Friday, December 27, 2013

The First Gathering

L-R: Norien, Nancy, Hayati, PK 

Sarbjit, TC, Syed Omar, Ramli

Our first MPS gathering took place on Saturday, 10th of April 2013 at Simpang Bedok. We met at the Mahmood's prata restaurant (the one next to the Shell station) early in the morning and later adjourned to the Social Enterprise Hawker Center across the road!

By then, 10 of us had been found. They were Norien, Rambli, Subari, Syed Omar, Pritam Kaur, Noor Hayati, Nancy Maung, Sarbjit, Miang Joo and myself. Only eight turned up as Miang Joo was residing in the US and Subari could not make it.

The day before, I had just managed to contact Sarbjit, who sportingly turned up. He would prove to be a good sport over the next few gatherings.

Finding Sarbjit was not easy. Someone said he and his brother (nicknamed Happy and Lucky respectively) ran a textile shop in Tekka Market, so off I went to look for him. But their shop was no longer there. But the tenants there remembered Sarbjit and his brother fondly and even knew they were called Happy and Lucky, so optimistic and jokey those two brothers were. In their company, they said, you would always be in good cheer.

After all these years, they have, apparently, not lost their trademark humour.

(Sarbjit once told me this story between he and his brother: They used to share school shoes like in that movie, Home Run. I then remembered that he used to turn up in school wearing flip-flops. That was when it was his brother's turn to wear the shoes. At the time, I thought how brave and rebellious this fella was. Turned out his family's business in textiles had taken a bad hit, no doubt caused by the worldwide oil crisis at the time.)

One of the tenants said they might have opened a shop nearby, so off I went to search. But despite wandering a few rounds in the area, there was no one remotely resembling Sarbjit. I could only try to imagine how he had changed in all these years. He was a skinny "bayi" back then with a "toncek" (hair bun on top).

But Norien and I knew the Silk community was small and tight-knit, so we surmised that maybe someone knew somebody who knew him. Turned out to be true. We found his sister through a an office colleague who was Sikh.

Still, finding the sister was one thing. Getting to Sarbjit was another. He was travelling and I could only get to the brother. After that it was 'radio silence' until the eve of the gathering and Sarbjit said he would turn up the next day which he did.

With Norien and Ramli, we were able to get in touch with Hayati and the rest of the Malay boys. Syed Omar was a chance meeting in an ambulance through Ramli's brother. He was working in the emergency services then.

Ramli was quite easily found as his younger brother was rather active in a junior MPS
FB group. And Ramli turned out to be a fervent 'hunter' as well. We first met at a kopitiam near my place and I showed him my MPS memorabilia.

Another classmate, Pritam, was located on FB as her brother Baldev was also active in that same MPS group. Seems quite a few people also loved their time at MPS. It was indeed a unique school fronted by a large field and surrounded by two other schools. The communities around it were diverse also!

I found Nancy Maung on FB after realising she had a unique surname. Dang, it was so obvious after the fact. But FB was to prove rather useless in locating missing people later. It is a good tool to stay in touch AFTER the people have been found. FB has too many people with the same (often shortened) name.

Miang Joo found me through my Flickr photo account in which I had posted pictures of my MPS memorabilia, including an old address list of almost all our classmates. It was compiled after I left MPS and in sec school.

It was kind of cute that she thanked me for remembering her. (I'd never forgotten my primary school mates and could still recall their names and faces.) MJ said she had also been reading my blogs (of which I have a few). And that's how we started our email exchange.

I have a few blogs. A popular one is Growing Up in Geylang in which I would write about my growing up years and also MPS/Circuit Rd experiences. You can find a story here:

Up till now, only Norien, Ramli and myself were actively looking out for our missing classmates. Ramli recalled Mazlan having a foodstall in Bedok South near an army camp and went looking for him. He also said he met him once on a bus.

I decided to dig into my treasure chest of MPS memorabilia (like my autograph book) to see if any more unique names would turn up. After all, some of our classmates could be using their Christian names!

As mentioned, many people think Facebook is such a great tool for uniting friends. Not so, especially when there are hundreds of Lucy Teos or Francis Tans. Not all accounts have profile pics nor could one assume them to be active as well.

I find LinkedIn to be the better lead, and I was not wrong. It led to finding a few key people who really then provided the additional brains and resources to locating more missing classmates. 

My box of MPS treasures. Click here to see.

First meeting w Ramli

The class photo that started it all. The only pix we all have taken when in P3B and
when we were taught by the lovely Ms Lim Siang Ngoh.