Sometimes in our life, you have to stop to think, regroup and regather yourself and realise how lucky you are to still be living, to still be breathing and still be able to even have a chance to meet back after a long time. Among the regroups are weddings, teh tarik sessions, deaths, etc. We regroup because of good news; sometimes because of sad news and probably merely for makan-makan. The FT@60 year old Grand Dinner brought us together again which is excellent to capture the essence of the First Thoroughbred. Simply 60, the threshold of the Golden Years. Reunion is too cliche. Rounding up the First Thoroughbreds for a last rodeo hoedown is more appropriate .
Nonetheless, here we are, the unadulterated FT7276, as elderly adults, regrouping one more time with spouses in tow or simply singly with special appearance of some invited widows of our fallen fellows FTs. No prefects, no teachers and no Headmasters; just US…or what the new generation of Malays say ‘Kita-Kita aje’.
Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience mould us into fascinating beings. I hope we can all embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. After all, we are all in this life together and we once lived together. Needless to say, we only live once and ultimately life ends when we die.
The realisation that death is upon us was much apparent when one of us returned to meet the Creator just 3 weeks ago. Arwah had already confirmed coming to this event and had already picked chicken as his option of choice for the main dish. Though we are already in the twilight of our years on earth, and such news should no longer be surprising we grieve as hard as we have grieved for the 15 other First Thoroughbreds who have gone to Allah before him. We regrouped that day to bid him farewell on his final journey. Arwah was someone we rarely meet in many regroup sessions.
We hardly meet in person these days – electronic messaging have taken over Face-to-face conversations, meetings and even voice calls. Dissemination of information, meetings and planning of events such FT@60 Grand Dinner are done on WhatsApp, be it for confirmation of attendance, for sizes of the freebie T-shirts and choice of main entrée on the night’s menu.
Last night we physically regrouped to celebrate our coming of age. A Grand birthday celebration of FT@60 of age. Surely GRAND for the grand-dads and grand-dads-to-be. To celebrate our coming of age into the Golden Years. Time to exchange worldly and recycled news. We had a great time, probing each other about what’s On and Off, Up and Down, Sideways and ByWays and who’s on Top and at the Bottom; essential catching up on our travelogue of life. A bit of membawang (gossiping) added flavour to the insights and anecdotes. The night was about curiosity; about satisfaction at the avoidance of the mistakes of one’s contemporaries, now revealed in their emerging life histories; about reflecting on the ravages—and injustices—of time; and of realising, perhaps, how strange and random are the twists and turns of fate.
This year’s attendance is higher than the last FT@40 years after Koleq in 2006, probably the highest ever – 84 out of a possible 104 (exceeding the 80% mark – an A1 in MCE). A distinction nonetheless but we are still grateful, still gathering, while we still can. We are still re-discovering the essence of the FT7276. We still replay the same old songs with the same old singers, re-tell the same old jokes by the same old interlude jokers, regale in past glories, rewind the same old stories, relive the past, etc. The prefix ‘re’ was predominately present last night. The present looking into the past hoping for the future or what’s left of it. The Old enveloping the youth we once were. But Old is good in some things: Old Songs, Old Stamps, Old Spices and best of all, old OLD FRIENDS!!
A journey of FT7276, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out forth, nor ends when we have reached this regrouping do. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable. The virus was indeed viral.
We came to Prep School MCKK in early January 1972 crying with the fear of not knowing anybody. We left sobbing from platform one KK Railway Train Station in December 1976 after knowing everybody; begging to stay and weeping for the separation with acquired friends and buddies. Unwittingly, most of us met again in January 1977 and many more times on our journey of life.
After MCKK, we were scattered around the land and globe immersed into new cultures, into new people and eating or sowing our oats in our new life after MCKK. Sooner or later, we realised there is no more the spartan KK Railway station, no one place to arrive and depart all at once one for all and all for one. Ironically, last night we all regrouped at the fancy KL Hilton near to glitzy KL Sentral Station. Train stations has played a significant roles in our life. Our life is like a train station, people come and go all the time, but the ones that wait for and board the train with you are the ones that are worth keeping in it.
The true joy of life is the trips we made together. Life long friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, but this friendship is never anything but sharing. The tradition, properly cared for, nurtured, honoured, and respected, continues to feed the soul of this tight close-knitted group. The true joy of this regrouping is meeting up with long lost friends from the wilderness and out of the woodwork. There was even one who went AWOL after studying in the U.K. and another who left us after Form One in 1973. The ensuing pandemonium of Jejak Kasih (Love Track) of reunification unfolded last night.
Many survived through their travels along the path of righteousness, decency and virtues. Sometimes transitional periods in life leave you feeling like a great big jumble of loose, split ends. Life is a journey that have a lot different paths, but any path we choose, we use it as our destiny. Sustenance was designed by Allah S.W.T.
Careers and family became part of the life journey. We made hay for another day. We say “Whatever-lah Wei!”, come what may. Giving back to society, community, social causes and when it matter, to the Alma Mater were our calling. At the end of the day, it’s not about what we have or don’t; even what we’ve accomplished or did not….it’s about who we’ve lifted up, who we’ve made better. It’s about what we’ve given back.
The best way to find ourself is to lose ourself in the service of others. When we learn, we teach. When we get, we give. We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. We sow our own seeds. What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived for 60 years. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
So, here we are, nearly at the end of the road and at the top of the heap. Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not continuing on the essential journey together or regrouping for one last hurrah. Though we’re tired, battered and weary, we can still massage on, till we come to our perceived happy ending. But last night, we just sang, joked, talked and travelled back in time. We laughed until we cried and we ate until we’re full like there’s no tomorrow. It was followed with late night lepak- lepak session and continued on during the communal breakfast the next morning.
The journey was a surreal dream. This world was about knowing the person you’d always wanted to be and setting our foot down to it, remembering the person you’d thought we were as a kid, a teenager and as life-long brother and rejoicing in its living, breathing actuality. The greatest virtue is endurance and the greatest challenge is survival. Life is fragile, yet to obstinately struggle is natural.
Let’s not become too busy or too lazy to keep in touch with those who really matter most and need us. Relationships don’t break by going far, neither does it grow by staying close. It’s pretty complex to understand yet so simple when we keep in touch. Our relationship never dies a natural death, they are murdered by ego, indifference, attitude and ignorance. One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.
I have the benefit of experience which tells me that sulking solves nothing. The past can’t hurt you anymore, not unless you let it. Life’s short but let’s make an indelible purposeful and powerful impact with it. Let’s live and not just exist. We all have to be constantly prepared to exist in this world because our last hours are pretty unknown.
It is good to have an end to journey onwards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. It’s about a journey we always shared together which started in MCKK. Once we have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers of the heart and the mind. While the heart can break, the mind can never break off from the journey. Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey. Nothing shakes the heart so much as meeting up again – far, far away, a long time ago – when we last met at the KK train station and fortuitously numerous more times after that.
We grew up together and never really grew apart. As the years past and we grew to know what’s really important, our bonds grow stronger and deeper. We live to love one another as like the love for the long sleeved batik apparels we wore last night. A love like a batik created from many emotional colours; though it’s a fabric whose pattern , price and brightness vary.
During the gathering, we accepted the occasional present. We acknowledged the absence of those who were absent. We also recognised that 16 of us has passed away. We also accepted that there are those who wants nothing to with the tribe. Acceptance is a virtue. It’s all ups to US. As we get older, the more we stay focused on the acceptance of ourselves and choose compassion over judgement and curiosity over fear, then we should turn out alright.
Our sustenance are different. There’s more in family stuff. There’s more in terms of careers for life. Some are not perfect, because no human is perfect. Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it. At this stage of my life, I try to keep myself out of arguments. We all should do what we can today to be kind and charitable to everyone especially those near you, for we may not wake up tomorrow.
Some has been together since kindergarten. A few knew others much earlier. Truth be told, many knew each other back in 1972. And after 5, 6 and 7 years of camaraderie in the ‘Fellowship of the Nasi Kawah’, we parted but not necessarily separated. Thanks to Allah S.W.T, we meet again at another event. Thanks for those present, able and willing to regroup. Presence either in person or spiritually…of a life-long brotherhood.
Well done to the organisers for painstakingly planning and organising the event to the minute details from freebies, door gifts, who-sits-with-who, and those nifty folded table napkins known as ‘Birds of Paradise’. Having a bird at 60 on a table sure is paradise! As always it’s a thankless voluntary effort that not many can appreciate….underlying the fruits of passion.
Thank you for being firm on certain decisions though they were many bantering and wisecracks on the subject matter. To the affluent sponsors, we give thanks for your generosity and pray for more good and halal sustenance from Allah S.W.T.
I just hope and pray that all of us will be able to live more meaningful lives and live life while it is ours to live, or what’s left of it. Leave no room for regrets because an opportunity once lost is lost forever.
It is good to still be alive for golden days as time goes by. Save the reality before the golden years expire. The spirit of the bonafide FT is in essence about the spirit of those children that we grew up together into old age which means never losing the enthusiasm into old age. It is good to re-evaluate the essence of the First Thoroughbred as epitomised by the Preppies 1972 group photo used as the backdrop of the event.
Thus in essence, we shall always be the Old Preppies of yesteryears blooming from boys to men to grandparents; yet forever still the boys. An essence when our former HM Arwah Nordin Nasir dubbed us as ‘The Thoroughbred’ as being “well & thoroughly bred”, not as pure-blooded fleet footed stud horses as many envisaged.
Not many will be left for FT@70 in the year 2029 for the Geriatrics Assemble For One Last Time (GAFOLT29). By then, we shall feel that life escapes us and we don’t recognise ourselves and others anymore. As such we do well to build a safe and comforting haven in our frame of mind before the essence of the FT evaporates and the keystones of our mental structure disintegrate.
But wait! We can still regroup for FT@50 years after MCKK in 2026…or whatever, whenever or anything-lah Wei! Looking forward for the next WhatsApp Announcements.