It finally happened. In fact, it was 20 years in the making. Sprinkling of schoolmates (only a fragment, unfortunately) from the high school my brothers and I went to, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Cha’ah, finally got together last weekend.
First and foremost, for the benefit of non-Cha’ahrians (as we call ourself for now) Cha’ah is a tiny town, which if you are travelling from Yong Peng to Segamat on trunk road, you can see only if you are driving at around 30kmph. Yeah, it’s one of those sleepy blink and you miss town. Here’s more detail. Don’t know who loaded it, and I didn’t know Cha’ah is well known for frog dish.
Thanks to online social portal Facebook, suddenly folks I have not met for twenty years appeared; most of who are puzzled that I no longer looked like a nerd that I used to look (just the look, intellectually I was still the dimwit I am today).
Anyway, my brother and I planned to go together, in his car, discuss through email about the time to leave from our homes, etc, and then came an email from him that send chill down my spine, “Do you know how to get there?”
You see, the meetup was to take place in a place called Country Barn Pub & Grill in an area, and my fingers are shaking as I type this, called USJ (UEP Subang Jaya as I learned later).
We took meagre direction from the pal organising the event, Jeremy De Silva, who only highlighted the Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ) building and how to go to the pub from there.
Never mind, I thought, it’s a challenge we have to face. But the trouble is, good sense of road direction is never our forte. My brother, Balan, is a brilliant man, an intelligent conversationalist, a provocative blogger, and is successful as the Head of Operations in a leading bank, but when it comes to direction, let me put it kindly, his 7 year old daughter is better than him.
I used to travel around with Balan and his family, and two of the favourite words to come out of him would be, “How now?” which is a translation from “I am lost, how do we get there?” His wife, Nisha, would be the guide who would always get us to our destinations with very little hassle. She’s so good in direction that I strongly recommend her services to the search and rescue missions as resident orang asli guide.
I have been to USJ Summit, a shopping complex, quite a bit so we managed to get there within 15 times from Selayang (where both of us live). Then, the adventure began. We took the first turn in the right and assured ourselves that we are still in USJ and all we have to do is look out for the road sign.
About ten minutes later, we sighted our first major landmark, the unmistakably magnificent Stadium Shah Alam. Balan made a very helpful comment, “Yeah, we are in Shah Alam”. I don’t how, but throughout the journey, while I was frantic and cursing myself for even poorer sense of direction, he was as cool as cucumber slices in a dish of fiery Nasi Lemak.
So, we had to turn back, and I made the first distress call to a pal. “Bro, I can direct you to USJ, but not USJ 11 (where the pub is),” he said. At least he brought us to Subang Jaya, a good start.
Then, I remembered and called another friend who lives in the main part of Subang Jaya, Subendran Dali (not related to
I immediately asked him about the MPSJ building, and after sighing in relief (he probably wanted to disembowel himself, rather than trying to explain USJ roads), he managed to direct us towards the building.
Then, as expected, we got lost there. We were going round and round, and amidst getting lost, Balan was even trying to figure out shortcuts, that’s how innovative he is on the road. I had to make third distress call, to one of my classmates and relative, Premanand (Prem), who was there already. He managed to direct us to the damned pub. Phew!
Right at the entrance we were greeted by Jeremy De Silva, senior, Godfrey Adrian Lazarro, a junior. Gosh it has been years. Inside, there were more folks. Peter Johnson, his brother, Xavier, Annan Nair, Gunalaraj, Steven, Godfrey’s brother Ian, and later joined by Christina Vanathas and her brother, Chris followed by Yvonne Gomez and her husband. These are the people I have not seen for two decades!
That excludes Prem, as we’ve been in touch regularly. A few words about this him, who also happens to my distant cousin. Prem was L'enfant terrible of Cha’ah, the bad boy who broke rules and regulations and did things that only adult would. You can hear laments about how he thought this feller to do that bad thing, and that feller this bad thing, which is not necessarily the truth because some are pricks anyway. He was so notorious that parents of other students feared him, teachers shook at the sight of him (not really, they were mostly pissed) and the principal knows him on the first name basis simply because their frequent meetings for wrong reasons.
Prem has no problem taking the blame for all the bad things the others picked up. So, if your spouse suddenly found out that you consume particles from your nose, blame it on Prem. Brother Prem, seeing that I am getting married soon, your services will be appreciated.
And so, there we were, not many of us, but was enough for that venue. Oh, a word about that place. It looks like any other pub, except that the band (guys who are related to Jeremy, so bro don’t take offence on the following remarks) played mostly country…a music genre that Balan, Prem and I loathed. I know, we classic rock fans can be real anal and snobbish when it comes to musical taste, but we also know that there are quarters who thinks that rock music has similar artistic quality and ambiguity of a dog poop.
Music was not an issue, as we are there to catch up. But later, Prem pointed out the major grouse he had that he never frequented the place for ten years. The dancing patrons. I was not aware of them, in midst of mingling. Collectively, the patrons are about same age as Planet Earth, and they were doing that folk dancing thiny! And there was even a seemingly organised line dancing! The only consolation is that with them around, we (all in thirties, the oldest being 39) felt relatively young.
The best part about the meet is the memory of some of these people; they seemed to know more about you than you care to know. Ian, for example, asked me if I am still a James Bond fan. I was surprised that he remembered, as he was in primary school then, and me, high school, when we palled in the school bus. I expressed my surprise. “Oh, you used to frequently bring James Bond newspaper clippings to the bus,” he said, with hint of childhood trauma in his voice.
We all exchanged information about what we are doing and how many wives and kids we had. I mean, whether we are married and have kids, phew, sorry guys. Of that group Godfrey is the only one who is single, though it took almost police-like interrogation to get the truth out of him. And of course, I was curious as to who had the biggest belly and least head of hair. Okay, there are contenders for the paunch, but am afraid am still the baldest guy, though Prem is seeking second opinion, pointing out his own little bald patch. Boy, we are getting old.
Alas, the day was coming to an end. After drinking enough beer to induce us to be intimate with inanimate objects like bar stool, and consuming enough chicken wings to start developing a pair ourselves, we decided to call it a day.
Prem volunteered to save us again and said he will lead us straight to NKVE (highway) that will take us faster back to Selayang. So, we followed him, reassured that we will get it right this time. What a guy. A fitfull ending to a terrific time we had. Thanks everyone, we had a fabulous time there, and really looking forward for the next reunion that promises to be bigger like Transformer sequels.
Oh, by the way, on the way back, we missed the NKVE.