Happy Birthday V.I.!

110 Years and still running the rest ragged....


VI Tower
August 14, 2003


o write up about V.I. would ever make all Victorians happy, whether they are still with us or not. The school has been, for lack of a better term, a full 110 years action packed film (compared with the same number in minutes for regular flicks, remarkable, but a drama at the heart of it. It could tee off to space any competition, even if it was a compendium of all the Survivor series, Museum Negara and the Solid Gold dancers.

Neither should someone be fooled by the black and white stills that sit tight in the frames all over the school hall and the school museum. One must look at them as a window to a time where there were others just like themselves, charting a course to understanding adolescence and capitalising on ability and potential. Jokers like themselves, jokers themselves, jokers.

The school was, is and always will be vibrant as the school traditions keep the finest things in a person alive, the desire to be better. I visit the school ever so often. And I would implore all V.I. boys to do the same, especially if they are down and out at work or in life - as it lifts you up so effortlessly; sensing the pictures, corridors, shuffling feet around the staircases, and then sit on the grass to sip in the afternoon silence. It is phenomenal. A personal note of gratitude rises in me for I have been fortunate enough to wear the blue badge.

When the world looks back at our large compound and that certain badge, it will know that much has come out if it and without compunction conjecture that all is consistent with the words of Bennett Eyre Shaw at the opening of the new school building on the 26th of March 1929, 'An institution intended to initiate students into a life of service.'

And what service they have delivered!

Head of state, ministers (even in the first cabinet), chief ministers, top civil servants, Olympians, a Mayor of the capital, Queen's counsels, surgeons, head of the opposition, captains of industry, proponents in the fight against nuclear annihilation and school truancy, writers, actors, a test cricketer, Thomas Cup winners (5 of the 7 players in the 1992 finals), researchers, professors in sciences and liberal education, hip hop guru, ISA inmates, composers and satellite TV operators, V.I. has given them all to the world.

Little noted and often forgotten is that our boys and girls, above material gain, make great parents, children and community members, as they are all intended for a life of service. V.I. has produced consistently a spectacular number of conscientious Malaysians. Never in the shadows, always game.

As one of the first schools in the Klang Valley and one of first secondary schools in Malaysia, V.I. has had its perks. Yet that cannot overwhelm the reality that it was the first recorded effort by multicultural Malaysia to have something of substance for our people, a school that catered for all Malaysians. That neither colonial rigour or missionary zeal was the reason behind its formation. It was a dream of the locals realised by the locals.

It has always been the cradle of multiculturalism above everything else and embodies Malaysia in all its pursuits. It is secular and merit driven, ever insulated from a polarised world. Learning and discovering within its walls so that one day its occupants may define the social reality of their nation and beyond.

A V.I. boy's pride extends beyond the years of school, and despite the low turn out at the clubhouse it is indefatigable. Like, in 1987, when reports of the school name being changed were bandied about in the local press, both present and ex-boys came with one message, 'That was not going to happen'. I have two pieces of memory from back then, of a fifth former who was a second generation Victorian unexpectedly requesting an answer from the headmaster to the rumours in the middle of a school assembly, and of a blue decked and vociferous quadrangle welcoming the director of K.L. schools for Speech Day. Giving her a clear and unequivocal view of a tradition and history.

The V.I. does not create leaders. It moulds them. It is not like these lads and ladies were unintelligent and incapable when they were registered in the V.I. They already possessed admirable qualities. What the V.I. does is it gives them all the chances in the world to realise their qualities. Nowhere else in Klang Valley do students have that much access to run temporal matters, while the teachers manaqed the celestial ones.

Clubs, Societies, Sports Houses, instrument training and scouting trips, sporting teams and large banners for the football team, are mostly managed and executed by students. Teachers' input and roles are welcome, but no dependency is allowed. That is what makes the V.I. student a leader. Initiative, desire and confidence. That the outcome is truly in their hands, the difference between success and mediocrity determined by a conviction that the latter is impossible.

The typical V.I. product is not necessarily smarter or fitter, just more certain. That is why V.I. is one of the best incubators in Malaysia. Students are trained to believe they will not let the school down if they do not let themselves down.

Stranded today above my beloved pavilion, alone and in contemplation, as all mortals do in moments of privy I ask the same common query, "How long will my Camelot stand?" That with internet connectivity, private schools amok along with specialist schools, education policies in perpetual flux, teacher postings awry and time itself, would all things last?

Then I gaze up to the school tower and a clock that works today but never a day while I was in school, the school song resonating from the school hall, and I notice the pride and confidence the present have in abundance and accept the serenity of the moment, and also the knowledge that the school is doing fine.

So here we go, you great lady, Victoria Institution, a montage that defies time and space:

Old Boys

..Of an Irishman from Cork marching boys to their lessons despite the floods that finished yesterday off; of young eager-eyed children writing their entrance exams wishing for a better life; of Mr Daniel rummaging through his past and talent to put together the only school science course in Selangor and the best in the Federation of Malaya; of a legendary all-time VI football team where Mokhtar scores after Yap Wai Loon and Paul Raj put some neat one twos in the middle of the pitch; of a young gasping Ishtiaq Mubarak placing the baton neatly to Hamdi Jaafar as he hurtles to a waiting Mani Jegathesan at the bend; of the old King's Cup Winners and travelling current band doing push ups together while the instruments watch them; of Scouts returning from Tahan seeing three of their own in the Den

Old Boys
after their cycle through colonial Malaya to Singapore;of a drowsy set of players like Krishen Jit putting a play of lost incantations with younger boys that Jit Murad is jesting about, as Andy Krishnan, Chakravarthy and Nordin Sophie struggle to get into their old costumes; of a strange Prefects Board where Zain Azraai sits next to Ong Yoke Lin, while the new boy Yusli Yusof stands behind them; of a Japanese soldier sitting standing on the field feeling unhappy knowing that there was so much joy on that spot before he came; of Mr. Sidney writing his thoughts on the balcony of his bungalow while the Victorian Editorial Board meeting reigns fiery in the living area below; of Ismail praba Mohamed Ali, Tan Chee Koon, Siew Nim Chee competing earnestly for scholarships and article spaces in the Victorian; of the thousands of students and teachers past and present standing together shoulder to shoulder on the school field for an aerial picture for posterity.

Oh! V.I., all of us want to say together, Happy birthday and we love you as much as the life you made opportune for us.

Praba Ganesan (V.I. 1985 - 1991)



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Pagekeeper: Chung Chee Min

Created: 24 August 2003.
Last update: 23 November 2003.