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!