I hold AuntyN responsible for this. Her piece on catching up with old friends provoked some powerful memories of days gone by. And actually gives me an excuse to rehash 'one' that I did earlier.
Anyway, two days ago, while I was busy trying and trying very hard to do my essay, my handphone was buzzing with sms's from 8000 miles away with messages like "kami dok poco poco ni!", "missing you and wish you are here"! These are from bosom friends of mine since Primary One. We have a website in which we rant about almost everything. If those days we talked about the latest perfume and how to combat pimples, now we share anxieties about the big C having lost friends along the way as well as the frightening and alarming and impending big M...hmmmm. Have a read while I continue with my essay!
THE voice at the end of the line sounded familiar. "It's Ek Ti, remember me? From Convent Alor Star. I'm staying at Malaysia Hall!" Of course I remember Ek Ti!
My brain did an automatch with the voice and a quick search came up with a picture of Ek Ti 24 years ago not updated. We promised to meet and catch up over a plate of nasi lemak at the Malaysia Hall canteen the next day.
But the night before the meeting, I dreamt of Ek Ti complete in her prefect's uniform, pony tail and all striding in to admonish me for my short skirt. Tan Ek Ti was on a brief stopover in London and like most Malaysian travellers, a refill of Malaysian food at the canteen is a must before continuing their journey to other destinations in Europe. I've met up with many of my former classmates this way as they troop up and down Europe either on business matters or for leisure.
I have always been proud of the fact that I'm still in touch with friends from as far back as Standard One in Sultanah Asma School Alor Star. Although it was only for a year before my father's transfer to Yen, we remain friends to this day.
I will always remember Jijah Pak Pin holding my hand on the first day of school. I had clung on to her as my mother headed for the bus stop and Pak Pin, as she is known among those from Class yesteryears remains the steadfast, strong and dependable character to all her friends. We still hold hands and cling on to each other when the need arises.
On my return to Alor Star, I opted for St Nicholas Convent more for the very challenging nature of ironing a convent's school uniform. Although that put Pak Pin and I as rivals, we met at sports meets at the local stadium to giggle over boys from Sultan Abdul Hamid College.
Much later, her home was mine as I stayed over with Muni and Lia after late night parties dancing to Santana music in our floral catsuits. To this day, my homecoming is never complete without a meeting with them. We'd drive around all the way back to Bangi singing to The Carpenters and reminisce over fun times in abandoned and quiet carparks.
Once, over tea at Yow Chuan Plaza in Kuala Lumpur, evergreen songs from the Seventies provided the perfect music for the small reunion. We were back being giggly teenagers as every song played provoked sweet and funny memories. "Huh, remember the one with the sweaty palms?", "Whaaaat? You fancied that nerddd???" and so on and so forth.
Husbands were warned of my return and had to find their own dinners as we talked, laughed and cried into the night recalling events our spouses had not been part of. Our husbands could never understand why when we meet, we laugh over sentences even before we finish uttering them and come up with strange and silly nicknames that would provoke even louder laughter.
My own husband opted out of a hastily arranged reunion at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, which brought together friends from my primary school, the Convent and Sultan Abdul Hamid College. Thanks to Pak Pin and Norlia's organisational skills, the boys downed their golf clubs just to be with us and left their spouses to look after their children.
Cik Na came out of confinement to join us - she who used to twirl my hair in the class is now somebody in the bank. There was Yazid without his Afro hairdo, now a big-time architect with lots of kids, Sharifah Nor Azian who keeps in touch yearly if only as a reminder of another birthday gone by and Hong Chu - lawyer turned remisier.
In Alor Star, Wan Salmiah is our trusted self-appointed secretary who could arrange a get-together at a drop of a hat. She got together about 25 ex-classmates from Primary One last year during my last trip back.
In London, I caught up with Syed, the prefect who smoked behind the bicycle shed. He is now a senior officer in the police force. Doi, our head prefect who turned a blind eye to goings-on behind the bicycle shed, is now head of a big bank. Sadly, my first meeting with him after a long time was when he visited his dying sister at a hospital in Birmingham. He, of course, did not lose any opportunity to remind me of my Special Angel days. And since then he'd organise a reunion during my homecomings.
As Ek Ti will testify, the Special Angels of St Nicholas Convent was a force to be reckoned with. With blue polka-dotted ribbons in our hair, we raced our mini bikes along the streets of Teluk Wan Jah for that bowl of ice kacang at Busuk's stall in front of Sultan Abdul Hamid College. Now I wonder whether we were there for Busuk's ice kacang or for a glimpse of the college boys. So, what's happened to the Special Angels? WZNA became a mother to her sister's children when her sister died tragically while swimming. Salomi, who was the first to get married and have children, went to varsity and made headlines as mother who was in the same class as her son and now holds a senior position in sports management. Then there is Siti Norina, the fashion icon in our circle and Sharifah Fadhillah, who fell in love with a fellow Collegian and now lives in Dhaka.
The Special Angels later morphed into The Mod Dots. As we were all quite spotty in those days, polka-dotted ribbons and spotty cheeks blended in very well. A recent picture of the now more matured Angels stands on my window sill, side by side with the one of us in mini skirts, taken in front of an old Ford belonging to our cookery teacher.
Recently, I was told of a big Mass Communication reunion. It must have been exciting as journalists met up with broadcasters, public relations officers and advertising moghuls, networking and exchanging business cards. I imagine designer spectacles being pulled out from expensive cases as the wearers scrutinised each card to see the bearer's position in the social and corporate ladder.
Aaaah, how I want to cling on to memories with a small circle of friends especially those who conspired with me in our Toyol sessions at the hostel and suffered sleepless nights together as the so-called orang minyak ran rampant in our minds and hostel rooms. And most of all those friends from hostel 3B who tolerated my rendition of "My Eyes Adore You..." from the shower after a session of barn dancing in the room. We phone up each other across the oceans, and even expletives sound sweet to the ear. Last week, Kudu and Ena had a farewell bash for Fati as she left the NST and of course the gang went, without me.
Two days ago, Lia, Pak Pin, Zuhurin and Muni poco poco'ed without me. Lia has since written in our website "Small group celebrated my birthday bash, but the celebration was BIG man! Lepas makan, kami adjourned ke Holiday Villa lounge and dengaq Fredo & the Flintstone. But no dinasaur music. Rancak. The girls (Muni, Mahan, Pak Pin, Zuhurin) had a great time dancing away. Aku tak leh rancak, baru operate. Tapi pasai dah jenis gedik, sikit sikit ada cuba juga menari. Hehe. I went back home early I pm, they stayed on."
The Sultan Abdul Hamid lot too is planning another reunion as a an old classmate is back from Melbourne. And I only get to read about it in our website. *sigh*