Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Diary.... of Sultan's Cup, Slow Temiang and down memory lane in KK

Very long Deepavali weekend indeed!.

Drove down to Lembah Bidong, Mukim Setiu, Terengganu to have a 'peep ' at how Tengku Mahkota Kelantan Endurance Team fare in the equestrian-endurance's biggest event of the year. 'Our' horses , Kappa, Texas and Nashaar, all primed for almost a year now to go for numero uno. The last 3 consecutive rides leading to Sultan's Cup were just warm up to this big event. Even then we were 'gold standard' beating the favourite home team, Royal Terengannu Endurance Stable and the rest, to submission on their home territory. I was mighty proud to be it's 'Tok Jogho' even for a short time of one year.As long as I have made a difference, that's it .

There is no reverence in sports ,....only sportsmanship.
That was my boys motto in TMKN Endurance.

Alhamdullillah. Nashaar won. That makes it four in a row! The rest can just make the numbers in Florac, Open European Championship, USA or wherever their funding, federal or State or 'private', allows them to go, but back home in Malaysia, we are the CHAMPIONS!
Just remember that, we are the CHAMPIONS!

Then on to Slow Temiang, in the midst of thick southern Kelantan jungle teeming with elephants and still one or 2 tiger left, to see how my mix 'boys' from Indon and Patani doing with my Gaharus [ Acalaria subintegra ]. The boys and the gaharus are doing OK, I am not sure about the tigers though. With over 30k RM on their heads,even the village headman and all the RELA boys are after them.[An 'industry insider' put the actual value at some 250 to 300 RM per kilo and an average adult Malayan tiger weighs about a 100 kg, I was told. A male one with testicles and all would command a higher value,more towards 300 Rm per kilo ].The modus operandi is simple: Acting on any report from any illegal settler's sighting of tiger marks left behind, a posse of hunters will go tracking for it. The 'King of the jungle' usually has no chance.30K RM changes hand with a Chinese middleman who usually drive in with a Ford ranger. By the time the dead 'king' reaches Hong Kong,the bottom line has risen to 100k RM!

From Slow Temiang I took the scenic route via Dabong and Jeli and Banding towards Kuala Kangsar, my alma mater. Passed Gua Tempurong in Dabong, a subterranean stream passing below a limestone hill: a definite tourist atraction. The whole place littered with rubbish. Went on to see Gunong Stong which boast of having the highest water fall in the whole of SOuth East Asia. Again greeted by rows of dilipidated chalets hauntingly staring back at me. Rubbish everywhere.

Gua Tempurong, Gunong Stong, Pasar Khadijah, Istana Jahar, Perhentian Island[ does not matter it belongs to Terengganu, it is still Kelantan in essense ],Rantau Panjang, Pengkalang Kubor, Pantai Irama,great food,all... if marketed in unison could put Kelantan more on the tourist map. The accent on tourism now is on eco and etchnic tourism. The guy sitting in charge of tourism at Kota Darul Naim should get out of his self limiting 'kopiah' and do some serious thinking. Tourism is about connectivity, connectivity and connectivity...and of course marketing!Peolple do not go as far as Terengganu and Kelantan to drink alcohol! If they want alcohol they can get it in KL. They want to 'soak in' the eco and etchnic experience. We have to learn from our neighbour in Teganun! Thier tourism scene is alived and well.

My next stop was Kuala Kangsar. Brought back old memories as I passed by the old train station. That 14 plus young chap holding on to an oversized, overaged 1950's luggage along with his friend, Elias Musa walking[ a retired consultant to Petronas now] all the way to the Kolej ground way back in 1968. We came all the way from Wakaf Bharu, Kelantan and for both of us, our very 1st trip out of the state and our very 1st train journey! Money was scarse, so my auntie was just able to send off only at Wakaf Bharu. Met Elias on the train. We were in the same boat!

It has to be by train because way back in the 60's, a trip from KB to KL was still an epic proposition: 2 days of hard driving, involving at least 9 ferry crossings! Globe Silk Store and Dyalchand to an East Coast schoolboy represent Harrods of London, if such 'animal exist then'. So off I went to Kolej with 3 of the best shirts I ever hard in my life,well tucked in my 1950 old luggage, branded 'DON' from GSS of KL. Later when I was more settled in Kolej, I found 'ARROW' and 'Wan Hussien' were in vogue amongst the boys. Brylcream and Colgate were for the masses, they were into Darkie and Old Spice....Branding was prominent and important amongst the boys, despite their small stipend from home or Federal Minor scholarship.

At the Kolej ground we met with other new forth formers with their parents in tow, some of them crying unashamedly after their parents had left. Ragging or 'getting to know you' process followed as usual. Sometime , a wee bit rough but myself and Elias, we survived very well.

I drove passed Prep School. Traditionally dormitary for 1st formers but I recollect that in 1970 we lower sixth formers were housed there. Can be pretty scary at night listening to 'Japanese soldiers marching up and down the staircase[ just my imagination perhaps!]. It used to be the headquarter for the Imperial Japanese Kempetai in the 40's.

Then I drove passed 'Big School'. Imposing 1905 English building with Georgian facade. Downstairs was the dining hall and the student common room way back in the 60's. Upstairs the domitories. Mine was Dorm 10, just above the dining hall, and overlooking the flag and parade ground below.We forth formers from Mohd Shah House who stayed in DORM TEN used to wake up in the middle of the night and pee from the balustrade down towards the flag and parade ground since the loo was quite a distance away.On one particularly dark and scary night one of the boys was enjoying his usual pee and when he looked down..there was a whole platoon of Japanese soldiers saluting the flag!...if you have to ask me, yes indeed MCKK has a sense of history about it.And I have not yet told you about that famous 'Green Lady'....Mashaallah,at the thought of the Green lady even now can makes my hairs stand on ends.None of us ever see the Green lady then but the idea of meeting with her those dark scary night make most 15 year old like myself read the ayat of 'Lord of the Throne' and the three 'kuls' every night.

As I looked out into the imposing field infront of the Big School my mind's eye could still see young Hasan Marican bowling at the cricket pith in the centre of the field.Whatever happened to him nowadays, one day top corporate citizen and the next a corporate lizard no one dare mention in polite circle. That is the best of 1Malaysia for all of us, where the 'First lady' can be acting Prime Minister when numero uno is deemed to be down with chicken pox!

I see Saleh Sulong walking with his small 'notebook' along the field edge, not disturbing anyone just writing small notes of whatever. In later life he became a successful chartered accountant and head DRB Hicom. So much for keeping notes in a small book.On the same field I could recollect my 1st attempt at athletics. 800 yards C division for boys from form four and form three. I was leading the whole field in the 1st round running for Mohd Shah House.Went out of 'gas' at the beginning of the 2nd and went off the tract rightaway. Was it Anuar Ismail[ Bab ], my form mate or was it Ali Reza, one year our junior, who won the day , I could not recall. That was my 1st and last attempt at athletics, after that 'walking off' incidence I decided I would do better by being just a 'Bill Gates' and swot it up.Only later in life I took up sports again, and in the process won a silver medal in endurance riding at THE SEA Games at the right old age of 46! And representing Malaysia at the World Endurance Championship in Dubai in 1998 and Jerez, Spain in 2003. Not bad for someone who ended last in Class 'C '800 yards at 'Kolej'. Probably on record the only 'Kolej' boy to have won any SEA Games medal at all in history!

Wan Ariffin[ 'I am Pekos' ], Rusman,Halim 'Janda ku Yatim', Muda Amin, Fatah Yaso'[ Mr Broken, now a successful GP in Kota Bharu ] and myself, all hungry 15 year olds from the impoverished East Coast states of 'Teganun' and 'Kelatae', gulping voraciously at our bubor kacang, looking sideward, waiting for the 'double ration' bell to go off at tea. We were forever hungry and our scholarship of 20 RM per month was never enough. No money from back home to supplement because we were already priveledged kids just being there ,not some spoilt brats like some 'wet in between the ears' children nowadays!

Wan Peng,a very bright and handsome chap from Terengganu,15th son of a State Secretary of Teganun, naturally was referring himself to one of the cowboys belonging to the infamous 'Magnificent Seven starring Yul Bryner' fame by the name of Pecos. He was a wee bit bow legged though and we boys from Kelantan thought that was quite appropriate as we term bowleggedness as 'Peka'.He is now a very senior paediatric oncologist at UMMC and I have yet to ask him how he derived his nickname. And at 58 now , still debonair and handsome.

Dinner was always a formal affair. We have to be in our sampings and full Malay dress.Everyone would be there, therefore no possibility of 'double ration' but one or two guys may be late to join the High Table ie dining with the prefect on duty and the Master on the duty that day.High Table mean special food , not the usual 'plastic' bullseye or over cooked fish. Some boys would be regulars at filling in the usual vacancies.

Our lives at Kolej were quite regimented.6am wake up bell, 7 am breakfast and class by 730. Lunch at 1330 hours, then a short break up to 1430 hours.Afternoon prep from 1430 to 1600 hours. Then all go for extra curricular activities from 1600 hours to six thirty Pm. After dinner , night prep at the school building up to 10 pm .Lights out at 1030 pm.Six day week of schooling then.On Saturday afternoon, some time given to do some shopping in town.Sunday mornings we were given free time to go out after the morning inspection. Favourite place to go was the Chinese 'pau shop' near the riverine. Favourite amongst the smokers as well. 'Kampong Pisang', the red light district Of KK was a 'no go' area and I doubt any of us youngsters frequent such place even though our brains were teeming with testosterone at that age. That would qualify one for immediate suspension! I cannot be very sure about the more grown up prefects though. I doubt it.

Those who had done minor offence like crossing the field not during playing time or improper or slipshod dressing etc and etc usually have their town leaves cancelled. Offences more serious like loitering after 'lights out' and smoking in the toilet usually warrant a DC [ Detention Camp], whereby not only your town leaves were cancelled but you have the ignominy of having to do some 'dirty' cleaning chores as directed by the prefect on duty. More serious offence like bullying juniors, 'crawlings' warrant five of the best on your buttocks from non other than Encik Aziz himself, our 1st Asian headmaster...all 6 foot 4 inches of him towering over you.

Needless to say I may have got my recollection of the offences and punishment wrong because I never had the experience of a DC or being caned in my 4 years at Kolej.My only brush with the law was when the Senior Assistant to Encik Aziz, Mr Peter Chen then called me to Encik Aziz's office and asked a very pointed question:

"Did this so and so from form five ask you to mastur..te".
I was just form four then and it was the height of 'ragging week' and some 'crooks' from amongst the fifth formers thought they would rather have some fun!
" What animal is that Sir", I asked back. I was dismissed back to my class automatically!

We did have some characters in Kolej.

'Joe Baker' was 3 years our senior when we were in form four. The only guy who can boast of a duoble tattoo on both arms. Stories had it that he took a year off from Kolej and ran off to join the Britsh Army....We have characters like this in MCKK back then. Of course he was not one of the prefects. Prefects in MCKK , during my time, were demigods. We young boys , especially 'budak baru' look up to them as our protectors. There was Isahak Cicada.....a gentleman from Kedah, my Dorm Ten prefec. Suhaimi Unta[ he was tall and thin and his neck juts out like a camel ] who later became an outstanding O& G specialist. And there was the brilliant but often 'mad' Mustapha Yusuf , head boy, who later had double PHD in engineering. Had it not been for the quigmire and bad blood between Annuar and Dr M, Mustapha could have well been the man to build the Twin Tower for Amenu , and not Ananda Krishnan. But then Dr M was not a 'Kolej' boy. He was a 'mamak'. Ibrahim Promet could easily come up with Petronas Twin Tower if he was given a chance![ But again, Ibrahim Promet was not Ananda.]

Razman Ariffin,sixth former, our headboy when I was in form four, had the making of future PM from the way he carried himself. Later on I recalled he retired as a mining engineer with MMC.

And there was Hishamuddin Rais, one year my senior.A ravingly,loony , mad, Markxist- Leninist character right from day one he joined kolej. How he got so many girls and followers in the MU during the heydays of Baling and Vietnam war was beyond me. He is still 'totally mad' presently even by our very own quite liberal 'budak kolej' standard.Some guys just never change!

Tajuddin, 2 years my senior, was a Kolej prefect. Later in life he went on to head Tenaga.Annuar Ibrahim left college two years earlier when I joined. Sanusi Junid used to come back to Kolej to talk to us and inspire us on Shamelin[ Syarikat Melayu International ]. He was a chartered accountant attached to Standard Chartered back then.

I even remembered Pak Lah, then a very young man, came to give us an inkling into the working of the NOC in the heydays of post- 1969. He was not a Kolej boy though.Willie S Rendra was invited one night to give his rendition of his famous 'sajaks'.Our 'Union Nights' were usually filled up with politics and debates current to the time

As I walked past Hargreave Hall I could still hear kamaruddin Jaafar, Mustapha Noor and Salehuddin Hashim slugging it out on stage. And of course Nik Ariff and Fauzi Samad jazzing it up.

Walking down the school corridor past our old cafetaria,I could recall the career room next to it.

"Young man, what do you want to do after school?". Mr DJ Tate, our history teacher who doubled up as a career master, asked me, that time already in fifth form.

" Sir , I want to be a spy"..Dr NO starring Sean Connery was just showing in downtown Kuala Kangsar. I did not actually want to be a spy , I wanted Ursula Undress, on thinking back years later when I was struggling in Med School.
"No, Nik. Malaysia do not have spies. It is not a career! Think of some thing else, more respectable"
" In that case Sir, being a police detective will do..". Reading too much of 'Sherlock Holmes' had its disadvantage. Had I been a detective, I could have been an IGP 10 years back. Annuar Ibrahim would not have that swollen , black eyes.... If, If and if...Or I would even be sent for cold storage to Ulu Tembeling early in my career and end up as a police sargent!

Here I am now , a Dr House.....still some form of detective work. Given the chance though, yes, all of us would want an Ursula Undress, at some point in time in our life! Years later I learnt from my cousin working in the PM's Department of the then Tunku Abdul rahman, that indeed we have spies even in Malaysia. They double up as Senior Foreign Service officers. I am not sure though whether they get to mingle with their Ursula Undresses.

Of other teachers around that time I could recall Mr Yusuf, a fatherly figure who stood in as 'father' for the 'preppies' in Form One. Ustaz Rahman who cried unashamedly when he failed to out-talk and out debate with my Form Four Science Two classmate Syed Kadir who one day woke upon the wrong side of the bed and decided that he was going to be an atheist. Syed Kadir later scored 8 straight A's[ very rare in the 60's, more rare coming from Malay college! ]and went to Cornell U to do theoretical physics.He end up later in Madinah Al Munawarrah during his gap year. Now Prof Syed Kadir Al Sagoff is a full time 'tabligh' doing missionary work amongst the orang asli. Such are the twist and turn in what we called life!

There was Mr Bradley Jessup, an American peace Corp, who taught us Biology. During one of our practical ecology class we fourth formers went to Padang Rengas, near Bukit Berapit to collect some 'sample' and see ecology of the forest.After finishing the chore we came across a waterfall with a good pool and the boys were given some time to enjoy swimming.Nor Azmi, my dorm-mate and soul mate was the 1st to jump in and never came up. He got stuck to some underwater logs and was drowned.The only son of a middle class KL family.His body was brought to our surau at the back of our South Wing Dormitories for prayer. I remembered having weeks of sleepless nights and nightmares. Mr Bradley Jessup later that year took the December school break to take a trip to India where he mix around with some yogis. The last we heard of him was that he had become a Christian minister back in the US.

Then of course there was the prominently up front Miss'Bozo'...ex Perak beauty queen.
When we Collegian think of Miss 'Bozo', we also remember Mr Alfred Fernandez, our brilliant maths teacher whose interest in life were 'figures' and cricket. No wonder my maths was lousy those years!

Miss Ong taught us chemistry.Not long after she migrated to Camberra. Still meet us in KL every one or two years. Whenever we have our class meeting in KL , she and the rest of the boys address her now as Pek Tan. I still have difficulty doing that despite all the years and the fact that she now looks younger than some of us.To me she is still " Miss Ong". Respect , you may call it.

Even all science students remember our Arts teacher, Tuan Syed Bakar, the much marriad,forever and ever bohemian in his lifestyle now and before, easy going personality of Kolej. The arts stream student adored him like hell. A few years ago he held an exhibition in KLCC, a sign of respect people like Hasan had for their teachers.

Indeed we boys from Kolej looked up to our teachers more than 'educators' in the usual sense of the word.They were often times 'parents' and adviser and comforter in times of obvious 'strains'. Some 600 hundred of us young minds living away from homes, coming from varied backgrounds, a springkling of ministers sons, some royalties, the rest all 'marheins' like me, learning the steep ropes of living, formal and informal.Malay College teachers generally, and I am not saying this with any feeling of malice or condecension, those days at least during my time,left us much to ourselves and imagination,even on matters academics. They were just there to guide. Probably this may not work in an ordinary day school scenario because before you get to 'kolej' there was obvious high selection criteria.

Admittedly 'budak kolej' of my time did not produce as much A's as they should be...just more guys who are a little bit 'mad' here and there , the rouble rouser, the 'tok joghos', and guys who dare think a wee bit more than the rest of the herds...I am not sure that amount to any form of success.

As I left Kuala Kangsar for the long drive to KL, the million ringgit question crops up in my mind: in this present day 1Malaysia of Najib and Rusmah, whether the Malay College Kuala Kangsar , a one race elitist school modelled along Eton, with accent on producing the all rounders , not specialist, does it still has a place in the overall scenario.

The emphatic answer to my mind is, Yes...
as long as we believe and feel there are still space and need in the Malaysian narrative for the occasional rouble rouser, the guys who dare think differently,the misfits who enjoy thinking out of the box, the occasional leaders of men here and there, who dare to go against the grain and the stream of things and be brave enough to make themselves count...over the years MCKK does produce a profusion of such individuals, and occasionally one or two prime ministers, rarely a king or two. They and the rest can still be doctors ,engineers, lawyers,civil servants , taxi drivers,clerks, corporate wizards and lizards at the same time etc etc and etc, .....if that remained our narrative, then MCKK is still relevant. I dont exactly know, just my gut feeling and my 2 cent worth!

It takes a whole lot of people of different colours and creed to make Malaysia tick....but for some rare guys who are able to make the difference, in whatever field they are, always remember this emblazoned on their school wall years back and now deep in their hearts:

Fiat Sapietia Virtus....Manliness through Wisdom.

Dr Nik Isahak Wan Abdullah

"He it is Who appointed the sun a splendour and the moon a light, and measured for her stages, that ye might know the number of the years, and the reckoning. Allah created not (all) that save in truth. He detaileth the revelations for people who have knowledge. Lo! in the difference of day and night and all that Allah hath created in the heavens and the earth are portents, verily, for folk who ward off (evil). Lo! those who expect not the meeting with Us but desire the life of the world and feel secure therein, and those who are neglectful of Our revelations, Their home will be the Fire because of what they used to earn."
Surah Yunus, 'Jonah', 10 : 4-8
Translation of The Noble Qur'an, by Marmaduke Pickthall

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