What inspired this post is a recent connection made with one long lost college mate. He is from Vietnam and we met in college known as the Technical College back then! I guess it is now the Institute of Technology Malaysia.
I used to have a photo of him taken with our Satellite Tracking Station as the background but I just could not locate the photo but below is the recent photo of Lai holding a girl ( my Vietnamese college mate) and his wife! I am just amazed with coincidences because another college mate (on the far left) bumped into Lai in Ho Chi Min recently and he sent this photo to our batch of college students.
I was doing my Electrical Degree in UK when Ho Chi Min fell and at that time I was thinking of Lai. Did he managed to survive the Viet Cong regime? Since I lost contact with Lai, this was a nagging question in my mind all these years until I receive his recent photo. Even during my business trips to Vietnam in the late 80's I did enquire from my business contacts about Lai but to no avail. Also, Lai was the one who got me interested in the Classical Guitar for Lai is an accomplished guitar player and it seems the American Gi's taught him how to play the guitar.
Receiving Lai's photo brought back those unforgettable memories and the fun we had at college. I tried to dig up all the photos I could find during that period of history which holds dear to me. The fun, excitement as well as the naughty things we did then.
Firstly, I just want to say that I survived May 13th 1969 racial riots. I was living in the hottest part of the turmoil and thank God that I survived. That was at the end of my First Year in College.
The above photo was taken in a lecture hall and there are a few faces there and I hope they can stumble upon this post and identify themselves here. Better still if they can send me an email so that we can re-connect with one another. I can still remember most of their names except for one or two.
I was one of the members of the College Basket-ball Team. Lam was the captain and today we are still keeping in touch. After his golf days, he would call me out for lunch with the gang who are mostly ex-Collegians. Wonder why I was not in uniform? Hemm! The guy who wore No. 5 is no longer with us and he was my best buddy in college. He introduced me to the dance halls in KL where we bought $0.40 cents dance tickets to dance with the ladies!!!! I really enjoyed those times and the only problem was that our shirts would be stained with multi-colours due to the sweat and the colour run on the ladies baju! No air-conditioning then! haha!
The above photo was taken during one of our laboratory sessions. Obviously one can tell we were doing some electrical experiments! I remembered how I absentmindedly bite on an electrical plug and got a 230 Volts shock in my mouth! The one on the far left is another of my best friends in college and today he is a missionary in China! Wow! Noticed too that I am the odd guy out in terms of dress code? Most students wore white whereas i wore coloured shirts! Trying to make a statement then i guess like I am different!
Well, during my first year at college, as a private student meaning not under any scholarship or sponsorship, we could not get hostel accommodation. So all private students rented rooms or houses just outside the college and the above photo were my house mates, all college students of different disciplines! We have architectural students, civil engineering students and quantity survey students while I was an electrical power student.
Noticed the sign board behind us? It was a dress making shop next door! I remembered how we used to tease and chase those girls working there! We were ravenous wolves! Hahaha!
Another group photo of the rest of the house mates. I guess one guy is missing and cannot remember why he was not there! He was a land survey student.
This is one of my favourite photo. The Bengali chap was known as Rockwell! Of course not his real name but he is such a jovial and fun to be with character! He wanted to remove his turban but not brave enough to challenge his traditions! As the story goes, Arjan Singh ( his real name ) posted himself as Rockwell Arjan in some popular local Movie Magazines with the sole purpose of finding a girl friend! Someone saw that and ever since then the name sticks and for the 3 years in College, it was such a big joke! Not sure what he is called nowadays!
Now this is another unforgettable photo. We were all refugees! Our college hostel was converted into a refugee camp and we were allowed to stay in our own student rooms. Don't we have the lean and hungry look? What a time of togetherness and we were united without any racial differences while the world outside was so different! Sigh! None of us understood what was all the killing about! Now I wondered where was Anwar Maarof, one of our college mates? He was with the group but his face not in the photo! Today he is Professor Anwar with UTM. In short, we have to thanked Prof. Anwar for saving all our lives! Talking about racial harmony and unity!
I was hugging these two Indian boys who were refugees there too! Understood that they got separated from their parents and not sure they were alive or not! All in all we spent about 2 months living as refugees. Food was just curry and rice with ikan bilis nearly everyday. There were soldiers guarding the place and remembered one evening, some people from outside tried to enter and all of us were asked to stay in our rooms. Exciting but also rather scary! Having gone through such a horrible life experience and saw some killings on the streets, never would anyone like to see a repeat of such. In many ways my innocent mind was tainted with the ugliness of racial riots and forever in my memory. Somehow an invisible barrier was created among the different races but through the years it began to really heal until recently with the all these bigotry and racial chantings once again opened up old wounds. Never knew what hatred was until we woke up to the reality of it. Our unity seems to be so fragile.
Finally we all graduated and we were all working in various Government Departments or in some Private Companies. However the comradeship continued and we even become house mates! Then slowly one by one, we got married and soon we part our ways. The busyness of building a career and family life soon take a toll on the comradeship and now, we are unable to locate one another except for a few who continue to keep in touch! Guess life is always about making new relationship and parting of some old ones but the emotional bond that we had built over the years will always remain strong and it just take a chance meeting and all the so call 'old sparks' came back again!
I am sure Lai must have much more to share during that part of history. He saw the Malaysia May 13th Racial Riots plus his experience going through the Fall of Ho Chi Min! Would love to meet him personally to learn of his life experiences which I am sure holds plenty of great life lessons! In many ways this post is about Lai my Vietnamese College as well as course-mate.