As we walked towards the old school I could not get the geographical sense of where we were until we reached the junction where the Telekom Exchange building is. I thought we were going straight to the school then, but, it was overruled by the excited thirteen-at-heart old 'budak SDAR'. Everyone as if running to get free ice creams, fingers pointing here and there telling somebody how it used to be or testing the others whether the other person remembers the place at all. What they actually saw was Tg Malim in 1999 but they were walking Tg Malim of 1960's. Roughly 39 years ago. 'Bond!' Sli was calling and at the same time pointing at the restaurant below, 'Dulu dalam restaurant ni ada dia orang buat compartment. So kita orang every weekend hisap rokok dalam tu la.' I could not imagine how they could have escape the wardens and the prefects as it is so obvious for a small town like Tg Malim. It could very well be that they were better 'criminals' then we were in Seremban. We continued our walked circling the downtown Tg Malim passing through the familiar buildings where SDARas used to rule. I could only imagine based on the stories so far. By now I could sensed the eagerness to get to the school ground. The walked was really a build-up and the paces were getting faster. The emotion were obvious. If you were there with them you'll know what I mean. The talking most of the time were salad dressings covering the real ingredients
I never knew that there was another way, which is 'the way', into the old SDAR's compound. After passing through Tg Malim during my travels up North so many times I always thought the main entrance into the UPSI is also the entrance to SDAR. Now I know and what an introduction it was.
As we walked towards the gate I felt like I was a tourist on vacation. There were four tourist guides eager to show Nan and me all the historic locations and events. I was shown the place where the Tg Malim casino was, the house of a teacher who has a 'babe' for a wife, the path and home of Miss Spring, and the house of a Bengali MPSI lecturer who had a beauty as a daughter. All of these were narrated to me either by Abedib or Sli non-stop. Abedib told me that the daughter of the Benggali lecturer was always 'kena ngorat oleh budak SDAR. So much so the lecturer one day got really angry and said this to them. 'Kau orang tak tahu ke, kau orang tu orang Islam dan anak aku ni kapir.' Hahahahahah hheeeehehehehe LOL................... I wonder who is that person yang kena sound. (Kalau ada please angkat tangan nak bagi hadiah)
We approached the gate slowly because I knew then that they were tracing their path in memory. As we got to the gate it was lock with chains. I just smiled because my SDAR instinct took over. I was thinking to myself this gate is nothing. All of us could very well climb over it. But, the man in us prevailed. We had to get it opened no matter what. We started to yell at the nearest building and a young girl face poked out of one of the windows. 'Hari ni cuti gate tu tak bukak!' yelled the girl out to us. Abedib began to plead for our case, 'Tolong le dik carikan sapa yang boleh bukak sebab kita orang ni murid-murid tua sekolah ni dulu ada program perjumpaan.' After waiting for about five minutes nothing happened. At the same time Sli proactively went to the nearest house to seek help. Maybe at the same time he could check whether the beautiful girl still leaves there. Hehehe,,, sorry Sli can't resist. Anyway, after ten minutes of waiting our efforts didn't go to waste as a man on motorbike came with the key to open the gate. We were so grateful and thanked him endlessly. Heck! for a while there I was resigned to the inevitable long walk to the UPSI front gate.
Once we were inside the compound suddenly the chatters stopped immediately for few minutes as if everyone was trying to breathe the SDAR air. A different kind of air no doubt. Until Abedib killed the silence by suggesting that we headed straight for the hostel to register and catch our breadth. But as if trying to overrule the idea or just because of his eagerness to see the place Sli jumped over the drain and headed straight for the class rooms and the rest followed as if consciously that what they wanted to do after all. Thus we had a tour of the compound. I was very closed behind them absorbing everything they said. We went around the compound, entered and we explored every nook and cranny. Of course the tour wouldn’t have been completed if we had not gone to the old sickbay, the dried swimming pool and the ever prominent Bernam River. In the end satisfied fulfilling their memory appetite we moved slowly towards the old Abd Rahman Talib hall. I knew some were already there as Bro Kangkong already called me to help out with the registration. Of course few of us from the Seremban era were there to be the welcome party so that most of our brothers could enjoy themselves without worrying too much on the organization of the homecoming. One group after another started to show up until we had enough crowds to make Tg Malim a very loud town. A few actually brought along their whole families so that they could try to experience their live in Tg Malim.
Around 1300 we adjourned to the canteen for our lunch and the menu was a special request from all the nostalgic souls. In fact while organizing for this homecoming they specifically requested the menu to be like in the 60’s. Talk about being nostalgic. I would not blame them as if I were them I would do the same or worse :). There was no doubt that everyone missed everyone and they knew they had a lot of catching up to do. I also knew even if they stayed all night, in fact most of them did, they would not have enough time. Nevertheless it was a free flow of stories and jokes during lunch. I could not keep up. After lunch we went back to the hostel to rest, pray and to get ready for the days events. Once inside the room the conversation continued and no indication of stopping. One or two actually took a long time in the bathroom. Too attached to the bathroom I guess :). I think I know why. Everyone has their own special moment and sometimes at odd places like the bathroom. Had not for the solat jamaah, majlis sual kenal and the football game that evening all would be just contented to stay in the room that they had spent in during their growing up.
That night we had a special prayer for our friends that had passed on. Nan, Ayam, myself and the rest of the Seremban generation that were there just enjoying the occasion. Cigarettes smoke went up like a factory chimney in all the rooms while the stories flow. Again, in the end the night was too short for most.
APRIL 18, 1999
The plan was to built a rakit and float along the Bernam river after breakfast. However, because of the late night and lack of sleep most stayed inside. Only a few actually went out to the river and enjoyed themselves. Just after 1000 Captain (Allahyarham) and Zul (school x-lab assistant that became close to most of us) suggested to us to go to the waterfall at Kelumpang, a few kilometers south, and we all agreed. Actually you could replace the waterfall with anything else it’s still didn’t matter to all of them. They still were in their own world, the 60s and I caught Abewi actually dozed off in one of the gazebo.
Captain took us to his house on the way out and accorded us with the standard SDARA hospitality. Which mean could go beyond how one’s treat his own family. Some of us actually envied him for having that kind of life in his own kampong. Relax, peaceful with no pressure of the city and contented. He said he won’t trade that for any kind of money. (It is still fresh in my mind and I just could not believe that he had gone.)
It was a very slow lunch at the UPSI’s canteen that day. Obviously no one wanted it to end but we knew we had to say goodbye eventually.
After Zohor we left the old school that we may not be able to explore again. Abedib and I got a ride home in Ayam’s car. I was so tired and dozed off most of the way. We may not have been able to take the train home from Tg Malim but I still have got a train ride to take to Kajang. As a matter of convenience Ayam dropped me at the Bank Negara station and I took the Seremban Komuter home. Alone on the train my thought went back to Tg Malim and I smiled all the way to UKM Station. If ever someone was looking at me that day I would have not blamed them for thinking that I had lost it.
So, son that’s why I had to go to Tg Malim.