Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Toast to 50 more....(Part 1)

There are some things that money cant buy.Yes..love,happiness,peace...those are things that we all yearn for at some point in our lives. Yet, to my parents, I found out that money cant buy friendship.So, it was in the warm afternoon of November 17th,I found myself at the wheel of my Honda, ferrying the people I love the most on this planet - my dad,mum and my aunt to the St.Aidan's 50th year anniversary. (scroll to the bottom of this article to view the photos..each are clickable to enlarge)
In the 45 minute drive from Tampin to Bahau, for those precious minutes that passed,I watched with silent amusement as my mum and aunt reminisced excitedly about their school life,their old friends and teachers. They were like two secondary school girls transported to a universe of sunshine somewhere in their heads,forming their own world of good memories.Even my dad,a man of few words got into the act and opened up about the school and its good ol' days.I could only paint a smile as we sped along to our destination.As I was saying "there are some things money cant buy..."

My dad spent a good part of his teaching career in St.Aidan and he was one of the first few to move into the school quarters after marrying my mum.We spent a good 12 years living within the premise of the school until 1981.My mum and aunt on the other hand, had an even richer school experience.Both of them were 2nd batch students and they definitely had seen it all, the Gunaratnam-Devadas-Martin era that spanned almost 25 years.My sis had a good 8 years and I clocked 11 years of my life (including the 9 peaceful months in mum's womb).

We reached St.Aidan's early,and immediately my parents were united with our school neighbours Mr and Mrs Naidu. It was a heartwarming sight to watch Mr.Naidu hug my dad, and my mum and Mrs Naidu embrace each other (Coincidentally, both my mum and Mrs Naidu were born on the same day). Mr.Naidu's youngest daughter, and whom I consider like my own baby sister, Amelia was beaming with a wide smile . Clutching closely to her side ,were her two beautiful daughters, and for a moment, words like baby sister, were instantly replaced by "a beautiful mother of two angels".

Armed with my Nikon,I set to work capturing image after image of old friends bellowing hearty laughs,strong handshakes,rolled up eyes,shoulder shrugs,belly pats,sheepish grins,aged hair,smily wrinkles,twinkly tearful eyes,whoops of surprise...the expressions and emotions exuded were unbelievable as the camera rolled back the years and captured the wonder of the moment.

The event proper was supposed to begin at 7.30,but the majority of the crowd which had been building steadily for an hour, were still networking with each other or registering their details to receive their souvenir pens and the 50th Anniversary book,The Gleam.Eventually, after the emcee had announced for the gazillionth time for the crowd to come into the hall, the event began with a flurry of food and activity.Everything from the choir,belts of golden oldies,speeches,cultural performances and even a ballet dance, the night didnt reserve a dull moment for the over 700 strong guests. The highlights of the evening was a video and montage featuring the first two headmasters, Mr David Gunaratnam and Mr.Devadas. The event was graced by none other than Tan Sri Mohd Isa, and it was a great chance for many to see our VVIP in such a cordial mood.And lets not forget the lucky draw right at the end where there were plenty of smily faces hoisting away hamper after hamper.

However, for all its merry entertainment and joyful reunions,the event was tainted by two glaring hiccups.

During the evening's main event, where the old teachers were being paid tribute for their outstanding contribution and long term service, the committee glaringly left our Mr.Naidu from the names of teachers called out to receive the certificate from Tan Sri Mohd Isa.It was a boo-boo of gargantuan proportions, for a man who had lived in the school quarters and had contributed so much to the school.I understand the certificates were available,but no one had the decency to rectify the issue during the night.

The second unforgiveable sin by the committee members were to take their seats up front at the VIP tables and push the old teachers to the back of the hall.It broke my heart to see that none of the committee members (who painted a sea of yellow at the front) had any sense to vacate their seats and allow these long serving teachers the respect they deserved.These teachers were actually given special invites for the event,and instead of celebrating them, some shameless folks ignored their very own gurus for the sake of self gratification.

But there is hope, even as I type this, Mr Devadas who had voiced his concern over these embarassing acts, has come forward to try and cushion these issues.Plans are now being implemented to correct the mistakes. The spirit of St.Aidan is not dead after all.
As the evening ticked away to an end, Jeeva and myself witnessed many teachers and students reunited, and wave after wave of gratitude echoed within the walls of the grand school hall. I lost track of the number of students who said "you have changed my life" or "it was because of you,we became who we are today". We watched the humble teachers accept these accolades in their stride, nod wisely and pass on even greater wisdom to their ex-students. It also brought me back to my conversation once with celebrity DJ Gary Ratnam, who mentioned "it was because your dad slapped me on my head during science class that I became who I am today".How ironic that students who used to probably curse their teachers once for the scolding,caning and sarcasm they received,now look back upon those horrible times as life inspiring.
To me the unforgetable moment of the whole evening was when the current headmistress, Ng Thai Thai went up on stage and pleaded to the audience, parents,committee members and VIPs to help support the schoolMy heart really went out to her. The good news is the event managed to raise almost RM 30,000 (or maybe more), and we hope that the large chunk of it will go to developing computer labs and upgrading the state of the school.The Old Boys and Girls association was also launched during the evening to a burst of confetti, and we hope that more ex-students will come forth to help steer and contribute to the well being of the school.My sincere gratitude to the incredible work put in by Jeeva, Ravi Chandran, Mr Anbu and sister Usha for their perseverance,patience and dedication to pull off this amazing event. They are true students who wear their school's heart in the open with pride and passion.Special mention is also reserved for Mr.Devadas for his unconditional support and advise and to Mr Easparan, Reverend Marshall and Ng Thai Thai for their immense contribution.
That night as I lay awake, restless in my bed, there were so many thoughts that flashed across the canvass of my mind."Where were all my old school mates?" ; "What are my old school teachers up to today?"; "Will there be continuous support for the school now that the event is done?"
I didnt meet a single school teacher of my batch, but at least I met two of my old classmates,Rekha and Annie, which compensated for so many of the schoolmates who couldnt make it for the event. I was also glad that somehow someone stumbled upon this blog and an old student of my dad's Ms Lee Lee Leng contacted me all the way from Canada to have a chat.She also mentioned that there was a small community of St Aidan ex students from around the globe that still kept in touch with each other.Gary Ratnam tried his best to make it for the event but he couldnt get out of a radio shoot.Nicole and her gang had commitments in KL.my sister and my brother in law were in langkawi,Vijayan was in Sabah.Kamala had a wedding...Kamalesh was on another planet..and the list goes on and on...and it was a blessing that there were so many who couldnt make it because the hall could only hold 1000 people.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, the last few images that sailed past my inner eye were the school field, the old school canteen, my old house and the school hall.Mini momuments that really were my very own wonders of the world that I used to gaze upon,as a child. Inanimate objects that stood year after year,in silence watching young children with so much hope grow into adults with lost ones.Rather unconciously I hummed a line from the song "Out of Time" by the British Band,Blur
"You've been so busy lately,that you havent found the time,to open up your mind, to watch the world spinning, gently out of time..."
Perhaps these buildings do come alive when the sun goes down.Perhaps they chat amongst themselves about the going-ons through out the day.Maybe they laugh about the good old days, and yearn for the time when they all stood new and majestic in the eyes of its audience like how they were, almost 50 years ago.Today we take these historical landmarks for granted.Landmarks that once used to house knowledge,and students just like us, and keep us warm and protected under their roofs.All they ever asked for was that they be remembered.I wonder how many of us will return to St.Aidan to glance upon these buildings with wonderment.We will return to our homes,and cars, families,careers..and back to the reality of our lives.And as the sun sets,one day even these inanimate structures will finally close their eyes, and never awaken..and we will lose a part of us forever.

Some friendships seek out each other...

Others are meant to last forever...

Let's snap a photo before everyone else arrives..the early birds strike a pose!

The hardest working member of the St.Aidan event team,Mr Ravi Chandran (standing 2nd from left)

Siiiiiiing!!!Sing a songggggg....!!

It was packed inside the hall

Registration time outside the hall.Mr.Devadas seems to be reminding everyone that the show was about to start.

I sneak into a family photo.My best chance to have posed with the St.Aidan legend Mr.Nadarajah.Also trying to keep himself out of the limelight is our Chief blogging officer and editor of the Gleam magazine,Jeeva who is seen standing on the far left wearing a tie. The Nada clan included his twin daughters and their spouses and kids,Viji with his wife and kid.

Did they or didnt they? My dad and Mr Devadas pose dashingly with batik outfits that may have been bought at the same outlet...:)

Some ex-students .Edwin is all smiles,but Suresh tries to hide with the 50th year Gleam book

You go left,and I'll go right..mission impossible style from Mr.Anbu and Mr Easparan

We had a nice band crooning tunes of yesteryear too..

The launch of the event..and Old Boys and Girls association of St.Aidan by Tan Sri Mohd Isa

Two of the hardest working people for the event..Mr.Anbu and sister Usha

Yes..its true.I had more hair (Viji trying to convince a bemused Rekha and Annama that he used to look like Remington Steele)

Familiar faces that time cannot erase...(Mr.Chandran,Mr.Naidu&Mr.Nada)

Mr Gunaratnam receiving his outstanding contribution award

Mr Devadas receiving his outstanding contribution and achievement award (looking on is current headmistress Ng Thai Thai)


ravindran said...

Dear Siva, sorry I was not able to see your blog earlier,but just now when I saw them so clear and vivid,I say,you need to be awarded for such an ardous task of preparation,because one can just relax you know seeing those pictures, with a soothing feeling of going back to a comfort level so serene and calm.It has indeed instantly relaxed me to a sound sleep,taking me to a bygone era esp seeing most of them still around.Congrats from Hyderabad Ravi.

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