16 October, 2011: William Joo and me planned to visit some buddies in Klang. He rang up John Chinniah who resides in Sentul. John wanted to come too. So at three William brought the latter to meet and pick up me. As soon as he arrived, William had an emergency. He had no time to rush into my house privy. Standing beside the car and facing the LDP, he shot a stream of water to douse the heated up asphalt. What? Exposing himself indecently! No, there was a 15 feet sound barrier wall separating him from the traffic packed thoroughfare. Anyway, he was relieved and straightaway jumped into the car and we whisked off to Klang.

On arrival at Harbans Singh's house in Lorong Tamarind in the royal town, two guys gave us a rousing welcome.

Liew Fook Choy and the man in the house were waiting for us. After the preliminaries of wishing and greetings, we adjourned to a newfound eatery just five minutes walk from the host's house.

Harbans Singh dragged his frail skeletal frame along and slumped himself down on a solid chair. Was he worn out after doing the few hundred strides? No, though skinny Harbans was happy. It looked like he needs such little walks to strengthen his fragile physique. But he said he has to recover from his breath.
 Nasi Lemak Tosai Roti Canai
We nibbled away on titbits like nasi lemak, roti canai, and thosai. We washed down the pasta and rice with tea and coffee. We, the five buddies Harbans, Fook Choy, Willaim Joo, John Chinniah and me prattled away about those good old days in Bentong happily. John a little surprised me because he was tucking in a plate of very spicy coconut milk cooked rice with fried egg and anchovies. Has he ended his vow of not consuming living creatures now? For I had known him to be a vegetarian!

Yes, the anchovies in his plate, Harbans took one, put in his mouth and masticated. The little fish crackled and crumpled in his mouth. "Oh, so crunchy!" said he. That gave us a lead to learn how to fry anchovies and peanuts too, so that they are crunchy and crispy!

Someone said emphatically, "do not wash the anchovies, and just dump the fries into boiling hot oil until they turn brownish!" "What about the dirt and bacteria on the unwashed anchovies?" I asked. "Oh, they would be burnt away and killed off by the boiling oil in the wok." What demons could survive in a cauldron of boiling oil.

After food, we sauntered back to Harbans abode. We sat down and had a round of powwow. William Joo was a chatterbox and he rattled away many of his life's anecdotes. From John and Harbans we heard a few unheard of stories. Some of the tales surprised the rest and shocked me! What terribly eerie stories!! So scary!!! I noticed that Harbans sat on a chair away from us. So was this Singh a-relaxing? No, he joined in our conversation, but he shouted from afar! Good for him to practise his vocal chords and uses more air from his lungs. But the reason? He cannot be sitting under the fan. Afraid that he would be blown off his chair! No, his lungs could not take in too much cooling wind. Else he would cough and cough until his head spins. That was how he excused himself; he explained.

William Joo demonstrated his set of body fitness exercises to everybody. His has a set of seven exercises of twelve minutes duration a day. Remember it is 7 twelve, one more than 7-eleven. With seven exercises and lasting 12 minutes per session, he professed you could build up a strong physique. True? William himself is the living proof. His arms are strong and his body healthy!

Time flew. Soon darkness fell. We should part and call the gathering off, we felt. A few more rounds of chitchat and then we bade one another adieu. Fook Choy led us out and showed us into town. The three Klites, circled around town for a few rounds. We were looking for food as our stomachs began to growl. Finally we found a reasonable eatery. We had a good tucking in of stir-fried noodles.

While eating, John Chinniah gave the initials MES a new twist of meaning: "MES means Master of English Studies" he said. "Ha, ha, ha", the whole restaurant was drowned with a round of uncontrollable laughter! When we left for Kuala Lumpur, it was around 10.00 pm. William ferried John Chinniah home. He dropped me later in SS4. That was all.


These were the names that decorated Dato' Ted Miles diary of December 1961: Tengku Aziz, raja Nor Aziah, Chen Kim Thye, Loke Ah Kow (the late K.K. Loke), Foo Kim Fook, Chin Sak Min (deceased), Sunny, Mohd Alamshah Ha’amin, Syed Adanan (allahyarham), Ho Moy Chai.

Nik Hassan, Sabaruddin, Janan, Hey Yin, Tee See, Mathew, Osman Hassan, Mohd Noor Mohammad, Dzulkifli, Tham Foo Sum, Abu Samah, Hazari, Shafie, Mohd Noor Ta’ayun, Brian, Samiun, Rahman, Subramaniam.

Yap Kim Loy, Yap Kim Hee, Yap Yoke Chin, Leong Kah Wah (deceased), Ismail, Cheng Yoon, Ming Onn, Foong Chaw, Ariffin, Liou Wen. Fook Lue (deceased).

Why were these names mentioned? Either their had created good news or bad, or just happened to appeared in front of the master and noticed by him then.

Read our mentor's diary called Past Notes Volume II to know the deeds and misdeeds of the characters named in the above list.

 Smiley Love

By October 1953, work was starting on a new four-classroom building, desperately needed because of the sudden increase in enrolments and that 1954 would be a "bumper" year for M.E.S. The same contractor had also been hired to construct a new house for the Principal, and work began on the little building that would become my home for the next three years.

The site that Gunnar and I chose for the house took everyone by surprise; there were a few who thought we were evidently slightly mad and many who thought we were making a bad mistake. In the first place, it was behind the school on a hill with no approach road, just a lot of trees and bushes where the road should be. So the contractor's first challenge was to cut through the obstacle and construct a way for building materials to be carried up. (In due course - but this was much later - sceptics came to appreciate our choice of location because of its natural beauty. There were rock-bottom streams on both sides of the road, and the jungle began right at the edge of the back yard. It was indeed a picturesque rustic setting, so it wasn't long until it began to get sightseeing visitors with cameras. I remembered taking overnight guests on a hike along the perimeter fence, warning them to be on the lookout for tigers, snakes and CTs. Of more concern to the hikers were the leeches that had to be removed as soon as we reached the safety of the house, relieved but none the worse for the ordeal.

The house soon became a popular place for extended school activities, and there was always something going on in the front room, sometimes just groups of students sitting around, going through photo albums and "Life" magazines. (Particularly popular were photos of me when I was their age.) Often there was singing (to the accompaniment of the little portable organ that had to be "foot-pumped" to coax music out of it.) - songs like "On top of Old Smokey" and "Red River Valley" along with "Chan Mali Chan" and "Rasa Sayang".

I remember one occasion when a cake-baking class was held in the tiny kitchen, presided over by a friend visiting from Pullman, Washington, whom I had known since my university days at W.S.C.

I was so content with staying in that little house on the hill behind the school that I envisioned living there for years to come. Fate intervened, thought and when I returned to Malaya in August 1957 from a year's leave in the U.S. I found the house occupied by some of the teachers. My circumstances had changed, too; I was no longer connected to the Methodist Mission, so had no "right" or claim to the house; instead, since my status was now free-lance, I had to start house-hunting independently.

- Dato' Ted Miles. -

By The Editor

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?

Hey! You Master of English Studies (MES) graduates, if you come across any idiosyncratic expressions in the English language, just pass them on to me for the enjoyment and knowledge of everybody!


29 Ocoter, 2011: William Joo drove me to Sentul. We walked into Villa Malar behind the La Salle School. We were just in time to join John Chinniah for breakfast. It was freshly cooked home-made thosai. Facing John's wife. "so delicious your thosai," commended I.

Soon William hit the road towards the Gombak toll with John and me inside. All the way it was a smooth drive. We travelled straight along the Karak Highway until we passed the Lanchang toll gate. Then William veered his car into the old Lanchang to Mentakab road. Just outside Mentakab, we picked up John’s brother David. From thence on David Chinniah served as GPS guiding William in his driving till we arrived.

William drove us into the compound of the Sultan Ahmad Shah Hospital just outside the Temerloh old town across the bridge. The hospital is a 12-storey building. We took the lift up to the 8th floor to visit Dato' Ted Miles our mentor.

As any obedient patient would, Dato' Ted Miles was curled up and resting in bed. John and David bear-hugged Dato' while the rest of us greeted and wished him well. William approached our mentor and spoke some sweet words into his ears. Suddenly, we saw Dato's with bleary eyes and burst into tears. We were a little shocked to see our mentor crying like a child. Later we asked William: why?

"I told Dato' "I won't be what I am today if not because of you. You have made my life." That was what William Joo confessed to Dato' Ted Miles. William Joo who could sweet talk a bird from a tree to come down to the ground, later told us his education history. William was weeded out from the proper schooling system of the country at Year 6 of his education. The Standard Six government examination then made him an unwanted dropout.

Fortunately, there was our old Methodist English School (now non-existent) and William joined M.E.S. to continue his education up to Form Five. With his typewriting certificate, which were rare those days, William got a job in an international shipping company. He worked and slogged for the company for 35 long years.

That is his entire career in life. He is now retired.

Dato' was admitted to the Bentong hospital on Sunday 23 October, 2011 after he was found not completely recovered from his illness. After a day stint there, they decided to transfer him to the Temerloh general hospital for further tests due to a fast dropping in his platelets. Those white blood corpuscles that formed the army defending the body were decreasing. A declining number in the body's army was a sign of weakening of the body and this normally happens in cases like dengue. So at the ultra modern Sultan Ahmad Shah Hospital he was checked and tested for the mosquito borne human ailment. But the tests proved negative and Dato' was safe. He now has a weakened physique - suffering mainly from fatigue.
After a long two full hours of visit, we left the hospital for town. Then our Mentakab mesian and friend David Chinniah treated us to lunch in an Indian restaurant. Eating in an Indian restaurant I always eat like the Indians do. I dug into a plate of rice with my bare fingers to swap the food into my mouth. There was a good spread of food on the table: fish, eggs, chicken, and vegetables. Of course an Indian meal was accompanied the crackling of the so crispy crackers called papardam, and the feast ended with the sourish condiment named rasam.

To David Chinniah we must say, "A very big Thank you for most delicious and filling meal." That was not the end. We were led to his house where we were treated to titbits and drinks for another round.

At four, William hit the road again heading towards Bentong with John and me two sleepy heads as passengers. William kept himself awake with his secret trick. He munched peanuts, which he said would keep him awake. When not chewing nuts he bragged away with his stories and sang some golden oldies like our school song and numbers from Elvis Presley. After picking up some jackfruit in Bentong we headed back to Kuala Lumpur.



 Book and Quill
Edited and written by Chan Suy Sang

You had just read MESSAGE 121