Tuesday, January 18, 2011

While her loyal sons are marching…

On 18 January 1904, what I call the greatest school in Malaysia was formed with 18 boys.

St. John’s Institution is 107 today.

I enrolled in St. John’s in 1985, starting off in Primary 1, and left in 1995, having completed Secondary 5. Two times I nearly left, once to join a military college for Secondary 1, and then a private college for Secondary 4 and 5. Fate conspired to keep me at St. John's, and become a true-blue Johannian.

St. John’s’ primary and secondary schools are housed in separate buildings. Having stood for such a long time, they are obviously haunted to the core. The primary school has a huge hall that no student must be in alone lest they disturb the mysterious guy who keeps jumping on the trampoline at backstage. The secondary school building, with its imposing red and white facade and finally basking in its rightful status as a listed building, is simply awesome – though haunted as well. All good schools are.

The school holds many memories for me. I spent 11 years of my life there, which is more than a third of my current whole life.

Such was life at St. John’s that one just had to do stuff outside the classroom. A lot of stuff. I was a proud member of the Cadet Corps for my five secondary years. This Cadet Corps is believed to be the first in Malaya, formed in 1915. The pinnacle of my time in the corps was when we trumped our fiercest rivals to get the honour of the best cadet corps in the Klang Valley in 1994. The cadet expo held the next year together with our brothers in the Cadet Band also holds fond memories for we pulled off something major with limited resources and minimum guidance from anyone. I still rank the team I was part of then as one of the most efficient teams I’ve worked in.

Being a member of the prefectorial board was also fun. I will always remember the raids we conducted, to go after friends who smoked and those playing truant. The story of some students jumping onto one bus, and prefects jumping onto the next bus to continue the chase sounded amazing the first time I heard it, and still sounds bizarre today.

There were characters among the teaching staff at St. John’s that we would remember for the rest of our lives. From the man who, always for a good reason, passionately called nearly every student a coconut, to the lady who gave biology a new meaning to 15 year olds with her frankness, we had all kinds.

Of course, we had good neighbours – our sisters at the all-girl Convent Bukit Nanas. There was a lot of exchange going on between the two schools, and it helped keep Jalan Bukit Nanas fresh ;-) A year or so after I left St. John’s, I asked a friend’s sister, a CBNer who was in the year below me, who in my batch was the most talked about Johannian at CBN. She started off by saying, “Definitely not you coz I’ve never heard your name”.

A few years ago, I was a guest at a company annual dinner where the theme was 'back to school'. One of the senior staff lost a game of musical chairs and as punishment had to sing his school anthem. When he took the mic and asked, “Is there any other Johannian in the house!?”, without hesitation I rushed onto the stage to join him to belt out the best school song there is out there.

I have never sung in public again, but the song is superb.

I have a plaque in my office commemorating the school’s centenary in 2004. When another senior member of management entered my room not too long ago, being a Johannian himself, he launched into a friendly tirade about how great we are. The opportunity was too great to miss – I pointed out a colleague who studied at our greatest rivals and together, we attacked him mercilessly.

Yet another time, when hosting a company event with about a thousand attendees, an opportunity came up for me to surreptitiously say that St. John’s was a great school. A surprising number of people cheered at that, of course outnumbered by the friendly booing – but after the event, there was an impromptu gathering of Johannians!

Thousands of boys (and some girls) have walked through the corridors of St. John’s. The legacy of the school lives on in its sons and daughters. Many have gone on to serve and are serving the country with distinction in many fields, and included in this list is Malaysia’s current supremo. From my cohort, many are now successful in their own right, a few we occasionally get to read about in the newspapers and magazines, and I would say a more than average number are stars. A number have passed on, some tragically, and they are remembered.

It’s obvious I’m very proud of my school. There’s something special about being a Johannian, and this feeling of pride seems to grow stronger as we mature. Johannians will always have a special bond with each other, and this transcends the years.

I haven’t stepped foot into St John’s for a fair number of years now. I will visit soon. And this time I will bring my Convent Light Street Penang roommate :-)

Until then, Fide et Labore!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Man in the mirror

One of my all time favourite songs - together with 'Home' by Michael Buble.

Cept I never really knew what the lyrics said.

Well, today, I decided to check it out... and here it is...


I'm gonna make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
gonna make a difference, gonna make it right

As I turned up the collar on my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their need?

A summer's disregard, a broken bottle top
And one man's soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know?
'Cause they got nowhere to go, that's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be, really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
(Washed out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be that's why I'm starting with me

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that

I'm starting with the man in the mirror, oh yeah
I'm asking him to change his ways, yeah
(Come on, change)
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change

You gotta get it right, while you got the time
'Cause when you close your heart
(You can't close your, your mind)
Then you close your mind

With the man in the mirror, oh yeah
(That man, that man, that man)
I'm asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change

I'm gonna make a change
It's gonna feel real good
Come on
Just lift yourself
You know, you've got to stop it yourself

Make that change
(I gotta make that change today, oh)
(Man in the mirror)
You got to, you got to not let yourself, brother oh
Yeah, that man
(Make that change)
(I gotta make that make me then make)
You got, You got to move
Come on, come on
You got to stand up, stand up, stand up
(Make that change)
Stand up and lift yourself, now
(Man in the mirror)
Make that change
(Gonna make that change, come on)
(Man in the mirror)
You know it, you know it, you know it, you know it
Change, make that change.


Yep, it still remains ;-)


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


over the oceans.

On this day last year, I stepped foot on the beautiful islands of Maldives for the first time ever.

As always, trips to faraway places bring sweet memories.

If anyone tells you that the Maldives is amazingly beautiful and breathtaking, its people warm and friendly, its air fresh, its sea blue, that it’s paradise on earth – well I can confirm that it’s true.

If you ask what visitors to Maldives do - you’ve got the concept wrong. In Maldives, one must perfect the art of doing nothing. Yea that’s right. We understood this clearly when we asked that very question a few days in to the guy who runs the resort on the island we were on.


Part of doing nothing includes snorkeling.

Having decided to call it a day of snorkeling, I began climbing up onto the boat. It was at that moment I felt my left contact lens sort of peeling away from my eyeball.

I took off my goggles, and true enough, it had come off, probably because some sea water had come in contact with it and caused it to shrivel.

I looked up the boat, and my three Maldivian snorkeling bodyguards were peering at me with concern.

I couldn’t salvage the contact lens anymore - it was contaminated and couldn’t go back onto my eyeball. Never mind, I thought, I’ve got another pair, before dropping it into the sea.

I continued lumbering up to the deck of the boat, and it wasn’t easy with my flippers and all. At the same time, I could hear some commotion on the deck.

The moment I got on deck, I noticed there were only two people on deck. Where the heck was the other one??

And then I saw the dude. He had dived over the other side of the boat… to save my contact lens!!


If you were young at my time, you would know the Thundercats (come out with the movie already!).

I loved it, although I actually had to go to Wikipedia a couple of years ago to finally understand the storyline.

Anyway, I have this one black t-shirt with the Thundercats logo emblazoned on it.

With a t-shirt like this, you don’t need to say hello. People, men and women regardless which part of the world they come from, can’t help but smile, especially when you’re on an island where you get end-to-end in 7½ minutes. You’re like a shrink cajoling people to go back in their mind to a happy place. And they do…

And when I wore this:
someone wearing this:
said, "Nice t-shirt." I said,"Yours too!"


At the International Airport, while my roommate was checking out the souvenir shop, I was sitting guarding our bags. I couldn’t but overhear the conversation going on between an aunt and her nephew.

"Do you love you mum?"
(I assume he said no, because I wasn’t looking)

"Do you love your dad?"
(I assume he said yes - see conversation that follows)

"You love your dad and not your mum?"

"Do you know that your mum and I, we never saw much of our dad because he was working so hard…"

"You hate your mum because she didn’t get you what you wanted?!"

"I think your mum deserves an apology from you!"

All the while, I was listening, thinking to myself that this aunt was doing a great job putting into perspective the little boy’s misguided hate towards his mum. The boy was crying yes, and the aunt was bringing him on a long guilt trip, but sometimes, kids these days need that. They need reality to slap them real good, kick them real hard, and make them sweat.

And for goodness sake, your mum had brought you on a holiday to the Maldives!!


Maldives though, is under threat of global warming – its beautiful islands could sink beneath the ocean within 100 years. They had a cabinet meeting undersea this one time in October 2009 to highlight the threat of global warming to their nation. I hear they have a youngish cabinet and hopefully they get to the depth of the issue soon.

You see, I would like to go back there one day, and really hope the coconut tree we planted by the beach would not be growing out from the seabed instead…