THE SPIRIT LIVES ON - part 2
It's a familiar but funny feeling, this thing called ‘nostalgia'. So this nostalgic feeling swept over me on this day. It was a cool, typical afternoon in the cozy atmosphere surrounded by magnificent old trees on the streets of Kuala Kangsar.
The town is different than how it was back in 1982 yet I could still feel the serenity of such peace. It’s as if I could hear the pretty leaves rustling in the breeze, whispering words to welcome me back to the place where I left my heart. It ticked me that if there was a road made just for us, that road would be right there in my heart. And if we could endure it through, I should put all of my soul into trusting it.
And if there was a river that flows in us, would my heart swim back to where it used to be? It strike me how the years have rushed by, flowing along both small and vast changes. And how I have also been part of these changes. As a small boy, I was small - in size and in ideas.
As a big boy, my size has well developed. And the ideas? I have always hoped that they also grow big. However, I am but a human, with limited powers and capabilities. I come to realise that one of the means to cross this limitation is through unlimited resources of knowledge. The thought intrigued me. It was as if I could have a vivid flashback of the past years right before my eyes.
How life and the way life was led was different, how peaceful. Then I tend to ponder on this peace that I felt during those past years. Was it because of my immaturity for I might have been less sensitive to what was happening around me? One thing though, I felt somewhat a kind of self-satisfaction, for I can now respond better to the surroundings, for I can now use my brain and not just my head, for I can now distinguish black and white and not get stuck in the grey at all times. So we look back again to all those yardsticks and milestones in life. Personal and professional. Past and present. Relationships. Successes. And of course, failures too. I found out that I could remember a lot.
And the feeling was so strong; it was as if I could see the people, hear their voices, even taste and smell the memories. And it's hard not to get overcome by the deep embedded emotions. After all, it's about walking down memory lane. Of realising (and admitting) our mistakes. Of things we should or should not have said or done. Of people whom we took for granted and have since lost before we even realise their importance. And of all the list of "What ifs' which could make one go crazy. Somehow this place is very special to me.
It was not hard to understand why it is so. The reason is simple. This is where I discovered the true meaning of life – emptiness and togetherness, neglect and respect, hate and love – such was the dichotomy. Such is the law of nature. We do not push that away. We embrace it. But above and beyond this, this place taught me one very valuable essence of life – the true meaning of friendship, camaraderie, brotherhood. It was the year 1982 when I first came to this place after being selected to be here. The state of mind was of mixed feelings. Happy to have been the chosen one. Miserable to have been the lonely one.
It was as if I was experiencing a total eclipse. A boy of 12 going on 13, lost in the strangeness of other boys and a handful of seniors called prefects, at an old yet dignified building called the preparatory school or in short, “Prep School”.
Since its completion in 1913, Prep School has been the starting point of coleq life.
Little did I realise that it was soon to become a place filled with happiness where the true meaning of friendship, and eventually brotherhood, crosses boundaries and the little differences. Truly, there's no combination of words I could put on paper, no song that I could sing to accurately describe it.
But, I can affirm that our dreams are made out of real things, like a shoebox of photographs with sepia tone loving. So we take time to open that shoebox, and allow ourselves to be immersed in the life we lived some 35 years back when we first set foot on the soil of The Malay College Kuala Kangsar. It was a distinct experience, partly due to the distinct style we had, to begin with.
The all- white shirts and shorts, with long white socks and black shoes. That was how we were as the first formers of MCKK. We were introduced to doing things together – slept in dormitories, bathed in shared bathrooms, ate in a dining hall. Together only among us, yet separated from the rest of the seniors. The Prep School was exclusively for us the Form 1 students. It was some sort of the place where we got orientated with the MCKK culture and tradition. The school building is solely for Form 1 classes. No mixing with the elders. No mingling with the seniors. We were truly protected, until we were ready to move on to the next level of "colleq" life.
Apart from the wardens and teachers, we were being prepped for “coleq” life by the five prefects who were the fifth formers who took care of us and our well-being in Prep School. Each one of them was responsible for each of us in each of the five dormitories, simply named Dorm A, Dorm B, Dorm C, Dorm D and Dorm E.
Once a week during weekends we were allowed a day out around the town of Kuala Kangsar, to areas I would now assume to be anywhere within the radius of five or six miles from the school. No straying to the “out-of-bound” places or you would receive punishment in the form of a confinement or a more severe one which was the DC, short form for detention class. There was no television provided, but the dismissal of such “fun” was compensated by a weekly movie night on Saturdays at the famed Hargreaves Hall.
We had six meals a day with the main breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the in-betweens we called “snack time” and one supper. Each of us was allowed one ration of meal, and the popular term of ‘double ration’ when some of us got from others who might not like or want the food or even absent from the session. Lunch and dinner were the proper and official ones with the duty prefect reciting prayer or “doa” before we started.
Before it was recited in Arabic when we entered our senior years in coleq, the “doa” was recited in Bahasa Melayu which went like this:-
“Segala puji bagi Allah tuhan segala alam, selawat dan salam atas junjunganNya, berilah kami rezeki yang halal, ilmu yang berguna, sesungguhnya Kau amat pemurah dan amat mengasihani.”
Then there was the “High Table” where special food was being served, complemented with dessert and ice cream. How I recall us looking forward for our turns for dinner at the High Table. Then came the more bitter part of our life at Prep School. Among which was the fire drill after midnight hours when the misfortunates among us were not saved by the bell that was rung by the prefects to wake us up so that we could ‘run for our lives’. It was during these fire drill sessions that we were asked to do things which we loathed then, but only to enjoy recalling them now.
Among the impossible “missions” we were made to do but were never accomplished was to blow the fan in the common room that was switched off so that it would move… and many other incidents that would resurface whenever the lot of us get together over teh tarik and such. I know that all of those moments would be gone, for when the morning light sings, the new bell rings. There would be times though, that we would be somewhere between the then and now when we sit under a big tree and a gust of wind blows with it memories from yester years.
We hear some say that we should not put our feet in the past in order to step in to the future. I say that sometimes we need to go backward before we can move forward. It’s like attempting at a high jump when you move backwards for contraction in order for you to shoot forward. Perhaps the one reminder unto ourselves is that we do not revisit our past for the bad memories, but instead for the good ones.
We write the bad things that befell us in the sand just so that they can be easily erased from our memory, and engrave the good ones in marble so that they remain immortalised in our minds. And so even after such a long period of 30 years, the memories of my time with my dear brothers are still fresh in my mind.
The days of being foolish, of being funny, naughty, loving, caring - all combined to make life whole. Now I understand that MCKK is not just any boarding school. It isn’t just a place where you study and play during the day and sleep for the night. It’s a place where you learn about life. And what is the best education one learns in life but education about life itself?
"And if really there is a river that flows in us, would we not follow that river to find the sea?"
…to be continued