Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Writer's Block

I have to do many things at work. But it had not crossed my mind before that one day coming out with a book was one of the things I have to do to earn my meager pay. When Fazurin was busy authoring a thick book in 2004 (which in the end only has a small print of credit to him!), I used to laugh my head off.

But now I am in the same shoes and I have a writer’s block; hence this entry.

I came across 2 articles on MCKK – quite different from each other in the manner, content and context; but did the same to remind me why koleq was special. The first one appeared in The Star and the other in Harakah (ha ha no wonder the manner, content and context was different).

1st Article:

Datuk Abdullah Wahab, the Secretary of Parliament, is about to retire happy in the knowledge that he has turned the sacrosanct institution into a place where people want to work.

In his personal habits, he is an unassuming man, as comfortable dining with prime ministers as sharing a banana leaf lunch under the trees with his favourite journalists, sleeves rolled up.

He drives a second-hand 1982 model BMW 3 series, which has cost him more to maintain than it did to buy. He lives in Kota Damansara, not Damansara Heights. He works with his door open.

The only time the door is closed is when Abdullah, the “servant of God”, is praying.

It was not Wednesday, the traditional tie day for Malay College alumni, so Abdullah was not wearing his Old Boys' tie. Instead he sported the purple and gold tie of Universiti Sains Malaysia, where he had earned his Bachelors in Urban Studies.

But growing up without a father during his adolescent years, it was his alma mater, the Malay College, which moulded him into the man he has become today.

The Malay College “taught me to keep my word, about friendship, trust and honour.”

These friendships remain till today.

A group of seven contemporaries get together so often that a week seems too long not to have seen one another.

“Rindu (We miss each other so much),” said Abdullah simply.

“Our wives and children have become family, more than our own blood.”

This works out fine for Datin Rafidah Abdul Jalil, Abdullah's wife of 27 years, who is totally at home with the alumni wives, and their two sons Ariff Riza, 25, and Ariff Faisal, 22, who have “grown up” with the children of their father’s Malay College buddies.

2nd Article:

The most unforgettable incident that touched my heart about my father happened some 30 years ago when I enrolled as a Form One student for the Prep School, Malay College Kuala Kangsar. To go to Kuala Kangsar, my father and I took the bus from Malacca to Tampin and from there took the express train.

Since that journey was the very first time I left to some faraway places, I just couldn't sleep all night long so I just stared at the darkness of night from my seat. All I could see was distant lights and when the rain roared in the jungles and estates, fire flies in the dark night kept me busy and excited.

We reached the Kuala Kangsar station at 3.00 a.m. There, we waited for the early signs of the day and then marched to the grounds of the college. It was more than a kilometer away. It was a sight when I saw my father carrying a flour sack stacked with my two small pillows on his head and a big bag in his hand.

When we reached the living room cum registration office at the Prep School, my father and I sat on the hard long bench instead of the cozy cushions with our luggage (the flour sack) in front. Looking around I saw the other boys' fashionable bags. Nowadays when I think about it, I can feel how humble or down to earth my father was on that big day when he chose not to use the comfortable seat.

It seemed that only my father and I arrived at the prestigious college by train and then continued on foot while my friends and form mates came in cars, some in flashy ones. I felt very small in the new world and I didn't know what was inside my father's heart.

But I sensed he must have been very proud to have a son at the college. It was because before we departed from our kampung, I heard some family members say: "Congratulations to have a doctor, perhaps an engineer or may be a prime minister in the making!" (They were referring to Tun Abdul Razak, the then Prime Minister who was an old boy of the school).

Remembering that memorable event in 1975 brought me close to tears but I don’t shy away to declare that my father is my hero!

I smiled reading the articles (and although they don’t solve my writer’s block problem, at least I get some modal to update the blog). In the future, once in a while if I ever wonder why Malay College is special to me (or why we try our best to contribute back to the school), I would come back to these articles to remind myself what purpose did Malay College serve for some of us.

In a country where the chasm is big between the upper and working class, between the aristocrats and the commoners, between the blue blood and darah kebanyakan – ironically Malay College is one of the few institutions where dreams (not unlike the American Dream) can come through.

Back then, each year many children from the working class families traveled from the four corners of Malaysia to register – a new kind of life begins at that small Prep School’s Common Room. I bet most if not all of these children had to grapple with the fear of the unknowns and inferiority complex (of coming from working class families).

The 2nd article illustrated what could have gone through a child and his parents’ mind on the first day of registration at the Malay College. Many boys cried during the first few weeks because they missed their parents who suddenly disappeared from their lives, but I bet many more cried because they were just afraid of how it would all turn out.

But as if these stories were fairy tales, they always ended up (most of the time) with happy ending. These kampong boys grew up to become perfect gentlemen, went on to do great things and never looked back. They were more resilient and a lot more confident of their talents and abilities, sometimes compared to those who originally came from more privileged background.

These people grew up to be like Datuk Abdullah Wahab, the gentleman who became the subject in the first article.

Because no matter where you came from, what your parents did for a living – MCKK values transcended social class and all – not even one exception – who went through its gates would have been subjected to these values.

In Prep School, a small sign of crease on your bed sheet and you would be sent for confinement. You must polish your shoes or clean your cutlery so that you could see your smiling face; anything short of that then another double confinement. No wonder anyone who managed to pass through the weekend with only one confinement would be considered a role model (the record in my batch was six confinements in a week ha ha).

We didn’t understand, as kids, why we had to go through all these. Why a small noise during dinner because your fork unintentionally hit the metal tray warranted disproportionate punishment. Why you had to do “duck walk” from your class to Prep School because your 3-by-3 was not a perfect straight line.

We didn’t understand it back then, but sometimes we could feel the effects it had on our lives now.

MCKK taught us to be perfectionists and perfect gentlemen, whenever or wherever we can. You may choose your own path, but make sure whatever you choose to do with your life, you do it to your utmost ability and out-class anyone else in the arena.

Most importantly, those values that MCKK indirectly inculcated through sleepless nights and silly punishments put me at par with the next anak raja; if they were any in my batch. They were some politicians’ sons or aristocrats in our batch too – but after a few months in MCKK slowly our class differences were removed. By the time we were in F2, each and everyone was recognized for our talents and ability – no longer where we came from or our background.

And that’s the kind of stuff fairy tales were made up of. In MCKK, some of these “fairy tales” do come true – kampong boy who fly away and never look back.

That’s why MCKK is so special to me and why I get pretty vocal at any talk about privatizing or limiting the access to MCKK for the lower income group. It’s one of the few institutions in Malaysia where social engineering experiment does work – do not take that away from MCKK, do not deny us of our own success albeit at a micro level.

Going back to Kuala nowadays, seeing how the F1s no longer que 3-by-3 when they go anywhere saddens me. Some people argue that those practices are a waste of time and archaic – yet they do not understand that the real values of MCKK experience are not in the classroom or scoring in examinations, but those “silly practices” that indirectly inculcate values that made Datuk Abdullah Wahab who he is today – a perfect gentleman with abundance of humility.

It’s easy to produce top scorers but not easy to make a humble and perfect gentleman out of a kampong boy!

ps: My writer’s block is still there. Damn!


  1. anas949810:01 AM

    damn right. present boys nowadays are being treated as normal school boys. no 3 by 3 queueing, no batch-unity-based punishments (common room lecture, firedrill lecture, halfway down), and no mixing between f3 f4 and f5? how do they expect they learn the virtues of unity, respect, and discipline??

    manja la diorang.

  2. I guess we cannot blame the boys, it's the adult who run the show who doesn't understand.

    Many of these practices were abandoned (or scoffed at) by a small group of wardens. The warden at Prep School is a SAS alumni - he felt all these things are complete waste of time.

    Well he wouldn't understand would he, coming from the red brick school like SAS ha ha.

    I wish one day someone more understanding gets to helm koleq and appreciate why certain things - though out of this world - needs to be done.

  3. Anonymous12:40 PM

    ex-SAS ke? patut la...konspirasi menjatuhkan koleq la ni...cheh

  4. Anonymous1:42 AM

    Sedih aku dengar bila all those traditions dah lenyap walaupun satu ketika aku nak sangat benda2tu dihapuskan. Tapi by the time aku form 4 aku sedar all those things ada bnyak kebaikan dari keburukan, it teach me a lot. i learn how to behave, respect and mostly honour my friendship with others.Dulu lagi kita perjuangkan all those good traditions...kekalkanlah, buang yg karut2 je, but what can we do right time changes everything. No more 'man learnes thorough wisdom' tinggal result on piece of sheet. That's what matter this days. Sad but true.....

  5. Noni,

    hang jadi HM Koleq la one day. Then you yourself pegi buat common room fire drill tu suma. Dengan Form5-Form5 sekali kau suruh halfway down. Itu je caranya

  6. dah apply dah pun, tp gaji tak banyak laa.. plus tak de sijil perguruan.

    unless u want to top up the extra bit to make up for the shortfall?

    tp kalau aku buat fire drill jambu maybe diexcuse kot ha ha ha, hence why aku x leh buat fire drill.

  7. ok la gaji tak banyak, duduk KK bukannya mahal cam duduk KL pun. Bole save apa.

    On jambu, no comment ah hahaha...