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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

1966 - rome was not built in a day!

( Click on picture for enlarged view).

My 14 year old son does not enjoy school. Dammit, that is a crying shame!! In my VI days, I spent more time in school than at home.

My daughter on the other hand, has managed to find a circle of friends and get herself into the school volleyball and cheerleading teams. Girls do mature faster and seem to adjust to school better than most boys.

But the current school system does not seem to actively encourage students to partake in extra-curricular activities. Paper chase is the end all and be all of it. They get there completely through personal initiative or prodding from parents. And that is THE damning indictment of the current schooling system in that it fails to produce enough thinking and all round students.

I was reminded recently by my old VI classmate and buddy Dr.Chew Yoong Foong about a ‘hilarious’ incident involving 1972 Lewis Scholar, Lim Theam Siew. In the ’60’s The Headmaster, Mr.V.Murugasu, would appear in class and personally hand out the Report Cards (RC) to each student at the end of each term. When it came to Theam Siew’s turn, Muru asked, “First in class, first in Form, first in Maths. What games or societies are you involved in, young genius?”

Theam Siew, by now reduced to a quivering mass of jelly croaked, “Nnnone, sssssir!”

To which Muru predictably responded with, “Well, bend down, that’ll be three strokes then!”

I am glad to record that Theam Siew, a lovely fellow, ended his tenure in VI as Co-Editor of the school magazine ‘The Victorian’ and as Secretary of Sultan Abdul Samad House and the Automotive Society. If I am not mistaken, he participated in inter-house debates and science & maths quiz and exhibitions as well.

So, the VI system was very clear. Exam results were of course the main priority. But, you had to be a member of at least one ‘uniform’ group and one society, and if you were not good enough to make it into the School 1st 11 and reserves games’ teams, you had to turn out for the inter-house games. Weekly swimming and twice-a-week PE (Physical Excise) classes and the Annual Cross Country Run (3 1/2 miles) were compulsory for all. If one really had a medical condition, one could get exempted from games, but not from participating in societies, debates, school plays/dramas and exhibitions. Hence, there was no discrimination against those who were physically not suited for sports. At the very least, you had to turn up regularly to cheer and support, the school teams when playing at home or away or your house team or even your Form team in games and debates.

The proof of the pudding was that you had to get your participation acknowledged and signed off by the respective teacher in-charge, in the Report Card BEFORE the RC went to the HM. God forbid the RC should go to Muru with a blank page!

What did all this mean?

Students were compelled to mix. Rarely did anyone remain isolated without a friend or two in school with whom they shared common interests and built up lasting camaraderie and friendship that would surpass school days to the grave. And that is important. When interviewing young applicants for management positions, I have frequently come across many with stellar 3.80 GPA and nothing else. They tend to get defensive when asked whether they participated in any extra-curricular activities while in school or Uni. “What’s so great about sports or scouting?” they would counter, mistaking my line of inquiry. Organizations look for team players, leadership qualities and out-of-the box lateral thinkers and problem solvers. A 3.80 GPA alone will not reveal an interviewee’s ability to fit into corporate culture.

And so it was that we were introduced in 1966 to Debating, by Mrs. Chong. The first topic for the inter-Form 1 debate was ‘Money Is the Root of All Evil’. And she deliberately curtailed the title, leaving some width for the proposers and opposers to take the debate to another level, for Alexander Pope had actually said, 'For the Love of Money is the Root of All Evil' which is a completely different proposition!

Each team comprised 6 students. Speaker 1 (who also did the rebuttal) was allowed 3 minutes since his speech would include the preamble, while Speakers 2 and 3 spoke for 2 minutes each with an 3 additional minutes allowed for the rebuttal. Speakers 4-6, who were there to learn about public speaking, spoke for 1 minute each but their oratory earned no marks for their team. While the 3 teacher-judges totted up the marks, anyone from the audience could step forward and present his views on the topic for the day. There was one over-riding rule and that was no one was allowed to read their speech. They could jot down the main points on a scrap of paper to refer to, but wholesale recital was not permitted. The debate would be presided over by a student Chairman and a time-keeper with wrist-watch and bell. Speakers lost points for exceeding the time limits.

While English was my forte, standing in front of an audience of 90 students and arguing about the pros and cons of money and evil was decidedly not; more so, since students and teachers from other Forms and seniors too would attend for the fun of it. As we were novices, we were fully capable of making ourselves look like the southern view of a northern bound ass, because we had to utter pompous phrases like ‘My honourable speakers from across the floor shed heat, but not light!’ or ‘The Honourable 1st Speaker has a point. That’s all. A point! For 3 whole minutes of verbal diarrhoea?’ You could not dismiss the opposition by saying “You are lying!” or “You are talking through your hat!” or “You are stupid!” with which you often won arguments at home with your younger brother. Here, you had to be logical and/or witty.

The main speakers were Raymond Hui Hoong Fai (perennial teacher’s pet), Mac Kean Boon and Ranjan Nitchingham. The Nitchingham brothers and sister shot to instant fame as the ‘Missing Links’ when they won 1st prize in the ‘Vocal Group’ section the 1970 Talentime competition with their melodious rendition of the Mamas and Papas hit ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’. I was chosen as Speaker 5, with the 4th and 6th being Jaspal Singh (now Engineer and CEO Metroline London) and R.Mahendran (now doctor). That pleased me since even if I screwed up, the marks would not be affected. We had one practice session to polish up our speeches as Mrs. Chong vetted them, especially those of Speakers 1-3 and advised on the possible angles of attack in rebuttal.

The teams gathered for the 1st Olympian debate - 1 North vs 1 South- at the refectory room directly across the road and opposite the permanent tuck shop, at 2.00 p.m. There was much banging of tables and hooting and laughing as most speakers made mistakes in delivery and slip ups in pronunciations.

Then came my turn.

As I pulled out my referral scrap of paper, the audience went absolutely quiet. I was pleased with this respect which is not normally accorded to Speaker 5. Perhaps they knew something about my abilities that I was ignorant of. Anyway, I launched into a vociferous defence of the motion for the day as a proposer and was waffling on about how the evil Rothchilds brokered Word War 1 & 2 for profit (as tutored by my father) when suddenly I got a knuckle knock at the back of my head that stopped me dead in mid-sentence. I was about to shout ‘what the f...!’ as I turned around and immediately froze and gagged up. There was Muru standing right behind me!

Don’t look at the paper, don’t slouch and speak up when debating,” warned Muru as he made his way to the exit. He had been standing behind me from the very second I had stood facing the silent audience!! How from that nadir, dpp emerged the 1st Speaker for the School Debating Team in 1972, must remain a mystery deeper than that of virgin birth! Oh, we would debate about ‘Country Living is Better than City Living’ or ‘Man Proposes, Woman Follows’ and ‘The United Nations is a failure’.

The School Exhibition was held in conjunction with Speech, Concert and Prize Giving Day. Every class had to audition for Speech Day with a presentation; it could be anything – a play, comic routine, solo magic show, song & dance, whatever. Mrs. Chong picked me to mouth the immortal line "Will you marry me?” on bended knee and holding a bouquet of plastic roses to a dolly made-up Chong Ket Chong, in 1 North’s bid for the Oscars. Suffice to say we did not make it to the finals and a promising Hollywood career was dashed at the starting block; for ‘the good is oft interred with the bones’!!

The teachers themselves, as related to me by Mr. Chung Chee Min (CCM ex-Victorian and teacher 1965-67), put up a surprise delightful comedy performance hit for Speech Day Concert 1966 (photo above). The ‘classroom’ sketch was conjured up by CCM with Vinayak Pradahan (1968 School Captain) presiding over as the Form teacher of non-existent class L6A3 whose students’ roles were played by members of VI’s teaching corps such as Edward Dorall, Bernard Koay (who always walked around the school on the balls of his feet as though looking for a fight with anyone, male or female!), Miss Siew Moo Lan and the ever-popular (and ooh, so sexy) Mrs.Lee (sigh!).

The teachers had to rehearse secretly in the staff room after school. There was nowhere else otherwise they would have been seen. Even Che Gu Othman was in the act!

The skit began when the curtain opened with the class seated with their backs towards the audience so they would not recognized. It was a typical scene before the "teacher" arrived: Boys fooling around - CCM was tossing a basketball about, being the school basketball master after all! Then Vinayak entered and they all stood up. And scowling, he gave the "pupils" a dressing down. A few recalcitrant students - Edward Dorall and Bernard Koay - got up to challenge the teacher. And here's every VI boy's (wet) dream: Vinayak gave Bernard a tongue lashing and stared him down. He had turned the tables on Bernard for once and only once ever! In the end, the "teacher" ordered everyone to stand up, line up and march away. This was when the audience got to see the faces and recognize the pupils as the teachers!!

That same concert had Vinayak's class 5B1 winning the senior trophy. They had abandoned their form teacher for advice and turned to CCM to coach them. The item was entitled : "An analysis of humour" a zany look at how we make people laugh using banana skins and cream pies. They had a mad scientist (Vinayak, who else?) supervising experiments on how people slipped on banana skins in the funniest way. The principal guinea pig was plump Radhakrishnan who actually had to fall on a real banana skin. Vinayak's helpers (which included the late human rights advocate Azmi Khalid) scribbled notes furiously with each thud on the floor. The cream pie experiments were hilarious. (The pies were actually shaving cream on paper plates). There was a serial pie throwing sequence and a surprise pie attack on Vinayak himself in the climax, etc. (See photo).

Radha was the younger brother of VI Biology teacher, 'Young Andy' (Anandhakrishnan).

The surprise act at the end of the 1967 concert was the Lion Tamer staff/pupil act (photo above). You will recognize Radha and Donald Lee as "lions" with CCM as the Lion Tamer. CCM was turning the tables on the famous act by using boys to behave as lions. CCM wore a fake beard, making him resemble a lion. It was pronounced the best item actually but they couldn't collect as it was not officially entered as an item.

These were really grand, superb and spectacular affairs, ranging from Cadet Corps Guard of Honour, Band Tattoos, intriguing exhibits from the Arts and Science & Maths societies like paper-mache world maps and manufacturing banana and pineapple scents in the lab, a massive tree house constructed by the Scouts, Red Cross rescue demos and many more which had the crowds thronging the school. In 1972, the Automotive Society came up with ‘Motor Victoria’, an amazing motor scooter. (Whatever happened to Lian Liong Teck, the inventor?). The 1968 75th VI Anniversary celebrations were topped at Speech day with the arrival of the special guest of honour, the beloved ‘Tunku’, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. The Tunku’s wife, Puan Sharifah Rodziah gave away the prizes which unlike the books and trophies of other years, consisted of a specially minted silver medal with the school logo on it. dpp was one of the lucky ones that year!

In 1966, one of the classrooms was converted by the Science & Maths Society into a lab for conducting IQ and Psychology tests, such as the curious Rorschach Inkblot Test. Just as I, who was in Form 1 and dwarfed by seniors, was plucking up enough courage to give the speed reading test a bash, one of the teachers stepped forward to go for it as well. The test consisted of two paragraphs of text typed backwards and your IQ would be graded according to the speed with which you completed the reading. This teacher completed the test and we all stared in awe at him as his score was read out – 150+. Genius level! The teacher was none other than Chung Chee Min. I quietly slunk away in case I turned out the score of Equus Asinus (donkey)!

They came from as far as Penang Fee School and Johor English College; the VI Exhibition Day was something to behold. The piece de resistance was the Fireworks Display put together by the Science & Maths Society. I never found out who started that tradition but the whole effort was awesome since it was all done in-house, from mixing the chemicals and propellants to sourcing bamboo to make strips for the rockets.

There were many other avenues for students to excel in - Basketball, Netball, Tennis (not so popular then), Philately, Photography, Persatuan Bahasa Kebangsaan, Chess, Cultural Society, Scientific Victorian and more. The school regularly produced plays directed by Mr.Edward Dorrall such as ‘Arise O Youth’, ‘Look Back in Anger’ and ‘A Tiger is Loose in Our Community’ with a cast comprising students and teachers with no prior professional experience whatsoever! These plays were also staged at the Town Hall for the general public.

You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. So, they say. But, many in VI discovered and realised latent talents and dormant potential which they developed and honed because the system pushed you beyond the water’s edge, and sometimes just plain threw you in the deep end without a life-jacket. There were the shy ones, the laid back, the unadventurous and the ‘muggers’ types who needed to be told that as far back as the times of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle before 300 BC, scholars were encouraged to engage in oratory, wrestling, gymnastics, the odd drinking binge and a wanton orgy or two!! And that the Olympic Games (776 BC) predated the three philosophers supreme.

(If you have an interest in mythology, you would have read about the slayer of the Gorgon Medusa and the Kraken, Perseus, (son of Zeus and Danae), who the Oracle at Delphi predicted would be responsible for the death of his grandfather Acrisius at the precursor to the Olympic Games at Larissa).

For it is foolish, brave youth which needs to be prodded, dared and challenged to claim Excalibur, slay fire-breathing dragons, win gold fortunes and seduce sexy, golden haired '10' Bo Derek-like maidens fair sporting crazy tantalising rasta plaited hair !

Oh, and where were we? Ah, yes! Older and old men are too careful, hesitant and calculative!

More and more frequently, this education system produced those occasions and those students and those performances that justified all that pushing, pushing and pushing. There was a flurry of max 5A’s HSC, 8A’s Cambridge and 7A’s LCE students and winners of prized Full Colombo Plan Overseas Scholarships, some of whom had to qualify by attending a testing stint at the Outward Bound School Leadership Course.

After all these years, one incident stands out in my mind. That is the Annual VI vs Federal Military College (FMC, now Royal Military College or RMC) Athletics Meet held at the FMC grounds in Sungei Besi, KL, on 25th June 1966. After five long years, VI wrested the Dr.Lewis (VI HM 1956-62) Challenge Trophy back from the clutches of FMC at th end of a full day of rigorous, fair competition. The School Athletics Captain claimed the Trophy and then did not just rush back to do the conga with his team of heroes who had individually and collectively contributed points to the eventual victory. He spun around and walked over to HM, Murugasu, and presented him with the Trophy. Now that was a gesture of pure class and could not have been rehearsed. It was a simple act of spontaneity that had every Victorian there breaking out in applause and cheer.

That athletics captain was none other than the redoubtable and irrepressible Nah Seang Hoo. The older inspired the younger. The baton was passed successfully. We etched it into the ROM/RAM hard discs of our still untouched muggy brains!

Sadly, the VI-FMC Meet was discontinued after 1966. But the tradition to excel had its roots in as far back as 1955 when Mani Jegathesan (later Dr.M.Jegathesan, who, at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, became the 1st M’sian ever to qualify for the 200m semi-finals) joined VI for a year, and the legendary 1936 ‘Hitler Olympics’ Quadruple Gold Medallist and black sprinter Jesse Owens visited VI for a coaching clinic as did Olympian Parry O’Brien (shot putt and discus) in 1957.

Rome was not built in a day!!


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

1966 - of golden fleece and heroes

(Click on pic for enlarged view)

Twelve and thirteen year old boys tend to hero-worship their elders. In primary schools such boy-leaders who truly lead are rare and that has everything to do with puberty.

Thus, in Pasar Road English School 1 (primary school) the teachers led the way. Outstanding among them was Mr. Paul Lee, my class and English teacher in Standard 6 in 1965. He coached the school Under 11 and U12 football squads and was the Prefects’ Master as well. This was the era when even primary school teachers turned out for teams in the Selangor Football League and league matches were played in PRES’s soccer pitch. From 1963-65, most of my December and March school term holidays were taken up by thrice-a-week football training at PRES under the wings of Paul Lee, such was his enthusiasm for football and dedication to its cause.

Another who stood out was Mr. A. Vaithilingam or ‘Vaithi’, now the President of the Hindu Sangam of Malaysia. Vaithi was the Athletics Master. Every Sports Day he would be seen starting off all the relays with his capped pistol which went ‘Bang!’ and for which he would tell us “you need a police licence, don’t play the fool boys!’ in hushed tones. We did not know the difference between a capped pistol and a condom. We imagined he always carried this pistol in the voluminous pocket of his even more voluminous long pants. That was enough for us to keep a healthy distance away from him and accord him some impressive respect. We knighted him ‘Son of A Gun!’

I greeted Paul Lee in the VI School Office (where he was visiting) sometime in 1971, but he did not recognize me. I was stunned when ‘Cobra’ or ‘One-eyed Selva’ as the hockey boys dubbed the school Chief Clerk who replaced Richard Pavee, chipped in with ‘Hey, Paul don’t you remember him from PRES. Remember that U11 football final in Merdeka Stadium?” Mr.K. Selvanayagam had also been the CC in PRES all those years ago. I used to go to Merdeka Stadium with my brothers to watch the Selangor State Athletics Meet (1963/64/65) which took place late evenings to nights. VI students like Eddy Lee, Wong Mun Fui and R.Thillainathan (UM Econs Gold Medallist) competed with national athletes. I met up with Dr.Thilli (PhD) a few years ago at Wisma Genting (he's been Genting's Economic Advisor/Director since the '80's) to discuss a proposal for land acquisition from the Company I worked for. He's now a vegetarian and he was pleased as punch when I mentioned his athletics days in VI and about having seen him in the 100m sprint at Merdeka Stadium! Dr.Thillli used to live in one of the Government Quarters houses facing Jalan Davis Schol off Pasar Road, during his VI days.

Cobra was both a hurdler and sprinter. He played at full-back for the inaugural 1972 VI staff-students’ hockey team which participated in the Selangor Hockey Association Division 2 League Tournament. That team included Mr. Daniel Chan (my Bio teacher in F6) and Mr. Robin Goh the Malaysian international. What a thrill that was, being coached by and playing alongside Robin Goh and Yang Siow Meng, another international who was the players’ player when it came to stickwork wizardry!

It may be a little pompous and even downright silly talking about Separation of Power for a school like Victoria Institution. I mean we were not a Government. But VI ran like that! There was the HM, Mr.V.Murugasu who was everywhere, the teachers who were everywhere and the Prefects who were everywhere. All day long! And sometimes, all night long too! Each knew his duty well and took his role seriously and conscientiously. All of them were working Executives; there was no place for sleeping partners & Chairmen or lawyers with watching briefs. The Prefects were the bridge between the HM and the teachers and the ones with whom we came into contact the most. There was no place anyone could hide and goof off. That applied to the school Mandors (labourers) and Watchmen (jaga who resided in the VIOBA premises) as well.

Inevitably the Prefects were the games’ and House Captains, as well as Heads of some of the societies. In some instances the leaders were the august members of Club 21 who were selected based on their outstanding contribution in any field including being top students in the public examinations. There was much mentoring of new leaders from the old guard which made life that much easier for the teachers in charge of various activities. The 1st and 2nd KL Scouts had student Assistant Scout Masters (King Scouts) who were the guys who actually ran the show, jamborees, camping, ‘akela will do our best, dip, dip, dip, dop, dop, dop!’ and all. Even the School Librarian and Red Cross Chairman were recognised and admired. (Remember Melville Jayathissa who joined the British Council Library? He was passionate about the library and books. Or Yap Chin Seong in 1972?).

There was not a single student who at some stage in his life in VI did not secretly or openly harbour ambitions of being appointed to the Prefects’ Board. There was something impressive about these ‘Blue Shirts’ who wore their white jackets and stalked the corridors or stood by the doors of the School Hall during Assembly days, while the School Captain and Vice Captain stood to attention in front of the Assembly with their backs to the stage where the HM performed in front of the seated teaching corps!

My first run in with a Prefect, about a month after school started, was a disaster. It cost me serious money. Twenty cents! Due to a particularly rainy weekend, I had not bothered polishing my white Bata canvas shoes (remember ‘Mula mula ke Bata, kemudian ke Sekolah!) with liquid white Bata polish, normally applied with an old toothbrush (sponges came into vogue a year or two later). This was also well before the era of electric hair dryers!

The shoes were actually quite clean except they had green rubber strips at the side and back portions that covered the ankles, heels and insteps. This was the original Badminton Master shoe. VI school rule number 1,000,001 dictated the green strips HAD to be painted over. On reaching school, I tried to shield myself from the prefects by keeping to the shadows or walking in the centre of a circle of friends. But I could not escape the piercing and penetrating gaze of hawkeyed and bespectacled (yes, you guessed it – standard black, plastic Elvis Costello type frame) Soo Sun Wah (Badminton Cap) who commanded me to the Prefects’ Room.

There I was ordered to paint over the by now totally remorseful, thoroughly ashamed and repentent serially homicidal green strips as well as the rest of the killer shoes. As I was about to walk off after completing the job, Sun Wah pronounced the death sentence on me. “That will be 20 cents,”he whispered, like Brando in ‘Godfather’. I blanched! 20 bloody effing cents??!! That was all of my pocket money for the day. I mean, we were not poor, but were not swimming in it either, with 4 other schooling siblings in my family of nine, and the odd uncle or cousin who would set up camp for a month or two at a time. I brought buttered, and jammed, honeyed or cheesed, bread wrapped in waxy Soutern Bakery original bread wrap paper and water in school-purpose water bottle (filled with tap water, red syrup or Milo) for my mid-morning repast; every day! (Yes, those were the days you could drink water straight off the tap without boiling it. Expensive water filters, di regeur nowadays, were practically unheard of). I would rush home (via infamous school bus) and wolf down my lunch before cycling or walking back the 3-odd miles to VI before 4 p.m. The 20 cents were for a bottle of Coke or Pepsi after evening games.

So, I coughed up, but very, very reluctantly like a Scotsman having to pay for a round of drinks. As a silent sign of protest, I quietly pocketed the toothbrush! That must have caused a major investigation and scandal of Bernie Madhoff-like proportions among the prefects and the school auditors!

It was not until 1968 I think that Bata had a competitor in Fung Keong Shoes. When my father suggested I switch to Fung Keong, I went into fits and tantrums. In today’s terms, that would be like substituting Nike with Bata! But I eventually relented for that other reason - there were no green or red strips! The shoes were completely white and maintenance would be less tedious. The next year Balraj appeared for hockey training with a snazzy pair of black canvas rubber studded Fung Keong boots, ideal for hockey but not football. The entire team switched to Fung Keong.

From my own experience, I can certify that prefects were chosen solely on merit. That did not mean that all who deserved were appointed to the VIPB or that every prefect acquitted himself well in his role as VIPB member. Some missed the cut in a particularly competitive year when places were limited; in other years politics did interfere with the process. Admittedly, there tended to be a bias towards sportsmen. But without exception, I have found that those who had successful careers after leaving school were never one dimensional! Their interests included sports and/or active interest in music, the arts, cars, politics etc. and what have you.

Thus when Kwan Poh Woh (Drum Major/Horticulture Soc) was appointed prefect in 1972, there was some raising of eyebrows! But if you think leading the VI School Band with some 30 musicians is a piece of cake, think again! There were very high expectations on the Drum Majors who each year had to introduce new tunes, innovate with lighted caps and formulate complicated marching manoeuvres and drills for Speech Day Tattoos which were held at night. There were interminable practice sessions, full-dress rehearsals and performances under the blazing sun (e.g. on Sports Day). One year the band innovated with a jazzed up version of 'Negara Ku' (yes, they were ahead of Mahathir) and got a thorough shelling from Muru to revert to the original version! The leader had an obligation to maintain traditions, train the new recruits and leave a lasting legacy. It was a thinking job full of stress and pressure. Poh Woh had to master the triple-loop baton throw (degree of difficulty - 10.0!) for the 1972 Malaysian Schools Band Display at Merdeka Stadium, where VI had three Drum Majors (the other two being Jacob Thomas now (Msc Econs & Finance) MD of Mav Cap in KL and Lye Kim Loong) who tossed batons to the heavens and caught them perfectly in their descent!!

If in recent years VI Bands twice won the World School Bands competition held in Europe, it had its beginnings all those years ago! Don't forget, Poh Woh was PRES 1 School Captain in 1965 where he was also a member of the school band and played (obviously) the Base Drum!!. There are no coincidences in life! (That '65 PRES 1 school band was led by a VI '66 virgin, A.Sivandan (now Dr.Sivandan) who was the youngest of the Arul brothers from Ring Road near Pudu Railway Station and San Peng Road. The Arul brothers all led the school band in their respective years, under the tutelage and leadership of handsome Mr. Ng Seng Kiat at whose wedding the PRES 1 band played Elvis Presley's 'Wooden Heart.' My elder brothers were in the band, but me, I was too shy to sign up! Both Poh Woh and Sivandan are in the photo of the PRES 1 Prefects' Board of '65).

At the end of this post, I shall list some of those I feel ought to have been installed as prefects in 1971 and 1972, but missed out. That’s purely my opinion.

The 1966 School/Hockey Captain was Tan Kee Kwong (son of Dr.Tan Chee Khoon, founder of the Labour Party and Gerakan and leader of the Opposition in Parliament). I never came into contact with him except at an ‘old boys’ gathering a couple of weeks ago! He’s now a PKR member, following a spat within Gerakan.

The School Vice-Captain/Athletics Captain was Nah Seang Hoo who also represented VI at Rugby and Cricket. I was in awe of him. There is this picture in my mind’s eye of Sports Day 1966. I am in my Hepponstall House tent right across the other side of the tracks opposite the Games Pavilion. I see from the corner of my right eye this blur of combined silver bullet and gazelle hop, skip, jump and hurl itself over the sand pit for a new triple jump school record. That was Nah. None had expected him to clear the triple-jump sand pit at its farther end. Believe me, that 14 odd metres leap was something!

Nah oozed leadership and he drew all around him wherever he went. He had great charisma. Nah had brains as well. After qualifying as a doctor, he could be seen jogging in the school field some evenings and he even coached some cricket. There were a few occasions in 1974 when I stood at one end of the cricket training pitch catching and throwing back the ball, as he demonstrated to Chew Weng Kong, (1974 School/Cricket Captain), the art of swing bowling. Nah came prepared with a can of leather polish and cotton towel to prime one side of the cricket ball!

My last encounter with him was in 1975 when he picked me up from my house in Kampong Pandan Indian Settlement for a VIOBA vs PJ Club friendly cricket match played at VI. I was not a slow fielder on the grounds by any means, but Nah made me look pedestrian by comparison. He bowled, batted and fielded pace.That VIOBA team included 'Vinny' Vinayak Pradhan (1968 School/Cricket Captain/Victorian Editor) who my good pal A.Balachandren (1971 Prefect/Cricket Captain) once complimented as ‘an uncanny captain’. There was an incredible running catch that Nah took to dismiss James Niles’ hook to fine leg that day which had Vinny shaking his head and exclaiming ‘not many would have made it to the ball, let alone take the catch!’ Although I played cricket for the VI teams of 1971 & 1972, I was under no illusion as to my prowess. Had I been a senior during the times of the VI cricket teams of 1966-70, I would not have made ‘water boy’. Seang Hoo is also famous among prefects for his watercolour portrait of JFK which still hangs in te VIPB room! Nah’s younger brother, Seang Chew (1968 School Vice-Cap & now an architect in S’pore), was no less a talented cricketer and all rounder.

(Another who seemed destined to lead and is still much admired by me as well as by his contemporaries and peers, is Yap Kian Fui who was School Vice-Captain of PRES 1 (1964) and School Captain of VI (1971). I first met him on the PRES football field in 1963 where he was the speedy right winger. He was Sportsman of the Year in both PRES 1 and VI (jointly with Raja Ahmad), as well as Victor Ludorum (Champion Athlete) and academically gifted as well. He was yet another successful product of Imbi Road & PRES 1. I was very moved and really felt honoured when he recently invited me for his son's wedding dinner at the Marriott Hotel in KL!)

The 1966 batch of students had some really outstanding prefects and students, many with brains to match their brawn. Several returned the following year as Temporary Teachers who were in every sense as good as, if not better than some of the regular teachers.

Among the prefects were Pong Kai See (football /rugby), another of my idols and his close pal Dr.Yong Siew Onn (Victorian Editor/rugby) who taught us general science for 1 term in Form 2 North and made it fun. Kai See was a max 5A’s HSC student. When I met him recently I mentioned remembering he was awarded a Colombo Plan Scholarship for overseas Uni. He corrected me that he had been offered 2 scholarships, the Rubber Research Institute Scholarship being the one he accepted to study in UK! More amazingly, his varsity and flat mate in London for 2 years was his intense scholar-rival in school, Yeoh Oon Hock (also max 5A’s HSC). Ramasamy (Prefect/Athletics/Football/Scout) was chuffed when I likened his football style to that of the great Eusabio who destroyed Korea and England in the 1966 World Cup! Tan Kim Chuan (1967 School & Football Captain/Athletics/Rugby), another of the VI greats, coached our victorious 1968 U15 Football team for which we presented him a trophy of appreciation. From him we learnt about team spirit and to play a more adventurous and daring style of soccer. He taught geography. Nice guy Prefect/Asst. Scout Master Lum Chee Soon was renowned for that slash of brylcreamed hair which slung across his forehead in an arc which he would frequently comb into place and fondle. Chee Soon is now an Econs lecturer at the Capilano University in North Vancouver.

Then there were Club 21 members like Leong Weng Chiew (Senior Debater) who briefly taught history and made it lively. In 2004, I spent 2 weeks in Lahore, Pakistan with Weng Chiew as corporate lawyer for a M’sian Plc I worked for, trying to seal a corporate deal and the most miserable of Joint Venture Agreements! Melville Jayathissa drummed the little known life-cycle of the cockroach into our flea bitten brain in 1968. Cyril Gaudart held the M’sian Schools’ 100m sprint records, while Ishtiaq Mobarak Ahmad (my senior in PRES 1) still coaches the national hurdlers, having made an appearance in that event in the 1976 Montreal Olympics! Zainon Mat, as I mentioned earlier, later played for and captained Malaysia in cricket. Zainon was a javelin champ as well. P.Paramjothy was appointed to Club 21 by HM Muru, the Monday following the Saturday he dropped the baton in a 4x100 inter-schools relay, had the presence of mind to quickly pick it up and make ground for the last-leg to come home second! Good and sporting character was well rewarded.

Awang Goneng, author of ‘Growing Up In Trengganu’ is none other than Wan Ahmad Hulaimi, who won the 1st prize in the Literary (English) Section of the ‘Victorian’ while still in Lower Six A1 in 1966. I contacted him by email last year courtesy of Chung Chee Min (VIOB and VI teacher 1965-67). I mentioned to Wan about having read his article in the ‘Victorian’ titled ‘The Italian That Refused To Go P-i-i-i-i-ng’ (2nd prize, senior section '67) about his Vespa scooter. He duly apologised to me for haunting my brain all these years! Astounding too, is it not, that he was Chairman of the VI Judo Club! And who says Malays of rural origin can’t master English? If the mountain cannot come to Mohammad.....!

Oh, there were others and many memorable events.

But in sports, none stood out in 1966 more than the showdown on Sports Day between Nah Seang Hoo, the School Athletics Captain and a relatively unknown Harpal Singh, for the most coveted of Victor Ludorum Trophy. Both represented Sultan Abdul Samad House (purple colour). Nah had already bagged Golds with new records in Triple Jump, Long Jump and of all events, the Shot Putt!! Nah’s putting technique and fitness must have been supreme, given there were more Herculean looking athletes in school and Nah looked like he could not possibly heave a feather over his shoulder!

The quiet and studious Harpal took Golds in the 800m, 1,500 m and 3,000 m races. Word got around the field that the challenge for the Victor Ludorum would go down to the wire. Every student, teacher and guest present lined the edge of the 400m grass tracks to witness the outcome. The roar was incredible from the moment the starter gun went off till Nah just pipped Harpal to the tape for a great win. We cheered from beginning to end. And then some more as Nah shook Harpal’s hands, did a victory lap and later lifted the Champion’s Trophy! Neither race (no pun intended), nor religion nor creed mattered. And I would have cheered just as much had Harpal won, though neither Harpal nor Nah was from my House.

For once, we would remember who was runner up!

- to be continued


Those who should have been appointed prefects:-1971
Lim Shook Kong (School and State Badminton/rugby/Club 21)
Bryan Pereira (Rugby/Athletics/Club 21)
Pritam Singh (Cricket/Hockey/Club 21/Civics Soc)
Wong Chee Wai (Athletics/Club 21)
Abdul Halim (Water Polo Captain/Swimming)
Tan Lip Ping (Football/Athletics/Hepponstall House Vice-Cap)
Simon Yap (Treacher House Captain/G.Student)


Cheah Peng Keong (Hockey/Civics Society/G.Student)
Chew Yoong Fong (Hockey/G.Student)
Teoh Siang Chin (Life Saving/Swimming/Water Polo/G.Student)
R.Pathmanathan (Athletics/Debater/G.Student)
Yap Chin Seong (Club 21/School Librarian/Science & Maths Society/G.Student
Yap Teong Choon (Swimming/Water Polo/Treacher House V.Captain. G.Student)
Jaspal Singh (Cricket/Science & Maths Soc/Seladang/Horticulture Soc. G.Student)

The top 4 names in the 1972 list above are all highly qualified and respected doctors today. Siang Chin is ex-President of the Malaysian Medical Association. Yap Chin Seong is an outstanding Engineer while Dato Yap Teong Choon is co-majority owner of Sin Heap Lee Plc, listed on the KLSE. Jaspal, probably a PhD, is an Engineer who is the CEO o f Metroline in London, UK and a top civil servant in Singapore. I think VI was the poorer for their omission from the VIPB.

*1 G.Student – good academically