Some time early this year I was on an intensive course with one old boy from Class of 76, one Syed Sheikh. I never knew that he was an old boy and this guy has a good reputation attached to his name – so naturally I stay away from people with good reputation, lest you are being branded a sucker.
One day during the course (that day was Wednesday), he came in with the tie.
During lunch time co-incidentally I sat down at the same table with him, so after a while talking about the normal things (inflation, recapping of things from the class etc.), I asked him from which batch he was.
I have to admit that the moments when one budak koleq gives himself away to another are pretty cool in my book. No secret handshake, no long winded introduction – I just had to look at his tie and asked “You from which batch?”. He then knew straight away that we had 2 old boys at the table.
The next few days, we chatted mostly about koleq – I found out that he was in the first MCKK team that went to the first PPM. I found out that he was as fond of debating as myself, he told me with extreme passion about his years as a cheer leader (this, from a guy who is known company wide as warak). All the stories, all the jokes that you could have told yourself.
Last month I was on a trip with another budak koleq by the name of Adnan (Class of 78), a much senior person by designation. We shared room together with another colleague whose father was also an old boy.
It was a start of 3 days of non-stop koleq stories. Adnan is a colourful and good-hearted person, who shared many stories from his time. The pranks of his batch, the jokes, the ghost stories – again, all the stories and the jokes that you could have told yourself.
I keep repeating the last sentence because my encounters with so many budak koleq from different generations so far reconfirmed one theory of why MCKK boys bond so much so instantly – we practically share the same timeless experience.
Whether you are from the 60s, or 70s, or 80s or 90s – we went through a similar mill of life, varying in small degree from one year to another, from one decade to another, only in the way we dressed or what was considered hip outside the gates of Malay College at the time. But as far as the experience that each one of us went through that was so vividly painted in our canvass of life – it was the same routine at Prep School, the same ghosts that we feared, the same cheering and away games that we cherished, the same court at the Squash Court that we went to settle differences etc. etc.
(One story that never changed a bit between 1978 and 1994 was the High Table experience - how people on High Table would pass the food from High Table to friends down under)
I was astonished that despite the years between us, we could catch up with one another very quickly, because of that similar experience that we went through in MCKK.
Unfortunately, as much as I am glad that I went through a similar timeless experience with many others, I am not so sure about the later generations in the 2000s.
When they changed the dormitory system to make sure that you would only stay with your batchmates from the first day in college to the last day you walk through the gate, when cheering is the very subdued version of what it was, when student politics and electioneering was a lot more tamed that it was during the yesteryears (always involving seniors throwing chairs to juniors in Hargreaves Hall), when Speech Day was a far cry from our time (for the note, we spent at least one month preparing for exhibitions for Speech and Sports Day during our time, which did a lot to encourage creativity and leadership outside the realm of exam-oriented class room assessments), nowadays Speech Day and Sports Day are cramped into one day, without the exhibition.
I wonder whether one day in the future when I sit down with a member of the Class of 2005, separated only by a mere 11 years – can we go through the same routine of recounting the similar timeless experience that my seniors and I do now when we sit down for coffee?
And the ultimate question – without that timeless experience common to all budak koleq before this, can we instantly bond with our junior would-be-old-boys in MCKK, to whom we cannot relate?
Only time can tell, although I hope I would be as lucky as Adnan to be able to tell jokes and stories from his time that his juniors of 17 years understood.
Adnan and writer*, with a Cape Malay
*ps - The writer is in the middle, in case you are wondering how come the writer had aged so much although he's only 28 (by simple arithmetic)....