20 Dec 1998
To me, it does matter when and where the annual Malay College Old Boys Association
(Macoba) dinner takes place. The Pyramid in Bandar Sunway is only acceptable for
size to accommodate the growing annual throng. Despite the recession and the trial
of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, an unenthusiastic old collegian, this year's attendance
was an all time record: 2,000 persons. Though the Pyramid lacks ambiance, class and
grace, I enjoyed the party on Saturday, Nov 21 just the same.
Fauzah and I were Macoba's guests, the third time in 16 years. Usually we paid. The
first was soon after I was released after five years of detention under ISA. At each
gathering, I felt a great excitement, a back-to-college sentiment and sentience.
Because I have been living in New York since 1996, Macoba dinners and gatherings
are by and large my only real chance to make contact with classmates, associates
and acquaintances I have not seen in years. When we were students, a dozen or two
were interested in fashion but now, in old age, I notice many of my contemporaries
have learnt to dress in style. A senior, a dandy, actually, wore huge rings, a gleaming
wristwatch and a lizard-shaped diamond stickpin on the lapel of his suit - a kind
of habit, I supposed designed to catch attention.
At the Pyramid, I reconnected and renewed friendships with four classmates o the
Class of '54. I bumped into lawyer Anuar Jusoh (Joe, the Silent), whose wife is the
Solicitor-General, Heliliah. He had come alone because his wife had to company their
sick pet cat to the veterinary clinic.
There was Syed Zainal Wafa (a doctor in Langkawi) who is looking more and more like
an Arab (he is part Malay); bearded and whiskered. Because he is a heavyweight, he
can not possibly be mistaken for an Arab terrorist (usually trim). However, he does
have that "terrorist" look. His mannerisms as he spewed venom over some
imagined grievances made him look like a real bad guy.
Well, before the Special Branch interviews him , I must caution them that Zainal,
one of my closest classmates, is apolitical. He is a good guy, actually. He was only
temporarily angry and I understood why.
Anyway, if he were to visit the United States he would be deemed a potential terrorist
suspect by US intelligence officials who tend to believe Hollywood movies which always
assume that every Arab is a terrorist and what more with a name like Syed Zainal
bin Syed Nordin Wafa.
Abdulah Bakri, like good Malays, is an everyday architect who designs homes and delivers
them, usually not always on schedule. However, he always supervises them well. If
you like the new look of PJ Hilton, that is Bakri's work. We shared jokes and Bakri's
laughter, as is his speech, had a harsh boom to it.
Lastly, there was Abdul Razak Bahamn who, according to Zainal, lives alternatively
in in Kuala Lumpur and Perth. He has invited, again according to the "Arab",
friends to partake his hospitality down under. Razak is a prosperous engineer, a
workaholic just like when he was a student. Hi scanny reserve has never left him.
Most of my other classmates are happily retires; three have died.
I snooped around the huge Pyramid in the hope of finding drinks to buy besides finding
out who's who among the vast young and noisy crowd. I came across Aziz, formerly
of this newspaper and a buddy Halim Saad (Halim and I Briefly reviewed about New
York's life after dark) and Muhamad of Utusan Melayu Meanwhile Fauzah engaged old
friends. We got free drinks because the waiter thought we were co-owners of the Pyramid!.
I caught Halim staring at beautiful people, this handful of souls who helped to define
the Macoba annual feast. A former student rebel, Hishamuddin Rais, in a kind of bohemian
evening dress, took to the dance floor like a duck to water. It was exhilarating
watching him and his partner. He did not talk about reformasi to me, yet, he was
hardly silent on other things. He was amazingly unforgetful and pedantic, if conciliatory.
As the annual concert was in full swing, there were as many people in as outside
the hall. I watched a bit to be polite. It was good even though it featured nearly
the same actors, singers and "comedians". I was naturally drawn to those
old colleagues who could tell me contemporary stories - embellishing a tale or two
about the reformasi and its jailed leader, Anwar.
I recognized a few of Anwar's classmates and their wives. When I asked a wife in
tudong - who resembles a beautiful nun, her opinion (after another "nun"
brought up the Anwar scandal), she dismissed, in impeccable Malay - the whole thing
as "nonsense" and "no one's business", adding that men, including
her husband (in a dark Armani suit, shirt and Macoba tie) have been curang
(unfaithful) since the beginning of time. I do not recall Anwar ever attending a
Macoba dinner before last year.