Reminisces of Ex-Sulaimanian – 54 Years Ago (1956)
Pakcik reminisces ( Part 11 ) – Hari Raya
LETTS DESK DIARY 1956
— 54 YEARS AGO —
Indeed I am fortunate to have kept a diary and today I look back literally with tears in my eyes. As I read the pages, my mind’s eye races back in time bringing back vivid pictures of yester years.
As I look back with nostalgia and feel how pleasant things were then I cannot deny that, after certain changes, there are better things today. I take as an example the events which I had jotted down in my 1956 diary of what I had to go through on 27th and 28th January of that year.
In the morning of the 27th January, 1956, seven of us were heading for Kuala Lumpur eagerly to join HSC, the Cambridge Higher School Certificate class (STPM of today) at two old schools in KL, the Victoria and St. John’s. A smaller group was heading for Anderson School in Ipoh. As the Cambridge School Certificate (SPM of today) results for 1955 were not yet known our admission into HSC was based on a special qualifying test. I firmly believed I failed miserably. I had cried and prayed hard for this. So the offer to join HSC was heaven-sent as far as I was concerned.
Accordingly, the seven musketeers, three Malays, three Indians and one Chinese, all boys except for one Indian, merrily boarded the so called ‘bas express’, the first stage being KT-Kemaman, then Kemaman-Kuantan and the last ‘bas express’ Kuantan-KL. Now allow me to pick out a few parts of what I had jotted down on the pages of that diary.
Friday 27th January(1956)
7.30 am left KT by Kemaman Express. (fare $5.30)
1.35 pm reached Kemaman 2.40 pm left Kemaman for Kuantan
4.35 pm reached Kuantan
Woke up and had bath at 4.15 am (mistaken time for 5.15!)
8.00 am left Kuantan by express bus for KL (fare $ 8.50)
11.00 am reached Temerloh 12.05 am left Temerloh after being delayed by ferry.
4.30 pm reached KL
One certainly finds it hard to believe that travel time was 9hrs 5 min on the first day and 8 hrs 30 min on the following day, making a total travelling time of 17 hrs 35 min in two days.
That was 54 (FIFTY FOUR) years ago. Pakcik must have been so excited that on the second morning, as noted in my diary, I had a bath at 4.30 am!
That was Pakcik’s historical first trip to KL with six very close class-mates. Before we left KT, we went to a photo studio to take a group photo for memory. I cannot remember seeing anyone with camera those days. One would have to go to a photo studio or call the studio to send a cameraman.
Notice the seven names above. FIVE of the musketeers are marked (deceased) leaving just two of us, Dato’ Wan Hussein and Pakcik. Yes, the picture was taken perhaps to remind me today that I have a lot to thank for.
It is interesting to note here that the three Indians in our group were in fact two brothers and one sister. They were clever children of a school principal. The two younger ones were accelerated to join the eldest (the only girl in the group) and be in the same class, sitting for the Form 5 exam in the same year, 1955. That was possible during our colonial era when Malaya was just a small colony. Can we now have this in our independent Malaysia, I wonder. Have we, in this case, really changed for the better?
So all the three siblings are gone with two others in the picture, leaving that photo for me to reminisce. No, that is not quite all. One of the three, Prasad, the last to depart left me something else, something that has prompted me to retrieve my diary of 1956 and urged me to write this posting.
In 1956, Hari Raya fell on Saturday 12th May. There was no way for us to return home (balik kampong). As we see above one needed four days of traveling time to make a return trip in 1956.
Obviously it was a lonely Hari Raya for me, being away for the first time. I cannot believe that one from K Terengganu can really be lonely on a Hari Raya in KL today. We can now communicate and watch each other’s face across the world. But we did not have as much as a crude telephone to hear the voice of the loved ones.
My diary tells me today how I spent my lonely Hari Raya’s eve in 1956.
“At 9.05 saw Mega Mandong at Coliseum”. Today it seems unbelievable. But that diary was not meant to tell a lie.
On Hari Raya day I went visiting a few houses with Malay friends. In our class we were fortunate to have Malays from around KL, one was Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail, the ex National Unity and Development Minister.
In brief that was how I spent my Hari Raya’s eve, in a cinema watching a Malay film, and the day itself visiting friends’ houses.
This brings me to the present, 2010, 54 years later.
Last week I decided to send a few cards in response to those who took the trouble to send me greeting cards last year. Fortunately I had their cards safely stored away. So I retrieved them and started to I leaf through. Then among them, staring into my eyes was a card signed by MK Prasad, one member of the group of seven (in the picture on top) who made the maiden trip to KL with me in January 1956. Here is another reminder of my past. Prasad passed away last July and in his memory I wrote my posting on 19th July ‘Bila Musim Durian Tiba – berguguran’
Prasad was such a jovial person, never stopped pulling our legs in his suppressed humour as we enjoyed our monthly lunches. He had the following foot-note written at the bottom of his card :
Food for thought.
They say that money does not grow on trees, but the banks have many branches !
That is Prasad’s last note to me, just two months ago. He, his two siblings in the picture, and two other dear friends have left this world – leaving just two out of seven. Isn’t this a sobering thought?
It was finding that old Hari Raya card from Prasad that prompted me to say farewell to this Ramadhan and welcome the coming Hari Raya in a reflective note – as I did on welcoming this holy month. I would like to feel that Ramadhan has left a more lasting effect on us all, and the joy of Hari Raya would equally do – that there are out there people who are not as lucky as we are, and the need to forgive and forget in the spirit of Hari Raya.
I would like keep reminding myself of the stark reality of the Quranic ayat 26-27 of Surah 55 , translated by Muhammad Asad as “All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away: but forever will abide thy Sustainer’s Self, full of majesty and glory.” – Nothing, absolutely nothing is permanent
Pakcik and Makcik wish all our visitors and ex Almanar pupils Selamat Hari Raya. Semoga masih ada lagi Ramadhan dan Hari Raya di tahun-tahun hadapan.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan
Pakcik (Hassan Abdul Karim or Ayah Ngah Hassan)’s A Letter From England (1960) has appeared here before. I also wrote about Ayah Ngah Hassan here (A drop of tears for a reason). Ayah Ngah Hassan is elder brother to Cikgu Khatijah Yong [wife of Cikgu (Mr.) Razali Abdul Mutalib]