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Of St. Paul’s Institution, A Little Bit of Puteri and A Whole Bunch About Friendship

May 20th, 2003.

Mum drove up the hill leading to my school, St. Paul’s Institution. It was 6 in the morning and I was sleeping in the car in the passenger seat next to her.

We stopped by at the market earlier to get my breakfast (2 yummy Kuih Lapis).

The school was still eerily silent and dark and not a soul was to be seen around as mum parked her car a few feet away from the canteen and waited.

A truck containing Ice for the school canteen could be heard roaring as it was steadily driven up the hill. Soon it came into view. The only thing illuminating the darkness as it roared past our car and parked infront of the canteen.

That was a signal for the start of my day. I stepped out of the car, bidded my mum goodbye and started school.

It was an everyday routine for the past 3 years. And one, that I grew accustomed.

May 20th, 2010

We drove up the hill leading to my old school, St. Paul’s Institution. It was 11 in the morning and I was driving the old Datsun as Vashina sat beside me in the passenger seat.

The moment was nostalgic as we tried finding a space for parking and lo and behold! I parked at exactly the same spot as mum did, 7 years ago.

I had mixed emotions. Excitement, nostalgic moments, sadness. I don’t know. Vashi felt the same too.

Her dad used to teach in this school and so she used to spend her evenings in the school, observing the students getting caned (her dad was the afternoon session discipline master).

We were here to get our PTPTN documents verified.

Things has changed so much since I left. And the first thing that I told Vashi was that the students looked way smaller than they were before. She laughed and said, “It’s either we are bigger for our age or they’re shrinking.”

The both of us had a wave of nostalgic feelings. But her nostalgic feelings soon gave way to feelings of shyness and a little awkwardness because all the boys were staring at her like she was some alien from the Planet Zaptar.

I laughed as I observed this because this was exactly what I did when I was young. It’s not everyday you get to see a girl in an all boy’s school. And one so pretty.

The first person that I saw was my form 4 and form 5 Add Math’s teacher, Mr Arumugam, who was busy talking to the present Principle at the stage. I nodded and waved at him with a smile and he did the same.

We walked into the old office and asked to see the Principle (I realised it was a dumb question because we just saw the Principle outside) But the clerk said since these are just forms to be verified, I can head over to the next room and get them verified.

So we came out, and headed to the next room and surprises of surprises! There sat my form 4 History teacher at the desk.

I walked over to her and asked her if she remembered me. To my dismay she didn’t but she was sweet enough to ask how we were doing.

Then when I showed her the PTPTN forms to be verified, she said she can’t do it as I didn’t have the original forms (I brought the photostated copies of my SPM cert, etc). But she said we can try asking the Principle.

I was thinking to myself, what if the Principle doesn’t verify them?

As the both of us walked into the Principle’s office, Mr Arumugam called out to the both of us. He beckoned us to come into his room (which was next to the Principle’s room). I realised, he was the second in command to the Principle now!

We walked in and closed the door behind us and he said with a smile, “I know that smile somewhere. I’ve seen it before.”

I smiled and asked him how he was and whether he could remember me.

“I can’t remember your name but I know I’ve taught you before.”

“I’m Sukhbir, sir! From 4 Casimir. You taught me Add Maths!”

He thought for a while and then said, “I still can’t remember, because I had a lot of students. But still, what can I do for you?”

The amazing thing was, he was so different this time around. He was not his usual stern self. It’s like, he became a different person. I remember the times when he used to cane us if we didn’t do our homework. We were made to go to the discpline master (Mr. Malai, who’s another amazing person).

We exchanged greetings and updated each other on things and then I asked him (which I think Vashi found embarrassing) “Sir, do you remember her?”

He thought for a while, “No, were you here in form six?”

Vashi shook her head and said, “No” and then smiled. She was really cute.

“Sir! She’s Mr Ashvin Patel’s daughter!”

Mr Arumugam’s eyes lit up and then his mouth formed the “O” and then he said, “Wow! How are you? How’s your brother and mother?”

It was really nice. We both felt really at home and then he asked me, “So why are you here?”

I related to him my predicament and he said, “Ahh that’s all? I can help you with that.” And he stamped my forms and documents without a fuss.

He was really nice and there was a point I felt like crying because I really miss being in school. And being a Paulian.

Then we had to take our leave and he said, “Make sure you meet Mr. Malai!”

Since we found Mr. Malai’s office locked, I showed Vashi around the school. My old class, the pavilion and the canteen. The school still looked beautiful even to this day.

30 minutes later, as we decided to leave, a student bounded to our car and said that Mr Malai wanted to see us. I was excited!

As we walked to his office, I could see from the mirror that He was still the same old Discipline Master that he was, strict and yet humorous. His hair combed backwards, his trademark hairdo.

As we entered his room, he was giving out pieces of papers to be filled by the students who broke the school “law”.

Soon, when all the forms were handed, the students walked out from his office and with a sigh he said, “My clients” and smiled.

I asked him where the cabin was and he said the termites ate it up and so the school decided to remove it. Vashi then told him how she used to sit in the cabin and had fond memories of it.

We spoke, exchanged updates and then it was time to leave.

Since we found Mr. Malai’s office locked, I showed Vashi around the school. My old class, the paivilion and the canteen. The school still looked beautiful even to this day.

We slowly drove down and drove to Puteri (an all girl’s school) where this time, I felt awkward although none of the girls were staring at me (unfortunately).

She got her PTPTN forms verified as well and showed me her old classroom. Since we were running out of time, I didn’t really get to see her school much and we made our way to the Uni.

It was such a nostalgic day. One that I will remember forever.

That night we had an interesting chat while I sent her home. She asked me questions and I answered. They were honest answers. And the both of us came up to a conclusion that relationships based on friendship is actually true love. That is why our parents were still together despite their flaws. Because they accepted each other’s flaws and did things for each other without expecting anything from the other person.

I learnt alot yesterday :o)

Love you all,
Sukhu.

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