Eggheads and streetsmart students

15th February 1998

It was a clear, cool (by Kuala Lumpur's standard, that is) Sunday evening, on Jan 25 this year when Tun Haniff Omar and I talked - as we never talked - of our 1954 classmates at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) during berbukapuasa in the second-level garden by the swimming pool of Education Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's sprawling residence at Jalan Duta.

NajIb didn't attend MCKK (he went to St. John's Institution) although his younger brother Johari did, like their father and grandfather.

Another classmate Anuar Jusoh (Pekan, Pahang), known as "Joe the Silent", a practicing lawyer, was also present as were many mutual friends and acquaintances in government and the private sector.

Haniff was stunned when I told him that another classmate had died. "Who?" he anxiously asked. I told him. Anuar Yahya of Kuala Kubu Baru, thus reducing the number to eighteen still around.

The death of Colonel Arffin Muda (Kuala Trengganu) our military attache in Jakarta, and Lieutenant General Datuk Nik Mahmood Fakharuddin Kamil (Kota Baru), the deputy Chief of Army, were well reported in the media but Anuar's was not.

Anuar returned from Britain without completing his degree course in civil engineering because of "personal problems". He never really had a regular job and stayed until his death with his parents who were relatively well-off, a retired director of land and mines and his headmistress mother, a hospitable and gracious lady.

Though small, physically, Anuar was a good sportsman. He was particularly good in hockey and besides playing for the college he also represented the Victoria Institution (VI) when he was a Sixth Form student there. All three would have been sixty plus had they lived.

In our conversation we recalled fondly about the departed and those still alive. Hanfff said he never met Ibrahim Mat ("Tua") (Kangar, Perlis) and Mohamad Noor (Kuala Kubu), and Mohamad Nasir bin Talib (Rembau) since we parted in late December 44 years ago.

Ibrahim, a good fullback in MCKK's first eleven soccer team retired as a storekeeper, Mohamad Noor, a rubber replanting inspector, and Nasir's last job was that of a school principal.

Nasir was fondly called "Buncit". Most of us have nicknames. None, I am glad, was derisive. Despite being ealled Buncit, Nasir was not as pot-bellied as conjured by his nickname. We gave him the nickname because he was fond of drinking cold water in the middle of the night when we were in B dormitory at the Prep school, a habit he discontinued in higher forms but Buncit stuck. We then believed drinking too much water would make one's stomach bulge!

Although all of us are now compulsorily retired, a few, like Haniff and I, are at what might be called the awkward stage of our life (being healthy and active) to do nothing. So, he and I and a few others have begun a second career. The former policeman has become a business tycoon and I, you know what.

Abdul Wahid Shamsuddin (Tapah) the former deputy director-general of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) first became a courtier at Istana Negara after retirement, and now, I understand, runs his own business, Abu Bakar Mahmud (Temerloh), otherwise known as "Buku", (bookworm), I hope, is writing his memoirs especially about his special assignment in Taipeh now that Taiwan seems to be in vogue economically-speaking in Southeast Asia following the Asian economic meltdown; Abdul Razak Bahaman (Kuala Pilah) whose goatee beared is becoming whiter and his pocket deeper still runs his lucrative engineering firm, architect Razak Hitam (Malacca) plays golf all over the world having made enough money in Johor and Negri Sembilan to do so and has always been a good sportsman; Abdullah Bakri (Menette from Tales of Two Cities) Wahab (Seremban), a successful architect together with his wife, Khalidah Mohamad, a jeweller, is busy making money.

I understand that Rawi "Baka" Abdul Rahman (Kota Baru), spends more time at his neighbourhood mosque than anywhere else. (This Kirkby-trained teacher was a clever student who somehow never made it to university), Sidek (Tembam) Embong (Kuala Terengganu), also a former teacher and a sportsman, might have achieved more had he worked in Kuala Lumpur; Mokhzani Abdul Rahim (Arau), a globe-trotting businessman (annually to Geneva) should now stop traversing the earth, and start putting pen to paper, at least about his time teaching economics at Universiti Malaya when it was a premier institution and a sought-after place of higher learning.

Syed Zainal Wafa "Arab" (Kuala Kangsar) runs a private clinic in Langkawi after teaching medicine at University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and subsequently, as a private practitioner, specialising in looking after Bangladeshi immigrants and remains the only friend I know who still guzzles gulai tempoyak! He did it when he was married to an Irish woman and living in Northern Ireland in the sixties when I visited them.