Dad’s Swimming Trunks


That he eventually became a doctor ought to have amounted to something. But sadly, it hasn’t. Because of his relative lack of progress in all things material, people have often accused him of not trying hard enough – in anything. In other words, most folks think of him as your garden variety lazy bugger. But then again, it is only too human to pass judgement such as this on others from the comfort of our snug little lives; a trap people with snug little lives have fallen into over and over again since time immemorial. Perhaps I have not fallen into this trap because he is a good friend – a brother, even. Or, more likely than not, the reason for this is because – unlike my contemporaries – my life, as it is, is less than snug.

I wouldn’t go so as far as to say that Dr N is the most gullible person who ever walked the hallowed dormitory corridors of MCKK. He isn’t – well, not really. He is, in fact, one of the few men I thoroughly enjoy carrying on a conversation with. This guy is as conversant about subatomic particles and String theory (all 5 variants) as he is with the stall speeds of various Luftwaffe fighter aircraft of World War II. He is also polite, articulate, witty, and not to mention devilishly handsome in a Bollywood hero kind of way. As to why today he is not a doctor minting obscene amounts of money at some obscenely expensive private hospital totally escapes me.

Of his many exploits, one has registered itself indelibly into my subconscious. After flunking his aptitude test at the MRSM entrance exams, he was promptly scooped-up by MCKK. This is a story in itself but unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be), it is not THIS story. Dr N’s story actually began on the eve of his departure for MCKK.

His very developed left-brain could not help but urge him to go though the checklist of things he had to bring to MCKK. Somewhere down the list, he noticed that he had to bring with him a pair of swimming trunks. This was a major consolation to him as it meant that MCKK had a swimming pool; no MRSM at the time had a swimming pool. So, if a Penang ferry ever sank, those drowning like rats would be MRSMers (serves them right) while those gracefully swimming like heroes to the safety of the shore (and in the process, rescuing a pretty damsel or two) would be the MCKK boys. Fortunately for me, no Penang ferry ever sank. So, the pretty damsels sort of naturally hung out with the MRSMers for the duration of the crossing.

When he found that he had no swimming trunks, and it was too late to go out and get a pair, he was almost reduced to tears. He explained his predicament to his father. Being the resourceful man that his father is, it took him less than three minutes to solve his beloved son’s problem. He went to his closet, pulled out not one, but two orange coloured swimming trunks with white waistbands, handed them to his son and said:

“Son, cheer-up. Here are your trunks, they may be a tad large but they’ll do for now. At least, you’re not going to that hippie commune masquerading as a school called MRSM.”

When the day came for his first swimming lesson at MCKK, Dr N appeared with the rest of his class, all of them sporting swimming trunks in a multitude of styles. They were colourful little numbers, and some even had those tinny little faux buckles in the front. It wasn’t long before all eyes began focusing on poor Dr N. He knew his trunks were a bit large (he had to keep hiking them up), but that was no reason to treat him like a leper.

The burly swimming instructor took a look at Dr N and demanded rather indignantly, “Master N, what is that atrocity you have on!”

“W-w-why, they are my father’s s-s-swimming trunks, of course…” Dr N mumbled.

“Swimming trunks my ass!”

‘ASS’ was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word considering he was in MCKK; it could have been construed as an invitation. The instructor went on to point at Dr N’s trunks and boomed, “Those are not swimming trunks. They are your father’s goddamn underpants!”

The word ‘CLUBMAN’ emblazoned all across the waist band and the ‘Y’ design at the front should have been dead giveaways. But this was beyond Dr N, at the time.

After they fished out the other boys who had fallen into the pool laughing their heads off, swimming class for that day had to be cancelled. From that day on, poor Dr N found himself to be the butt of jokes, no matter where he went and no matter how old he got. It would be one thing or the other, but he never ever really got the respect which he thought he deserved.

And ever since he knew me, I haven’t been really much help in this area, too. I mean, I empathise with the guy. Heck! I even sympathise with him occasionally. But sometimes I just can’t help myself – he just leaves these great big openings for my cruel pokes. Mind you, Dr N does count as one of the dubious minority who thinks Roger Moore was the best Bond ever. What did you expect from someone who believes this blasphemy? Maybe MCKK had something to do with this…

But we are great friends. If I had to go into battle, would I want him on my side? Sure! No doubt about it. He’d be an asset if he would actually show up – which he has done once or twice, and proven himself to be indispensable, needless to say. He is, and will always be a good friend – never mind that he accuses me of intellectual thuggery. He still takes pot-shots at me for having read War and Peace when I was ten years old and then slowly morphing into a super-bloated and not-so-pretty version Roseanne Barr that I am now.

These days when the day hits him hard, he finds solace in his fledgling Tomica model car collection, and sticking it to me that I am an aesthetic imbecile for liking Mitsuoka cars. He’s no slouch when it comes to intellectual thuggery himself.

Happy New Year, everybody!


13 thoughts on “Dad’s Swimming Trunks

  1. mr mb,
    another gem from the master essayist worth waiting after an extended hibernation. thank you for sharing and a top of the new year to you.
    with warmesr regards/sakmongkol ak47

    Dear Sakmongkol

    Happy New Year to you, too, sir. Congratulations to your son for having aced his PMR. Like I always maintain, to gauge a boy’s intellectual prowess, one doesn’t have to look further than his parents!

  2. Good morning Mat.
    Happy New Year to you and your family.As usual you never2 fail to entertain us after your usual ‘incubation’ period.

    I love your Dr N.Hes the kind of guy who colours a boring day with smiles and
    laughter!Adoii!His father must have also been on of the most lovable clowns around!

    So its 2009 now.Please Mat.Don’t rest too long after each entry.We don’ want that “Roseanne Barr’ to make us miss him so much!


    Happy New Year to you and your family, too, ma’am.

    I had a quick peek at the family photos your husband posted on his blog. Ma’am, I must say that your husband is a looker, his prosperity girth notwithstanding! My prosperity girth is a lot bigger – and I’m no where near anything that even resembles prosperity!

  3. Hi there Mat,

    Man, that was a mighty long break…but great that you decided to resume on the first day of the year!

    Here’s wishing you a very happy new year and may you not stop blogging!

    nuraina samad

    I am truly honoured to have you comment here, ma’am.

    I indeed take a long break from blogging but the business I am in makes tremendous demands, especially during this time of year. The fact that I lost my mobile broadband modem didn’t help, too. But for better or for worse, I’m back.

    Happy New Year to you and yours ma’am

  4. i’ve no idea what you’ve written this time round because you’ve got daniel craig as a distraction right up there.

    but happy new year anyway!

    ps. actually i have nothing of import/intelligent to say of your yet another brilliant entry.



    I was afraid of that. I have heard that Daniel Craig tends to have this effect on women. But tanks for reading anyway. Its always good to have you here

  5. Mat-san,

    Happy New Year wishes and all the best for what promises to be a most challenging 2009.

    Yes, you`ll find a Dr.N in almost any grouping. He is always fully contented with his lot, and yet contentment remains just a dream to most of us, even amongst those who appear to have almost everything, and have achieved almost everything there is to be achieved out there.Name it…money, power, position, class,looks etc…they appear to have it all,yet, are they contented?Far from it!

    Perhaps, there`s a lof truth in the adage that happiness, and contentment, is not in reaching the final destination, but lies in undertaking the journey itself.

    Meantime, Mat-san, what`s with the MCKK thingy(and MRSM, to a lesser extent)?Truly hoping that Eaton of the East, in all its majesty amidst the serene and lush surroundings of the Royal town of Kuala Kangsar, has had some indelibly positive effects on you most recently(if my hunch is right).

    Yours truly, and Mat Salo(amongst others), spent our wonder years there. at the time when Cream, Jimmy Hendrix,Janis Joplin and Jethro Tull were the rage, and when the world revolved just around the flower people,and Woodstock . …hence the little question above.

    Anyway, Mat-san, welcome back after that month long sabbatical.Cheers!


    Yes! I passed by Kuala Kangsar lately and the A-4 Skyhawk that’s parked near the clock tower knocked my socks off.

    That’s right, bro. Mat Salo and I (and I suspect you, too) are remnants from that wonderful era of Hendrix, Clapton, Joplin, marijuana (medicinal, of course) and Volkswagen Combi vans. They don’t make Fender Telecasters like they used to anymore.

    The thinggy about MCKK? I’m just poking some (non-malicious) fun at that very honourable institution. Just to prove my non-discriminatory policy, I poke fun at where I was from, too – MRSM ๐Ÿ™‚

    Its good to be back Higashi-san

  6. MB

    Another excellent essay. I was never in a boarding school. But one does not need that to have memories of gawky scenarios when a friend was caught in a trying situation.

    We had a dandy classmate, D, in my time, who always had longer hair than regulations permitted. But his excuse was that he had Sikh roots (tho’ I had my suspicions otherwise).

    Be that as it may, there was one afternoon when we were playing a round of football. The ball had gone into the penalty box and D (a completely useless poseur of a centre-forward) rose to head the ball. Everything went awry for him.

    Poor sod. His glasses went flying eastwards. His hair was flaying westward. His head was in the northerly direction. His legs were somewhere south.

    Gravity took care of him. As he crashed onto Mother Earth, his left and right legs decided to go in opposite directions causing a tremendous strain on the stitching of his extra-tight pants in the crotch area.

    As expected, the stitching gave way to reveal to all and sundry that he was wearing a G-string-like underwear (which was peculiar enough). This ghastly sight was compounded by the colour of the undergarment.

    It was bright red in colour. Thereafter, he was dubbed “Red ‘Spender” for some years.

    Undaunted, he went on to become Sudirman Haji Arshad’s manager for a spell. Not a bad gig for “Red ‘Spender”.

    de minimis

    A centre-forward wearing a red G-string? Hilarious! Absolutely hilarious.

    Now I’m wondering if his penchant for women’s underwear had anything to do with his landing a cushy job as Sudir’s manager…

    Thanks for sharing


    Ah at long last, another long-awaited entry!!
    I am sure your life must be filled with many interesting & colourful characters. Certainly many worth blogging about.

    Anyway, I am trying to imagine how your prosperity girth looks like …. can only remember you during those skinny MRSM days ๐Ÿ˜€ Heck, we were all skinny then!


    My prosperity girth? Let’s see… I am now 46 and my waistline matches my age (in inches). Put in another way, when I stand-up straight, I don’t get to see my feet anymore ๐Ÿ™‚ Not very pretty, I assure you. And heck! I wish I could still remember how I looked when I was skinny…

    Yes QOTH, I have been blessed with meeting and knowing some very colourful characters. I will be blogging about them – soon.

  8. dear Mr B,

    A very happy new year to you too!!
    hope you had a good break..pi mana??


    Mana ada break – pi kerja macam lembu. Dah lah tu, hilang pulak broadband modem ni. Kena buat baru…

    Hoping you are fine, too.

  9. You know, that was a mighty long break you had, making me clicking this link in vain. Sheeesh.

    But, when you write, there is no need for other people – myself included – to even dream of writing fiction or otherwise. You, Sire, make us all pale in comparison.

    Best I go back to lawyering. Sob sob sob!


    Once again, you have been too liberal with you praise. But hey, I’ll take it wherever I can get it. Thanks.

    The thing about this blogging is that it doesn’t pay well – in fact, not at all! I’d take to lawyering any day. Switch skills with me? No? I thought so…

  10. I taught a couple of kids whose fathers were from MCKK.
    The sons, though too young to be in MCKK have certainly inherited the colourful characters of the MCKK blogging ex-boys I read these days. Malay boys do have their moments eh? ๐Ÿ™‚


    That’s true isn’t it? MCKK boys are colourful. Some of these MCKK boys count as my closest friends. Its good to know that the ‘colourfulness’ has rubbed on their kids, too.

    Thanks for visiting. How’s your aikido coming along?

  11. Happy new year – will try not to comment on the much discussed attire as one man’s underwear is another’s trunk.

    Kak Teh

    Indeed! This seemed to be the case with Dr N and is father.

    Happy New Year, ma’am

  12. Salam bro,

    Send my regards to Dr N when you see him. Mayhaps, he would want to join in the demo I told you about.

    I will (if I remember). But I don’t think he will be interested in the demo. He’s got a job now wuth the Malaysian Aids Council (or something like that)

  13. MB,

    If Dr. N looks like Daniel Craig then I don’t mind being his patient. Gosh! he is hot…opppss! I mean Daniel Craig.


    Sorry to disappoint you, Zoe. Dr N doesn’t look like Mr Craig. But he does look like Salman Khan, if that’s any consolation.

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