Monday, 23 April 2012

Made my old headmaster's day

My daughter had been back in Penang for a short holiday and yesterday, Sunday, was the day that she was due to drive back to Kuala Lumpur. Like any concerned parent, I offered to accompany her down to KL as I didn't want her to travel alone. All this was arranged quite some time ago.

However, what was not in the works was a last-minute plan to deliver a copy of FIDELIS to my old headmaster, Dato' Tan Boon Lin.

You see, he had been rather anxious in the last two weeks or so regarding this book. He knew that it had been launched and he was due to get his copy. I've been asking the office of The Old Frees' Association to dispatch a copy to him as soon as possible but the OFA office had been delaying it. Not only for him but all the other contributors as well. Reason? The staff was rushing to prepare for the annual general meeting that's due on 29 Apr 2012.

That was when I suddenly realised that I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. If I was going to go to KL, why not deliver FIDELIS to Tan as well? So I signed off a copy from the OFA office. That was last week.

Yesterday, my daughter and I arrived in Damansara Utama at about six o'clock. We rang the miniature school bell on the wall. Tan was out somewhere but his daughter, Gaik Cheng, invited us in to wait for his return. And pretty soon he did. He stood at his front door and there I was, inviting him into his own house! It should have been the other way round. Quite a reversal of roles at his house, wasn't it? He should've been in and I was out. Instead, I was in and he was out. But no matter....

We spent about an hour chatting about the book and about the school. During our conversation, some fresh snippets of personal information were offered. Like how his grandfather made the momentous decision for him to apply for admission to the Penang Free School. He could have gone on to a Parit Buntar or a Nibong Tebal school instead. Or how his predecessor, JMB Hughes, never forgave him for using the swimming pool fund for building the school library that was named Khutub Khanah Tunku after Tunku Abdul Rahman. Nevertheless, Tan admired Hughes for his adventure streak and love of the great outdoors. He commented that Hughes organised several expeditions with the schoolboys to Langkawi at a time when those isles were still pretty much off the tourist map.

After Tan's retirement from government service in 1982, he became the Director of Student Affairs at the Tunku Abdul Rahman College. He said that he was thrilled to be dealing with students again. He remained in that post for five years, deciding to leave after hearing many comments that he was only there to fill the position until an MCA-appointee could take over. He didn't like that insinuation. Politics, as usual, had reared its ugly head in this country.

I was just about to push the Publish button on this blog post when an email arrived from Tan. What a coincidence! Anyway, here is his email message to me. Thought it be interesting to share it around:

Please accept my grateful thanks for your visit yesterday evening. As I told Chang Moh it was a wonderful surprise and certainly made up for all the anxieties I experienced due to the delay receiving a copy of FIDELIS after it was launched on 30 March. FIDELIS is a wonderful publication. Congratulations to you and those in OFA who were responsible for its production. Reading it certainly took me back to some of the the best years of my life in PFS: as student, teacher and Headmaster. Thanks once again.
Fortis Atque Fidelis.
Boon Lin

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