Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sepetang dipinggir Bukit

(Or loosely translated as "An Evening in Paris".)

It was 8.30 pm. I was getting my nightly dose of the news and looking forward to an uneventful night. All of the sudden the phone rang. Now who could be calling me on a Saturday night? I pondered. Reluctantly I switched on the hp, saw a very familiar name. It was a pleasant surprise to get a call from our district engineer. "Hang buat apa tu, wirid ke?" he asked me. "Wirid depan tv," was my response. He laughed.

"I'll pick you up at 9.15 tonight," he said.

I had been expecting the call for a couple of days now and was looking forward for it

While I was eager to go, I was apprehensive too. For one, I am not a night person. I can count of the number of nights in my whole life I had spent over at the mamaks late at night with friends. I don’t normally do that at all; I try to avoid them at all cost. Secondly, I have not met Jerd and Mie or communicated with them for over 36 years. The last time we were in the same class, we were only 9 years old. I am not sure if they would remember me, and I guess I would not blame them for not remembering. It is one thing to be chatting faceless over the net; it is another to be doing them face to face. "Would there be a connection?" I wondered.

It is different with our district engineer - we were corresponding even during our high schooldays.

I am sure we were friends, in my own kids' way, but at nine, seldom we would understand the importance of such friendships. And the impact they would have in your own life, years down the road.

So he picked me up in his 4WD, and we chatted as we cruised on MRR2.

"Man, it is easier for me to remember the gals in our class," I confessed. He smiled. "For one, there were fewer of them," I tried to justify my statement. On the other hand, after leaving Lenggong, I enrolled at King Edward VII-1 primary. KE is a boys' school. No more gals in class. So I have about 40 additional boys names to remember.

So we went through the gals's names while he was driving. Tata, I remember. She is one of the more prominent gal in class. Salmi, sure. Bani - she has a unique name, so susah nak lupa. Sarah, because I was asked to sit beside her at the front row (near the door) as I had developed eye sight problem that year. Fadillah I remember too.

I remember Anis, I told Lokman. But I thought her name is Nor Anis Aniza, and not Nor Anis Aliza as posted in the class pictures. Lokman seems to concur; but I could be wrong of course. I remember her from her drawing in a ‘Berita” class in Std 2. She had drawn Orkes El Suraya performing on stage at Dewan Merdeka, while this blogger only drew the curtains. I may have been helping Cikgu Laily mark the book, may be that's how I was able to see some of our friends' art work then.

He had no artistic skill what-so-ever then, and not now.

"Hey, you remember Norlida Ghazali?" I asked him. He stares at me wiith a blank face. "Alah, anak postmaster Lenggong," I said. "Oh, yang lawa tu?" "Haah," I said. Now he remembers. Who would not, I guess.

"But I didn't see her in the Std 4 class pictures," I told Lokman

May be she left early too; like me. Lokman nodded in agreement.

I remember her well enough. She joined Class 3A, probably from Ipoh in 1972, and while she may have lighted up the class for the boys to notice, I remember her particularly from one incident. At one time, Cikgu Faridah must have handed the class under my care and Norlida asked me if she could be excused for a restroom break.

And I said no to her.

She looked like she was going to cry, I tried to ignore her request, and continued prowling the class. But in the end I relented. Aiyah, terrible me.

Of course we talked about the boys too, if you must ask. Lokman mentioned Syed Agil and I was in agreement with him on Syed. I mentioned Fahmi and he was wondering about his whereabout too.

"You don’t have Johari’s number?" I asked him.

The answer was negative.

I told him I went to Kuala Kangsar visiting last Raya, and went to the place I thought his parents would live. But I could not find the house and was too proud to be asking anyone. Jo and I even went back to Lenggong in the 80s together for old time sake. He was studying QS then.

By that time, we probably had reached Bukit Antarabangsa. We had no difficulty finding it based on Jerd’s direction, but he didn’t give the exact house number. “No problem," Lokman said, “we only need to find that is different from the others.”

After all, we are going to an artist’ studio. All artistic people live in a different world than the rest of us. Even the gate had to be different!

So there he was waiting for us, embracing Lokman like long lost friend, and then this blogger.

His studio is fantastic. Balinese waterfalls adorned the studio at both the front and at the back and stream of water flows through out the studio, and hundreds of fishes, I guess made the ponds their homes.

My eyes were eyeing many pieces of art adorning the walls, and many of them are not simply painting. Some of them are even made of kuali, bicycle and wheelbarrow, and many pieces of metals. All in the name of art.

Jerd complains that these pieces cannot adorn the wall of his house for safety reasons. Yes, it is true, but I guess worthy to be in any art gallery.

He took Lokman and I on a tour of the gallery, painfully explaining of his vision of how the studio would look like when it is finally completed. I am very impressed. Mie is one hell of a talent, he is down to earth, and he is one of us.

He briefed me about his life and career since graduating from St Louis 20 years ago. He still commutes between St Louis and KL, and the Maybank CEO had just visited his studio looking for painting. He is no ordinary artist; he is a qualified architect too.

(I later told Lokman on the way back that no matter what we will do in the next 5 years with our careers, Mie’s career is simply out of this world, or at least out of the ordinary. You know, ours being an engineer, doctor, and administrator etc, though I am in no way trying to belittle our careers, mine included. Anyone can have such career, right?)

I was in awe of what he had achieved and I still am.

Jerd arrived 10 mins later. He looked like he needs a good night sleep. This man is a workaholic, always meeting people looking for contract. “Aku nak kena pegi Kajang ni,” he explained, “ada orang nak jumpo pase projek.”

At times I can only watch in amusement the banter between LokMan, Jerd and Mie. There were incidents that didn’t involve me, but there were many others that I can relate to too.

“Hey, I thought you would be wider,” Mie told me. “What do you mean?” "Well, engkau dulu besar, lebar, so kami expect engkau lebih lebar lah sekarang. Tapi ni lebih kurang jer mcm kami,” he explained. He is quite open and didn't mince his word. I took that as a compliment.

Well I have grown vertically too, so in the end the proportion was not too bad. But I know I need to lose about three more kilos before the reunion. I know for health reasons I need to do it.

In the end, Jerd left for Kajang, but not before promising this blogger to email him the teachers pictures, and we (LokMan, Mie and this blogger) went to a restaurant to continue our chatting. It was a lesson in history for this blogger. All the things I may have forgotten over the years suddenly were re-told. I am touched however by Mie's story on the difficulty of lives then for many of our friends, something of course that may have slipped my mind. Basically according to him, then one could see the difference between students from the nearby villages, and those from around (Lenggong) town. A single uniform to be used throughout the week, and shoes that have seen better days for many of us.

A far cry from life in 2009 obviously. Honestly we have come a long way, but it is always good to reflect back and find our footing again in this world.

We talked about many things, too many to mention here. In the end, Mie and Lokman told me that they would like to meet up with Cikgu Hizam and Cikgu Faridah and I promised them I would arrange a time next week (before he leaves for St Louis).

The chat ended at about 12.40 am, with promise to meet up next week for a quick reunion with the teachers.

Thirty six years that have passed, all compressed in 3 hours.

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