Monday, December 12, 2005

A Gathering of Old Saints


It's time of the year again for our Old Xaverian Association annual dinner.  In spite of my early 4.00pm departure from SP to avoid the traffic jam on the Prai side of Penang Bridge, which is a regular occurrence on Friday evenings, it took me more than thirty minutes to get to the other side.  The queue started immediately at the turn-off from the interchange.  Anyway, I reached the Sandy Beach Paradise a quarter before 6.00pm and managed to locate the place in between 2 other hotels namely, the Corpthorne and the Crown Prince.  KS Khoo’s email mentioned Sandy Bay, but since that’s the only place called “Sandy” that must be it.  I wanted to arrive early on purpose so that I could drop by for a chat with my old folks at their apartment just a 5 minute drive from there.  Mum was preparing dinner and dad was at his favorite reclining chair in front of the TV.  Normally they'd maintain their youthful vigor by arguing about anything under the sun or compete for my attention with their opinions whenever I'm around.  But that evening they were rather subdued as if in reflection of the moody weather.  I hoped I brought them some cheer with my surprise visit.


When I arrived at the hotel later the 'car park full' sign was blocking the entrance.  A guard indicated an alternative parking space a bit further down the road on a vacant field next to the Dalat School next door.  On my way to the hotel from the car park it was drizzling, but I decided to leave the umbrella.  I noticed a lanky guy with clean shaven head behind me.  The face looked familiar.  My mind ran through the list of names and I guessed this must be Chin Soon.  I turned around and asked him and he said yes.  He couldn’t remember me, so I had to remind him.  We represented St Xavier's Branch School together in an art competition at Francis Light School when we were in Std 6.


We found we were the first to arrive at our table, followed by Gaik Im, the only rose among thorns at our table.  This bubbly lady got here all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, USA where she’s a property agent.  She's on one of her occasional visits home.  She was from our neighboring school, the Light Street Convent with whom we shared the playing field.  The common link we had was that she spent a few months in form 6 in SXI before she left for the US.  Ong was in SXI until form 4 after which he left for UK to pursue a course in fashion design.  He resided in UK for 11 years and then moved to Hong Kong where he now runs a boutique. That’s the gist of all the information I managed to gather from these early birds before the rest of our table mates showed up and the resident band struck up their oldies and goodies of the sixties and seventies trying to drown out our conversation.  We then tried to carry on by turning our voices up a few more decibels in between some photo-sessions and 'yam-seng' cheers.


There was Chin Kong back from Toronto, Canada.  We learned he’s into politics there.  I remember him as the guy who kept praising me for my artistic talents when he saw some of my works displayed in our school annual exhibition.  It looks like he's found his calling.  Too bad, I didn't follow mine.  I was glad to have also met Dean Liu, who generously supplied the Green and Black labeled whiskeys which put so much life into our little gathering in the midst of the larger gathering.  There also was Joseph Yong, Sik Kim, who's in civil-engineering, Swee Sim (MAS), our regular Cheong Tian the freight-forwarder, Choon Jin the low profile and humble tycoon and not forgetting JM Tan the security expert from Fairchild.  Our table was reserved by our OXA vice-president friend, KS Khoo former banker, now GM of Clarion. 


We were treated to the usual 8 course dinner complete with lucky draws offering prizes in cash and kind. To round off the evening, our vice-president got on the stage with the band and gave us his version of 'Secret Love'.  We assumed he wasn't singing about his personal life at this age. The guys decided that 10.15 pm was too early for them to crawl off home to bed.  They were just warming up and wanted to shift the party to another venue.  For me, I've had enough to last me till next year.  It felt great to sit among old friends and yak away the night, and I would have loved to continue but my neck wasn't really up to it yet.  I decided to call it a day, thinking about the usual jam in Green Lane and my long drive back to SP alone on the wet, drizzly night.


This was my 2nd attendance in this annual dinner and to think that I haven't seen some of these guys for more than 35 years.  Except for some receding, greying or missing hairlines, thicker glasses or reading glasses where there were none before, nothing much has changed over the years.  These guys still tried to insult each other without anyone taking any offence for that matter.  In spite of the din going on all around, this gathering was to me, to sum up in one word: nostalgic.  Looking forward to next year and I hope to see more new (old) faces showing up.



  1. Kids will be kids, adults too were once kids hehe

  2. just trying to stay 'young at heart' as ole blue eyes (frank sinatra) said...