20 Dec 1998

Like it or not, being old collegians, there are many similarities we share, up to a point, that is. In college, we shared many secrets, fantasies and patriotism. Malaysians well know the qualities this exclusive school has endowed on generations of Malays during the last 93 years (the Malay College Kuala Kangsar was founded in 1905). Every collegian knows he has good networking that cannot be erased, ignored or changed.

Every Wednesday, old collegians wear, wherever they are, the famous striped ties of maroon, yellow, black and white - the colours of the Sulaiman, Mohamad Shah, Ahmad and Idris Houses respectively. As in English public schools, students live in their Houses. I was the Captain of Ahmad House in my final year as were Tun Razak and the present King. Old collegians maintain strong traditions of camaraderie and solidarity even if they are in competing political parties and are of different social stations.

At my table was the prefect who looked after me when I first arrived in 1948, aged 10. Raja Aznam bin Raja Ahmad, 73, is the nicest of men, and, now retired as a senior ambassador during the early eighties. He got into business and because he was innocent, his associates caused him acute embarrassment. He survived to tell his story to his worried siblings, one of whom is a bank CEO. Bless them. They worked things out for him.

As conversations picked up, we shared stories about the recently deceased and absent friends. We mourned. We reminisced. We laughed together. Sallehudin (high commissioner in Pakistan) several years my junior, nudged me aside and told me something which confirmed what I had already heard. Rejal Arbee, the editor in chief of Berita Harian, an old friend who used to cover me when I was "somebody" in Tun Razak's administration, and I talked about friends and politicians. He satisfied my voracious curiosity about politics and groups.

Hamidin Abdullah, the retired general manager of Jengka Triangle, my senior walked towards me. I told him I was looking for a plot of land in Janda Baik to build a Malay-style log cabin for weekend retreats. He immediately offered a portion of his land. In return I shall build him a similar log cabin and jointly and gradually transform the plot which he said is perched on high ground, into a sanctuary containing pavilions, bridges and fish ponds.

Hamidin harkened back to the old Malay virtues of sharing and gotong-royong. He is a nice old fashioned Pahang Malay from Temerloh who finds the secular unsentimental, sharp and cutthroat ways of KL unbearable and, hence, he wants to move to Janda Baik, something his ancestors and mine would have instantly understood.

Old collegians like Shamsudin Yaakub 75, Tun Razak's classmate and a former secretary-general of the Ministry of Rural Development when Razak was minister, Wan Mansor, 66, another former secretary-general, Abdul Latiff Hussien 63, a successful businessman, Manan "Tembam" Osman, 63, a former minister of agriculture and many others young and old came to dinner to maintain the friendships and camaraderie which continue to flourish.

"Monty" Zainuddin, 65, always turns up because he always has a small part in the concert or other activities. This year he belted out a song which was popular soon after World War 1.

In this blessed land of amnesia, I was pleasantly surprised that many recognised me - all claiming they enjoy reading my weekly columns in the Sun and Utusan Malaysia. Several young old collegians reverently stopped to talk and asked for my address. They roared with laughter, when I (jokingly) said why no one had asked for my autograph. Who can recall how many ministers in the Prime Minister's Department or Ministry of Land Development or whatever it is called now have. come and gone? Each famous for at least a week - then gone!

At 11:30pm, I returned to my table. The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultan of Selangor, both old collegians were engrossed in conversation. At independence, five of the nine Malay rulers were old collegians; today only four. Not present were the Perak and Pahang rulers. Tuanku Ja'afar, like his father, the first king (also an old collegian) has been a great supporter of Macoba and a good monarch. The Sultan of Selangor looked radiant and contended. Whenever I glanced towards the royal table he was inescapably, when not in conversation, adoringly admiring his young consort.

Across the room, I observed an old collegian who had the most lustful look I have seen for a while when he saw a stunningly beautiful Pan-Asian woman walk down the aisle, arms locked, smiling and laughing with her young escort who was puffing a cigar. The cigar, apparently, is the ultimate phallic symbol, which made Freud to observe that sometimes it's just a cigar. If you doubt Freud, write to US President Bill Clinton. His unconventional use of stogie as an extra sex aid is world famous.

Cynicism be gone. The night, as always stirred my longing. It exhilarated me, inspired the 700 or so collegians and their wives, girl friends and guests totaling about 1,300; no dreariness for them because fun transcends age, social and other barriers. More or so at Macoba reunion.

I shall always return.

(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our Special Envoy to the United States.)

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )