Saturday, 30 August 2008

The VI Spirit

Friday evening 29th August 2008 - Third reunion of the Class of 1964-1970, Victoria Institution.

The Fairway Restaurant of the Royal Selangor Golf Club was filled with 50-something men and women, some meeting classmates for the first time in 38 years. Whilst form may have undergone metamorphosis, the spirit of the old days rang high.

In the crowd a familiar figure, though somewhat changed in appearance, was spotted in the form of Mr V Murugasu, the renowned Headmaster of VI from 1964-1970. Now completely silver-haired and walking with a slight stoop, he chatted amiably with the boys up close and personal, no longer as student and HM. A sizable group of former teachers graced the occasion as well.

The ceremonies began with the singing of the school song lead by Mr Vincent Voo, a senior teacher of VI. "Let us now with thankfulness praise the founders of our school. . ." sent a tingly feeling and a flood of memories.

Surjeet MC-ed the occasion and the one and only Ezani Bakar, fondly called 'Baker' by Paragash, presented a photo memorabilia medley where he retraced the journey from Form One to Five with his usual charm and wit and soon had the floor interacting while stories unfolded. A few secrets left the old boys' closet and were made known to the HM at long last. Boys will be boys.

Band of brothers - Simon, Ezani, Omar Lee aka Seng Chai & Peng Cheng

Finally Mr Murugasu was invited to speak.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and . . . senior citizens". The crowd roared with that ground-breaking intro. Who would have guessed that old Muru had a funny bone in him? Definitely not when we used to slink down the corridors in fear of bumping into him.

From the outset the venerable HM humbly apologised for hurting any one person who felt unjustly treated and defended his actions as being part of the pain and pleasure he had to endure as HM of VI.

The pleasure, obviously, was VI's record of high academic and sports achievements and the high level of success his students attained. "That's why", he said "I never demanded 100% pass rates because sports was an important aspect to take into consideration to achieve a holistic education".

As for the pain, he admitted to "going to church to pray for the strength to carry on every day and not hurt anyone in the process." To him it was a great responsibility placed on his shoulders to lead the school after the 'white' HM's. He reiterated what he used to say in Assembly, that "discipline was like water or sand in your hands - once it has fallen you cannot get it back".

In response to Surjeet's comment on the 'watershed in education', he agreed wholeheartedly.

" Education is close to our hearts . . . for the sake of our children and grandchildren . . ." he said. He appealed to old boys to contribute ideas and to document the good practices that built the reputation of VI. He revealed his plan to write a book on education, The Legacy of VI and the Future of Malaysian Education, where this input would help him answer the question "The VI spirit - what is it?" If you had listened carefully, he had actually answered the question earlier in his speech; "the most important is a HM with good values, character, intent and sound religious principles."

On a lighter note, Mr Murugesu referred to his 'pain' which included signing all those hundreds of report cards at the end of term, having to attend all rugby finals, and being blamed for rules like "Do Not Walk On the Grass!" He informed the gathering that it was HM Daniels rule after he had shouted at his wife for walking on the grass one fine day way back when. Now that's news to me.

His hand phone rings, "this is an undisciplined phone!" Hey Muru you are quite a funny guy.

The evening ended with exchange of business cards, hugs and promises to meet again, in not four years but perhaps two years, as the list of dearly departed seemed to be getting longer every year.

The usual back benches and die-hard hippies who were reluctant to call it a night adjourned to the Garden Terrace to belt out Proud Mary, Let it Be and Leaving on a Jet Plane till 2 am.

I must say that it was great to meet all of you again. A big Thank You to the organisers!

Enjoy this photoblog people . . .

Teachers table

Mr Anthony Loh Kung Sing (all the way from OZ) - Bio teacher giving hints for
Bio pract exam wind-dispersed or was it animal-dispersed seeds?


Lai Leng & hubby & Jenny

Surjeet & Fatimah aka Tim

Yoon Shing aka Gary, Ahshrup, Indran & Awtar

Group photo

The Supremes?

Jothies, Fareeda & Paragash

Simon, Boon Cheow, Anthony Sun, Yuet Meng

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

In the bowels of Batu Road

Do you remember the original Coliseum Theater, Globe Silk Store, Bata, P H Henry on Batu Road, now known as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman?

My first exposure to Kuala Lumpur was when we migrated from Penang in 1961 to the big Apple. Batu Road and Robinson's on Mountbatten Road were the places to shop back then.

What remains now are the repainted plaster facades of pre war shop houses, the Coliseum Theater which shows Tamil and Hindi (Bollywood) movies and the Coliseum Cafe where an 80 year old waiter still works.

The newer Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman shops look more like this, housing silk and textile merchandise owned by Gujerati and Indian muslim merchants.

Remember the strains of old Malay favourites belted out by this couple on organ and tambourine? They were younger then of course, but like the song goes, they are singing it to me one more time.

The clientele profile has changed since then. Now our Malaysian multiracial groups mingle with colourful costumes from Africa, Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe and many more.

Deep in the bowels of the beast lies the hidden treasures of Little India vis-a-vis Malay Street, a new phenomenon that has emerged in most larger cities of Malaysia and Singapore. If shopping streets could be deemed ethnic, that's what they have actually become.

This is the portal to a shoppers paradise. You can get just about anything you wish for. From herbal or Ayurveda potions to a suit . . . with a great discount thrown in!

Or you may need a sanggul (chignon) to go with a sari for the wedding of the year; or a ketayap (skull cap) for the kenduri (prayer meeting) on Friday;

or a head scarf from the stalls or boutique.

How about jewellery - fake or the real thing?

Time for a hair cut or shave followed by a songkok to cap it all and a dash of minyak atar (perfume)?

By now if you're hungry, this is just the place to satisfy your gastronomic needs. Food vendors line the street and passage ways selling vadai, goreng pisang, muruku - all yummy but bad for the waistline and skin.

My 'must have' meal each time I visit Batu Road is a healthy dish of rice noodle in fish broth, laksa kedah, almost as good as my sister-in-laws. I attracted some attention while photographing the laksa. The ladies next to me muttered "Eh eh! Tembak (shooting) laksa!" The young couple in front of me commented, "Tourist ? Reporter ?"

Grilled fish, fried spicy chicken, sugar cane juice, young coconut?

Little India it is, with not one but two shopping complexes selling nothing but saris, selwar kamiz for all occasions.

My favourite shop is Libaas in City One Complex owned by Jessy and her family. It is a traditional family business with shops in Ipoh and KL. Jessy stocks a fabulous collection of selwar kamiz outfits and fabric and has a tailor on hand to pamper your every whim and fancy. The hottest item currently are chiffon patiela pants which are heavily pleated and are very feminine and sexy.

His and her Malay traditional costume ready to wear in S,M & L sizes.
What more could you ask for?

Malaysia's young population go ga ga over weddings. Specialised shops stock matrimonial paraphernalia in every colour and style imaginable. Weekends are packed with couples, mum's, brides, grooms and entire families enjoying the preparations.

Dusk falls and whilst shops used to close at 5 pm in the sixties, most stay open till 8 pm these days. Business is competitive and times are not so rosy. Every year street activity rises to a frenzied peak prior to festivals like Deepavali and Hari Raya.
But old and important structures always stand tall and remind us of a peaceful and simple time. Those were the days.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

15 days to 51 years of Merdeka

After a morning of watching the Olympics and Malaysia excell in less conventional events like archery, cycling and of course badminton, I felt a sense of renewed pride and confidence.

Having to run some errands in the Masjid India area, a mere triple jump away from Sentral, I trekked to my favourite haunts. With Merdeka Day only 15 days away, I couldn't help noticing the dearth of Jalur Gemilang adorning the entrances of restaurants and shops. This multi storey building was one of the few draped in The Flag.

And this was the only car on the road showing evidence of pride. . .

. . . unlike last years' show of spirit for the 50th anniversary.

Perhaps 'happening' events appeal to the youth more than an annual anniversary of Independence achieved by their fore fathers.

My assumptions are far from being negative as it was reported in one of the dailies that a "Merdeka Roadshow to instill Merdeka spirit in our youth and to avoid social ills" would start in Johore and travel to different states.

Do you seriously think a roadshow will get the message across? My pessimism persists. Surely more creative and interactive programs with an element of challenge would excite young Malaysians to showcase national pride rather than the ubiquitous roadshow that has been bandied around for almost every thing from pivotal Bill amendments to Tak Nak (anti smoking)campaigns.

The roadshow ain't over until the fat lady sings.

Now when will that be?