Wednesday, August 20, 2008

MCKK’s Brand of Friendship

The last week has reminded me of the friendships that MCKK has given me; and educated me about the value of friendships in general. It is a somber reminder that while we move in time and space; certain things about this life remain generic across the time and space.

It started with a lunch with Bobo. It’s very funny that each time we sit down just the two of us, we can confide in the most private manner about the most confidential parts of our life (ha ha lepas ni semua orang nak korek and I can assure you it is not about our private parts – they function pretty well so far). I say “funny” because I almost never spoke to Bobo when we were in koleq; but somehow after koleq we trusted each other beyond our own comprehension. Looking back, the kind of conversation we have between the two of us reflects our own age – from preferences of sexual fantasies (when we were in early 20s) to more depressing tales of common people trying to get by suffocating life (lately).

Then a few days after that I received a call from Fadli, all the way from the UK to confirm a rumour. Yes, that is Fadli – the mother spinner of all rumours and the extra length he would go to spread rumours. At 5 am the next morning, another SMS from Fadli:

“From DF. Brita snsasi Hanifat dah jadi Puan Sri kahwin dgn TS Ismail late wife utz Fatimah. Balik dr Duta Riyadh. Nikah pagi ni m Mesjid”

“Hanifat mak aslam?”

“Who else? Epit mother in law laaaa. Df quite close to her gang Mengaji”

“U do know u wake me up at 5 am for this gossip kan?”

“Hahaha you so light sleeper meh? Oops sorry maaa”

“Yeah n d blackberry screams when a message comes in. Well it’s as if it changes si aslam la kan. Dah aku nk tdo balik”

I was quite amazed that at 5 am I could recall the names; given how long Aslam and I had not seen each other; or that we did not have any contact since 1996 (apart from a brief attempt in January 2006).

By the time we leave MCKK, all of us would have had our circle of friends. I, like all others, had my circle of friends – predominantly the 5 Sc 1 guys and a few others. I was also close to the others but since it was mostly the 5 Sc 1 guys who went direct to the UK after SPM together with me, I spent more time with them.

There were Fadli, Jita, Chamat, Fazurin, Allen, Madad, Pejal, Muta and a few others (like Aslam, Sharap, Epit, Mpro etc). Over the years the guys in the UK became so close and inseparable. In 1999, at a small café near Queens Mary and Westfield College in East London (after a talk by Nurul Izzah), we sat down to see how the future would have taken us to different directions. It’s been almost 10 years since and while certain things have not changed, all the other facets of our life and friendships took a different twist and turn which we did not predict at all back then.

Our main naïve preoccupation then was how marriage would have separated us over time. So we placed a bet of who would have married first – I can’t remember what was the overall bet but certainly it was wrong; because Jita was the first one to get married. Jita was always the one with a steady girlfriend 24/7 yet because of that, we thought that others (who were less playful ha ha) would have been the first to get married. The bet was on Fadli because he would have to satisfy his parents’ wishes to see their golden boy bersanding and being a golden boy, Fadli most probably would have obliged (ha ha).

But in the end, Jita was the first one to get married. Chamat and Fazurin embraced globalization (to an annoying level sometimes ha ha) and are now at the opposite corners of the world. Madad is always incommunicado except for his rare return to Malaysia once in 3 years. Allen made different choices that we did not factor in at all so that took him elsewhere. We have lost Aslam for as long as we can remember and we have given up on him after 2006 (I always wonder whether he would read this, because at least I have never forgotten what a sweet boy he was when he entered koleq in 1993. I wonder whether he ever remembers us the way we remember him).

So it was ironic that last weekend, Jita, Chamat and I decided to meet up over lunch and spent time together like the old days. Ironic because our prediction that marriage would have taken us apart; was the most false premise of our worries back then. Jita is happily married and is waiting for his first baby. Yet he still makes all the efforts to keep whatever is left of the friendships that we have had over the years – so marriage is certainly not a hindrance (but then again, I never discount the suspicion that Jita is actually married to a life-sized doll; hence why he never brings her around).

It was inevitable that the topic revolves a lot of reminiscence about friends and friendships – and what we plan to do for life. I realized at the end of it how I have lost most of the friendships I held so dearly from MCKK; either by our respective pursuits of worldly goals, or differences over decisions we made in life, or unexpected departure.

Allahyarham Ben and Shahrol passed away within a space of 4 months of each other not even a year ago. Shahrol never had the chance to say goodbye – while Ben, in spite of his perpetual good byes to me over 17 years, still did not prepare me for the actual good bye when his turn came. I never stop mourning for the two of them (and I don’t think I ever will). But there is always a silver lining – I treasure Dany (Class of 90) and Rizal (Cambridge Class of 99) a lot more these days and make a lot of efforts to be fair to their concerns of me over the years; having realized that we shared the common friendships with the late Ben.

The rest – we were separated by circumstances and choices; that in the end, last weekend – I only have two of the friendships I had built all these years from MCKK.

I wonder whether the circumstances and choices that have kept us apart for the last few years will have a bearing on the value of friendships in the future.

Over the last 5 years, I also have been learning general lessons about friendship. Ever since coming back from the UK, I spent more time learning about people and building friendships; especially with people from MCKK albeit from different generations.

I wouldn’t say that it was all sweet – it taught me a lot with an equal mix of frustration, heart breaks and occasionally (very occasionally) joy of an everlasting friendship.

I would generally put people we meet from MCKK in a few broad categories:

1) Keldai – these are people who see nothing of you but to be taken advantage of; mostly because of your own naïvette. We spent a lot of time investing in the young kids but the majority of them see us nothing more than old boys with big pockets to buy them free food and give them free ride. To this group of people, the old code of contractual obligation that the elders will teach and the young will learn in return for mutual respect and love – does not apply. The same disease cuts across the age – even at work, there are many of keldais around. They don’t mind spending time and hitch-hiking on you when it suits them but will not take any measure of advice or lessons of life – so if you genuinely think you were coaching them about life, ha ha (ala Nelson Muntz) you are being fooled by the keldais (and that doesn’t say much about your intelligence!)

2) Biawak commodore (to distinguish from the librarian – we call librarians as biawaks too) – people who are indifferent to anything. They don’t assign value to anything, they don’t respond to anything, they simply don’t care. Trying to change them is like trying to carry a huge biawak commodore on your back!

3) Panda – these are the true gems who understand the value of friendship; treasure the friendship and would have given as much as they take. They are the most loyal type of people you meet and value courtesy and reciprocity as much as you do. But because they are panda (and therefore nearly extinct), it is very difficult to come across them.

(add these to the original zoo in MCKK – beruk, babi, anjing, biawak, bunny @ arnab – waaaa it’s a big jungle!)

In the final analysis, the chances that you strike a dependable friendship also hinge on what value you attach to a friendship in the first place. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view); having had the privilege of the friendships I came across from MCKK – I attach a very high value to friendships because those were the friendships I built during the formative years of my life. I would have taken a bullet for the people I consider as friends because they would have done the same way for me.

The drawback of this is you find it very difficult to make new friendships; as the majority of people in our society are either keldais or biawak commodores.

But then, even as it dawns on me how the number of people I call “friends” shrinks by the day – each one of them is worth more than a hundred keldais or BCs (biawak commodores).

And that’s the true trait of MCKK – it’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality.

We should not fear the uncertainty of moving on with life, because with the kind of quality friendships from MCKK we are blessed with; we should be fine.

This is not an advertisement for World Friendship Day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Butterfingers Kembali

It is a wonder that there’s not much posting on Butterfingers here, given the fact that they are the most popular and widely known alumni of the Class of 94. It is even a wonder that I never took time to write about them – given that everyone in Butterfingers had had a common ground with me throughout the 5 years we were in MCKK.

It is not exaggerating that Class of 94 is the “Butterfingers batch” – each time we introduce ourselves as Class of 94; the most predictable reaction (especially from the younger batches) is “ooowhh batch Butterfingers eyh?”

Last month when MCKK debaters held their annual dinner, they presented a montage. One of the soundtracks was pretty decent; so I enquired as to who was the band. Lo and behold – apparently the boys picked the song thinking that I would have identified with it instantly (since it was a Butterfingers’ song) and it was a cryptic message of tribute to us the senior coaches. Unfortunately, being ignorant all this while, I sorely let them down.

It made me thinking and I had planned to blog about Loque, Kadaque and Kalai for a while already – this is now perfectly timed with the release of their new album.

So Butterfingers is back with an album “Kembali”. Let’s support them as much as possible – after all they are a talented lot who had battled it out all along to leave their marks in their own ways. If MCKK is so much about rewarding meritocracy, then to a certain extent Butterfingers had earned that reward.

Butterfingers’ members are no stranger to me personally, somehow we had our path (and sometimes words ha ha) crossed all the time.

Loque was my first deskmate in English Set with Jackpie in Form 1. If people were to ask me how to describe Loque then – I only have one word: “gentle”. He was such a gentle soul and was very kind although he was always in his own world. Since he was a bit huge by comparison to others, he has always been quite protective even then – which I supposed explained why he seems to be very loyal to whatever he chose in life (either the grouping back in koleq, his musical crusade etc.)

Kadaque ended up in the AJK Batch together with the rest of us. Being in AJK Batch is not something we want to own up to nowadays (especially with constant threats of full disclosure of the kind of speeches made back then); but by virtue of being in the same committee – we did spend a lot of time meeting after lights off and identifying what to fix (ha ha). From whatever I can recall – Kadaque was least interested to know what was going on with the batch; but he stuck to the AJK Batch all the way till the end of F2. By the time we were in F3 – well that’s a different story altogether; and by F4 I would be damned if anyone of us wanted to regroup as AJK Batch!

Kalai (who was with Butterfingers until a point) was perhaps the closest to me. He was my bedmate in F1 and throughout the five years, we had our ups and down as friends. Kalai was Kalai – he has his antics (you only need to watch our past videos to see Kalai’s antics); so sometimes people judged him by his antics; rather than what lies beneath. As a person, I have always had a respect for him because he knew when to have fun and when to be serious. He was loyal – that much I know personally. Even at our lowest point when he must have felt really pissed off with some of the decisions I made (and he had the right to feel angry) – we maintained a sort of grudging respect towards each other. That respect of each other we maintain until today – so the fact that he managed to talk me to buy life and medical insurance from him (a feat that all others before him failed to do) was a testimony that I actually had a lot of respect for this guy. Weird as it sounds (since we always seemed to be at loggerheads for much of our time in koleq), I often trust him more than some others.

All four of us were also in the Military Band in 1994. Loque and Kalai played side drums and Kadaque was the drum major. In 1994 we decided to split the role of taking the lead on the field (given to the drum major) and of managing the administrative and planning part for the group (given to the President assumed by me). The “sharing” of these functions compelled us to work closer – despite the fact that by then we all were in distinct different groups with sometimes incoherent motives and sphere of influence.

Whatever it was, Butterfingers remains the most unique product out of our batch (ha ha since we were such under achievers, while other batches boast of millionaires or politicians etc. – we can only boast a grunge band ha ha). So this week is Butterfingers’ week here.

Welcome back Butterfingers – make a difference since that is what we were taught in MCKK :-)


Bobo was under constant spotlight last week; being the only self-confessed member of the batch who bought a pirated copy of Butterfingers CD. Perhaps to assist Bobo, Butterfingers has ensured that the latest CD is also available at Kemaman Music Store (the same spot Bobo bought the pirated copy I think – berapa banyak sangat music store kat Kemamang!). So this time around there’s no excuse whatsoever not to buy the original copy.

Official Butterfingers