Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Light in The Heart

The Spirit Lives On - part 4

Many a time love does not know its own depth until the hour of separation. As many a time also when we feel the sorrow in the heart, we realise that we are in fact weeping for that which has been our delight. And then we see beauty, which is not in the face, but a light in the heart.

So angels are remembered for their fidelity. When mountains turn to dust, do I still stand upright when my bones are so delicate? Do I worry people would judge what’s on my face without seeing what’s in my heart?

Do I break all ties and free myself from old bonds when there are chances that I could reach the hills and the mountains? But do I not also see that a quail running amidst the grass always comes running back to its nest?

Do I live in the past and build a fortress that avert me from all disasters? If truly times have changed, do I not bring down my fort and melt the stone and steel, and raise a new fort?

And I contemplate that there is no greater loss than wasting every second thinking of the past, for this life is transient, while death is not bound by age. But I am a man who possesses only love. Yet, in between the evil and I, we can be so close, as with the heat and fire.

I hear the words of the forefathers who said that the greatest is none other than the birth- place. Words as eclectic as the meaning of knowledge. There was the place you were born, and then there was the place where you played, learned, and perhaps even become a hero. Perhaps there is such a place where there’s wind blowing in your ear and there’s a river flowing in your soul. The place where you carve the stones of wisdom into a million steps, where we become the sculptor of life.

Every now and then, we were told to appreciate that knowledge must be like the concubine - always attractive. Each night we would hope to be awaken by passionate dreams of the maiden. We would wish to relish the tradition and revel in the pride.

1984 - It was the time of the interim, when adolescence knocks - when beauty was very much mesmerising and enjoyed by many, when many rushed to pluck a rose, for those who hasted and conceited would be pricked. Little did we realise then that it’s not what’s in the finger but what’s in the heart. Endless were our desires. The cravings and the yearnings were almost our second nature. Enwrapped were we in excitements and enthusiasms.

The majestic Big School was suddenly our abode. The central Overfloor our sojourn for the year before we moved on to the east and the west wings during the later years that would follow. The real presence of the coleq spirit filled us. The lava of our souls overflowed us. Now we were “the” Collegians. Ready to take on the real roles and trials to not let a drop of pride nor a drip of tradition turn to rust. Yes, we were young, very young, but the passion has much grown within us, amidst the green leaves and grass of the big tree and the big field, and the blue water of the pool.

Though a few of us who stayed on living at the New Hostel did not have the chance to be at the Overfloor of The Big School, we still were very much together. Never did the morning greet us with jealousy for the love was in our company. As third formers of The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), we were sort of being in the balance. Juniors greeted us “Assalamualaikum, bang...” when we also offered the same greeting to our seniors. A greeting that could be misheard as “…kum, bang…” which literally means beetle.

While it was the time for celebrating the status of “full-fledged” collegians, it was also the year that would be the first real test to us, academically. We were to sit for the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) examination. Some of us even went beyond the usual papers by opting to sit for Arabic language paper included in the SRP exam. By now we had undergone foreign language subjects – Arabic and Japanese - as additional subjects in our syllabus.

There was also Japanese Language Society led by our Japanese language teacher, who was, a Japanese. I can still vividly recall how nice she was and how thrilled we were every time the Japanese teacher was with us.

Personally, I like foreign languages and because of that, I enrolled in an Arabic class and became a member of the Japanese Language Society just so that I could take advantage of both opportunities. The activities included learning things “Japanese” – the hiragana and katakana types of writing, the art of origami, the food of onigiri, the songs like Akai Hana – among those I can remember.

The Scouts, Cadet, Red Crescents, Military Band were among the popular uniformed bodies, along with other clubs and societies such as the Cinema Club, Cooperative Club, Debating Team, and so forth. As a matter of fact, Perak’s first Scout troop started in the Malay College Kuala Kangsar in 1919. There were organised trips including camping and campfire that we got involved with.

And while we enjoyed the performance of the Military Band, some of us had the privilege to play in the Band during the school’s official events such as the Speech Day and Sports Day.

Sports was equally important as examinations. Rugby, football, athletics, hockey - sports was not just an extra activity but very much a part of school life. Inter-school matches were very important to us, and indirectly instilled a strong coleq spirit among us.

Truth is, much has been said and written about life in MCKK, but our own personal history has given us a different record. Nonetheless, countless are in agreement that many have fallen under the spell of life’s treasure where wisdom could emanate upon going through such experience of living together, maturing together, at a place where our hearts united in sorrow and joy, bonds woven in sadness and happiness.

And as one remembers life’s sweetness, the sorrow enveloping the heart is thus removed like polish scraped by the craftsman. That life may be momentary and might have seeped along with the passing of time, but the memory remains. Some things don’t change with the time that goes by.

The duck will never sing like the bird, and the eagle will always fly higher than the parrot. So in my sleep and when I wake, do I yearn not for the new, or do I desire not for the same? Do I long not for the light in the heart from the fire to remain, or do I wish not to settle for just the flame?

...to be continued

Blowing In The Wind

The Spirit Lives On - Part 3
Kahlil Gibran wrote: “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”
Thus I shall not fault anyone if he shared with others the stories I here recollect. After all, the whole purpose of this is for sharing the moments we have led in this borrowed life. While we know not what shall be on the morrow, we forget not what has been in the past. Even if it was a vapour that appeared for a short time, in our hearts and minds we let it remain, just so that it does not vanish away.
There have been times when I was in solitude, I thought how lovely and how strange the wind is. The wind is the wind, always there, and yet the air flowing through it is never the same air. At times too, the wind blows hard among the trees, toward the beginning of an endless past.
The leaves on the trees applaud when the wind rustles them, as if welcoming me to tell a tale of the past. And I find myself stepping back in time, to when we were 14. Having ended our first year at The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) and our primary boarding life at Prep School, we moved on to stay at another building called New Hostel. As the name implies, the New Hostel is a new building block which was opened in 1972 to house the Form Two boarders.
I may not be the only one who felt then that we were going through a new experience of coleq life – the first taste of staying with the seniors, the Form 3 students, albeit only three or four of them in each of the ten dormitories. I come to think that they were there to take care of us while at the same time, giving us the first exposure of sharing the life with fellow collegians in the years to come. As with the Prep School, there were also the prefects assigned to look after us all at the New Hostel. The tradition of official lunch and dinner meals and the “High Table” at the dining hall continued.
After one year of being “prepped” at the Prep School, we have become more adaptable for such a life. The ringing of the bell alerting us of our next agenda for the day – rise, breakfast, parade to class, back from class, games hours, dinner, and lights out when we had to be in bed.

Perhaps the more challenging part was to walk past the Big Tree and the Big School to go to the classroom block. Not so much for the longer walk, as the New Hostel is located furthest from the classroom and school administration blocks, but for having to pass the seniors at the Big School. Because the Form 1 students are totally separated, the Form 2 students are considered the most junior among all and thus, are subject to being teased sometimes. The seniors, in a friendly naughty way, would either call your name if they knew your name, or simply just by whistling, from their dorms or the senior common room at the main section of the Big School called the “Overfloor".

By now we were already introduced to the tagline “Study Hard, Pray Hard, Play Hard”. Other than study, which is the main purpose of anyone being in school, was the games. Each and every one of us was required to play at least one sport. Of all the sports, rugby remains the one that every collegian is most passionate about, ever since it was first introduced in 1956 by then headmaster N.J. Ryan. I can still recall how from the beginning we were made to memorise the lyrics of the cheering songs which we would all sing while cheering for the team on the battlefield. There would be one cheer leader from among the seniors, who would lead us in cheering for the team. Whenever we scored or achieved victory, we would cry out loud at the top of our lungs - “Bung Wak Bung Wek Wek, Bung Kak Bung Kek Kek, who are we, Malay College, can’t you see… yeahhh!”
We were so full of spirit. Even after all these long years, I could feel my spirits rise and soar like the wind as I’m writing, and whenever such melody of Bung Wak rings.
Boarding school life was not easy and was not difficult either. But it was beautiful. The clouds might have come floating into my life in the years that followed, but I realise today that they did not really carry rain or usher storm, but instead, they added colour to my sky. 

to be continued