06 March 1999
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I would like to reproduce my early magnum opus here - Form II visits Taiping by Abdullah
Ahmad of Form II:
"On the 9th October, 1949, thirty two
of us, with Mr. Partridge, went on a day's outing to Taiping. We left Kuala Kangsar
at 8.00 a.m. by truck and arrived at Taiping at 9.00 a.m. We went straight to the
Taiping aerodrome and stayed there for about an hour. Mr. Partridge went to the "Malayan
Airways" office to ask permission for us to visit it. We were given permission
and a Malay Officer-in charge took us round. He showed us the wireless room and the
fire engine too. In a short time a plane came down and took the passengers who were
going to Kuala Lumpur. Then it flew off again. Fifteen minutes later another aeroplane
came down and took the passengers who were going to Penang.
"We thanked the Malay Officer. and went on to the museum. At the museum we saw
many interesting things. We left the museum for the lake gardens, where we had our
lunch. After lunch we had a short rest. Then we left the lake gardens for the town.
We stopped near the Malay Bazaar. Unfortunately the rain started, so we could not
walk round the town. We decided to return home and left Taiping at about 3.00 p.m.
We reached the college at about 4.00 p.m. We enjoyed the outing very much. We thanked
our Headmaster for the use of the truck and Mr. Partridge for taking us."
Thus began my life as a scribe. During my first year, I won a book prize for geography
I also contributed three out the 18.5 points to Ahmad House for excellent work in
academic performance. Rawi contributed three, Ariffin one. The balance was contributed
by five other pupils.
That was the first and the last time I ever won a prize and points for excellent
Despite that, I became chief librarian of the Hargreaves Library while still in form
four. Hargreaves Library is not a modest library by Malayan school standard. It was
somewhat grand compared to other school libraries.
I am, never was and never will be a bookworm, but I revere books as material objects
and as the quintessence (or distillation) of a nation's history.
I love to be surrounded by books (and beautiful people), and received a few as presents,
but I bought them (including bargain books) mainly as practical tools and references
for my work as a politician-turned-diplomat and a sometime columnist.
When I finally left school (Rida College, forerunner of the Institute of Technology
Mara) in 1957, it was also my first year of freedom and that of our nation.
At The Straits Times, I became part of a group of fortunate people. These
Malayan newspaper men and women were chosen to work on what was considered a fine
English language newspaper in the East - and of the finest promise too - when we
consider the majority of the journalists were working in what was and is a foreign
I have not been back to MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar) for almost 14 years now.
I would like to return to see it this summer, to walk the grounds and meditate at
my favourite spot.
The college may no longer be as privileged as it once was but I know even after 94
years the ethos of the school remains largely unchanged.
Like every other Malayan youth who came into his teens in the early 50s, I learned
the language and admired its literature but felt closer to Malay literature.
MCKK is an extraordinary institution, conceived with uncompromising determination
to educate and train young Bumiputras for the leadership of their nation.
It was at MCKK - I was given my first glimpse of local and national British and Malay
VIPS who came to attend the Board of Governors annual meeting, prize and speech day,
sports meet and to give talks. They inspired me to emulate them.
It was at MCKK and from these VIPs that I knew what freedom meant. It is a value
we do not realise as long as it is with us. One must lose it (in my case, detained
by Ghulam's police in 1976-81) to know how precious it is.
The prep school had given me a dream or two, but Jalan Dato' Onn gave me realities
of power for a good decade and more.
(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our Special Envoy to the United States.)
(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )