Serih Pulang Ke Gagang
August 02, 2015

I was in Kota Bharu over the weekend. Four of my MRSM schoolmates and I were invited to give a career talk to the Form 5 students. This was initially a cause for concern for two reasons: (1) I had never given a talk before and (2) I'm bad at lying.

But it was an excellent excuse to fly back to Kelantan, which in my opinion is the actual food capital of Malaysia -- if not the world. You can always go to Little Penang in KLCC to get your northern fare but a 'Little Kelantan' would never survive anywhere beyond the borders of the state and its territories e.g. Pantai Dalam.

So off we flew into KBR on Saturday afternoon with our overnight bags and dreams of endless eating. Pengkalan Chepa was blistering hot when we arrived but it was a long overdue homecoming, so we were too excited to be bothered by the heat. We did live there for two years after all.

Parts of the school have been renovated but its main structures are still well intact. The brick wall, the tall roof, the hidden graffiti only the students knew about... you get goosebumps walking around the compounds as images of your younger self begin to appear. It was hauntingly surreal, yet comforting.

We went to classrooms to see who's sitting at our desks now, to the dining hall to enjoy hostel food in metal trays, and to the dorms to witness what have become of our beds and wooden lockers. A lot of improvements have taken place but the smell, sights, and sounds were all too familiar. The warden's scream is still ringing in our ears even after 15 years.

The talk itself was a huge success. We had a full house crowd thanks to the counselor making the program compulsory. But as the conversations gained momentum, we began to get an impression that the students had no regrets not skipping the session.

My slot was on the 'Value of the MRSM Experience'. I touched on how half of the learning there took place outside the classroom and stellar academic performance means nothing without the right attitude. I also stressed on the importance of co-curricular activities in shaping their personalities. Although I do hope that none of them would get a hold of my St. John Ambulance attendance.

The session ended to a rousing applause and we felt like rock stars. I was genuinely pleased that most of them tried to approach us after the session to ask further questions. Had it not been for the flight that we had to catch, we wouldn't have minded extending the session at all.

I suppose it's always good to return back to school every now and then. It's a reminder of much simpler life was back then. Our entire lives and possessions were practically everything that we had in our lockers. But we had the world to explore.


The last two sentences. True, that.

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Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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