A personal record

Raja Chulan Raja Ahmad Tajuddin returns with more tales from his early years as a Kuala Kangsor boy – this time revolving his involvement with sports at school. Engku Chulan reminisces the 200 meter race of his life when he equalled the school record which lasted only 5 minutes!

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I was an all-round sportsman, I dare say. I played football, hockey, badminton and, in later years, rugby. I was quite good at field games and athletics too, although I cannot say I excel in any. As the saying goes, and as far as games go, I was jack of all and master of none!

In all the schools that I went to I was never one to shun from sports and field activities but it was in my early secondary years at Clifford that remained etched in my memory. It was during the school’s annual sporting event when the various Houses rose to the challenge to be the best in school. In all there were six houses, each with its own colour. I was in Head’s House, coloured brown. Purple was for Queen’s House, yellow for Iskandar House and red for Idris House. Hogan House took cream for its colour while Chulan House was in blue. Until now I wondered why I was never in Chulan House!

The first preparation for the sports was to get our singlet coloured. Common was the Pagoda sleeveless singlet which was the cheapest. We would share school pocket money to buy the dye. The large cooking pot needed to boil the water was from my mum’s kitchen and the firewood ‘borrowed’ (ahem! -Ed.) from the Chinese coffee shop on Hogan Road. The singlets must be evenly stirred in the boiling water mixed with the brown dye for the colour to be even. Otherwise, we would have light brown singlets with dark brown patches!

On the big day, we gathered at the school field to register for the events we would participate. Each member of the house would enter for as many events as possible except of course for the kaki bangku. We aimed to score points in every event we participated for our House to be declared champions. I chose the long jump, the shot put, the 100 yards as well as the 200 yards. Although not the eventual winner, I did score points in the long jump and shot put. I won my first heat in the 100 meters but never made the final heat. Still, I did secure a point.

I was determined to win the 200 yards being the last event I participated. The crowd was all for me as the announcement was made for the start of the race. I was in the fourth lane and as the countdown began I had my sight only on the finishing line. I was off the block even as the starting gun blew off and I realised I had a very good start. I was oblivious to everything as I took the first turn except for the loud clapping of the crowd at the finishing line. Down the final stretch, I realised that the others were far behind and I never looked back. I broke the finish tape with hands held high for it was the run of my life. The crowd was jumping and clapping as I rejoiced at the victory. I was especially excited because the win meant I had equalled the feat of a favourite cousin, YM Raja Balkish Raja Amir, who was GEGS’ best sprinter (she eventually became the Perak state sprinter).

I saw the headmaster came towards me, perhaps to congratulate me, I thought. Then there was a hush as the crowd turned silent. “You curi lane hah!” was all Mr Karam Singh said as I felt a biting pain from his crab-pincher on my stomach. Then I realised that in my excitement to win the race I had cut into the inner lane right from the first turn. But how could he have seen that. He was nowhere near the starting point!

Well, it was a lesson well learnt and I was lucky because despite not gaining any points in that race I was not penalised for the other points I earned. And it was the most short-lived record-equalling run in school. That was a personal record for this Hill Road brat.

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From a Malay School boy to a Cliffordian, part 2

Raja Chulan Raja Ahmad Tajuddin returns with more tales from his early years as a Kuala Kangsor boy. Today’s post is the second part describing his early days at the Clifford School Special Malay Class following his early education at the  Sekolah Rendah Melayu Pusat. Here Engku Chulan reminisces the friends he made at school and the antics they were up to!

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Among my Cliffordian friends who came from Kota Lama Kiri were the children of Allahyarham Mohd Nor Long, the famous football referee of Kuala Kangsar. Mohd Safaruddin, one of his sons, was a college mate at The College of Agriculture Serdang in 1969. Other Cliffordian friends included Krishnan, Bala and Muniandy, who stayed in Residence Hill; Kat Pin Hon who was a good hockey player and later became a businessman; Leong, whose father owned the Leong electrical shop opposite Yut Loy coffee shop; Ariff, the son of Pak Ngah Laksa; Zainal the son of Pak Desa, the mee seller at the old bus station in town; Majid who retired as a customs officer and Dato’ Ahmad Dhaman Huri who retired as the Ketua Setiausaha of JKR. And unforgettable too were the Scottish brothers Richard and Stuart Henning, whose father was the District Engineer. I cannot forget the day that I got into a fist fight with Richard when I thought he was flirting with one of the girls on our school bus. Despite that, we remained friends and I was even invited for Christmas at his house.

Our class master, or form teacher as it was known then, was a Eurasian named Mr Ball Hatchet (forgive me if memory fails me in correctly spelling his name), feared for his ‘crab pincers’ which essentially was a pinch to the stomach as he reprimanded naughty pupils in class. I was, of course, the most frequent recipient of the penalty.

A photo of Clifford School taken in 1897. (Source: Clifford School Kuala Kangsar Facebook page)

Clifford School as it stands today. (Photo: Raja Chulan Raja Dato' Ahmad Tajuddin)

Finishing the Special Malay Class, I moved school again to enter Standard Six at the Clifford Primary School which was located at Jalan Station near the Hospital Perempuan Kuala Kangsar. Since the school was rather far from Hill Road, I had to take the schoolbus driven by Pakcik Ghazali. The headmistress then was the late Mrs Yap. It was during my standard six here that we pupils were often taken to the Istana Iskandariah at the invitation of Almarhumah Raja Perempuan Taayah, my beloved grandaunt. Following my grandaunt’s demise, may Allah bless her kind soul, the school held its annual English essay writing contest and Mrs Yap asked me to write about Almarhumah. I won first prize because my essay was based on fond and loving memories whenever I visited her with my late father at Istana Iskandariah.

By this time, I became very close to YM Raja (Dr) Ahmad Tajuddin Shah Raja Bendahara Abdul Rashid* (also known as Ku Matta), who is a granduncle although we are only months apart age-wise. This close acquaintance proved useful in later part of my education when he and his MCKK colleagues gave prep tuition to this Cliffordian! And to this day, I am grateful to them for helping me to obtain my Higher School Certificate with flying colours. And unforgettable too were the nights when this Cliffordian was smuggled into the College to watch movies at the Hargreaves Hall. More often than not, after watching these movies, I would spend the night at Istana Gahara at the invitation of YM Ku Matta (or RATS* to his Serdang colleagues). Even as a kid, I could feel the familial bond that exuded from the warm and tender care of YAM Tuanku (Raja Puan Kechil Aishah Raja Saidin), bonda of Ku Matta. Soft spoken, always with a smile accopanying her charming personality, she treated me as a mother would. The ambience of Istana Gahara was one of royal splendour and serenity, with small vines that creeps the wall at both wings of the palace.

It was during these early Cliffordian days that my late father attended night classes at the insistence and recommendation of his superiors at the agriculture department in Kuala Kangsar. It was his diligence and dedication at work that eventually enabled him to obtain a Diploma of Agriculture at the Serdang Agriculture College. It was his sense of belonging as a son of Serdang that he sent me to attend the College of Agriculture Serdang in 1969, incidentally just after the tragic May 13 riots.

Celluloid memories: Visit by Rama VI to Kuala Kangsar, 1924

Sultan Iskandar Shah with Rama VI at the Kuala Kangsar railway station, 1924.

Vajiravudh (Rama VI) was the King of Siam who reigned from 1910 to 1925. Accompanied by his concubine, Suvadhana, Vajiravudh visited the Federated Malay States in 1924. The visit was reported to allow Vajiravudh to acquaint himself with the railway system of the FMS, especially when both nations are now linked by rail. Vajiravudh had a stopover in Kuala Kangsar where he was greeted by Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris I. Following this stop, the King of Siam continued his rail journey to Singapore, stopping at Ipoh where he met a few prominent residents including Leong Sin Nam, a well-known tin miner.

Footnote: In 1910, Vajiravudh founded an all-boys boarding college, Vajiravudh College, in Bangkok. He also introduced rugby as the college’s main sport so that the college boys would learn the virtue of sportsmanship. Interestingly, 36 years after Vajiravudh’s visit to Kuala Kangsar, an annual friendly rugby match between Vajiravudh College and Malay College Kuala Kangsar has become tradition.

Reference:
1. Wikipedia. Rama VI.
2. Our royal visitor. King Rama VI of Siam. Malayan Saturday Post. 1924 September 27.
3. Wikipedia. Leong Sin Nam.