Raymond and I go back a long way. We were classmates from St. Patricks in Kulim where I studied from Standard 6 to Form 3 before moving on to do my Form 4 at BM High. We struck it off from the 1st day onwards. Through Raymond, I got to know the other of his friends in the class….Ruban James, Victor, Andrew Sivam, Peter S etc. There was a catholic church just beside the school that I started going to just because Raymond goes there. Unlike the temples, this church was colourful...it had coloured glass finishings. And during the sermon or prayers, the sound reverberated throughout the building. It was pleasing to the ears and sort of made me feel ‘religious’. I was not a Christian but many a time I wished I were. Not because of any anti-religious feeling towards my own. It was sheer ignorance and the need of becoming one in the group. Peer pressure I suppose.
I can recall many memorable moments with Raymond that were ‘firsts’ for me……. like the first time we cycled together 18km from Kulim to Serdang, getting excited waving at the army trucks that passed by, especially when they waved back. It made me feel like a ‘big boy’ although I was only 14. And I learnt the ropes of adventure from him. It was fun. And it was all the more exciting because I had to do all these without my parents knowledge. The excuse I usually gave was that I had a science project in school, extra classes or that I wanted to go to the library. Being orthodox, they wouldn't allow such exploits otherwise. I remember we once cycled all the way to Penang Island. That was the day he allowed me to taste my first cigarette. Of course I coughed on that inaugural attempt but I found out then how it tasted. It gave a ‘bnnng’ in your head and I liked it although it was not until about 4 years later that I had my next fix and slowly went on to become addicted to it.
Raymond was a good badminton player. We used to call our team some funny name that I cannot recall and often competed against other teams from the neighbouring schools. He played 1st singles, Andrew was second and I played 3rd. Won some, lost some. But it was the comradeship and solidarity that these events helped foster. These were the formative years and we were still growing…learning new things….adventurous. I still feel the jitters when I recollect the moments when we ventured into a mining pool opposite my school one mid afternoon after class and nearly drowned if not for the heroism of Peter (another schoolmate) who daringly came to my rescue. I was so shaken up that I actually cried.
We kept in touch infrequently after I changed school as there were no e-mails or mobile phones back then. We would meet whenever opportunities allowed. Much later, I was to join him to do my Form 6 in JB where he had a sister who was willing to support him and coincidentally, where I had a brother who also agreed to support me. (But that story will be told another day).
After completing my studies, I was once posted to Seremban in the late 70s. And Lo! And Behold! Who do we have there? There was Raymond again who had moved there a couple of years earlier and he took me in to stay at his mum’s house for a couple of months until I found my own board. Apart from these fond memories, we have also had our fair share of petty squabbles although they were never serious in any way. In the early 80s after I got married and returned to settle down in Butterworth, I learnt that he had emigrated to Norway to join his brother who lived there. I thought I won’t be able to see him again……!
……But one day in 1991, eleven years later by which time I had moved back to Kulim after securing a job there, I got a call from Andrew, my other classmate saying that Raymond had just arrived and that he was with him! Since Andrew hadn’t moved house and had been living in the same place since the 70s, it had been easy for Raymond to look him up. He was surprised when told that I was also there. And so we reunited again and spent the next few days together before he returned to Norway. From then on, we met whenever he returned to Malaysia. He has gone into art these days and refers to himself as a painter. Painters in Malaysia sometimes double-up as masons who build and paint houses. Raymond is into painting….painting as in art and acrylics. He holds exhibitions and I am told he is renowned in his country, projecting an innate image all of its own. How many of us get the chance to transform leisurely pursuits into a career…..and in the process get to relish every moment of it? Destiny has its ways.
The last when I met him, he promised that on his next trip, he will bring along his family……wife and 4 daughters. He is married to a Norwegian belle. He has already arrived and we have plans to meet up soon………..Raymond, the man whose name is synonymous with “adventurer”.
(the saga continues…………….)