The Tigers of Taiping - Soil, Soul & Society
Memoirs from Tiger Dato’ (Dr.) Anwar Fazal
Old Edwardians Annual Reunion Magazine. 2005
There is something special about the King Edward VII School – the place, people and passion, manifested most often by the ‘roar’ of the tiger.
I had the blessing of being a budding ‘tiger’ and spent the year 1947 till and including, 1857. The entry time as a ‘cub tiger’ was just before the so-called ‘emergency’ and Taiping as the Northern garrison base became very militarized zone with soldiers from all over the world.
When I left, it was the glorious period of “Merdeka” which I had the opportunity to shout as a ‘teen tiger’.
Because of the excellent statistics kept in our report cards, I can report as follows:
In1947, when I joined, I was 4 feet short, 3 stones and 8 pounds light and my chest measurement was a skimpy 24 inches.
In 1957, when I left the school, I was 5feet 8 inches tall, 119 pounds heavy and was a proud 35 inches!
This is called progress, but it was not just the physique that changed. The school brought joy, excitement, fellowship and all variety of challenges of growing up mentally and socially.
I belonged to the Raffles House – the illustrious name of a great colonial civil servant and scholar name more associated with Singapore now, but more remembered here by the name given to the largest (even if foul smelling) flower in the world – the “Rafflesia”!
I went through the helping hands of 8 different principals – Englishman, Scotsmen and Welshmen, and then, two illustrious locals: Yeoh Teng Khoo and JEB Ambrose. Among the ‘foreigners’, I remembered are Mc Corkingdale and EH Bromley – you can imagine the fun we had with their names!
It was also a time where every teacher seemed so special, unique, inspiring, or if not, so frightening as to make sure you buck up! AK Sabapathy and Utam Singh were not only outstanding teachers, they were also outstanding sportsmen. I learnt my hockey, cricket and scouting from them. Cambell and Ibrahim Ali, Lim Swee Chin, Francis Chung, Ooi Hoay Yam, Quah Chiew Kooi (who led the Old Edwardian Association for years) and Ratnasabapathy (for his cricket and athletics) and A Matthews and Dawson, and many others who left lasting impressions.
Everyone had something in them that earned respect. I believe most of it was that they cared for the pupils and school. It was that ‘caring’ that was the stuff of commitment and excellence that became the wind under our wings”.
There are many other things to remember about the school:
The Building: I served time in all of them. Each had the character but it was the main building at Station Road, its ‘solid’ architecture and metal gate that left the most lasting impressions, even till today.
The school playing field: those typical ‘rain’ trees, so characteristic of Taiping under which, we placed our shoes and shirts while we practiced and rested. The field and school grounds, many have forgotten, were the site of the original and oldest railway station. That is why so many railway quarters surrounded the school. It has to be said that if we dug the school field, you will find the ‘archeological’ remains of the old station and rails!
Sports: We did our running barefooted. My first hockey-stick was one discarded by the British Army after a game – it was broken! I nailed it back and tied it up with string, using our best boy scout ‘knots’. It had a leather covering. Our rugby boots were handed down from another general and the ‘studs’ were nailed in by the cobbler – they scratched you so often.
Exhibition: The most memorable were the bicycle decoration contest. Nearly all of us used bicycles in 1956. The one who won, was decorated as a tiger!
There are so many classmates to remember:
Tiger SAM Mohaideen, the Old Edwardian President, was a champion athlete. No one could challenge him for the 220 and 440 yards. ( I used to win 880 yards – bigger lungs I think).
Tiger ‘Sonny’ Ling Liong Sik, now Tun, who believe it or not, was a good high jumper. He also a high jump into medicine and politics!
Bashir Mohammed and Dr. Ghulam Sarwar (then known as Kamarudin) – were two great writers. They were involved in “the Tiger”, the school newspaper. Bashir went to London and became among the leading collectors of Islamic and Malay heritage manuscripts and Dr. Ghulam is Malaysia’s leading expert on traditional theatre form and an outstanding poet.
Zaini Affendi and Ghani Ismail, who acted together with me in the play, “His Excellency, The Governor”. I have photos of the hilarious dresses we wore. Ghani was dressed as Gandhi!
Debates: We had many great debates on topics that were relevant, even now, for example: “That the government of nations should be left to women”. (Unfortunately, we lost to the Convent, who interestingly, opposed the motion.)
“The Freedom of fear of Economic Power is preferably to Political Rights”. (We unforgivably, lost to Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), which although was the epitome of many things feudal, opposed the motion).
Climate: I had for awhile, the important job of being in charge of the school’s meteorological station (yes, believe it or not, we had one and I used to dutifully go every morning at 7am to measure the rainfall, humidity and record the temperatures and ‘chalk’ them on a special board for all to see. I enjoyed that link to nature so much, I decided to be a meteorologist! Unfortunately, no one told me I needed to study physics while I had warmed to the arts class in those early periods of ‘streaming’. My father was so disappointed when I told him I was allocated to the “Arts Stream” – “how do you expect to make a living by drawing!” I had to explain that “Arts” meant more than that!
One day, I over slept and could not do the reading. I felt so guilty that I had let down the whole world. A friend suggested to just put a figure – no one would know the difference. I decided I could not do that and instead, confessed to our master in charge, Mr. AK Sabapathy, who said he was proud I had not cheated. Just write “Sorry, no reading today” on the board, he said. This was a lesson in integrity!
Not only was the school special, the location of it in Taiping added a magical dimension – the ecological setting of mountains, lakes, mangroves, forests and so closely nestled in one of the rainiest towns in the world!
Not many people know that the Malayan Nature Society (Malaysia’s oldest and premier ecological group) was founded in Taiping!
The multi-cultural, multi-religious setting with so many races and nationalities, that you grew up comfortable to be both a Malaysian (then Malayan) and a citizen of the world!
The name of the town “Taiping” means “everlasting peace” was again so special. Recently, a few of us launched the “Taiping Peace Initiative” to make the town the centre for learning about peace: Peace with ourselves, Peace with other people and peace with the environment (visit http://www.everlastingpeace.net)
A few of us also founded the Malaysian Interfaith Network (MIN) in Taiping (visit http://www.malaysianinterfaithnetwork.net). The core motto of this network is “the Golden Rule” treat others like you would like to be treated!
The school and town taught me everything that is important to life and living
- The balance between sports, studies and service
- The balance between environment, self and community – what I call “soil, soul and society”
Thank you Tigers and thank you Taiping for making my life an enjoyable and rewarding journey. It could not have been better! And I even married an Old Edwardian – A Tigress, Mahmuda BibiBack to Papers & Presentations