“You’re the biggest goddamn 12-year old I ever met!”
In some twisted way, that was probably the second nicest thing anyone said to me during our reunion at Langkawi last weekend. I was really touched.
It all began when about a year ago when a dear friend (and former employer) mooted the idea of a reunion for our batch (the 1975 intake of MRSM Seremban). Frankly, I was a bit sceptical because the plan specified, of all things, that the entire group shall be flown to Langkawi on a chartered flight. My mind immediately protested: collecting everyone’s portion of the charter was going to be a logistical nightmare. I would have been better off if I were to start building the plane with my bare hands right there and then. This way, we stood a better chance of arriving at Langkawi in the same aircraft on the slated date.
Not too keen on embarking on a do-it-yourself project of constructing a 150-seater airliner in my backyard in Umbai, I voiced my concerns to my friend. His reply was a cool and collected, “Don’t worry! I’ll pay for the charter flight.”
Since he was obviously quite ready and willing to foot the bill for the flight, it occurred to me that the least I could do was help him organise the reunion. This was when he voiced his concerns, “But we’re going to need a big enough bastard to manage the project…”
Without thinking (as usual), my reply was a cool and collected, “Don’t worry! I’m just the bastard you need.” Almost immediately alarm bells went off in my head and the words “Oh, shit!” began reverberating in my ear for the next few months.
When all was said and done, my friend’s pocket proved deep enough not just for the chartered flight but also for almost all of the other expenses for the reunion – including accommodation and F&B. And by some stroke of luck, I (and the team that volunteered to assist me) also proved to be big enough bastards to keep everything together and deal with the million and one silly requests (demands?) of the attendees.
So, on 11 February 2012, Sandy Beach Resort, Langkawi received their 62 fifty-year old guests: the males dressed in Hawaiian shirts and leopard skin nut-cracker swim trucks and the females in bikinis that needed less material to make than a handkerchief. It was indeed a sight to behold. I think one or two of the other guests at the resort actually threw up.
Imagine 62 fifty-year olds who went to secondary school together. Now, put them all in on an idyllic island (without their spouses and children). Next, pull out all the stops. Then – just to make sure that things really got out of hand – ignite a small spark. It was Woodstock all over again! The fun and frolicking was so contagious that even the other guests at the resort couldn’t resist joining our beach party. I had never seen so many people have so much fun in my life – and, mind you, all without the aid of a single drop of alcohol or other mind-altering substances.
Before we left the next day, we rented the resort’s seminar hall just so that we could spend some quality time together, chat and basically chill-out. One thing led to another. Before long people started to go out in front, microphone and hand, to say things that they have always wanted to say but never had the chance (or courage) to say.
Then it was Kay’s turn.
Thirty-seven years ago when we enrolled at MRSM Seremban – although she was only 12 then – Kay was prettiest girl I had ever laid my eyes on. I was instantly smitten and – much to her dismay – I spent the rest of my days in MRSM chasing after her. I should have realised that pretty girls don’t really go for socially-challenged dorks who gave the Elephant Man a run for his money. But I didn’t at the time. Now, some thirty seven years later I realise how embarrassing I was and how traumatic it must have been for her. Often, through the years, I’ve dreamt of apologising to her for my antics. But having balls the size of raisins, I never had the courage to do this. Hopefully, she has forgotten all about it. After all, that was thirty-seven years ago. Nobody’s memory is that good!
But I was wrong.
Towards the end of her speech she said, “I remember when I was 12, Sofian was chasing after me all the time. All I could do was think of was how to run away from him… “
If there was ever a good time for the ground to open up and swallow me whole, that was it! The nearest exit was about 8 metres away and if I pushed my tree-trunk legs really hard, I could possibly escape before she finished what she wanted to say.
Then she went on, “… but now, if he asked me for a hug, I’d gladly give him one.”
There was a big roar of applause. The next thing I realised was that I was flat on my back, staring at the ceiling. In my semi-conscious state, it hit me like a candy-covered pile-driver: that was perhaps the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in a very long time.
On the flight back, squeezed against the cabin wall of my window seat, I thought about the reunion and what we had achieved. Yes, we had fun. Yes, we got the chance to let our hair down. Yes, we managed to blow off a tremendous amount of steam.
To me, that was all secondary. I have no doubt in my mind that what we had actually achieved was a lot more than that. In the end, the reunion helped us rediscover the value of the friendship we had forged over our years together – and how really precious our friends are to us.
We may have had our differences. In fact, we still do. But when all is said and done, I know in my heart that our friendship will always trump over our differences.