By INS Contributors

AYER KEROH, Malaysia--They were a small bunch from a relatively unknown school tucked in a tiny town in Jasin, Malacca.

Nevertheless, many of these former students of the Jasin Secondary English School (JSES) (now Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Datuk Bendahara, Jasin since 1979) became illustrious pilots, maritime captains, outstanding athletes, accomplished civil servants, successful entrepreneurs and acclaimed professionals.

Hence, the ‘Yesterday Once More’ reunion of 330-odd alumni from 1964 at the Ames Hotel in Ayer Keroh, Malacca last Saturday was a roaring one, following the two-year Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Event organising chairman Major (Rtd) Chandra Mohan A.S. Param - a former Royal Malaysian Air Force ffighter pilot before retiring as AirAsia senior captain - was there with his ‘Class of 1971’ schoolmate and wife Elizabeth Koh-Mohan.

“Old Friends are like gold!

“As we age, we value retaining good old friends.

“Organising the reunion was no walk in the park, especially to gather senior citizens from all over, who finished their high school from 1964 to 1982,” said Chandra Mohan, 69.

He added despite challenging times, many contributed generously which enabled many schoolmates and 20-odd former teachers to be reunited.

Former Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral (Rtd) Ramlan Mohamed Ali described how affectionately they addressed each other as ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’, irrespective of ethnic and social status.

“It is now possible to interact via modern technology like Facebook, WhatApps, Instagram and Twitter but nothing can replace one’s physical bonding with the warmness of hugs, sturdy handshakes and light banter,” said Ramlan, 70.

Ramlan recalled how a majority of JSES alumni came from the poor outskirts, kampungs, estates, new villages and smaller towns synonymous with agrarian backgrounds and economies.

“Simplicity has bonded us with the close-knit local community with us easily recognising our bus drivers, Shell station-owner, postmaster, hospital attendants, ambulance drivers, estate-owners, village head, the popular Kamala cinema-owner and each other’s families,” said Ramlan.

Former Petronas executive vice-president George Manharlal Ratilal, 63, said that the reunion was a touching and memorable moment, bringing fond memories for an everlasting friendship.

“I am ever grateful to a neighbour who facilitated my journey to Britain as an 18-year-old to pursue my studies and career,” said George.

George’s elder brother and former RMAF and Transmile Air pilot Major (Rtd) Roy Jawaharlal Ratilal, 68, attended his first renion.\

“Although I have met my classmates in smaller numbers from time to time, this gathering was different and so meaningful.

“It was just so fantastic and magical for me to recognise some of my teachers, seniors, juniors and ex-scoutmates,” said Roy.

Entrepreneur Madhiah Md Zin, 73, said the reunion felt like 'balik kampung' to be with their families for festive seasons like Hari Raya, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Deepavali and Christmas - all rolled into one!

Retired Penang Port Commission chief executive officer and maritime captain Abdul Rahim Abdul Aziz, 70, said reunions were moments that money could not buy as the camaraderie was still so strong after all the years, irrespective of race and religious barriers.

Retired schoolteacher and JSES alumni Angamah Vengadasalam, 68, is best renowned to have teamed up with Saik Oik Cum, Zaiton Othman and Mumtaz Jaafar to snatch the 4x400 women’s relay gold at the 1981 Asian Track and Field championship in Tokyo, Japan.

“The organising committee was extremely committed and rich in esprit de corps, reflecting a strong unity since my sporting years.

“Undoubtedly, as equal brothers and sisters we were reunited with our alma mater to revive our long cherished friendship,” said Angamah, who also briefly played netball for Malaysia.

Former JSES teacher and ex-Olympic Council of Malaysia general manager M.P. Haridas, 85, hoped it would not just be an annual affair but a platform to regularly help those in need.

Haridas added teachers were identified with the subjects they taught and teaching was made easy with a syllabus and reference books, but educating the students was a great challenge.

“We had to mould their character, attitude, behaviour and habits, teach them right from wrong and inculcate positive values to prepare them for adulthood- something not available in text books! said Haridas.

Former American Peace Corps volunteer Jeff McLaughin, 77, who taught  biology, health science and English composition in 1969–1971, flew in from Taiwan where he now lives.

“When I first arrived in Malaysia in December 1968, I was a naive 24-year-old.

“A whole new world opened to me as my students taught me a lot more about life than I taught them.

“I owe them a debt of gratitude that I have never forgotten,” said McLaughlin.

Mary Koh, 62, was among the first batch of 1980 short-commission women RMN officers.

“Reunions will remain as cherished memories at our penultimate years.

“I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted respectfully by two alumni who had also served with the RMN.

“Its amazing what an impression in life you had made for people to remember you.That made my day and I am glad I drove all the way from Kuala Lumpur to attend,” said Koh.