Honouring 50 years of friendship

Reunited: (from left) Sharifah, Teng, Hue, organising committee member Steven K.C. Poh and Kian.

THE class of 1975 at Bandar Hilir English School (2) – now known as SK Bandar Hilir – in Melaka recently got together for an overdue reunion.

The alumni members had initially planned to reconnect with each other in 2020 – exactly 50 years after they began their Year One schooling in their alma mater.

Their plans – commenced in late 2019 – came to a grinding halt when the Covid-19 pandemic sent shock waves across the nation and the world for the subsequent two years.

With the country moving into the endemic phase early last year, the group reignited their plans to rekindle their friendships, culminating in an evening of great fun and camaraderie on Nov 5, a press release read.

Organising chairman of the reunion Hue Kong Yan said half a century of friendship is no small feat by any standard and certainly an occasion to be celebrated, even if it was two years after the fact. “There were loads of stories to share, apart from reminiscing the old days. Most of us had lost touch with each other after more than 50 years, so it was great we finally got to meet up.

“Although some of us are in Melaka, we had not contacted each other – perhaps too busy with work and other issues,” he said.

He added that batchmates who were unable to physically make it for the reunion – such as those in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States – were also part of the event via online sessions.

Thanking the organising committee for making the reunion happen, retired civil engineer Syed Ridzuan Alhabshi said it was an honour and a great pleasure to be able to reconnect with his former classmates.

“This fun-filled time is something I will remember for a long, long time,” he enthused.

Retired Singapore-based information technology professional Gerald Tan expressed his elation at being able to recognise some of the faces of his former schoolmates despite the passage of time.

“I am grateful to be in touch again with my old friends whom I had not met for decades. “Rekindling friendships and bonding again over shared experiences was especially precious since we will all be crossing into our golden years soon,” he said.

Retired teacher Mani Sockalingam looked back on the gathering held at a hotel in Melaka as a congregation of like-minded friends who are “seniors but young at heart”.

“We reminisced our formative years of growing up, mingling and learning together with no care as to who we were ethnically or in terms of our religious backgrounds,” he said.

Like Mani, former head boy of the batch Woo Chee Wai pointed out that he and his schoolmates are the “muhibbah generation”.

“I hope the generations after us truly experience the kind of muhibbah friendship we had, if not greater,” he said.

Reflecting on the reunion, he added that he had felt transported back in time.

“It was like I was back in school with my friends. There was no agenda – we didn’t talk about what we are doing now or have done, and we were not caught up with differences or things that made us uncomfortable.

“It’s a blessing to have come this far in my life and to have shared with everyone part of my life’s journey,” the entrepreneur-turned-pastor said.

Abdul Rahim Md Jani, who runs an event management company after retiring from the oil and gas industry, described the chance of seeing some of his beloved teachers – all of whom in their 80s – as priceless.

“It was indeed an experience to be cherished forever,” he said, adding that it was nostalgic to once again hear the familiar names of primary school friends and meet them in the flesh like the good old days.

Tan Chee Seng, a chartered accountant who runs his firm in Selangor, said it was a reunion where all that mattered were the memories, experiences and laughter shared.

“We became kids again,” he quipped.

Agreeing, businessman Ou-Yong Sun said he had felt at home with his buddies.

“Though we had not met for decades, it never felt like we were apart. I could be myself – no masks, no pretences,” he shared.

The alumni’s teacher Teng Lean Cheen, better known to her former pupils as Mrs Teoh, said walking into the hall and seeing everyone gathered together while laughing was a ”heartwarming and bittersweet sight”.

“It brought me back to 50 years ago. Even though I saw grown adults, they still appeared to me as before – I could still see the youth in them as my pupils. It truly was wistful,” the 87-year-old said.

“I felt tremendously blessed and grateful to have attended the gathering. The organising committee did a spectacular job hosting it. I am very proud of all of my former pupils – of who they have become,” she added. Sharifah Talha Alsagoff, or better known as Mrs Syed Alwi, 82, also took pride in how her former charges “had grown to be successful in life”.

“I enjoyed myself very much that night seeing all my former pupils playing games together as if they were still children. And all of them will be touching 60 soon. How time flies.

“It brought back such pleasant memories of how they used to play together in school irrespective of race and religion. They will all be forever etched in my memory,” she said.

Datuk Kian Sit Har, 80, another teacher who had attended the reunion, said it was a very meaningful event.

“The fact that everyone made the time to gather and reconnect was truly amazing,” she said.

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