The World Anthem

We are all of one Race, the Human Race.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


a brief history of kuala lumpur by E.S. Shankar

(click on pics for enlarged view)


a rose by any other name

Kuala Lumpur or ‘Mud of the Estuary’ at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers does not sound a very exotic or thrilling name. Unlike say, Rio de Janeiro. The name is not pretty, like Osaka, or historic and ancient, like Cairo or Rome. No, its forefathers could have done a lot better. Babylon! Now there’s an exotic name to conjure up visions of greatness, magic, mystery and excitement. Nebuchadnezzar of the Hanging Gardens. Nimrod of the Tower of Babel.

But then they say civilization began at the confluence of two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates which flow through Iraq.

There is, therefore, divinity in mud and in its ooze and slime. Therein lies Kuala Lumpur's greatness. All agree that life began from a kind of mud-slime. According to Hindu legends, the mystery of creation and the history of pisces, amphibian, avian, animal, proto-man and human lie buried deeply in The Dasavatharam, the ten most popular avatars of Lord Vishnu:

Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise, amphibious,), Varaha (Wild Boar, avian, land beast), Narasimha (beast-man-god), Vamana (boy-Man), Parasurama (anti-warrior Man), Sri Rama (righteous Man), Sri Krishna (intellectual Man), Buddha (self-realised Man) and Kalki (destroyer and dissolution Man).

Kuala Lumpur. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name smells just as sweet!

chasing the dragon

In his 1821 ‘Confessions of an English Opium Eater’ Thomas de Quincey traces his addiction to his first innocent purchase of a ‘tincture of Opium.’ An acquaintance had recommended that he buy it from a pharmacy in Oxford Street, London. The druggist had describes it as ‘unconscious minister of celestial pleasures.’ Quincey had only wanted something to ease a combination of gastric, tooth and rheumatic pains and aches. Instead, he discovers a panacea and experiences a ‘high’ the fantastic delightful likes of which he has never before experienced. Being the honest intellectual that he is, Quincey goes on to describe in some length and detail the horror and nightmare of drug addiction.

Aldous Huxley, the Oxford educated author of ‘Brave New World’ wanted to go beyond the normal perception levels of the human brain. Huxley made a case that the creative output from writers, artists and scientists could be revived and enhanced especially when they hit a ‘wall’ in their careers. Huxley’s personal experiences under controlled conditions are recounted in his ‘Doors of Perception’ and Heaven and Hell. He had experimented with hallucinogenic drugs such as Mescaline.

Carlos Castaneda’s purported experiences with Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian shaman who introduces him to peyote, mescaline, had better be true. Otherwise he is a prime candidate for strait-jacket and asylum. He describes flights through time and dimensions and encounters with unheard of strange creatures and beings. His accounts are the most fantastic of modern times.

However, it would be a mistake to conclude that experimentation with drugs for recreation and mind enhancement purposes are new ideas.

King Puru who was instrumental in the unwinding of the Mahabharatha, was a descendant of Soma, son of Prajapati Atri. Soma was the founder of the Moon or Chandra Dynasty. But Soma was also the immortality-giving drink of the Devas of India as well as Iran! It was synthesized in ancient times possibly from psychedelic mushrooms. The Rishis of the Vedas and Upanishads were known to drink Soma to lift their consciousness and meditation levels to new heights. The effects of Soma increased when consumed during the full moon period!

So, are these claims by Quincey, Huxley, Castaneda and the Vedas really all that wild?

What then gave the impetus for Portuguese, Dutch and British trade in opium and the smuggling of it to China in the 1800’s? They were certainly not anchored on lofty ideals of scientific curiosity or achieving significantly fresh break-through in writing, the humanities or science. No sirree! It was based on pure greed. Simple selfish Economic motives.

China was a rich source of silk, jade, porcelain, spices and tea. The insatiable appetite of Europe and Britain for these commodities led to a huge deficit in balance of trade in favour of China. Settlement of the deficit was in silver which the British found getting scarcer and scarcer.

At this juncture, I pose a fair question. What would the reaction be today should Colombia suggest Britain takes Heroin to settle a huge balance of trade deficit between the two countries, serviced by the Medellin Cartel with perhaps some assistance from Taliban terrorists to even out their economic problems? Could we perhaps envisage riots in the streets of London followed by a United Nations Security Council resolution for Trade Embargo against Colombia?

Well, this is the irresistible irrefusable offer that the British Consiglieri stuffed in a suckling pig’s head with apple in mouth and trimmings and all and slipped into the Qin (pronounced 'Chin') Emperor's bed in 1834. Take Opium or take Opium!

The Chinese knew a thing or two about the little poppy seed ever since the early 16th century when Opium dens sprung up in Canton (now Guandong) and Shanghai. About how, once addicted to Opium it was only a matter of time before post-graduate experimentation would began in ‘chasing the dragon.’ They had shed rivers of tears over the debilitating effect opium had on individuals, families and society as a whole. It was therefore totally unsurprising that after two hundred years of abuse, the Qin Emperor of the Manchu Dynasty banned opium in 1729.

But the British continued to encourage the smuggling of Opium to China from India as though it didn’t matter. Their attitude seemed to be ‘After all we rule the waves. It’s your bitch. You deal with it!’ or something like that!

The Two Opium Wars between China and Britain between 1834 -1860 and The Taiping Wars saw the decline of the mighty 4,000 year old Chinese monarchy. They were undone by Britain, France and Russia to the point in 1911 when the Chinese monarchy was completely destroyed. Never mind how many million Chinese were killed in the process. The British, I suspect, had more than just business motives and tea in mind although that’s what Lord Ha Ha or whoever, wrote.

Yap Ah Loy a.k.a. Yap Tet Loy, a Hakka member of the Hai San Triad and son of a peasant was born on 14th March 1837 in Canton. Ah Loy, who never attended school, left China for Melaka in 1854, having learnt one important lesson from the British.

There’s Gold in them there Poppy hills!

the opium trail

‘You see ah, there’s this great dambig invisible dragon which has its fire-breathing mouth facing Genting Highland. Which explain why the flow of money at the casino never stop one. The tail and backside of the dragon is howrever resting in Ampang Valley. Now you know why we have so many landslide one, especially the Highland Towers tragedy. The Feng Shui is very bad, very very bad for Ampang. You dontch belief, this very scientific one.’

Hindsight is always 20:20, never mind the Manglish!

But then this Ampang, meaning a dam or bund to divert water for irrigation, in the Hulu Langat district of the state of Selangor is where it all began in 1857.

Raja Abdullah bin Raja Jaafar who had Bugis roots from Riau in Sumatra gave tin mining rights in the jungles of Ampang to 87 Hakka Chinese. Sixty-nine of them died from malaria within a year. Klang Valley as such did not exist then. But Kuala Lumpur or KL which started as a frontier town from Ampang did not look back, driven forward by world demand for tin. British presence in the west coast states of Malaya was already quite pervasive. They recognised a bonanza when they smelled one and needed an intermediary to deal with the Sultan of Selangor, his chiefs and the Chinese miners. Hiu Siew, a diplomat cum godfather figure was appointed the first Kapitan China of KL by the British.

The busy Raja Abdullah also leased Klang to W.H. Read and Tan Kim Ching who as a result automatically secured rights over tax collections. Raja Mahdi, son of the previous administrator of Klang, justifiably refused to recognise any encroachment by foreigners on his territory. His prompt declaration of war was tacitly supported by the incumbent Sultan Abdul Samad.

After several failures and near-bankruptcy in Melaka, Yap Ah Loy made his way up to Sungai Ujong and Lukut in Selangor in 1856. He worked there as a kitchen help in a tin-mine. Soon he rose to the position of head fighter or Kung Fu Si Fu (Kung Fu Enforcer) under the second Kapitan China, Liu Ngim Kong. In 1868, age 31, Yap Ah Loy, through sheer industriousness, succeeded as the third Kapitan China of KL.

When civil war broke out in Selangor in 1870 there were two clear factions. Mahdi and his chiefs stood on one side and Raja Abdullah, Yap Ah Loy and Tengku Kudin on the other. The Tengku was a Kedah prince who had married into the Selangor royal family. He counted as his friend Andrew Clark, the Governor of the Straits Settlement. Ah Loy also locked horns with Chong Chong who had an eye on the Kapitan China’s lucrative post. British might combined with Ah Loy’s battle savvy warriors inflicted a crushing blow on Mahdi and his forces in 1874. Mahdi fled to Johor. But Sultan Samad did not see eye to eye with Tengku Kudin and froze him out.

The British were only able get a firm foothold in Selangor in November 1875. Sultan Samad himself consented to the appointment of JG Davidson as the first British Resident of Selangor. This had less to do with any genuine affection for the British and more to do with securing protection from marauding Sumatran pirates.

Yap Ah Loy passed away on 1st September 1884 after a very successful tenure as the greatest Kapitan China in Malaya.

The crucial question is of course, who founded Kuala Lumpur?

‘Founded’ must be just about the most misused English word when applied in conjunction with ‘History.’ Did Francis Light really ‘found’ Penang when the presence of native Malay settlers was evident centuries before 1786? Or Stamford Raffles, Singapore in 1819, when ‘Singapura’ was recorded in the 1612 Sejarah Melayu and ‘Temasik’ in earlier Ming records? Or Columbus, America, when he never set foot on mainland USA and there were native Indians in San Salvador, Cuba and Colombia? And what about Cook and Australia when the Australian Aborigine has been criss-crossing his ‘Dream Time' world for over 30,000 years!

Raja Abdullah and Yap Ah Loy both have a legitimate claim. Possibly, even Sultan Samad for being the power on the throne. This is thrown into further confusion with a claim staked by Sutan Puasa from Sumatra. He led the Mandailing of Acheh who had their own language and writing. The Mandailing, now largely absorbed into the Malay community, had originally settled in the 1800’s in Papan, Perak. Puasa claimed that had sent Hiu Siew and Ah Sze Keldek, the first Chinese tin traders and miners, to Ampang.

We have to keep matters in perspective. Ah Loy was the third Kapitan China of KL, not the first. A large measure of Don Ah Loy’s skills lay in expertise acquired as a member of the Hai San Triad. He not only ensured frontier-style but effective justice, peace and order among the 10,000 Chinese of various ethnicities and clans in KL. He also guaranteed safe passage for the transport of tin ore down the Klang River by sampan and barges for export. However, the usual Triad menu of money-lending, gambling, alcohol, protection, prostitution and monopoly on opium and opium dens were on offer as well. It was not unknown for some members of the Malay royalty of those days to occasionally while away their leisure hours in YAL’s opium dens such being the case in Larut as well.

This is not to suggest that Ah Loy slipped everything into his back pocket. The first Chinese school in KL was built in High Street in 1884. The grand Sin Sze Si Ya Temple was erected in Jalan Hang Kasturi. The first steam pump was introduced to Malaya. All these owed much to Ah Loy’s philanthropy and foresight. He developed land and owned perhaps a quarter of all the buildings in KL then.

He was mainly responsible for the stunning recovery of the Tin Mining industry after the civil war. When KL burned down in 1881 he chipped in with the lion’s share to the rebuilding of it. He contributed immensely to the rapid growth of the commercial metropolis. In this he was also aided by Thamboosamy Pillay, his business partner Yap Ah Shak and the last Kapitan China, Yap Kwan Seng, after all of whom roads have been named in KL.

Thamboosamy was a founder of Victoria Institution, a school built in 1893 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year celebrations. He also developed the modern tourist attractions of Batu Caves and the Maha Mariamman Temple.

Yap Ah Loy had a vision for KL the two previous Kapitan China, and possibly the rest of Selangor as well, did not have an inkling to.

At worse, Raja Abdullah can be granted the title of ‘Founder of Kuala Lumpur.’ But history books written by our very own Malaysian historians in an era when they had no axe to grind, and before over-zealous exuberance set in, had given Ah Loy that title. So, perhaps in true Malaysian spirit and style YAL and RA, joint founders lah? Win-Win paradigm shift compromise? After all, YAL re-built the fire-razed KL?

But to leave Yap Ah Loy’s name completely out of history books?

That would be akin to the omission of Einstein’s name from Relativity in America on the grounds that he came from Nazi Germany. A heresy that could only be compounded by those who claim students are bored with History and confused by too many dates, facts and names in textbooks. That to make History interesting only the essential, concise and compressed ‘true facts’ would be stated. True Facts? A classic example of tautology if ever there was one, which even our learned judges and leading lawyers indulge in!

Does the past really matter? Should revisionist historians be permitted to write whatever they like? After all most of us can’t write or read the England proper any more?

Hell, it does, and like hell they will! Let’s start again as it once did with:

‘In 1400, Parameswara, a Hindu prince whose ancestry was Indian, Malay and Aborigine, fled Palembang in Sumatra, Indonesia when attacked by the Majapahit Empire…..made his way to Singapore…and finally settled in Melaka named after….established the Melaka Sultanate which heralded the Golden Age of Melaka. ….provided the impetus for the spread of Islam in South East Asia. …..Yap Ah Loy, an uneducated Chinese immigrant from Canton in China…..founded Kuala Lumpur after Raja Abdullah boldly sent 87 Chinese miners........’

For surely, there would have been no Kuala Lumpur without the riches and fame of Melaka where Yap Ah Loy first landed on our shores!

The rest, as they say, is HISTORY!

Now, that wasn’t difficult or painful, was it?

The truth never is!

Kuala Lumpur would then stand as a testament to the search for truth, everywhere! It would be universally worshipped and respected for the most noble of aspirations. Truth!

That’s the Kuala Lumpur I grew up in!

Kuala Lumpur, Federal capital of Malaysia. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name smells just as sweet!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

1968 (part3) – hockey and introverts, extroverts and unsung heroes!

Hockey was a team game which VI excelled in, and in Selangor, RMC (Royal Military College) were our main opponents for the championship challenge trophies in most, if not all the finals of the U18 and U20 competitions played between 1966 and 1972. RMC did not compete in the U15 tournaments and the U18 competition was discontinued after 1969.

In later years, after 1970, Selangor was split into North and South zones for all inter-school sports championships. So, there were two inter-zone finals, and the two winners from there met in an end of season clash to determine the State Champions. Even then, as RMC and VI were in the same zone, the winner of our inter-zone decider was really the de facto State Champion, since the gulf bewteen these two giants and all other schools was very wide indeed! At national level though, the best schoolboy players emerged from High School in Melaka and Anderson, King Edward VII and Clifford High School in Perak.

The coach for all the hockey squads was Mr.Leonard De Vries who was also the school’s Sports Master. More than that, he also coached the Cricket teams and captained the succesful VI teams that participated in the State Navaratnam Shield competition. Lenny, a M'sian Eurasian (of Portuguese descent), was outstanding throughout his tenure in VI as teacher, disciplinarian, mentor and Sports Master. He commanded the respect of every student who came into contact with him. In 1970, he left for Canada to earn his PhD in Sports Science. Dr.Leonard De Vries was at one time attached to the Sports Science Faculty of USM Penang and is now President of the Malaysian Association of Sports Education, Sports Science and Fitness. He also consults for the National Sports Council (NSC).

As with all our coaches, whether they were at it full-time or part-time, nothing was done by halves. We had the best equipment – Karachi King Super sticks primed with olive oil – and the best maintained practice pitches which were also the venues for home fixtures. This was the era in which hockey was played universally on grass pitches for which every team had as di rigeur at least 3 players in the forward line who had good to wizard-level thrilling stickwork artistry and control, and two from the defence (usually comprising the two full backs) as short corner (whacking) and long corner conversion specialists.

We trained in all weather and conditions. Come rain or shine, we practiced without fail on Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays. Nothing short of a typhoon would disrupt these sessions. Lenny was competent technically as well as practically. Practice sessions would always start at 4 p.m. with 45 minutes minutes of warming up and loosening up routines followed by muscle strengthening exercises such as press ups, half and full sit-ups, duck walks with the arm fully stretched out and sprints up and down the slopes surrounding the school field. For speed and stamina, there were compulsory circuits round the 400m tracks and at least one 3 ½ mile cross-country run every two weeks.

There was one golden rule. Regardless of whatever exercise it was, the hockey stick remained firmly grasped in the right palm! Even if you had the Big Call for toilet, you took the stick with you. Stick bonding was encouraged to an extent we were told that it was positively NOT KINKY to go to bed at night with hand wrapped tightly around one’s favourite hockey stick!

We would then swing into ball dribbling, passing, flicking, scooping and stickwork sessions in groups of three, e.g the right winger, right inside left and right half would form one group and pratice these moves in triangular formations up and down the field. An hour or so would then be spent on actual play. The early-season squad comprised some 2 dozen enthusiasts vying for the limited places in the final team and so full blown games took place with everyone trying to outdo the others to impress Lenny.

When the squad was finally whittled down to 13, the practice sessions became more intense and exacting with the experienced attacking forwards taking on the seasoned mid-fielders like centre half Balraj and full-backs like Yoong Fong and Peng Keong. The final half hour of practice was spent on short and long corner tactics where it was always my job to push the ball from the back-line of the ‘D’ or slam it from the long corner, to the designated stoppers and hitters waiting at the top of the ‘D’. We also practiced taking penalty ficks which rarely ever came into contention in inter-school games.

The only protection the players had against wayward and airborne balls leaving the hockey blades of the super, speed of light slammers and hitters, were the triangular shaped hard plastic guards they would tuck into the inside front of their undies to protect their family jewels! Additionally, the goalkeeper would have on a pair of leg pads and an over-sized glove for his right hand for his safety. But it really was a miracle that in all those years no-one had a really serious or fatal injury from the intentionally or unintentionally hit rising solid hockey ball. Once, it took a week for my thigh muscles to fully unlock from a ball struck into it at close quarters. On another occassion, I was side-lined for the last quarter of a game when a feather of a touch from an opponent’s stick caused intense bleeding from a gash over my eyebrow; in an instance the swelling had caused my left eye to close! But next evening, I was back on the hockey field.

The final 13 in that 1968 U15 Hockey Team included one, Raja Azlan and another, A.R.Hariharan, more popularly known as ‘Pedro’. They represented two contrasting personalities as you are ever likely to see in 1 team. Azlan was the diminitive quiet, humble and poker-faced introvert to Pedro Hari’s brash, noisy, boisterous, funny and attention seeking extrovert. They both, however, shared a common skill. They were superb hockey players. If I had to choose between the two, I would say Azlan was the more skillful. But Pedro brought a joyful approach to the game that inspired many while he had the rare ability to engender, especially in the 1970 & 1971 senior teams, great team spirit that united the players to a common cause.

Raja Azlan was of course the younger brother of the more illustrious Raja Ahmad, who was joint VI Sportsman of The Year in 1971 (colours in Football, Hockey & Tennis) and a School Prefect from Shaw House. Ahmad was quite popular among the students and was a role model, especially for Malay students. He had a quick smile for everyone, though his habit of hitching up his trousers absent-mindedly was caricaturised by one or two mimics in school. He excelled in Football and Hockey, and represented VI at tennis and cricket as well. After leaving school, he qualified as an ACA and went on to distinguish himself in his illustrious career by becoming managing partner at Ernst & Young M’sia, eventually retiring and settling in Perth, Australia. He also married his high school sweetheart who was the VI Deputy Head Girl in 1972!

Pedro Hari, together with Nazri Aziz, were the only junior players in that ’68 U15 hockey team, and it spoke volumes of their abilities since it would take exceptional talent for a junior to break into our relatively more experienced ranks. Pedro too had an elder brother in school, viz, A.R.Ramachandran (Rama) whom most of ribbed as ‘Corporal’ for many years when he was a stalwart of the Cadet Corps and in the Army. Rama, (Major Ret’d), now has of course paid his dues to King and Country, having done a stint in dangerous Bosnia. Rama had been an enthusiatic hockey player in Form 1, but competition for places in the championship teams was always intense. Nevertheless many who fell by the wayside in the weeding out process remained loyal, keen and enthusiastic supporters who came to cheer the team at every occassion we played. Such was the character building and its results that pervaded almost everything we did while in VI.

In our opening championship game of the season, Pedro outshone the rest of us. I was the leading scorer in all the friendly games and was expected to carry the torch for the whole season with centre forward and captain Chung Kian. We were 4-0 up against Maxwell Road School at half-time, and Pedro, playing as left winger had slammed in 3 of those goals, the fourth emerging from a Yoong-Fong-Peng Keong short corner murderous whack into the roof of the net! When the 2nd half commenced, I knew my reputation would take a big hit if I did not buck up! Soon enough, with the help of some solid assists from Balraj, Azlan and Chun Kian, I knocked in 2 goals and breathed a sigh of relief! The match ended with us thrashing Maxwell 9-0 with more goals from Fong-Peng Keong, Pedro and Azlan.

After the game, we had a pep-talk from Lenny who had also called over some of the senior players like Tharmasegaran, D. Krishnan, Satchinathan and Tan Lip Tiong (School Hockey Captain) from the U20 squad. And then Lenny sang Pedro Hari’s praises to the skies:

“Do you all know that in hockey the most difficult position to play is at left wing? And the only junior in the junior most squad gave us a perfect demonstration today of how to play in this most difficult of positions. He speeds down the flank outstripping Maxwell’s entire defence and then slams in 3 goals, all from the top left hand corner of the D! The keeper didn’t have a ghost of a chance....” Lenny went on about it all season.

But more than Pedro Hari’s magic, it was Azlan’s stickwork wizardy that had caugh my eyes. It had not put in much of an appearance during all those training sessions and friendly games. Yet here, when and where it mattered, Azlan showed flashes that had us gasping! Where had it come from? Did he have a personal coach or practiced elsewhere secretly? Or had he been possessed? But there it was, two oustanding performances; one from the introvert and one from the extrovert that had us all shaking our heads in wonderment!

But more was to come. The U15 Trophy finals was played in early April against St.Johns at the Gurney Road School grounds. We went into the match as favourites.

By half-time we were 1-0 ahead. Technically the goal was mine, but morally it had ‘Raja Azlan’ written all over it. Azlan had picked up a pass from me just inside St. John’s half and run through SJ’s entire defence before cracking it at goal. The SJ keeper’s stick got a thick edge to the ball as he rushed out and it was touch and go whether the ball would cross the line. That’s when I pounced on it and slammed it to the backboard of the goal with a resounding thwack. In the second half, having done all the hard work in earning it, horrors of horrors, I missed a penalty stroke! Sallehuddin quietly walked up and firmy asked me to make sure I compensated for that diabolical miss. Towards the end of the game we went 2-0 up and who else should put the icing on the cake but Raja Azlan, with yet another dazzling solo run from my through pass!

Two years later in 1970 when he was in Form 5 and VI was joint Champions with RMC, Raja Azlan produced two outstanding goal-scoring runs that had even the Form 6 players va-va ing him. One was in the semi-final game against Klang High School (played at KHS's grounds) with yet another stirring solo goal run and finish to draw level at 1-1, though we eventually won 6-1. The other was in a scintillating 1-1 drawn friendly game (played at the YMCA grounds in Brickfields) against what was virtually the entire Selangor State Team, when Azlan, dwarfed by the giants, produced the goal of the season.

Given sufficient push and encouragement, I’m sure Raja Azlan would have gone far in hockety, possibly even made it to the national team. But sadly, we lost track of him after 1970 when he left VI for further studies. I spoke to him once in 1974 about turning up for the VI Old Boys Hockey Team for the VIOBA vs VI annual fixture. But he lamented to me that ‘VI is not the same anymore. Standards have dropped. The old VI spirit is not there...” and I have not spoken to him or seen him since.

As for Pedro Hari, we are still in touch with each other, through Facebook, Rama, Balraj and our Year Group with other hockey pals and many from the classes of 1970 and 1972. I recall that in the 1971 hockey final against RMC, Pedro Hari was carried out on a stretcher half way through the game, struck by a mysterious knee twinge or spasm and never recovered to be his old speedy winger self again!

Among those I have lost touch with are Chun Kian, Sallehuddin and Che Azmi Bux. It’s still a mystery to me why Che Azmi Bux who lived in Lorong Cheong Yoke Choy near Cochrane Road School was called Che Azmi Bux. Was there a Pakistan connection? Recently though, when a group of us had a 'Buka Puasa' session at RSC Dataran, Abdul Hamid mentioned in passing that Che Azmi Bux had a successful career as an accountant, was a bit reclusive and had settled down in Jordan!

And can anyone confirm if goalkeeper Nazri is the same person as our current Law Minister? I heard he joined MCKK after his Form 5 in VI.

Our teams often achieved great results with timely glorious performances from unsung heroes like Raja Azlan and Pedro Hariharan, even as they were surrounded by other popular stars and poster boys.

And what do these events and memories matter or where do they figure, I posed earlier.

Well, in last week's reunion of the VI classes of 1970/72, I noted that most of those who attended the get together for Michael Nettleton who hails these days from Notthingham, UK and is Sr Biz Development Manager at CIBA-Geigy, were also there in 1968. The more quiet and reserved guys like the Jalils, Hamids, Morzalis, Kong Voons, Thirus, Darwis', Sadasivams, Dave Chans, Kok Keongs etc. may not always articulate it well, but they came because they belonged. They came because they wanted to. They came because we wanted them to.

And in an increasingly global world where Government policies as much as population explosions push us to anonymity and obscurity, it's good to know and be known, have friends with whom we shared wonderful experiences and be glad the other person is still alive. The individual is not forgotten or discarded with the passage of time.

Here's a 1 Malaysia most of the current crop of politicians have not a clue to!

We are all of 1 race, the Human Race

Saturday, 3 October 2009

1968 (part 2) - for what is a memory worth?


What does it really matter what happened 40 years ago in an inter-school football or hockey match? Or that Jaspal and Mahendran were top students and Yoke Kee and Chin Seong were ‘Maths Kings!’. Yet surprisingly it was not R.Pathmanathan who won the prize for General Paper on which I had an eye, but it was Yap Siew Peng who later married our classmate Chew Yoong Fong? Why do I remember rakishly handsome but shy Aw Kok Teng (now Dr.) or Chua Swee Hong (RRI) who was class monitor in my senior year and that Sallehuddin lost to Mike Nettleton in the 100m hurdles clash. I sometimes wonder in the wee hours of the night if these personal memories and markers have any place at all in the greater scheme of things? Maybe, maybe not.

But when you are in your early teens, boys especially, live in a narrow selfish world of their own, defined by wants and needs and gathering glory from shining in the field or in class or being Chairman of the Science & Maths Society or Arts Union. I was no different from my peers then.

It was of earth-shaking importance to me then that I excel in the football match against Malay College Kuala Kangsar. There was no doubt we had one of the best U15 football squads ever and we played with the confidence of the Brazil Team of 1970 which boasted the great Pele, Tostao, Rivelino and Jairzinho. We knew if the opposition scored 10 goals, we would score 11 and win it! But we underestimated what we had to contend with at MCKK!

As posted earlier, we arrived at KK by train early morning on Friday 15th March and walked over to the ground floor dormitory at the school hostel. Double bunk beds were neatly stacked around the room for the seniors while we, the juniors, had mattresses with clean sheets and pillows laid out neatly on the floor. There was a small room with bed and amenities for Cikgu Othman, out chief coach. We did not bother to shower, exhausted as we were from the long journey, and flopped straight on to our allotted matresses after receiving instructions on where the toilets and showers were and where to assemble next morning for breakfast which comprised bread, butter, jam and 2 half boiled eggs to which we added light soya sauce, white pepper and dunked our bread in. For lunch and dinner we sat at special tables designated for us in the same huge ‘mess’ as for students of MCKK, which was a fully residential school for Malays only. The food was the usual rice with fried fish or meat with 1veg and curry gravy, mee hoon or fried rice with soup and fruits for dessert; quite forgettable!

The next morning, we had a light work out from 9 to 11. After luch and noon rest, we followed up with shooting practice, tactical manoeuvres and discussions from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m on the field. Dinner was at 7.30 p.m.and the day came to an end with team pep talk by Cikgu Othman and an early night. Our part-time coach, ex-VI School and Football Captain, Tan Kim Chuan, would not arrive until the game had commenced the next afternoon due to some personal commitments. There was no time to walk around the MCKK premises or wander into the town I had never visited before. But ‘Silver’ or Selvaraj, our senior squad goalkeeper and I had a pleasant re-union with S.Ahmad under whose captaincy I had been part of the U11 soccer squad at Pasar Road English School 1 in 1964. Ahmad had won a scholarship to MCKK and played for their senior football team.

Shortly after midnight, we were all awoken by the thunderous noise of a hockey game staged on the wooden floor of the dormitory right above ours by a large group of boisterous, noisy and hyped up MCKK students. Some 30 or 40 MCKK students engaged in this most important nocturnal fixture which was played with several hockey balls. They were poor hockey players, because more often than not, they would crash their sticks on the wooden floor or the walls. This went on for about an hour despite our senior players walking upstairs to confront the recalcitrants. Then Othman tracked down the MCKK Hostel Warden to lodge an urgent complaint to cease and desist, which they did. But after about half an hour, the night hockey game resumed.

Othman, clearly furious at this deliberately unsporting conduct, then got us all to pack up lock, stock and barrel. We staged a 2 a.m. walk out to the MCKK sports pavilion, while Othman proceeded to track down and confront the MCKK HM, who of course, spluttered and sputtered, denying any knowledge of pre-planned underhanded tactics by MCKK. Peace was eventually restored as we went back to our dorm and beds. But when you are that age, you could stay awake the whole night and still perform miracles on the field the next day. We headed for the football field next morning at 9 for an hour of warm up exercises and then back to the dorm for rest as well as oiling aching muscles with Chinese ‘horse oil’, polishing boots and getting stockings, jersey and shorts ready for the match of our lives.

The U15 game kicked off under a blazing mid-afternoon sun at 3.00 p.m. on that Saturday. The senior U20 clash would commence at 5.00 p.m. All players wore Adidas leather boots with short studs. We completely dominated play. Half way through the first 45 minutes came my moment of glory.

I picked up the ball from half way on the right, exchanged a 1-2 with Mokhtar Dahari and then looked up, saw the MCKK goalkeeper strangely out of position and unleashed what I thought was a Rivelino-like thunderbolt away to his far left corner. But horrors, my foot half jammed on the turf and a tame shot headed towards goal. Fortunately for me, the MCKK keeper made a monumental error of judgement. He dived too early and the ball slowly floated to the back of the net. We were 1 nil up! The roar was tremendous from VI supporters as Simon Yap ran on to the field to congratulate me and I could hear from way back the voice of our coach Kim Chuan screaming ‘That’s it! I told you. Take a shot!” as he entered the grounds having just made his way to MCKK from KL.

It was something that Kim Chuan would constantly drum into the heads of those of us in the forward line during practice sessions – Yoong Fong, Sallehuddin, myself, Chung Kian, Mokhtar and Michael. ‘Don’t always do the predictable. If dribbling and passing don’t work, once in a while, just take a wild shot at goal!’ By half time we were 2-0 up courtesy of a header from Chung Kian and coasting home comfortably mid-way in the second half when disaster struck. The local referee awarded 2 penalties in succession to MCKK and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

The reason I complain is that the VI teams of those years were coached to play to the highest of sporting standards, We would NEVER, and I mean NEVER, engage in ANY ‘professional foul’, pull jerseys, dive in the penalty box or feign injury. Deliberately committing the most innocuous of fouls to gain an unfair advantage was unheard of in our ranks! It was a sure fix and everyone on the grounds in MCKK that day knew it!

After the game, we headed back to the dorm and that’s where I encountered the astonishing scene of N.Indran, our U15 Captain and close friend, sobbing his guts out on his mattress, as he was being consoled by Kim Chuan. I mean sure, we had not won; but neither had we lost. Moral victory was ours more so since it was an away game. But 15 year old boys rarely have the mind for uttering healing words and I walked over and mumbled something like ‘It’s okay man, let’s go grab a coke. And oh, I managed to exchange a couple of our jerseys with the MCKK players,” and then quickly grabbed a towel and headed for the showers.

The U20 team also drew their game 1-1, though there were no contentious refereeing decisions in that game.

Two weeks later we encountered La Salle Sentul in the finals of the Selangor Inter-Schools U15 Football Championships. We had defeated them 2-1 earlier in the preliminary games. But Mickey Yap, Raymond D’Silva and Shubon of La Salle were not satisfied that the best team had won and so the re-match had an edge as we gathered at Imbi Road Postals Grounds for the showdown.

Early preparations for the season involved Centralised Training at school. This meant the senior and junior squad members were bivouacked in the junior refectory/study room for a whole week. We slept on thin mattresses placed over long study tables and brought our own pillows, blankets and mosquito coils and burners! Overhead ceiling fans (air-conditioners had not been installed yet) were no match for the mosquitoes at night! More than one player had a close shave with the blades of the ceiling fans as they absentmindedly stood on the table-beds.

The school paid for all our meals. Breakfast and lunch were at the school canteen, with special ‘energising’ meals prepared by tuckshopmanboss’s family. For dinner we were given an allowance of $1.50 per head and would pool our money and head for the ‘Mushroom’ open-air restaurant opposite Stadium Merdeka or further down to the mamak, wan tan mee, chap fan and char koay teow stalls near Rex Theatre and Petaling Street, while cheerfully singing:

Inilah barisan kita,

Yang ikhlas berjuang.
Siap sedia berkorban,
Untuk ibu pertiwi!
Sebelum kita berjaya,
Jangan harap kami pulang!
Inilah sumpah pendekar kita,
Menuju Medan Bakti!
Andai kata kami gugur semua,
Taburlah bunga diatas pusara!
Kami mohon doa,
Malaysia berjaya!
Semboyan telah bebrbunyi,
Menuju medan bakti!
Team spirit was fantastic and we truly believed we could take on the world. Wake up call was 5.45 a.m. and after morning ablutions it was off to the field for warm up exercises, cross-country runs or 10 fast circuits of the 400m tracks for stamina building, or up and down the slopes of the school field for strengthening leg muscles and working at ball skills. We would head for the common showers at the school hostel at 7.15 and then to the tuck shop for a breakfast of bread, kaya, half or full boiled eggs and milk, coffee or tea and have to be in class by latest 7.45 a.m which was 15 minutes after classes commenced for other students.

The afternoon training sessions commenced at 3.30 and included shooting practice at the wall and interminable set pieces and tactical plays. No one missed these sessions because a daily report would be handed in to HM Murugasu, who was himself often there from 5-7 in the evenings, monitoring the progress of suspected laggards. It it rained, training sessions were moved to the School Hall. By the second day of these intensive training sessions, the juniors in particular, were ready to cry ‘Mama’ and head for home from the isolation, unfamiliar routines as well as aches all over the body! ‘Centralised training’ excuses were not tolerated by teachers or HM where homework and assignments were concerned!

Part of Centralised Training involved being imbued with the principles of sportsmanship. We not only practiced hailing '3 cheers' at the top of our voices to the opposition after each game ended regardless of who won or lost, we also practicesd '3 cheers to VI' at the beginning of each match as well! More than that, we would shake hands with and thank the referee, linesmen and teacher in charge of the opposing school teams.

But that game against La Salle stands out in my mind for several reasons. For one, coach Kim Chuan put me in the reserves for the first half! This had never ever happened to me before. I had always been a first choice player. Captain Indran and right winger Yong Fong expressed their dissent and misgivings to me privately (we had played together in the same teams for some 6 years) but no one dared question the coach’s decision publicly. My commitment to the team was not questioned either and I had been dreaming of scoring a goal or two in that final game of the season or somehow making a mark. I just knew I had a date with destiny. But this? In the reserves? Kim Chuan never explained that odd decision. Maybe it was reverse psychology?

In any event leftie Michael Nettleton who was great fun during centralised training, came on in place of me as left winger for the first half and almost put us ahead with a stinger that just cleared the bar! Wild horses could not have held me back for the second half as Indran signalled to me to replace Mike after a quick pow-wow with Kim Chuan. As was customary, I had no hesitation in shaking hands with Mike and thumping his back and cheering him up with ‘Well played!” Three years of training and playing together had built up a degree of camaradarie and mutual respect that could not be erased easily. Besides, we shared a common bond. We had both been caned-lashed on the hand by Valentine Manuel for my borrowing a textbook from Mike!!

I had no doubt it would happen. A number of of times I took on La salle's Mickey Yap who played at right back and set him up by making the dash always down the left flank, to his right, and appearing to fail to get past him. Then when the opening came, I looked up at Indran with whom I had an almost  telepathic understanding after so many years. I signalled to him with my eyes to send a through ball to Mickey’s left and in an instant I had left Mickey for dead. I ran round him, collected the ball, cut back to leave Mickey completely bewildered, hared down the flank and sent a low cross to the near post, to who else but Mokhtar Dahari! He did a magical shimmy and coolly slotted the ball over the line to the back of the net amidst a melee of tangled arms and legs and shouts of "block him!”. We had the lead! Ten minutes later Chung Kian made it 2-0 and that’s the way the match ended. The trophy was indisputably ours! Eddy Ee Beng Yew's peformance as goalkeeper was outstanding throughout the season as was the rock solid defence of Indran and Shook Keong, but there is no doubt it was a sterling team effort that led to success!

We sang with gay abandon in the tuckshopmanboss' van all the way back to the school tuckshop where we mixed fizzy concoctions of coke, 7-up and pepsi in the cauldron of the championship trophy and drank to glory while Mike emptied a bottle of Root Beer over my head and we whooped and laughed and talked again and again about Mike’s missed stinger and that through pass from Indran and that moment of wizardry from Mokhtar that justified our 3 months of sacrifice and hard work. Even tuckshopmanboss joined in the celebrations and ordered an extra round of pop drinks and curry puff for us!

Then an hour later, when we had exhausted our mutual ego-massaging, we packed up, broke up and I cycled for home with Mokhtar and Indran.

(Once before, Mokhtar, who lived in Malay Settlement Kampong Pandan Dalam, and I had nearly come to blows over our bicycles. We both had similar looking bicycles parked in the school bicycle shed opposite the swimming pool (this was before it was moved to the shade formed by the side of the swimming pool wall). I had cycled home for lunch and returned to school for afternoon football practice where I found a furious looking Mokhtar and his minder, beefy Prem Sagar, waiting at the shed. It transpired that my bike keys could also open Mokhtar’s bike lock and I had mistakenly taken home his bike! Mokhtar had panicked thinking his precious bike had been stolen and he would have a tought time explaining matters to his father. Anyway we got over that misunderstanding after some choice words from Mokhtar and menacing gestures from Prem! And it’s not surprising Prem Sagar, who later played rugby for school and was noted for his enthusiasm and commitment to the team, ended up working for the Police Force in S’pore).

The next Monday, Kim Chuan and R.Seshan were presented during School Assembly with our trophies of appreciation for their mentoring. 

And that was that. I never played soccer for VI after that year. You could just about manage it at U15 level, but NOT still play wearing spectacles against much bigger guys at U18 and U20 levels.

And, oh yes! Mickey Yap, Raymond D'Silva and Shubon Sinha Roy who were all outstanding footballers and athletes in their own right, enrolled at VI the following year!! Raymond D'Silva will always be remembered as VI's mercurial left-winger whose dribbling skills and bursts of speed drew gasps of astonishment wherever he played. A couple of years later, Mickey Yap played full-back for Malaysian Schools' Football Team which Indran successfully captained in the finals played at Merdeka Stadium.

Shunbon excelled in athletics, particularly in the 400m and 4 x 100 relays.

As for the GREAT Mokhtar Dahari, what is there that I can say about his footballing skills, character, modesty and sincerity as a human being that has not already been documented so extensively elsewhere? It was a privilege to have known and played alongside him! He really began to bloom between 1969-70 when he was first choice in not only football, but also rugby! And, God only knows where he carried weights (it certainly was not at VI), but by the time he was in Form 5, the once '90-pound weakling' looked like he'd been born with body armour. The muscles just bulged out frighteningly!

But I take extra pride in that we knew him at a time when his Malay-ness and our non-Malayness and our religious diversities never ever, not once, ever, came between any of us!!

(to be continued)