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.