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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

1971/72 part 1 - No Oscars!



Almost every student has a run in with a teacher or headmaster at some point during their school days. Many can recall such incidents to the finest detail after several decades because they were treated unfairly or punished severely out of proportion to the nature of the perceived "crime." The incidents that affected me most were:

1. Encounter with Lao Tze in Primary 6 on which I shall elaborate further below.


2. Receiving a slap on the back of the head from HM Murugasu during a Hepponstall House Sports Day March Past Practice!!?? To this day I can't understand why I deserved that knock since I was serious during that practice day. I had not misbehaved in any way and when the house captain in 1968, Chan Tak Kwong screamed "Squad, Pandang Kanan" to face right where the honoured guests would be in the Grand Marquee on the actual Sports Day, I had responded instantly and correctly. I don't know from where Muru had been observing proceedings from, but he must have swooped down on me like an eagle and struck out and stepped back like a kung fu expert because of the moving procession. Or was it the guy in front or behind me whom he had aimed for and missed? Anyway I didn't have the guts to go ask Muru "Wtf, Sir?"


3. Run in with HM Somasundram (Soma) in 1971 which affected me in so many ways that it will form the main story of this particular blog.


Lao Tze or Mr. See Kiat How, was the POL Chinese teacher in primary school, i.e. Pasar Road English School 1 in 1965. The reason I ended up in his Mandarin class that day was our POL teacher was absent and so a whole bunch of "others" were forced to park ourselves there. Then Lao Tze decided there would no point in having Mandarin class with so many disinterested observers around. It was also a particularly happy day for him as his wife had informed him she was confirmed pregnant with child, which news he gushed out to all the students in class with great pride as confirmation of his fecund manhood.


Of course, to most 12-year old this CNN Breaking News was about as exciting as a game of tiddlywinks or bowls and so we ho hummed and yawned. Later, when I passed Football and Prefects' Master Mr.Paul Lee with whom I was close since I was the football captain, I mentioned, I don't know know why, Lao Tze's announcement about his pregnant wife which Paul then passed on to other members of the teaching corps.


It must have been 'pantang' or something because the next thing I knew a few teachers like Vaithilingam, Sophie Kong and Paul Lee spoke to me that Lao Tze was on the war path with me for informing Paul Lee about his wife's condition. Take it from me that I was a fairly well-known student among the teachers in PRES 1 and their concern for me was genuine. It was next my misfortune to be a spectator after table-tennis practice one Saturday morning, in a match between Lao Tze and School Clerk, the famous cross-eyed K.Selvanayagam aka Cobra. Cobra was a Selangor sprinter and hurdler of some distinction who was later promoted as CC of Victoria Institution in the '70's and played at full-back for the VI hockey team in the Selangor Div 2 League Championships - a mix of students and teachers.


All I did, as did several other school table-tennis players, was stand around and cheer the good shots, smashes and gameplay hoping to pick up some pointers. But I did not know Lao Tze was a bad loser who after a particular stinging smash from Cobra, flung his bat and cursing me, tried to grab me by the shirt. I avoided him nimbly, but he would not let up and began chasing me round the table until Cobra caught hold of him and calmed him down. The man was huffing and puffing and red in the face and I have no doubt had he apprehended me I would have been in for a good thrashing!


Thereafter, I avoided him like the bubonic plague.


Following from the last blog, K.Balraj, N.Indran and I reported to Eddy Chin Kwong Chin at the Prefects' Board Room in school to be grilled about some missing hockey sticks and footballs. A fourth person, 'Joe' Hiew Heng Foo, a rugby player in the mould of GI Joe, as well as an athlete and basketball player was also there to answer queries about missing rugby balls.To our jaw-dropping surprise, we found out that we had actually been summoned to be informed we were to be appointed prefects in April 1971. By this time we had received our MCE Form 5 exam results and all four of us had secured places in Lower Six in VI.


I shall write more in detail in another blog about the process by which prefects were selected and some fine traditions that prefects adhered to following their appointment.


The four of us were appointed prefects at a Monday morning School Assembly in April 1971 by HM Tan Cheng Or, who was transferred to the Ministry of Education in May 1971. We bid TCO farewell on Friday 14th May 1971 at a special assembly held in the school quadrangle. While TCO was a strict disciplinarian, he was not quite in the Murugasu mould. TCO was more approachable and well liked and respected by students and staff.


V.Somasundram was appointed VI HM in May 1971. The Government policy on the Malaysianization of headmasterships of local schools was now firmly in place, as Soma was, after V.Murugasu and Tan Cheng Or, the 3rd non-Caucasian non-British HM of VI. My run in with Soma began the very first day he entered his office!


The prefects would be assigned their duties for the week in advance by their Secretary and had therefore to be in school by 7 to 7.15 a.m. It was my misfortune to have arrived early in school that fateful morning. As I approached the main porch I noticed a Jaguar E parked there which was against the school rules. When I went upstairs to the Prefects' Room, the School Captain, Yap Kian Fui was already there and as soon as he saw me he asked me to go find out if the Jag E belonged to the new HM, Soma. I didn't think twice about it and went over to the HM's Office, knocked on the door and entered on cue. The tall and imposing Soma was immaculatelly attired in white shirt, black long-pants and matching tie, socks and shoes. But he looked a little nervous. I remember hearing from some teachers that prior to his stint at VI, he had been head of some Teacher Training college and had never been a Head Master of any of the leading schools in Malaya.


I introduced myself and then asked him the question.


Soma asked me why I wanted to know. I told him him the School Cap had asked me to find out if it was his car or someone else's in which case I would have to ask that person to move the car to the car park. He then stared at me and said ."Tell him I'm the Head Master and I'll park my car where I like!" Clearly, Soma had misunderstood me. Anyway, I thought nothing more of it, excused myself and reported to Kian Fui that it was indeed the new HM's Jag E.


But all hell broke loose the next few days. First, Robert Pachymuthu *1, my L6 General Paper Teacher called me aside after class and asked me if it was true I had told Soma to remove his car from the porch and move it to the car park. I denied it vehemently, but Robert informed me the matter had been angrily brought up during a Staff Meeting that morning by Soma. Later that day, Mr.Oh Kong Lum, the Deputy HM and Hockey Master informed me that Soma had been very upset about the "incident" and demanded an explanation why he had been treated "shabbily" on his first day as HM of VI. Of course, Oh, who was also my house master, knew about my character and that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion by Soma, and left it at that.


I did not know it then, but Soma had also summoned the school captain and asked that I be sacked from the Prefects' Board! I found out about that when mgf Indran, who was School Captain in 1972, allowed me a peek at the relevant entry in the 'Captain's Log Book.' All of which forbode ill in my relations with Soma.


Two other events put me further in Soma's bad books.


In the 1972  VIOBA Games fixtures, I had injured my thumb and pointing finger which were swollen up from a knock I had received while batting in cricket. I informed Mr.Robin Goh *2 (ex-Malaysian Hockey Player) , the Hockey Master, I would have to be excused from the hockey fixture later that evening as I clearly could not grip the hockey stick at all. Instead I ended up refereeing the game. Soma spied me from one corner of the field and stormed over to query Robin on my absence from the playing team.


On another occassion, as the HSC final exams were only a term away, I sought and was given permission by Robin from not playing for the VI staff-students hockey squad for the Selangor Division 2 League Championships. Again, it appeared Soma was not happy at my absence and had commented something about my commitment. There were one or two other incidents when Soma did not support me in my disciplinary dealings with students, where had it been during Murugesu or Tan Cheng Or's time, the support would have been unqualified. 


But perhaps, the one other serious incident was the en mass resignation of the Prefects' Board in 1972 (about which I shall write in another blog) which Soma blamed on me although all communications with him had been undertaken by the School Captain and Vice Captain, Indran and Yap Chee Keong. Soma, though he never made it clear why, felt that I had instigated a   revolt which was a unanimous response by the Board to an undermining of the School Captain's authority. He fumed and complained to Oh that I was the mastermind behind it all!


Where did it all lead to?


Yes, when the award for School Colours, the Blues, was announced in 1972, my name was conspicuous in the honours list, by its complete absence!


I had also been told by my Cricket and Biology Master, young Anandakrishnan (Andy) *3, that he had recommended to Soma a half-colour for me for cricket. I had only represented the school cricket 1st eleven team in 1971 and 1972. However, prior to that I had represented my house from Form 1 onwards. I took special pride of place that in the four years from 1968-71, I bowled out some of the top school 1st eleven batsmen and also scored a couple of fifties in the inter-house fixtures. So, a half-colour was not unreasonable.


When the hockey Captain, K.Balraj, Robin and Andy reverted to Soma about my omission from the honours list, he would not budge and that's how it stayed. I grit my teeth and attended the award ceremony since it was ingrained in us that that was what sportsmanship was all about. But there were many puzzled faces that day at my no-award status.


After four decades, I have still not got over it. It rankles like an unlanced boil. It's still there simmering and occassionally boiling over as I think about young men and older men and teachers and students and head masters. If today VI were to make some kind of a belated award I would accept it. I had paid my dues and earned my stripes from U/13, U/15, U/18 to U/20 school hockey 1st eleven and hockey vice-captain. There's nothing worse than knowing you deserve something 100% and then being denied it by the power of a miserable One.


Back then we were immature 18 and 19-year olds; neither men nor boys. Perhaps as Kipling said, we were man-cubs, in the shadowy world between adults and teenagers. We were learning to grope with new responsibilities and challenges and we stumbled and fell and got up and charged forward and stumbled and fell and rose again.  There was also that thrilling lust we felt for some of our female peers about which we hardly dared to speak to anyone about. But deal with it all, we had to!


But, what was Soma's excuse? I was 18/19; he in his late forties or early fifties.


What was his goddamn excuse?


Some years later, when I was auditing at the Ministry of Education, I took special relish in querying a discrepancy in petty cash and some over-claims for travelling allowances by the Chief at the London office of the Malaysian Students' Department.


I addressed my beautifully worded query to one Mr.V Somasundram and gave him hell!!


*1 Robert Pachymuthu had earlier taught at lower secondary in VI before he left for UM and got his BA (Hons).

*2 Robin Goh, ex-Malaysian National Hockey Team right winger taught Maths and was perhaps the best technical hockey coach we ever had in VI. He was also a devout Christian who I understand lives now in Australia

*3 Young Andy taught Biology in upper Secondary and Form 6. ('Young' as opposed to 'Old' Anandakrishnan who taught Pure Maths).

Robert Pachymuthu, Robin Goh and Young Andy were all lovely gentlemen as opposed to the 'fire & brimstone' variety of teachers. 

Thursday, 1 July 2010

1970 - the exam year (part3) - rebellion in the ranks and of romeo & juliet

or ego and false pride





Despite all that efforts to fuse 18 raw boys into a single lean, mean, fighting and winning hockey machine, things did not always go according to plan, though the campaign was successful in the end.

Like Spartans, we were continually prepared for war, and of course, like Spartans, in-fighting was bound to abound in an atmosphere where the competitive spirit bubbled and boiled on the surface. It was not enough to merely win a GOLD medal. You had to be on centre stage on the winning day because, really, the just rewards for three months of blood, sweat, toil and tears demanded it. And that's why and where trouble brewed, in the battle and right for centre-stage and GLORY!

NB
You may not know this about the Grecian Spartans who have always been glorified in history as the greatest soldiers, though they were massacred by the Persians in 490 BC at The Battle of Marathon.

I think it was Plato who wrote in his 'Republic' the male Spartan was brought up from young to treat his male companion as his life-long lover and his wife as his life-long friend!!

Ahem! Where were we?

In one corner were Cheah Peng Keong and Chew Yoong Fong, the stalwart full-backs of many a season's battles stretching back to 1965 in Pasar Road English School 1, Primary (PRES 1), and me. In the other corner were A.Balachandren (Billy), Eddy Chin Kwong Chin, Pritam Singh and Raja Ahmad. In between stood the school hockey captain, Surjeet Singh (Sarge).

Billy, Eddy, Pritam and Raja were technically not VI students then as they'd sat for their Form 5 Cambridge Exams the previous November/December in 1969 and were awaiting their results which would not be out till mid-March. But by tradition, they were allowed to train with the school hockey squad. They were not allowed to play in any of the official inter-school fixtures since most of our opponents would not have the benefit of the services of their Lower 6 students-in-waiting, as it were! IC's were checked by hockey umpires to ensure infringement of the rules did not take place.

The exception was any fixture against Royal Mitary College (RMC) since they fielded their Lower 6 students regardless, claiming their students were contracted to stay with them until the end of Upper 6.

Anyway, we blew away all our opponents. The last hurdle before meeting RMC in the finals was slated against Klang High School (KHS), i.e. the semi-finals. We knew from past experience that Klang High was small potatoes/easy meat. So, no one shed any sweat thinking or worrying about it. "VI no sweat, what you see is what you get!!" is how we chanted, bragged and swaggered about as we ran our practice rounds in the hockey pitch ('What you see is what you get' and 'Ooooweeee' was the calling card of hilarious black american TV comedian, Flip Wilson, who also cross-dressed on his show as the really ugly man-hunting Geraldeeenne whose face could stop a herd of bulls in full gallop dead in its tracks!).

The pretty impressive results of our undefeated season thus far were:




As we milled about in the field on the Monday evening before the Friday semi-finals, Cheah  saunterd over to me and Fong and said "Hey, you heard what Eddy said?" We hadn't a clue and Cheah then briefed us he overheard Eddy, together with Billy, Pritam and Raja discussing with Surjeet about replacing us for the finals with RMC. Well, our faces fell and some four letter words were flung about indiscreetly, but deliberately on purpose, which must have reached the ears of the rest of the squad which now begun to gaze far away in any direction but ours, which pretty much confirmed these "discussions" must have been taking place earlier as well without our knowledge.

So, the three of us pretended we knew nothing about it and marched off to the showers in disgust and indignation. We decided to go for dinner in our own group of three and on returning dived straight into bed without joining in the usual team chit chat. Well, the situation became pretty clear over the next two days. We would not be in the 1st eleven for the finals. At the same time we could not be released from the squad because we were needed to guarantee triumph in the semi-finals and/or in case anyone sustained serious injuries during the week or the course of the semi-final and final games!!

But the rift in the squad was obvious and made more difficult because "on the other side" was Balraj and is brother Jairaj who were from our PRES1 era, not to mention Raja Azlan (really the unsung star/hero of our team as opposed to Pritam Singh who was the sung star/hero) from our Form 1 days and Pedro Hariharan who, being a junior and brother of our classmate Ramachandran, found our company more amenable.

Yet, there was no open discussion between the two groups about what was obviously a difficult and untenable situation, having come this far together. The more the seniors avoided it, the more incensed we became. So, on Thurday evening as the team was being briefied about preparations for our trip to Klang, we dropped a clanger!

We coolly informed Surjeet we would be making our way to KHS in the supporters' bus which would be leaving a half hour later than the team bus.

When Surjeet baulked, we threw in a second clanger. We would first be heading for the 1 o'clock 'Romeo & Juliet' matinee at Odeon Cinema Theatre in Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman). Odeon still stands at the junction of Jalan TAR and Jalan Dang Wangi (then Campbell Road) diagonally across the road from Sogo, though it's been converted into some kind of depot or warehouse!!

When Surjeet arched his eyebrows, I don't know what possessed me. I lied poker-faced that it was compusory for our Cambridge Exams and so we could not miss it. I mumbled something about Mrs. Yiap and the HM having arranged it. Curiously no one challenged us (why now?) or asked Balraj and Azlan (who were also in Form 5 like us) why they were not included for an exam-worthy movie. The truth was we were doing 'Julius Caesar' that year, but wanted Surjeet, Eddy & Co to squirm a little, no actually, a lot, since there wasn't much they could do about it. We were not obliged to travel with them and were not threatening to not turn up for the semi-finals either.

We'd also heard from "our deep throats" (Pedro Hariharan and Balraj) there was speculative talk we were prepared to throw the KHS game out of spite. Our insiders had done a good job in spreading misinformation and got them seriously worried. This only inflamed us even more. We could not believe our loyalty was in doubt after five long years of service to VI!!

Anyway, we stuck to our guns that Friday and defiantly headed for Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 made  'Romeo and Juliet.' The truth also was that other classmates who'd  watched the movie earlier had oohed and aahed about Juliet's (young Olivia Hussey) superb pectorals and how from a certain angle you could see right through her transplucent blouse at the oh, so vital biological information!! This defied common sense and belief, but nevertheless we felt obliged to check it out. But, with so much swirling in my mind, I couldn't concentrate on Juliets' vital statistics or full breasts. As for Romeo, I didn't give  a damn, wherefore are not!

At sharp three, Cheah, Fong and I bolted before the movie ended and doubled-timed it back to school to collect our playing gear just in time to board the supporters' bus for Klang.

The game commenced at 4.30 p.m. and we began in our usual fashion with wave upon wave of attack. Then horrors of horrors, KHS took a 1-0 lead from a break-away on the left. I was patrolling at left half and Cheah at left back. We were both beaten in the blink of an eye! Eight from the VI team were staring at us with knives in their eyes as the KHS players whooped and celebrated and their fans ran riot!

That was it! That was the precise moment I vowed no KHS forward would best me again and set about with such a fierce demeanour and action, they never did! I also had a quick word with Cheah and Fong. My message was short, sharp, and pointed (like Juliet's tits) -  'Thou shall not be passed again!!' Soon we pulled back three goals and at half-time Pedro Hariharan playing at left wing walked up to me, laughed and said, " Brother, have some pity on the KHS boys! Looks like everyone of them is avoiding coming within a mile of you." I was frustrated, angry and plain boiling. Every tackle I made was a crunching (but legal) one which explained why the opposition avoided me like the bubonic plague!!

In the end we thrashed KHS 6-1. My contribution included fine support to Pedro and a couple of good assists to Raja Azlan who bagged a brace, while Surjeet, Pedro, centre forward Leong Wai Kin and Michael Chew shared the remaining goals! It was a consummate performance from a team that would not be defeated, The leadership qualities of Sarge and Tharma shone like a beacon of light in a fog-filled dark night!

And as planned, the three of us did not play in the finals against RMC. The honours in the finals were shared 1-1 which meant we retained the title we had won outright the previous year defeating RMC 3-2!!

But the wounds of NOT playing in the 1970 Tun Razak Shield Finals festered in me for a long, long time.

The double whammy came the next year!!

When we were waiting for our Form 5 MCE results, and expecting to take on RMC at the TPCA Stadium in Princess Road (now Jalan Puteri) ) in the 1971 U 20 finals, the umpire absolutely refused to permit us to play, saying the MSSM forbade it! My anger was even greater than in 1970 - two time losers!! Shit!

Well, if I make it sound like it was akin to the 'Gunfight at the OK Corral' it wasn't quite! A bit of melodramam never hurt anyone. But we felt betrayed, frustrated and angry. Oh yes, deep, deep in our heart of hearts we knew all the cliches were true:

No player is bigger than the TEAM.
Lose the BATTLE, win the WAR.
All for 1, one for all.
Ask not what your country can do for you, ask.....

But right that time in 1970, there was the bitter taste of ash in our mouths! We hated Sarge, we hated Billy, we hated Eddy, we hated Pritam, we hated Raja Ahmad and we hated the Universe. When the victory was announced the following Monday at Assembly in the school hall in front of the HM, teachers, prefects and a thousand students who were waiting to cheer us unreservedly for retaining the Tun Razak Shield, and who knew nothing about the fracture in the team, we still could not bring ourselves to forgive them.

The three of us refused to get up and go on stage, shake hands with the HM and take possession of our medals. I clearly remember mgf Tan Kai Chah turning to me puzzled and querying "Whaat, you trying to be funny or what?" But he could not have known or understood the seething cauldron of anger that was boiling inside us. So, that's one gold medal I never had among my collection of a few!

So, who was right and who was wrong? Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday or Jesse James and his brothers in that famous shoot-out at the OK Corral?

No one, really! And I hate it when we can't apportion blame.

Oh yes, Sarge and Tharma, the two senior-most players, captain and vice-captain, should have called for a meeting of the protagonists and explained the situation; made subtle pretence of asking us for our consent, maybe even pleaded (though grovelling would have been nice). That's somewhere in Zig Ziglar's motivation theory if not actually a cornerstone of Six Sigma management technique. Cheah, Fong and I deserved that respect because we had paid our dues, many times over. We might have griped about it then and for a short while afterwards, but would have come around. Because when you are asked nicely, you can't really say no, especially when you know what the score really is! So, we'd baulked, moped and played hard ball.

As for us, we clearly showed our immaturity. We knew the medal was ours anyway and should have gracefully surrendered our places instead of making Billy, Eddy, Raja and Pritam feel small, awkward and guilty. After all, the final decision was always in the hands of the team captain.

Sound familiar? You ever had to handle a similar awkward situation at your workplace when you were the CEO? The crime of course is that you made the same mistake again knowing full well what happened in 1970 and yet walked all over someone's feelings?

Ego and false pride, two very baaad, nasty mothers!

Feeling guilty and remorseful? Yeah, I'm begging ain't I?

Beyond redemption?

I'm writing about it and spilling my guts out here, ain't I?

Not beyond redemption. Ha, ha, ha!

But for all that, this 1970 and 1971 squads were the ones I enjoyed being in the most in all my seven years in VI. Our behaviour in handling tough management and people issues was pathetic; but par for the course for most (99.99%) schoolboys. If we'd handled it any better, that woud have been against the laws of nature. In the real world, you'd be lucky to find a really good manager, GM or CEO younger than age 40! And I've seen some real 50+year old dogs!! You can't run before you walk.

And whenever I think about Pedro Hariharan, Sitsa, Old Turkey Buzzard and Coconut Woman, Slippery /Twinkle Toes Sarge, Tharma and his endless stream of jokes not to mention Billy's stories, Rattat, Hockee Speakee and more, and the warm and long friendships of Cheah, Fong, Pedro and Balraj, I can't help bursting out in laughter and joy.

And guess who drove us home in his car and dropped us off one by one, after the 1971 hockey season was over? None other than Eddy Chong accompanied by Pritam Singh and Billy Balachandren in a  jam-packed buggy!! Even as I was alighting from the car, we were Hockee Speeaking and laughing our heads off!! Such was the carmaderie and team spirit we enjoyed despite the ups and downs in the hockey squad.

The next morning (circa late March 1971), much to my amazement Eddy Chong and Billy Bala dropped by my house. Eddy, like Billy, was a prefect. He had a very serious look on his face and informed me I had to report the next day to the hockey master, Mr.Oh Kong Lum. An audit of the stores at the school's Sports Pavilion had apparently revealed a serious shortage of Karachi King Super hockey sticks. My face paled! I distinctly remember handing my pair of hockey sticks back to Eddy as we broke off from centralised training. Before I could protest, they departed, leaving me with a big headache.

Later that day, I bicycled over to team mate Balraj's house in Lorong Cheong Yoke Choy off Cochrane Road to ask him if he'd heard or knew anything about the missing hockey sticks. To my 2nd surprise of the day, Balraj revealed he too had been paid a visit by Eddy Chong and Billy and ordered to report to Mr. Oh!!

As we sat on the sofa in Balraj's living room trying to figure out what the fish/hell was going on, in came ogf Indran, a school footballer, and later 1972 School and Football Captain. He had an even more worried look on his face as he blurted out that Eddy Chong and Billy had dropped by his house that same morning to order him to report to Cikgu Othman the next day about some missing footballs and soccer gear from the stores at the Sports Pavilion!

The three of us then sat around talking about this curious business of theft from the Sports Pavilion. There was no question of not reporting to the respective teachers the next day; we were too indoctrinated into the VI system to defy a direct or indirect order from any teacher, especially the Assistant Principal!

Well, that story of what followed will feature in another blog!!

Till then, ciao!!

dpp

Monday, 28 June 2010

1970 - the exam year (part 2) and a wee bit of 1971

or motivation, male bonding and team spirit


old turkey buzzard by jose feliciano
video

coconut woman by harry belafonte
video


The strength of the bonds of love, friendships, camaraderie and relations wax and wane throughout life. Between siblings, sons and fathers and daughters and mothers, and husbands and wives and old lovers, classmates and schoolmates.


When it endures for 40 years and more, then there's something special and magical there!

Nothing was planned that way. We did not have Steven Covey's 'The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People' or Jack Canfield's 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' to motivate or guide us. Most, including me, were not even aware of or had read Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.'

Instinct and the VI spirit drove us.

I have been having an interesting debate with Jaspal Singh, an old classmate, and others about us 'meek lamb gathered for the slaughter,' lemming/herd behaviour and the influence on us, positive, negative or neutral, of authoritarian figures like legendary VI HM V.Murugasu and teachers like Valentine Manuel, Rajaratnam, Bernard Koay, E.J Lawrence, Ho Sai Hong, Yap Yew, Mrs. Yeap Kin Yin, Cheok Cheo Foh, Mrs. Balaraman, Terence Jayatilaka, Leonard De Vries, S.Peethamparam, Dharam Prakash, Mrs.Somasundram, Mrs. Teh and others.

Jaspal's honest and forthright opinion is that we succeeded despite, and not because of, Murugasu and his type; that, like Dr.Mahathir's 22-year premiership, we should perhaps judge by what more we could have achieved and not just what we collared, bullied and cowed as we were! Indisputably, some of the better respected and loved teachers provided us much needed balance and relief!

I have not put out a hit contract on Jaspal in London (I do have some Sri Lankan pro-liberation fighter friends from the old days there) because, quite frankly, I admire that kind of openess and confident assessment. Let's not pussyfoot around these things. Speak your mind because understanding these issues will do us all a world of good. Tomorrow you might have to go see the school HM because your son or grandaughter got into an entanglement with the school authorities or have to decide which school to send your wards to.

My opinion is that, on balance, Muru had a positive effect on us, though the memory of a vicious assault by Muru on Bryan Pereira in the school hall for skipping athletics practice, still chills me!! Maybe it's because I'm the Theory Y type. I have no doubt TODAY students, parents and society will not accept or tolerant that genre of headmasters; it was a totally different era. But I have run into Bryan here and there at the RSC in recent times and he wasn't moping about like a limping old wounded tiger or a depressed father with a chip on his shoulder who goes twice a week for psychiatric therapy waiting to pounce on unsuspecting old ex-VI HM's and satan teachers for a quick kill and blood-sucking! In fact, he looked quite the opposite - positive and chirpy!!

Then again, we have Abdul Hamid who says he still shakes whenever he thinks about the 6 strokes he received from Muru (the last of which was so severe he lifted Muru's desk off its legs with his bare hands) after Cikgu Shuib Kassa (much respected BM teacher and master in-charge of badminton) reported him for a misunderstanding over a rude gesture he made to a classmate which Shuib thought was directed at him! Apparently, Hamid kissed and made up with Shuib some years later, but has not had his day of reckoning yet with Muru!

Darwis Jamil
too talks fondly about his dread of passing through the school gates towards the classrooms in the early years!! So too, a good lady friend from my F6 year, Tan Tiu Hang (Senior Chemistry teacher at Catholic High, PJ) who signed up for VI in L6; that's pretty
weird given Muru and co had departed for better pastures by then!! I have not asked her (yet) what it was about VI that intimidated her so much!!

But the story which warms the cockles of my heart, or is it my by-passed and cholestrol clogged co-axial mitral bicuspid ventricular valve, I forget, has little to do with Muru or the teachers really.

In our quest to win the various inter-school sports championships - football, hockey, rugby - every year, someone came up with the idea in 1967 of intense centralised training. This meant a squad of some 18-20 players would be biouvacked for 3-4 weeks either in the School Hostel or the Junior Study Room opposite the Tuckshop for additional morning and week-end training sessions at the playing pitches of the school field to hone our skills, improve our stamina and build that oft elusive team spirit, which can oft turn a weaker team into world beaters! Or so they dreamt in their 'pursuit of excellence,' the sub-4 minute mile record and Olympic gold in 'Chariots of Fire' many years later!!

You not only had to bond with the squad members, but also your prime hockey stick, the hockey pitch, the school grounds and all the land as far as the eye could see because there was a national agenda as well to fulfil. And if the earth moved as well, there, you are now a man!!

The usual 3 days a week intensive training from 3.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. would have felled an Olympian like Usain Bolt or a mountaineer like Edmund Hillary! But no, we were Victorians and so by divine right deserved more punishment!

Such was the fate of the 1970 and 1971 U20 VI hockey squads. In those two years we were billetted in the Junior Study Room during the CT hockey season. There were only ceiling fans for ventilation, no air conditioners. We slept at night on study tables made barely comfortable with thin matresses, pillows and blankets comandeered from the School Hostel store, with the windows bravely open and defended by mosquito coils and burners. Some finicky guys like Yoong Fong, brought their own pillows, linen and dutch wives!!

For toilets, we had the (in)famous stinky 206 and the better one on the ground floor at the extreme end of the school's left wing, while for showers we rotated among the facilities at the School Hostel in the mornings, School Sports Pavilion and 206 at night as a last resort!

All meal costs were borne by the school. The energy and 6-pack muscle building breakfast menu in the school tuckshop comprised an unremitting conveyor belt of half and full boiled eggs, white bread with planta margarine, jam and liptons tea or nescafe or nasi lemak/mee hoon goreng! Not for us Victorians poncy cereals, power bars (did not exist then, though there might have been an Ovaltine or Milo bar, I'm not sure), milk, ham, bacon and sausages! For lunch at the same venue, we picked whatever we fancied from the same platter laid out for all students - fried rice, curry laksa, chinese fried and soup noodles (no pork), malay mee rebus, rojak with sauce and half a piece of boiled egg, rice, meat, potatoes and veg etc and a drink of calories oozing sugar laden rosewater syrup, syrup bandung or hot/cold milo (no 100 plus or red bull either, though some plunked for glucose powder dissolved in water).

Dinner was something we looked forward to. We pooled our allowance of $1.50 per head and headed for the 'Mushroom' open air eatery opposite Merdeka Stadium outside the back exit/entrance from the school or for the stalls near Rex Theatre near Foch Avenue for variety to suit all taste buds and preferences.

Our home away from home soon had that bull halting and gagging smell of a male jock machismo hockey herd. There was the peculiar scent of linseed oiled Karachi King Super hockey sticks mixed with the pungent 'Horse Brand' oil liniment for strained muscles and of course the waft of body sweat, BO, soiled stockings, thigh and ankle guards and unwashed sweatshirts, shorts and jerseys. Between training sessions, classes, homework and inter-class and society activities from none of which we were excused merely because of centralised training, we had no time for laundry which we sent home through friends or brothers and had them collected or delivered on Sundays!

But something miraculous slowly emerged from all this testesterone and male bonding. No, nothing gay that I recall!! At first we were not aware of it. The training sessions became more intense and competitive as fitness levels rose and we became more conscious of the looming opening game of the season and of places in the 1st eleven! Team spirit began to soar!

It all started one evening after dinner when we gathered round the tables and were chatting about the usual nothing and indulging in the tumuscent humour of physically fit and bursting and strutting teenagers like young stags in rutting season, whose free thinking time was usually preoccupied with only one thing - girls and sex about which most of us had as much knowledge or experience as half a teaspoonful of sugar, or less. And let's not palaver about anything helping the medicine go down in a most delightful way either!!

Suddenly 'Pedro' Hariharan who had been by himself, stood to attention on his table and broke loudly acapella into a rendition of 'Old Turkey Buzzard' by Jose Feliciano which was also a hit song from the western movie 'McKenna's Gold' starring Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif. Soon, others joined in the chorus of this impromptu jam sessi
on while thumping on the desks and pillows with their hockey sticks:

"Gold, gold, gold we just gotta have that gold,
Gold, gold, gold, we'll do anything for that GOLD!!"

and then ending it with a stirring,

"Gold, gold, gold just remember that gold,
Gold, gold, gold, we can't live without that GOLD!!"

as we carried Pedro who was in his sarong and dumped him on a cushion of goalkeeper's pads!
We all fell about laughing till the tears rolled out, but Pedro was not quite finished yet! Without missing a beat, he launched into Harry Belafonte's calypso 'Coconut Woman":

"Coconuttu voman (woman) is calling out...Coconuttu vater, good for your dahter (daughter)...make you strong like a layan (lion)..." in a heavy Indian (not West Indian) accent with drum solos, duets and orgies manufactured from the chairs, walls and desks with hockey sticks, balls and testicle guards. Nothing was safe for indoctrination as musical accompaniment from the marauding mardi gras group. Pedro's storming improvised finale of "cokiki cokiki coke coke cokiki cokiki coocnuttu water, dahterr, hotter, got her, shot her, rotter, otter, potter, totter" was the stuff of legend which had them rolling in the aisles, though for a moment he had us wondering if he'd got a chicken bone or something stuck in his throat!!

It was a riot and a half as someone else broke into a punjabi favourite 'Main Shair To Nahin' and a song made famous by 1969 hocket captain, Daya Singh - 'Big Bad John.' Later, when the lights were out, no one slept for another hour or two as someone or other would burst out with "Old turkey buzzzzarrrd" to be drowned out by guffaws and hoots and when it died down someone else would trickle off with "coconnuttu vater, good for your yindian dahterrrr...."

Thereafter the squad trained, showered, ate and jammed as one. The team teacher-coachs, Mr. Oh Kong Lum (Arts/Asst. HM from 1971) and Mr. Daniel Chan (Biology) were both ex-Victorians. Though they were technically not as sound in hockey as their predecessor, Mr.Lenny De Vries (who left VI in 1969 to do his Sports Science PhD in Canada), they joined us in the practice games and followed our fortunes right through till we won the Cup. Different strokes for different folks, but the more personal involvement of the teachers got us pumping even harder.

As far as team discipline was concerned, Oh and Daniel left it pretty much to the prefect team captains like Surjeet Singh (1970), Eddy Chong Kwong Chin (1971) and other player prefects, viz., G.Tharmasegaran (Tharma), A.Balachandren and Raja Ahmad.

By virtue of his 1st team place in several preceding years, appearances for the Selangot State Sr Team and short-listing for the National Squad, Goalkeeper Tharma should have been the 1970 school hockey captain, but was first appointed 1970 school football captain. Cikgu Othman, the school football coach would not allow him to hold simultaneous captainships in two games whose championships were being contested at the same time. So Surjeet, playing at left inside forward, being the next most senior player got his hockey captainship. Surjeet was also appointed school cricket captain in the 2nd term of school.

The 1971 hockey squad was thrilled to have as coach Wong Choon Hin, then 1st choice Centre Half for M'sia's National Hockey Squad and working for PKNS in PJ. We did not apply to the MHA or anything like that. It just happened that WCH, originally from Malacca, had moved into one of the Shaw Road flats directly across the road from the main school gates and spotted us training from his loft. He then walked over to the school, picked Eddy at random and offered to coach us while keeping himself fit during his off season months. This was the hockey equivalent of having a Pele or Maradona as team coach !!

WCH opened up our eyes to the more robust and modern physical game. He tutored us about confidence by relating the majestic manner in which India's centre half would execute a penalty stroke by walking tall with a swagger and flick the ball into the net all in one motion while locking eyes with the opposing goalkeeper all the way! We then had to practice this John Wayne macho school of executing penaty flicks. It was a real hoot as shorter arses like me had to act like 6-foot tall mesmerising cobras!

In particular, we worked on scoring from dead-ball set pieces - free hits, short and long corners. A deadly and lethal move I was trained to finish was to pedal backwards at full tilt towards goal while waiting for 'thunderbolt' Eddy Kwong Chin to slam the ball from a short corner take straight at me and for me to deflect it past the goalkeeper into the net! I imagined I was 007, Bond the cold, ruthless executioner! That sure was the god awful theory of it. I succeeded mostly in fending off these killer zingers from offing me from the face of this planet for good! Oftentimes in my mono-maniacal pursuit of excellence, I would mouth grass as I twisted and fell while tangling on my own legs. I called it the Hirohito Kamikaze Harikiri Short Corner Stragedy (no error in stragedy there) because if anyone was going to die while playing in a hockey match that year, it was yours truly!! I informed WCW and captain Surjeet that in the event of my untimely demise, my wish was to be buried in the centre of the school hockey pitch and I wasn't kidding either!!

My other major contribution to the hockey squads of '70 & '71 and its morale was developing a very unique talking style we labelled 'Hockee Speeakee." It consisted of drawing out words to make them sound longer. Thus 'Let's go eat kway teow and nasi lemak lah brothers' might sound like 'Leetts gooo eeet kwaayy teowww and nasee lemaak laaah broddeerrs!" Now this hockey squad also had some loyal followers and supporters among whom were Bryan Pereira, Leslie Ratnalingam (Rattat), Hanif Abu Bakar (Ash Burn), Thevakumar, Sugunabalan, Reuben Chelliah, Tan Lip Ping and a few others who would not only join us for dinner but also hang about for idle chats or occassionally, overnight stays. These guys too got into Hockee Speeakee and soon many in Form 5 and Form Six were imitating and adding ad hoc to a new language I had the sole copyrights to!

More than that, boys being boys, we would raid the tuckshop at 2 a.m. and then haul the stash of coke, miranda orange, greenspot, fanta, biscuits and peanuts to the open roof top of the Pavilion for a late night scoffing party! But there were one too many tuck shop raids and we all got caught by a trap laid by tuckshopmanboss. I'm sure Pritam Singh, our talisman right winger will recall that pitiful night, though tuckshopmanboss was a gentleman and did not rat on us to the HM!

At other times we would crawl army style on our bellies to spy on lovebirds parked in their cars in the open area byond the school fence by the side of FAM House on Jalan Edinburgh (now Jalan Maharaja Lela). Of course there were the usual mass leap frogging, smacks on the back of heads and wedgie pulling, all taken in good stride and spirit. Things cooled down a bit, a wee bit only, after an incident affecting Rattat (a lovely fellow who's been with the Civil Service since graduating BEcons from UM and whose elder brother in VI, cadet corp Ampalavanar, a good chappie, later a CA and partner at PWC, inspired that international hit Cuban number 'Am-pa-la-vanar, Guajira Guan-tana-mera' which echoed throughout the halls of VI for many years)!! '

As we headed for dinner one night, Leslie Rattat, as a result of a mass wedgie attack, stumbled, fell flat on the road and sustained a deep gash over his left eyebrow. His spectacles snapped at the hinges. But fortunately for all, the lenses did not shatter!! For a moment, and just a moment, we stepped back in horror as the blood began to drip on to the tarmac. Next second someone pronounced amputation above the knee as the best cure, another buddy queried him if he wanted to have his will written while a concerned squad member asked him solemnly if he preferred cremation to burial! I have over the years tried to figure out my thinking on why I removed Rattat's shoes and wiggled his toes. But for the life of me, I just can't! But Eddy had the presence of mind to drive him over to the emergency outpatients' ward at KLGH for a quick stitch up and plaster bandaging job.

A fair amount of ragging of juniors took place but nothing really that could be termed truly vicious or spiteful. Though no one will forget what started off as a bit of splashing fun took a turn for the macabre and bizarre with V.Sitsabesan having his family jewels painted with hockey ball and pads chunam (quicklime) paint!! He was duly knighted 'Vellai Sunni' which loosely translated from coarse Tamil means 'Chief Dick White (though Chief White Dick is also acceptable)!!' I forget whether he was well hung or if it was 'wan hung low' or not, but no damage was done to his human right to further his lineage, as he's now the proud father of 2 kids (happily married as well)!!

I can now reveal the names of the perpetrators of that dastardly dark evil deed which took place in the junior study room - stand up G.Tharmasegaran, Eddy Chong Kwong Chin, Pritam Singh and A.Balachandren. Lol!

But I am guilty as well by association and more so as I was among those who laughed and hooted to glory. Sitsa shed a few tears then, but we've laughed about it countless times over the years over many barrels of beer just as they have ribbed me on my morale bashing name which I'm too embarrassed to divulge - I plead the 5th amendmend of writer's privilege not to incriminate himself!

No offence taken, none given - the true VI spirit!!


(to be continued soon - rebellion in the ranks, showdowns, poker and of romeo & juliet!!)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

1970 - the exam year (part 1)













1970 was VI's  first full year without Mr. V. Murugesu who had served it as its first Asian Head Master from 1964 -1969. Towards the end of 1969, 'Muru' was given an emotional and fond farewell by all the students, teachers and staff for turning VI into a school/institution par excellence that was the envy of everyone in the country. He was replaced by the chain-smoking Tan Cheng Or who was himself a disciplinarian, though not of the same mould as Muru; he was not quite a "terror!!" Cheng Or continued maintaining the fine traditions of our 77 year-old school and secured the usual 100% pass in examinaton results as well.

The line up of teachers in Form 5B2 for the most important school examination of our lives - the 'O' level equivalent Malaysian Certificate of Examination (MCE) then - was:

Biology - Mrs. Leow/ Anandakrishnan ('young' Andy)
Chemistry - Mrs. Koh Swee Pheng
Physics - K. Durairajah
Maths/Additional Maths - Kok Lee Fatt/Cheok Cheo Foh/YW Cheang
Geography - Dharam Prakash
English Language - Mrs. Balaraman
English Literature - Mrs. Balaraman / Mrs. Yiap Khin Hin
Bahasa Malaysia - Cikgu Hassanudin/Puan Rohaty

Many would move on to Lower 6 and then Upper 6 for the Higher Scool Certificate (HSC) examinations. But Form 5 was THE crucial year for either going overseas (for the rich) for A-levels, moving on to Form 6 or entering the government or private sector work force. Without a MCE or equivalent qualification, the majority would struggle with employment in either the private or government sector. Of course these were the last few years when the curriculum was all English!!

Among that roll call of class teachers, Mrs. Yiap Khin Yin and Cheok Cheo Foh belonged to the "genius / brilliant" category. Mrs. Yiap not only brought Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' to life but opened up to us its relevance to contemporary life and death issues. If some 30 years later, I can still quote from Marc Antony's "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." funeral oration or Brutus' "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries...." then you know how good she was!!

There was also the hilarious 'The Card' by Arnold Bennet, written in 1911 and made into a movie in 1952 starring Sir Alec Guinness and Petula Clark, which told the story of Henry (Denry) Machin, a washerwoman's son who rose through sheer chuptzah and opportunism to become Mayor of Bursely, an imaginary town England. Mrs. Yiap's priming us for the final exam is the stuff of legends!!

As for Cheok, rare is the day when you could hope to get a fully awake class of 45 paying attention while the maths teacher droned on about dy/dx and the integral of the differential,  the proof of why the angle on the diameter of a circle is always a right angle or the intial rules of probability theory  - in some 30 years of working life I have never once had to resort to these formulae!! Yet, Cheok not only had us looking forward to each of his classes, he also managed the imposible in securing full attendance and voluntary handing up of homework on time from the entire class!! If that's not pure genius, I don't know what is!!

Cheok replaced Kok Lee Fatt who left us after 1st term. Kok wrung a silent vow out of me that I would move heaven and earth to get a distinction in MCE Maths. I had been missing classes due to hockey centralised training when one fine day Kok lectured to the whole class that those involved in centralised sports training - Indran, Balraj and myself - were destined to fail MCE Maths. Glad to report none of us did!!

After Cheok, there were brief stints from Yap Yew, R.Selvanathan and Cheang none of whom I recall as being in the same 'class' as Cheok.

Mrs. Koh at Chemistry and 'young' Andy were good but not inspiring. Of the stern-faced Biology teacher Mrs.Leow, I have already written earlier. Chemistry lab sessions were always fun, especially when you mixed hydrchloric acid with anything, performed titration tests or 'salts' identifying tests. The 'brown ring test' for nitrates in particular drew much pointed jokes while for no good reason one remembers the silver nitrate test for chlorides, the barium chloride test for sulphates and the famous 'cloudy solution' and litmus paper tests for carbon dioxide

In Anatomy, the study, identification and drawing of bones and vertebrae proved to be fascinating. My free hand drawings were shit, but I could easily tell the ulna from the radius and the thoracic vertebra from the lumbar and cervical types. All these were tested in the final lab exams which contributed some 30% of the overall MCE marks for Chemistry and Biology.

K.Durairajah or KD as we referred to him, stank all the way to the end of Form 6 in Physics and prevented many an Einstein from blossoming later in copyright offices!! KD who lectured in a low frequency squeaky voice was oblivious to whether the students understood the subject or passed, let alone, aced it. How we managed to get through without failing Physics is a major miracle of our times!!!

Saree clad and fair Mrs. Balaraman who also lectured the Form 6 seniors was a past mistress at droning on even if there were no students in front of her, such was the mechanical approach she brought to english language and literature. But nevertheless classmates like Tan Seng Tee found her sexy enough to pay attention and score 'A's!!

Dharam Prakash and Hassanudin (whenever he turned up) were adequate. Though BM was a compulsory subject most studied just enough to make sure we passed and got our full MCE cert. Puan Rohaty, like Mrs. Balaraman, had fine pectorals, dressed sexily and boasted many admirers in all the Forms. So we stampeded to clases and managed to get through subjects where otherwise we might have played truant. Where Dharam was meticulous and conscientious but boring, Hassanudin was sloppy and boring and just muddled through the syllabus.

Despite which most (98%) never bothered with private tuition lessons which seems di rigeur nowadays even in $15,000 - $50,000 per year private and international schools!!! The VI system of monthly and term tests and intense revision programmes towards the end of the year kept us well oiled and performance oriented!!

And of course, whether the teachers were brilliant or sucked at their subjects, they still worked a fine sweat out of everyone under their charge. What more could parents or studends demand of them?

As for sports and extra-curricular activities, 1970 was another high performance/achieving year for VI. In particular, the carmaraderie among the hockey and football players was oustanding about which I shall write in more detail later.

- to be continued.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

1969 - the truly honeymoon year (form 4, part3)



chariots of fire
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A smiling nod of appreciation from a senior, a “well done” uttered by a revered teacher or a pat on the back from a feared HM, this was all we boys needed to spur us to greater heights in our formative years in VI.

More than that, competition was encouraged, sloth discouraged and punished. There were the Lewis, Rodger, Treacher and Nugent-Walsh Scholar Awards to aim for, Sportsman of the Year, Captaincies and Vice Captaincies, Drum Major’s Post, Assistant Scout Master, School Librarian, Chairmanship of Clubs and Societies, Temporary Prefect and of course School Prefect and even the humble Class Monitor’s and School Bell Ringer’s position.

I wrote earlier about an incident that has stuck in my mind like forever. Paramjothy
was indoctrinated into Club 21 by HM Muru following his performance in a 4x100 inter-school relay held at Stadium Merdeka. Param had picked up his dropped baton and made ground for a medal position. Nine times out of ten, the runner would have thrown his hands up in the air and given up in exasperation! I am sure that “never say die” attitude would have stood well for Param throughout his life. More importantly, many, like me, took inspiration from Param’s tour de force.

That’s all about character which was part of the equation for TOTAL EDUCATION, as was that of students taking on the challenging position of leading from the front. There is also a very subtle but perceptible change in attitude and expectations when you move from Form 3 to Form 4. In the former you are regarded a junior at 15, while a few months later when you are not quite 16 yet in the latter, you are a senior pitted against guys who are 19!!

But all this did not matter. Either you took on the challenge and grew up very quickly or fell by the wayside.

1969, despite all the political turmoil in the country, was nevertheless a year of outstanding performances for VI. We swept the Selangor senior schools’ competitions in Football, Rugby, Badminton, Cricket and Hockey There were scintillating performances in Swimming and Water Polo too. But Athletics took a back seat with the cancellation of Sports Day!

Many did indeed lead from the front. None of that general from Washington radio-broadcasting to his troops in Saigon with “I’m right behind you, Sam!!” Captain Dinabandu (of Nestle fame, now Dato) coolly slotted in a penalty late in the second half to secure a nervous win over Royal Military College (RMC) in the Khir Johari Trophy Football Final played at Merdeka Stadium. But, the role played by goalkeeper Ee Beng Yew that day cannot be understated. In the dying minutes of the game, he called the dice correctly and saved an RMC penalty by diving right and pushing the ball away from a certain goal. Of such stuff are legends and heroes made!

Wong Fay Meng, Lee Kok Pheng, Lim Shook Kong and Yap Koi Meng smashed their way to the Asian Junior Championships, the King’s Cup and more in Badminton. Cricketers like Surjeet Singh, Sarjit Singh, Balachandren and Balakrishnan made it 7-in-a-row against RMC in the Vanderholt Trophy competition.

But that thing about character, sportsmanship AND education was nowhere more apparent than in the finals of the Selangor Schools U20 Hockey Finals where we encountered yet again our nemesis, Royal Military College (RMC). This was a year we expected to lose the U20 and win the U18 title from RMC. We were the proverbial underdogs. What transpired was the reverse and it all boiled down to the leadership, skill and commitment of our Hockey Captain, Daya Singh.

The U20 team that year included, besides Daya, stalwarts like ‘Bob’ Rajendran at right wing and goalkie G.Tharmasegaran who was regarded as a veteran even though he was in Lower 6. Tharma later appeared for the Selangor State Team as well as the National Team. This U20 squad paled by comparison with that of the all conquering squad of 1968. The juniors who graduated from Form 3 to the senior squad were Raja Azlan, K.Balraj, Hiew Heng Foo, Leong Wai Kim and yours truly. The regular fifth formers in the team included speedy whiz stickworking Pritam Singh, “Thunderbolt” Eddy Chong Kong Chin, Raja Ahmad, A.Balachandren, Zainal, Haniff, Satwant Singh and K.Jayaraj.

Zainal, like many in their teen years and some other members of the hockey squad, used to 'experiment' with cigarettes and was wrongly accused by coach Lenny as a "Pheet Kaki!!". It was Zainal (also called 'hitam' (black) burnt as he was from being outdoors a lot) who encouraged me to continue playing when I felt I was a bit out of my depth in the senior squad.
Haniff, who lived in Cochrane Road (as did Zainal, brothers Balraj and Jayaraj and Eddy Chong), was a character to behold in his sixth form years as he led a personal protest due to problems at home with his dad, by only showering and changing socks and clothes once a week!! And sometimes he wore no underpants!! You can imagine the stink this threw up in class and around school wherever he went in his dirt encrusted clothes. No amount of 'disciplining' by prefects, teachers or HM could change his behaviour, which he voluntarily altered towards the end of his upper six year!! But he was loyal to the hockey squad and would turm up for all the matches without fail. Hanif had a younger brother Haris who paid his own way for trials with the Manchester United Youth Football Squad, I'm told!

Of Raja Azlan's silken skills and deceptive quietness, I have already written earlier, while his elder brother Raja Ahmad was multi-talented (School Football and Tennis captain, prefect in 1971) and was joint Sportsman of the Year in 1971 with then School Captain Yap Kian Fui, both from Shaw House!

Hiew Heng Foo (second goalkeeper) was another "character." He was the equivalent of GI Joe in VI lore, a real tough guy whose specialty was Rugby. Once in a friendly hockey match, he was struck by the ball flush in the middle of the forehead from a short corner taken by our opponents. He was stunned for a second, no more, and then rubbed his forehead, laughed out loud and carried on where a brahma bull might have been done for a nice BBQ!!

Anothe player who blossomed overnight in form four was K.Balraj (ex-MAS Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, now based in Dubai). He shot up to six foot that year. Balraj was also a middle distance athlete, in especially the 800m, who started with me from standard 1 in Pasar Road English School 1. And in the 440 yards (2 round of the tracks) final in 1965 (standard six), he stunningly and unexpectedly snatched the trophy from all the favourites. It was a race in which I was eliminated ( I was not the favourite to win) when I fell after the start in the jostling to cut into the inner lane!
Balraj's determination and talent in athletics could also be seen when he (Shaw House V.Captain) took up Pole Vault in 1972 and won a medal as runner up for Shaw House, the winner being his close buddy, School V.Captain, Swimming Captain, Water Polo player, ASM and Shaw House Captain, Yap Chee Keong (Engineer). Balraj would go on to captain (at centre half) the VI hockey team in 1972 and play for the Selangor Schools hockey squad as well. It's extraordinary that Yap Chee Keong, who was not known as an athlete, could pick up Pole Vault just like that AND win the Gold. Yet it was not wholly unexpected. These were the only 2 guys who could be seen training evening after evening before Sports Day 1972, for that discipline which you either had a talent for or not!

Balraj's elder brother Jayaraj (JR) who played at right half, was a very quiet and reserved individual who was nonetheless quoted throughout his VI years for his extraordinary outburst of "Don't play the fool, that's Ginger Baker, you know!" which stunned his father (and us) when he ordered him to "shut the noise" as he lay on the living room sofa for his noon siesta. JR had then been enthralled, blasting his latest 'Cream" album. He also had a collection of all the rock albums of that era ranging from Led Zep to Deep Purple, Grand Funk, Hendrix and many more.

The team progressed smoothly to the finals, coached by Lenny De Vries. The training sessions were more rigorous and demanding than some of the friendlies and inter-school matches!!

But RMC was another kettle of fish! And watching the finals from the sidelines at the TPCA Stadium in Princess Road was very, very painful and agonising for me as I did not make it to the final eleven for that game!!
RMC attacked in waves from the word ‘go’. Their players, though not superior in stickwork, more than made up for it with speed and by attacking in numbers. Our strategy had always been to let the 3 forwards and two wingers do the goal scoring, while the midfield primarily supported defence and worked in Lenny's famous "triangles" in attack. Rarely would our forwards back up in defence or the fulbacks join the forwards in attack. The RMC marauders never let the VI players settle down. Overwhelmed would have been an understatement and RMC seemed to have won the match, leading 1-0 at half time and then went 2-0 up soon after the second half commenced.

That’s when the fight back began. Captain Daya Singh marshalled the defence superbly and at times seemed to be in two places at one time, repulsing every RMC attack in the midfield to thwart them from gaining any momentum. Daya also moved up with the forwards to attack in breakaways. He was like the Scarlet Pimpernel.Here’s here, here’s there, he’s everywhere!

Soon enough VI pulled one back and then equalised with a typical unstoppable thunderbolt to the roof of the goal net, unleashed by right full-back short corner specialist Kong Chin, from a perfectly executed short corner.

Pandemonium broke out as the RMC players protested ‘cut’ to umpire Kathiravale, meaning they felt Eddy Chong Kong Chin had illegally undercut the ball, which would have constituted dangerous and foul play! “Fiddlesticks!” retorted Kathiravale as he pointed to the centre circle. 2-2 it was as the VI voices now reached fever pitch with “Daya! Daya! Daya!” From that point on, RMC seemed to wilt.

With about 10 minutes left, Daya then produced a bit of magic with his stick and sent centre forward Leong Wai Kin (a staunch Christian) into the RMC ‘D’ with a perfect defence-splitting through pass. Now Leong was one with whom I competed for a place in the team. We did not get along too well as I regarded him a selfish non-team player. But this one time, I cheered and cheered as he sped through, took control of the ball, cared a damn about passing the ball to anyone else and flicked the ball into the net, past the onrushing RMC goalkeeper!

VI 3, RMC 2 was the final score of an epic match that deep in our hearts we never expected to win. But we produced that extra something that day, that RMC, perhaps overconfident as well that evening, could not. And we also had Daya Singh!
Kathiravale, always in all black referee’s uniform, was someone who knew me from refereeing football as well as hockey matches way back from primary school days. After he blew the final whistle he spotted me on the sidelines, winked at me and said smilingly, “You know, that was a magic clean hit. Nine times out of 10, the short corner specialist would have undercut the ball. Your Eddy got lucky that time!

Lucky? Hell! It takes weeks and months and hours and hours of practice on the field under a burning sun to be able to get “lucky” when it matters most!

As the game ended a group of RMC supporters from among those rushing to board their special buses back to Sg. Besi surrounded me, demanding to know why I had insultingly shouted "Dayak, Dayak!" at the RMC team!! Fortunately, they accepted my panicked (but true) explanation that I had been cheering Daya Singh, our hockey captain and not insulting our aborigine brethren or the RMC players!

A week later, we lost 1-0 to RMC in the U18 finals played at the same TPCA Stadium in Princess Road. But that was not half as exciting as the U20 finals and strangely we did not feel despondent at all in losing the U18 finals.

- to be continued