Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

Multi-Colour -- November 27 2007

Today, as usual, is our bloggers' Mee Rebus day at Kak Ton's. I thought I would have to miss it because of a farewell lunch I was to have attended for my very dear friend, Angie, otherwise known as Angeline Chivapathy.

The lunch was cancelled because Angie was not able to be there as she has so many things to do before leaving for Qatar to start her new job.

When I told Bapak about Angie, he asked: "Yang budak tinggi tu... the sportswoman?"
He remembered. I was delighted, although well, Angie is not a budak no more and she has not done the 200-metre sprint or jumped over hurdles in a long time.

Bapak will not be able to remember Angie of five years ago. Not Angie the accountant. But Angie, the athlete and SEAP Games silver medallist of more than 30 years ago.

Angie and I (and Kak Eda, Rohaya Ghani and Diane Lesley Cheah) were very close way back when (in Assunta primary and secondary school).
Well, we still are.
In school, we called ourselves "Vamps". Don't ask why but the name sounded good, and, er, cool.
Yeah. Cool.
Another very close friend, Hanim (Ku Nur Hanim Ku Bahadur) later joined the gang.
School days were fun because we made it fun. Never a dull moment.

We (with the exception of Hanim) were all in our school athletics club. Rohaya, Kak Eda, Diane and I were in our school's softball team. We all also played hockey.
And when the school decided to form a football team, we all went for it. Alas, the team lasted for just so long. Our coach was Douglas Gomez. I'm pretty sure he was quite relieved about that.

After MCE (that's the form five exams - like SPM today), we more or less went our separate ways, except for Kak Eda, Rohaya and I who joined UiTM. Kak Eda to do architecture, Rohaya (Chartered Secretary) and I (pre-university).
Angie and Diane left for England for further studies. I don't remember where Hanim went but she kept in constant touch because she also happened to live nearby in section 5 and later (until today), section 16.

Angie had been working with a multi-national company for the longest time until she was offered a job in Qatar.
We - Angie, Hanim, Rohaya, Diane and I - had dinner at Tony Roma's at the Cineleisure in Mutiara Damansara two weeks ago to celebrate Diane's birthday.
We had a ball. When the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" was on, we all sang along, to the amusement of the young waiters.

When Rohaya and another friend, Aminah, visited Bapak during Hari Raya Aidilfitri last month, we asked him whether he remembered Rohaya.
With a wide grin, he remarked:
"Hah....ni yang selalu datang sini bawa boyfriend-boyfriend.."
We all burst out laughing.

"Alamak, Pak Cik ingat," Rohaya said sheepishly.

We were remembering Radha, Abang Med's good friend. More like a brother, as far as I'm concerned.
Well. Mak used to refer to Radha as her "other son".

We were talking about old friends the other day.

"Bapak ingat tak Radha, kawan Abang Med?", we asked.

"Anak si-Nair tu? Aah....dia suka debate dengan aku pasal Islam.. Mana dia sekarang?" he asked, his eyes reflective.
That was something. We thought he would not recollect.

"He is in Australia, the last we heard." we told him.

Radha was like a son. he'd drop by anytime. If it was lunch, he'd join us. He'd watch TV, he'd read the books on the bookshelf.
Bapak would indulge in after-dinner discussions with him.
He'd ask Bapak a whole load of things -- religion, the country's social and political system, the NEP ... and, oh, the universe, I suspect.

I remember one question about Islam he asked Bapak.
"How come there are different imams and different schools of thought in Islam?"

"Do you remember Kar Beng?" we asked Bapak.

Francis Ooi Kar Beng formed the trio of Hamed, Radha and Kar Beng. Radha stuck around until he left for Australia. Even when Abang Med was in Australia for further studies, Radha still visited Bapak and us.
Kar Beng came over our Section 5 house almost everyday. But, he soon disappeared from the radar after we moved to Section 16, about the time Abang Med left for Australia.

I used to think Sunethra Rao was the most beautiful girl I had seen.
She was Kak Ton's best friend (besides Joyce Lam) in school.
Sunethra was also a dancer -- a member of Gopal Shetty dancers.
When she and her sister appeared on TV, we would all be glued to the set. Sunethra was one reason I had wanted to take up Indian classical dance.

I used to look forward to visits by Sunethra, Vijaya and Vino Narayanan. I was such a busybody that I would always want to join them in Kak Ton's room and be part of whatever they were up to.

I remember (it was in the 60s) -- every Hari Raya, they'd visit us wearing baju kurung.
I thought they looked smashing.

Kak Ton is just so moved thinking about her old buddies.

But....aah. Those were the days...

Now, I am looking forward to visiting Angie in Qatar. Bapak thinks its a cool idea to go to Qatar to visit my pal -- as Bapak said with a smile -- "Budak yang menang medal tu".
Oh Bapak.


Anonymous said...

Sis Ena
This is perfect, absolutely perfect.

Anonymous said...

Still good reading though its more about your reminiscing of friends and days gone by... I remember when people of my cohort in school met after few years of graduating, we'd be asking which company si anu is working for, etc..., in our 30s, we'd be asking, si anu tu dah berapa orang anak,... now in our late 40s, we are asking, did you know si anu kena stroke and passed away, and si anu tu dah jadi atok, etc... that's life! Btw, when you visit Qatar, lenconglah ke Dhahran-Dammam, its only one-hour flight away from Doha? Salam.

Mat Salo said...

In my days, being a PJ boy more-or-less, I too had a soft spot for 'vamps' in Jalan Changgai. This was in the 70s, of course and instead of being shy and demure, these Changgai species were a lot more precocious! And me often scuttling up the bas mini after failed attempts at engagement. Oh well, live to fight another day. Wooh takut ooo.. but for the record, I finally managed to 'hook-up' with one one prior to L.C.E. under the pretext of 'let's exchange mock exam papers'. Good line, eh?

Rockybru said...

It is always lovely to get together with friends from your secondary school. For many years, I thought of how nice it would be if I could meet my old friends from then. But they are all in Singapore. So when two Sec 4 classmates came to KL on two different occasions this year, you can imagine how good I felt. Ben was one of my closest buddies. We used to go for Kung Fu movies at the local Jurong cinema and after each movie would try some of the moves we had just watched. Lely is a Baba girl who worked at a hotel after our exams, and we used to go for coffee at the hotel and enjoyed crazy discounts!

Sigh ...

Your secondary school friends, I notice, are of various races. That's rare these days, no? Ahirul and Ahirine don't have many non-Malay friends. And that's because there just aren't too many non-Malays in their school! One of Ahirine's "best friends" is an Indian girl.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

yea, nothing beats the good ol' days. most would agree that it was during our secondary years that was the most eventful. we learn to appreciate the actual meaning of friendship and develop feelings towards the opposite sex at the same time.

growing up in subang jaya was equally tough i tell ya. i mean, tea-dance disco hotties were everywhere on saturdays. hihi...

*ok not exactly subang jaya. for the record the disco was situated in damansara jaya. piccadilly's anyone?

maria a samad (kak ton) said...


Bapak taught us that friendship transcends race & religion. We took it from there.

His best friend was the late Devan Nair, the former president of Singapore.

They went to school together, both were detained by the British for being political activists and in 1950 sent to Pulau Sekijang for 2 1/2 years.

Devan Nair married Aunty Danam who belonged to a higher caste. I was told that her family was against the marriage.

Bapak helped pay for the wedding expenses. And arwah kak Piah was one of the bridesmaids.

When emak died, the late Aunty Danam came all the way from Singapore to pay her respect to her "sister Hamidah".

But by the time she arrived the burial was over.

She couldnt forgive herself for being late and wept.


aMiR: Oh, my...thank you...

dharan: i know what you mean... i have had bad news offered to me when meeting old friends...when i asked how was si-anu si-anu.."oh dah meninggal..."
i shall take you on your suggestion with regards to Doha.


Mat Salo: amboi amboi....cekap betul dengan pick-up line.
Vamps Jalan Changgai tu Assunta girls-lah.
thanks for visiting, bro.


rocky: i can relate to your teen life as a student because, like you, i had multi-racial friends. i was colour blind. and still am.
perhaps because i grew up in petaling jaya. whatever. i am glad i did.
i met your friends, ben and lely, when they came to KL. they can remember those days so well...wonderful.

i don't know whether it is rare these days for a malay to have non-malay friends. i suppose when there is a large concentration of malays in a school, then, yeah...

adel and shaira have friends of all races. one of adel's closest friends is dhanraj whose parents are close friends of mine. their younger son, naviraj, is close to shaira.
adel has known dhanraj since kindergarten.
adel's other non-malay friends are twins keven and melvin. and these non-malay boys are not only close to adel but a few other malay boys.
in fact, six or seven of them (including adel) are very close. they'd spend saturdays together, playing basketball or football or watch movies. then they'd go to the mamak for brunch or tea.
i greatly encourage that.
and NEVER NEVER say racist remarks in adel's presence. he was upset one day when someone we know said something to that effect.

our kids are what and how we raise them to be.


kerp: picadilly? oh yes! I know picadilly. my younger sisters, lalin and nina, used to go there with their boyfriends (now husbands).

aah...those were the days..


kak ton,

i remember aunty dhanam when she came to visit Mak at home in section 16 some time in the 80s. i think they had not met each in a long time then.
aunty dhanam spent the entire morning through the afternoon with Mak...they were reminscing..
i wrote about that in NST's "First Person" column.

i remember Mak telling me about uncle devan's and aunty dhanam's
wedding. we have some of their wedding photos.

and how sad it was when aunty dhanam came after Mak died.

you know, come to think of it, bapak and mak never gave us any talking to about how we should pick our friends. at least not along racial lines. their only concern was that our friends were not bad hats.

Pi Bani said...

For someone who went to an all Malay boarding school and then off to UITM, way back during my student days, I didn't have many non-Malay friends (except primary school mates lah). But alhamdulillah I didn't have any problems getting along with my non-Malay colleagues when I started working. Probably due to my upbringing - my late father used to be good friends with quite a number of non-Malays. In fact, in my NGO now, other than 3 of us, the rest are all non-Malays and we all get along very well. Can talk about anything under the sky without getting overly sensitive.

Friendship must never be based on race and religion. We are all humans afterall.

CheRyL said...

i agree with you nuraina..i am indian, with many malay and chinese friends..and we all get a long great..

discrimination will always be there no matter how hard we try to be advocates of peace..

i read a quote once and it said.."if we were all of the same colour, the next minute we will find someting else to discriminate each other"

puteri said...

kak ena,

How very true. Our kids are what and how we raise them to be.

They learn from us. We are their role models. So as parents we have that great responsibility.

You have friends from all races. So does kak ton and abg Med. That tells a lot about the way you have been brought up by your parents.

I could see that your upbringing has moulded you and your siblings into what you are.

Unfortunately, I dont see that happening among kids nowdays. They tend to socialise among their "own kind".

It is sad. I wonder why. Something is just not right.

wanshana said...

Kak Ena,

It's great that you can still remember your growing-up years so vividly, and it's even better when you still keep in touch with old friends.

It was very much a melting pot for you, and I'm sure your teenage years were made more wonderful because of that.

Love this posting especially the parts when Pak Samad came up with all his comments and remarks about your pals! Hehehe!

Take care.

meesh said...

Hey! Rocky! I resent that. I have tons of friends who are Malays and Chinese, in fact hehe I don't have that many Indian friends... highest concentration of my friends are all Malays. And their friends are all mixed too... so it's not true across the board. I think you like people you like. That's it. But, it's the older generation I think who are teaching their kids this racism at the onset, and how suddenly when people grow older, they forget their younger days, hipster jeans and boob tubes now replaced with kopiahs and fire and brimstone speeches at the local chapel.


Typhoon Sue said...

isn't it cool that people of your father's generation would always remember ppl of your generation as "budak tu"?

You'll never age babeh! haha

Abu Rabu @ Ash Wednesday said...


Was your hockey/football coach Douglas Fernandez or was it my good friend and ex-bandboy Douglas D'Cruz? I know Douglas D'Cruz used to coach hockey at Assunta.

Ah, my dear friends Radha and Kar Beng. They were like family. They felt so at home with us that they could go to the kitchen, open the fridge, and take whatever they wanted. I've lost contact with Kar Beng for some years now, but I'm still in touch with Radha, who is in Sydney. If you must know, Radha sometimes read TWB (Hi, Radha...!). Me, Farrah and the girls will be visiting him and his wife Judy next January (while on our way to NZ for Julia's enrolment). They have a holiday home up in the Blue Mountains, which they graciously offered to us for our use.

Friendships built in school last forever. I still meet up with a few of my school friends - I'm sure you remember them, if not their names, then their faces: John (Manuel), Steven (Chong), Douglas (D'Cruz), James (Ayodori). They almost always come to Bapak's house on the 1st day of Raya.

And my Aussie friends - remember the steady stream of Australian students dropping by our house, some of them even staying over? Back then, our house was like a rendezvous point for my backpacker friends who happened to pass through.

Now, through the Internet, I've managed to locate my friends Down Under. Some of my classmates are organizing a class reunion on Feb 24, 2008. That's after more than 30 years. I'm so tempted to go, but it's going to be held in Canberra. I'll be in Australia again on our way back from NZ ... but only as a stopover, two weeks before the reunion date! So close, so close...

They say we will only realise how old we are when we start to reminisce. By that measure then, I am from the Jurassic period. Wasn't that when the Stegosaurus roamed the Earth?


pi bani: you know, when i went t UiTM, I had a cultural shock. so many Malays from all over...but, of course, i adapted.

thanks for visiting..

cheryl: yes..indeed, i do agree. if we were all the same colour, they'd be looking at other differences to be petty about.

puteri: i suppose many factors cause things to change. but, i don't fret. we make the best of he situation.
it can be difficult but thank God, not everyone is a bigot.

shana: thank you...i think in my old age, i start reflecting on my life wa back when....sigh..

meesh: yes....we just like people whom we like....

sue: yeah, babeh..i'll always be a budak in my dad's eyes...


abu rabu (abang med): yah-lah... sorry... i think it is douglas d'cruz.
he was really cool...
how nice that u are still in contact with radha...
wasn't kar beng working in a bank?
cannot forget his name....francis ooi kar beng..

oh what a pity... u still can visit your friends, you know....

zaitgha said...


From my primary 1 - 4 in Kota Bharu, most of the classes almost had 50 - 50 ratio between malays and other races, but i got the shock of my life when i started year 5 in small town near KL as the school had almost 98% Malay students , and of course i felt so at ease in BBGS though only 11 Malays in my form 1 class...this were years ago and the best times of my life i think...

pleasantly surprised when my boys are as comfortable as i am with other races...maybe like you said its more of the upbringing...my really good friends in the old office are Eurasian, Indian and Chinese and the boys used to have grand time learning how to say my friends' names especially the Eurasian as her name is Charlotte...it went like Chalot, shallot until my friend told them just to call her Aunty C ha ha ha....


zai: just love those days when we were young.
life was a lot simpler then. and not because we were young.
i suppose as we modernise, so many factors come into play.

thanks for visiting, zai.
take care.