures.

A week after I reported for training, my father came to visit me. I had disappeared the previous week to report for training without his knowledge. Bukit Aman had informed the camp, through MINDEF, that he was going to visit me one Sunday. That had the whole camp in panic as a 4-star General, the chief of a service, was going to visit the camp. The Commandant, Instructors, even the mess staff had had their weekend pass cancelled, and the quarter guard had to undergo short training sessions.

Anyway, after my father had left, we all congegrated near the parade square. One squadmate commented on how the whole camp was thrown into action stations when my father came to visit.

“Menggelabah Komandan bapak Rahmat datang. Siap quarter guard lagi,” said this squadmate. Then the squadmate who was always going back to his hometown said, “Eleh, itu bapak Rahmat. Kalau bapak aku datang, semua orang cabut lari!”

We wondered and asked him why. His reply was simply:

“Sebab bapak aku dah mati!”

Budak Boy.

They can even joke about things like that.

Oh, he is now a Major in the Air Defence branch.

How do they get instant conjunctivitis? They masturbate and rub semen into their eyes.

How do they get swollen feet? They wrap their feet in minyak bawang overnight.