An MCKK old boy reminisces, with no apologies for the bragging.
The Malay College of Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is not my old school. Not my Alma Mater. It lives, breathes and is a part of me almost every waking moment of my life. Sometimes when I am troubled it lulls me to sleep with memories of schooldays filled with discipline and purpose, yet tinged with the freedom and exuberance of youth. I have never left MCKK since the first day I arrived in Kuala Kangsar as a bewildered 13-year-old to start life at Prep School.
I remember it so well. The prefect in charge of Prep School then was Aziz Ismail, a man small in stature, but whose presence never left me—first as my prefect, then as Aziz Ketot, the legendary scrum half of the school’s rugby team and for almost two decades as scrum half for the Malaysian rugger team.
His stint in PKNS as its GM was merely to fill in time in between sailing his beloved yacht anchored at the Yacht Club at Port Kelang. And even after his demise he is still my prefect at Prep School and still Aziz Ketot.
That is what MCKK does to you. What started in “Kolej” follows you everywhere you go and you are the better for it.
NJ Ryan was our headmaster. He was the last expatriate to head the school—and probably any public school in the country. We all remember Mr Ryan with affection and respect, but more affection then respect for he was the first iconic symbol of authority in our life and we are the better for it.
If the British has ever given me anything of any lasting value it was when they sent Mr Ryan as a young soldier to Malaysia to serve during the Emergency. When that soldier finished his tour of duty, he chose to come back to Malaysia and eventually started his life at MCKK as its headmaster, to bestow upon all of us who had the privilege of knowing him a lifelong kinship that transcends time and distance.
He might have left us this year when he passed away in Australia, but his presence is always with us Kolej boys. When we meet and talk of Kolej days, Mr Ryan will always be mentioned in the same breath as rugby and our personal anecdotes of being caned by him for our youthful indiscretions.
These days, of course, the memories will include the last time each of us met him. And these stories are repeated year after year at the Old Boys’ Dinner, and again and again at other gatherings, formal and informal . Some of the anecdotes get passed down to younger old boys and have become legend.
We talk about his love for rugby and the school’s victory over the Vajiravudh College team (of Thailand) during his time, and about his Jaguar, his near fatal accident, his surprise night checks at the dormitories, and how expertly he held the cane and gave us the beating of our life even with a thick book pressed between the side of his chest and the caning arm—as per regulation.
We are Budak Kolej dulu, kini dan selama-lamanya. We are everywhere. There are old boys in politics, bureaucracy, business, the arts and even in a terrorist group or two. Our second prime minister was an old boy. And, of course, there are a number of sultans.
I always get a certain thrill when I meet a sultan and greet him with these simple words: “Budak Kolej, Tuanku.” And the Tuanku would invariably respond with a smile and an extended hand. Ah, the privilege of having a shared past that transcends protocol.
Nothing quite defines an old boy as the tie he wears every Wednesday, wherever in the world he happens to be. The tales around the wearing of this tie have also become the stuff of legend. Strangers greet each other in Putrajaya, London, New York and even Moscow as long lost friends on the strength of that tie. Jobs and businesses have been secured because of that tie and many a friendship between old boys of different generations have been forged because of it. Meetings with captains of industry, KSUs and ministers have been made possible because of those four letters—MCKK, followed by a mention of your year (the year you left school) and then the house you belonged to—Idris, Ahmad, Sulaiman or Mohd Shah.
Time stands still when we think back on our days at MCKK. Indeed, the rest of the world may be rushing by at breakneck speed, but we Budak Kolej always have time for each other. We have respect bordering on awe for our seniors and patience and a fatherly eye for our juniors. We all have time for each other.
I know that every time I power on my PC, there will be something of MCKK there for me. The batch I belong to has a website for idle chatter and bantering, but also thoughts about national and global issues and—most important of all—the grandchildren you just saw the weekend before last.
I am truly blessed that my late father had the foresight to send me to MCKK. I am the better for it. What I am today has been the product of the education and the friendships I acquired and nurtured from Kolej days. Old boys have shaped, pushed and assisted me to make me the person I am today. For that I am grateful. Fiat Sapientia Virtus.
CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.