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Thursday, 5 May 2016

1971-1972 PART 2 - LOWER SIX ORIENTATION WEEK & THE COUPLES



    You've Got A Friend by James Taylor      

(Unfortunately, I was unable to post some relevant class pics from the School Magazines. VI HM Somasundram cancelled the publication of class photos in the 1971 & 1972 editions, without explaining why. I have already said before that he was a philistine. I mean, of what use is a School Magazine for most of the students, if the alumni pics are not there in the respective year books?)


U6B1 1971 - CLASS MASTER LAW YING KEE
CLASS MONITOR - CHUA SWEE HONG



(Click on pic for enlarged view).

Cupid's arrows were never more more eagerly awaited than by the quaking, quivering and concupiscent male students who entered F6 in Victoria Institution. This was largely because most of us had never had to configure equal females in our midst, given 11 years of schooling in an all-male (female teachers excepting), testosterone filled environment. Barring the few who had encountered girls at non-school tuition classes and those few who had somewhat "steady" girlfriends, to the rest, say about 95% of us, co-ed education was always going to be a real challenge.

A blogger friend of mine recently posted an article that sexual repression was THE key problem in countries like Malaysia that led to many of societies' ills and perverse behaviour. CLICK HERE.

You can now imagine what a throbbing lot of sexually starved and unfulfilled boys we were, and the fantasies that crowded our thoughts, yours truly included. There was also the myth propagated by US movies that the truest of eternally lasting love was to be found in marrying your High School sweetheart. So, there were great expectations and fantasies to live up to. But to tell the truth, most were mystified, if not terrified with having to confront this new aspect of real life. We were right at the steepest part of the climb up the learning curve.

I have already recounted my running into the first girl I knew in F6, Wong Kim Lim, in Part1. But, it was fortunate that the Arts Union, Cultural Society and the Science & Maths Society had organized the 'Lower Six Orientation Week' from Monday 26 April to Saturday 1st May, 1971. It was a well thought out annual event, designed to break the ice between boys and girls as well as the newcomers in the Arts, Science and Pure Maths (Double Maths) streams. During this week, there were inter-form badminton, hockey, football and netball competitions. Badminton and hockey featured mixed teams.

Thank God we had this Lower Six Orientation Week to get the freshies going, as in my class, L6B1, there appeared to be a solid wall between the sexes. But somehow L6B3, where we had good friend like Abdul Rashid, Chong Yoo Nam, Sallehudin (Hood) and Chan Wai Ming (Rose Chan), turned out to be an exceptionally happening class where things appeared to be buzzing all the time.

I say this without any sense of ego, but it was generally accepted that L6B1 had (mostly) the brainier lot of boys and girls (at least by MCE exam results slips) in the Bio Maths stream. But L6B2 didn't appear to be the Woodstock-type partying class either. Perhaps there is an inverse co-relation between the fun and brains groups. I don't know. 

Anyway, it was during this week that I ran into two girls, one literally, and the other, in a manner of speech (or speechless).

There was this L6B1 vs L6B2/3 inter-form mixed hockey clash. Hockey was of course right up my alley, and it was my chance to show off to the girls. And sure enough I scored 3 or 4 superb goals. But I got a bit carried away, oblivious to the fact that with half the opposition comprising girls, I should have taken this amateur game easy and not too seriously. In one flowing movement upfield, L6B2's full-back Sushil Kaur stood between me and the goal, and somehow we got tangled up. Everything seemed alright as we got up. The match ended a short while later and I made off towards the field slopes with some classmates to swallow ice-orange drinks and conduct a post mortem of the game and "happenings".

As I looked down, I spotted Sushil Kaur sitting on the grass in the hockey pitch, being attended to by some girls who were all pointing at her right shin and at me. As it happened, she looked up and saw me and my mates looking down at them. She said something to her friends and there was a sour look on her face. I learnt later that she had received an accidental tap on her right shin from my hockey stick and that it had swollen and bruised up a wee bit. She had told her friends, "Look at him just standing there and looking!" She had branded me a donkey for not apologising.

I swear I had no idea I had caused her any injury. And had I known about it, I would not only have apologised, but also taken her to the Prefects' Room for first-aid treatment. But, had I been less dense, I would have realized something was not quite right, and gone down back to the field to inquire. But, that was 45 years ago when in many aspects of social behaviour, especially where it concerned girls, I was as thick as two 2-inch planks. I was blank when it came to some basic etiquettes.

I recently heard from Dato Dr. Teoh Siang Chin, Sushil's L6B2 classmate, that he had chapatti dinner with her and her family in Sydney, Australia. It's good to know there was no permanent damage to her right shin.

So, my dear Sushil Kaur, 45 years late, but better late than never, here is my unreserved apology for bad form on my part. Perhaps some day soon we can all get together and have a few glasses of beer, wine or whatever your poison might be and laugh over  my painful growing years.

What is interesting though is that despite Sushil being 18 AND very attractive, and there being at least four Sikh boys in Lower Six that I can recall -  Jaspal, Sarmukh, Balraj and Balwant - and a few more in Upper Six - Manmohan, Pritam - no one then seems to have tried to "tackle" her, which is the puerile word we boys used for trying to get to first base with a girl.

And is it not quixotic that it fell to me to "tackle" Sushil in such an unforgettable manner, that for the rest of F6, I kept a healthy, respectable distance from her, and she from me?

During that week, some of the Arts girls had been busy preparing banners, decorations and posters for the Lower Six Orientation Week Ball. This they did in a designated classroom during the school mid-morning interval#1 or free periods. Which is why I ran into Kok Po Tho (ex-BBGS) who, having worked through the interval, had snuck off to the tuck shop later for a bite and drink. I was there as prefects were allowed to have a quick snack and drink after interval duties and before heading late for their classes.

We looked at each other and something passed. She smiled at me and the heavens opened. She had a mixed-Eurasian look. She knew she should not have been there. I knew she should not have been there. She was in blatant infringement of VI school rule no. 1,000,003 - Thou Shall Not Be In The School Tuck Shop After 10.45 a.m. I didn't care. I was prepared to throw caution to the wind. I asked her if she wanted an ice-lemonade. She said she preferred a coke. We then sat down on a bench and had the usual scintillating conversation that always follows such encounters:

What's your name?
Which class are you from?
Which school are you from? 
You Arts or Science?
You like VI?
Have you heard Led Zep?

I might well have been the guy who looked at his dream girl and knowing the lines, pathetically blurted out "You Are My Density" instead of "...Destiny", in the state that I was. (Of course, those immortal lines were uttered by George McFly in the 1985 movie classic 'Back To The Future').

I was sweating buckets by now, and blushing so much someone might have mistaken me for a Red Indian. Oops, sorry, one must be politically correct nowadays. I meant Native American. I was in so much anguish I dared not stand up. Thankfully, Po Tho got up and said she had to rush off to class and "see you around".

Of course, we all know what "see you around" means. But in my highly enlightened and excited state, I imagined it might mean we were engaged. Over the next few weeks we ran into each other at various places in school including the Orientation Ball, and had all sorts of silly, juvenile and meaningless "conversations". I also found all sorts of excuses to wander over to her Arts class in the new block, and requested prefect's secretary A. Balachandren to put me down for line-up duty in the Arts block!

But, this brief idyllic "tryst" came to an abrupt halt when someone told me she already had an "outside" boyfriend who had a car and dropped her off and picked her from school every morning and noon. This was too much competition for a bumbling amateur like me. Yes, yes, I was aware of all the cliched expressions - 'Faint Heart Never Won A Fair Lady', 'Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained', 'Carpe Diem' and all that lot. But, discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to disengage (read as chicken out).

It was not until 2011 that I discovered Kok Po Tho had later married her Arts classmate Mac Yin Tee, and that both had settled down in Perth. Mac contacted me from Perth after reading my blog post which featured him among others. CLICK HERE. Mac was another of those - like TA Mohan, Cheah Peng Keong, Mac Ken Boon, K. Balraj, Kwan Poh Woh, Sivandan, Teoh Siang Chin, Low Sek Luen etc. - who had been with me all the way from standard 1 in Pasar Road English School 1 through to VI. I do not recall that Mac and Po Tho were a pair in VI; romance must have developed post VI.

I have already written about my "dancing" efforts with freshie Hashimah at the Lower Six Orientation Week Ball in Part 1. But, all around me the eternal dance between male and female was taking place. Boys were chasing girls, and more rarely, girls were also chasing boys.

Slowly, the girls to whom all this VI tradition was probably boring, warmed up to the events of the Orientation Week. There was one football game between B1 and B2/B3 combined played in pouring rain. It had tremendous support from the girls who turned up in droves to watch us hilariously slip and slide on our backsides. And when Abdul Rashid sneakily changed the players' order in the badminton clash so that he would face me, the weaker player in the singles match, I was taken aback by Hung Ling's ferocious demand that our side too should resort to gamesmanship!

I recall how the ice between my physics lab partner (Dr) Pathmanathan (Pat) and I, and Tan Kiat Lan and her partner Tan Tui Hang, melted. For this, I have to thank my grandfather, among whose hobbies, was, carpentry. There was this physics experiment which required a ruler to be slung by two strings from a beam for hanging weights and calculating moments and centre of gravity or something. The thing is the ruler had to be suspended absolutely horizontally and the instruments provided for this was a spirit level. To even Pat this was a mystery. But, I had seen my grandfather use a spirit level to check on his planks shaven flat to perfection. 

When we had finished our experiment and tabulated the results, I noticed Kiat Lan and Tiu Hang staring at us from the adjacent bench. It cottoned on to thick as two 2-inch plank me that they were stuck because a spirit level was as alien to them as Einstein's Theory of Relativity was then. So, I was the hero for that day as I demonstrated to them and several others how real men dealt with puny matters like PHYSICS AND SPIRIT LEVELS! What a laugh!

Anyway, Kiat Lan, Tiu Hang and I became fairly good friends after this incident and we had lots of (innocent) fun during a school trip to Thailand that December. I recall a birthday party at Kiat Lan's house in Taman Seputeh where we gnoshed and danced wildly. I lost track of Kiat Lan after F6, but managed to re-establish contact with Tiu Hang a few years ago.

There were several other parties that year, none more memorable than the one at (Dr) Chew Yoong Fong's house in Jalan Inai off Jalan Imbi. Everyone from the Arts and Science classes was invited and the highlight of that night was (Dato) Yap Teong Choon (of Sin Heap Lee fame) doing the go-go on a stool. I don't recall beer being on the menu, but one never knows! Some smoked openly, not caring a hoot that prefects were about.

Wong Kim Lin also threw a great fun-filled party at her house in Jalan Cheras which even mgf (Dr) Aw Kok Teng remembers.

There was a joint Bio-Science class trip by chartered bus to Templer's Park near Rawang. Some like Hood travelled first class - they drove up in their own cars. That was one of the best ever outings. We had a picnic there, hiked up the hill and then swam in the cold waters of a shallow lake. Everyone joined in the singing and joking and ribbing. God, what innocent fun-filled days they were - Into my heart, an air that kills... - CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL POEM BY A.E. HOUSMAN

It was during that trip that I got to talk to Rozia Hanis, ex-PM Hussein Onn's daughter, and her cute friend Ruby who floored me when she said I reminded her of the great and handsome Hindi actor, Shashi Kapooor. I was head over heels in it again. Three days later, I approached her in school thinking of proposing, but she dashed my hopes saying she and Hanis would be leaving soon to further their studies in London! 

Slowly, but surely all that orientation and inter-actions and flirtations were producing results. Cupid's arrows were striking at random. Class monitor Chua Swee Hong begged me to take a peek at the class register for the birth date of Sook Ping who was a Pure Maths girl. Recognised pairs or "couples" started emerging.

Of course, the first of them was I suppose (Dr) Chew Yoong Fong and (Dr) Yap Siew Peng about whom I have written in Part1. The couples I recall were:

1. Chew Yoong Fong (B1)&  Yap Siew Peng (BBGS/B1)
2. Sallehudin Shamsudin (B3) & Sakinah Ibrahim (BBGS/A1)
3. (Dr) Tan Kai Chah (B1) & Choo Ching Kit (BBGS/B3)
4. Abdul Rashid (B3) & Monica Chin Wylin (CBN/B3)
5. Yap Chee Keong (B5) & Aw Mong Lim (B5)
6. Kok Po Tho (BBGS/A1) & Outsider

The most unlikeliest couple was Rashid & Monica. But, this was an era where race and religion never mattered. Fong, Hood, Rashid and Yap all had driving licences and cars. I don't know how much this had to do with their confidence and success in their courtings.

Fook Poon Lih had a crush on some (BBGS) girl whose name I cannot recall, nor do I know of the exact relationship, platonic or otherwise, then between  Liung Cheong Choo and Bing Ying (BBGS/B3) or Yip Kok Keong and Sally Chong Siew Moi (Cheras/A1).

In at least four instances, romance and marriage sprang up (it would appear) after schooldays:

1. The devoutly Christian pair of (Dr) Kwan Kow (B3)& Cho Hung Ling (BBGS/B1)) who operate a well-known private maternity clinic in Kajang.
2. Low Sek Luen (B4) and Diana Ooi Hean Siak (B1) who live in Montreal, Canada. I think both of them are in the IT sector.
3. Lye Khim Loong (B4) and Hoy Chan (BBGS/B1)
4. Su Chen (B2) and Mei Yok (BBGs/B2)

In the case of N.Indran, 1972 School Captain, he was in a class all by himself. Wherever he went, a group of three girls always seemed to follow him - the lovely and energetic Dato Bo Fatimah, Datin Zaleha Ahmad and Datuk Siti Zaleha. There were at least another two girls who formed this set of fun-loving and giggly groupies, who I recently discovered still meet regularly for high-tea!

Among the other popular girls were Faridah Ahmad and (Dr/BDS) Fazah Yakin,  both from my class, B1. We all suddenly gelled at the end of a Chemistry lab period. Fazah started it by teasing T.A. Mohan about his non-VI Chinese girlfriend (Linda)  and soon a few others like Pat and Fong and Balraj joined in, and there you are, the chemistry was right!

But really, when you consider that there were about 350 of us, the success rate of under 2% is a staggeringly poor and astonishing statistic. 

So, surely, if we are expected to faithfully spend the better part of our adult lives each with one member of the opposite sex, the grounds for this engagement should be laid much earlier in life?

I think the dearth of co-education in Malaysia leads to all sorts of social and sexual problems and poor attitudes and views about women, in adult life. No doubt the priestly class has another opinion. 

Anyway, there was this pop song global mega hit that December of 1971 which played over and over in my mind, as we sat in a tour bus in Bangkok. I now dedicate it to those who shared with me the VI years from 1970-72. 'You've Got A Friend' by James Taylor is one of those few instances where the remake is better than the original (by Carole King).

E.S. Shankar

#1 Meaning recess, but we never used that word during our schooldays. It was always 'interval'.

Next Change- My Vote for Ms VI 1972