MR V. MURUGASU's 90th BIRTHDAY
Saturday, November 9, 2019
On 24th November last year, our Class of 1965 - 1971 held a Reunion Dinner with Mr Murugasu, our former Headmaster (mid 1964 - 1969). (See Reunion with Mr Murugasu)
It was a very successful Reunion in the true sense of the word, reuniting us with our former Headmaster after nearly fifty years. During the Dinner, we had sounded to Mr Murugasu that this year 2019 would be the Golden Anniversary (of the Form 5 batch) of our Class; it would also be his Golden Anniversary as Headmaster of VI, having left on a promotion at the end of that year 49 years ago. We suggested to him to have a joint-celebration towards the end of 2019. In the process, we also discovered that he had just celebrated his 89th birthday the month before, which would make him a nonagenarian come October 2019 - a triple celebration!
In September of this year, our Class decided, through the Whatsapp group chat, to have the joint celebration in November this year. The Organising Committee then secured the Headmaster's consent for the date, 9th November, and on the venue - the Wild Rice Coffee-house, Boulevard Hotel in the Mid-Valley.
Meanwhile, Dr Ow, of the Class of 1964-1970, a year our senior, approached Mr Murugasu privately and proposed that his Class hold a 90th birthday celebration for him as well. Dr Ow was asked to approach the writer and to ride on our Class's celebration for Mr Murugasu.
From our Class, only twenty-six signed up, including four from overseas, viz. Pete Khinder (a.k.a. Pritam Singh) from the UK, George Yap from Sydney, Raja Ahmad from Perth, and Dr Anup Datta from Vietnam. Others who were from out-of-town were Dr Christie Tan (Singapore), Datuk Dr Ngun Kok Weng (Kuantan) and Dr Wong Chow Lan, the Head Girl of 1971, who hailed from Ipoh. And from the other Class, seventeen had signed up, including the Head Girl of 1970, Dr Tong Wai Sin, from Alor Star and Dr Yap Lip Kee from Singapore. In addition, they invited three ex-teachers to join the party, viz. Mr Yap Chai Seng, Mr Joseph Siew and Mrs Chong Hong Chong.
A Golden Anniversary celebration of the Headmaster is not complete without the presence of the spectrum of students who had passed through his days in the school. Hence, some Special Guests were also invited, one ex-student from each of the years under the tenure of the Headmaster: Ngui Thiam Khoon (Hon Secretary of the Prefects' Board, 1965), Dr Tan Kee Kwong (School Captain, 1966), Tan Kim Chuan (School Captain, 1967), and Lim Sew Hok (School Vice-Captain, 1969). Vinayak Pradhan (School Captain, 1968) could not make it as he was overseas. (Lim Meng Kian, Hon. Secretary of the School Prefects' Board 1968, and School Athletics Captain, from Butterworth, was present, hence representing the students who had graduated in 1968.) Two others from the Class of 1966-1972 were permitted to join in. And with a walk-in participant at the last minute, we had, all in all, a total of fifty-five people for the triple celebration.
The Buffet Dinner and The Birthday Cake
The front wall of the brightly-lit Wild Rice Coffee-house was decorated with a large polystyrene VI Crest with the words Class of 1965 to 1971 on it. Ten sets of tables were arranged paired to seat six per set. A single A5 size glossy sheet of magazine material Programme adorned the table of each seat. At the main table, the names of the Guests were prominently displayed.
The participants started trickling in from about 7.00 p.m. After registering, each was given a hand-written name tag to avoid any embarrassing moments or name-guessing games. For those familiar with one another, it was great to meet up again. At the other end of the spectrum, there were those who had not met one another for years or even decades, resulting in heartfelt emotional outpourings as they struggled to catch up on lost time.
At 7.30 p.m., the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Murugasu, arrived at the Hotel in a gleaming black Merz and was warmly greeted in the busy lobby of the Hotel. The Headmaster entered the Coffee-house and soon moved around meeting as many of the participants as possible. The Buffet Dinner now began with a wide spread of good food. However, either it was our age or maybe it was the overwhelming nostalgia pervading us that somehow affected our ability to ingest our usual measure.
Balachandren, the MC of the evening, made the welcoming address, accompanied by some amusing anecdotes which naturally involved the Headmaster and his adage of not sparing the rod. The large 90th Birthday Cake, measuring 300 mm by 400 mm, with lit candles, was wheeled in by the kitchen staff. The MC called on the Headmaster to the front of the hall and under his direction, the participants sang in unison "Happy Birthday To You" to our former Headmaster, who then made his wish and blew out the candles.
Presentation of Gifts
Next was the presentation of the three gifts prepared by the Organising Committee for Mr Murugasu.
Firstly, Ngui Thiam Khoon was called upon to give away 300 Victorians, a Photoshop diorama created in 2015 by Old Boy Mr Chung Chee Min. This had been given to all attendees as a souvenir at the VI Genting Reunion (VIGGG) last year. This gift to Mr Murugasu, however, consisted of two parts, with the front page on top and the reverse page below, so that easy reference could be made between the two pages. This diorama would remind other Victorians of those well-known Victorians who had served or are still serving the community and the country. And of course Mr Murugasu's image was one of the 300 in the creation! Thiam Khoon had also prepared several other gifts for Mr Murugasu, which had been given as VIGGG souvenirs, including the official programme, a VI 125th Anniversary cap, a VI plaque and a VI tie pin.
Tan Kim Chuan was next called upon to present to Mr Murugasu a framed piece of thin velvet, embroidered with a VI crest and the embroidered message Mr V Murugasu - Happy 90th Birthday, reminding the great man that he had reached a giant milestone, and that we continue to wish him good health and happiness.
The Chairman of the organising Committee, Yap Kian Fui, presented the third birthday gift to Mr Murugasu, a crystal trophy with a print of the School building on it, with the wordings Happy 126th Birthday Victoria Institution on top, and at the bottom, VICTORIA INSTITUTION KUALA LUMPUR, A NATIONAL HERITAGE, 126th ANNIVERSARY, 1893 - 2019. A metal tag with small print bonded at the bottom of the crystal trophy clearly stated that the gift was PRESENTED TO MR V MURUGASU, HEADMASTER (JUNE 1964 - DEC 1969) OF VICTORIA INSTITUTION, ON HIS 90TH BIRTHDAY, reminding the legend that the School had in no doubt seen the best years in its history under his tenure.
And last but not least, was a presentation of a "Red Packet" to Mr Murugasu by Doreen Yap, an OC member. This was a donation from one of our members, Dr Long See Lain, who could not join us as he was working out-station. It would enable Mr Murugasu to get for himself whatever he could purchase with it.
Mr Murugasu's Speech
Next on the agenda was a speech by Mr Murugasu, who delivered it with the microphone while seated, just like a senior citizen would, telling tales in an amicable fashion. He had prepared some material which he held in his hand but he did not refer to them. He spoke in an off-the-cuff manner without making it formal. We listened attentively as he spoke.
Mr Murugasu thanked everyone for organising the party with a two-fold objective of celebrating his 90th birthday and celebrating our 50th anniversary (Form 5).
He went over the glorious facts of deeds and feats of VI during his tenure from 1964 to 1969. He touched on the character-building traits that were inculcated by the old Headmasters before him, like Mr Bennett Shaw, who had helmed the school for twenty-seven years, and had made the VI the top school with no rivals to compare with.
The previous Headmaster, Mr Alan Baker, had left the VI at the end of May, 1964. When Mr Murugasu was appointed the Headmaster in July, he felt the pressure of being the first Asian to be appointed after his colonial predecessors. On 16th July 1964, his first day in the school, Mr Pavee had briefed him on the succession of three bells that would signal the various stages of the assembly - first the students assemble, then the teachers take their places on the stage and finally the Headmaster would enter the hall.
However, when the first bell went, there was what Mr Murugasu described as "pandemonium", as the students were rowdy and shouting as they gathered in the school hall.
"Like a tsunami", as he described it, Mr Murugasu now made his presence felt that very first day. He ordered the students to make their entry into the hall, again and again - three times in total - until he was satisfied. From that day onwards, Mr Murugasu said, he did not have any more problems!
Mr Murugasu then touched on a few of the topics which we were all very familiar with. He used to check the exercise books to make sure the teachers had marked the exercise books of their pupils.
And, in their respective classrooms, he would personally hand out the Report Card to each of the students. Any one who failed any subject would be caned on the spot.
Mr Murugasu said that he disallowed students with poor academic results from playing games. Such students would be herded into the air-conditioned library to study from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with the Prefects over-seeing them.
He said ten years before he became the VI Headmaster, there were as many as forty failures in the Cambridge examinations annually. He said it was shocking because the VI had the pick of the best students from the feeder schools. During his tenure, the results improved, he said. He now posed this question to us, "Guess how many failures there were in the Cambridge Examinations in 1969?" He proudly answered his own question, "Only one." Whoever this failure was, he was from our Class of 1965-1971!
Continuing, Mr Murugasu revealed that the number of students under his tenure who won Colombo Plan, State and Federal scholarships, the number who had entered universities and the number who were admitted to foreign universities were at a record high. The years under Mr Murugasu as Headmaster were indeed the Golden Years of the School.
He said, "We did a great job. I think I owe it to every one of you for working with me."
After the rugby season ended in the third term, Mr Murugasu would stop all games and have the students concentrate on their studies. And that was why he had the mid-year examinations as well, he said, when students who failed in any subject were caned. He continued, "Now when you look at the results, you think I was justified in whacking you or should I have whacked you more?" This brought laughter from the audience.
Mr Murugasu stressed that the most effective way of getting results was the giving out of the report cards by the Headmaster. Every student would realise the seriousness of that and that there would be no more fooling around. Students would start taking responsibility for themselves and begin concentrating on their studies.
During the time of Mr Murugasu the school had the best academic results in the country, improving from year to year. The VI was also tops in sports, winning more than a dozen trophies in a year in the State Inter-school competitions. The same went for Inter-school quizzes and debates. All these were achieved in an environment of a high level of discipline. VI boys were known to be well-behaved and studious, and who also excelled in sports.
In those twenty minutes, Mr Murugasu reminded us of the achievements and the highlights of the school. Looking back, one realised that all those achievements of the years were immense. With all the superlative performances in the academic and sports arenas, we were certainly la crème de la crème of the schools in the country during the best years in VI history.
At the end of his speech, the audience burst into singing the three verses of the School Song, followed by three cheers for VI, and another three cheers for Mr Murugasu. The MC, Balachandren, took over and, in a light vein, continued with a few more anecdotes. He invited the audience to come forward to speak on the microphone. I think no one else could have brought up our humble achievements better than what we had heard from the Headmaster. The MC then announced that the formal programme had ended. Everyone began mixing around freely and took more photographs until the close.
Fifty years since leaving VI, Mr Murugasu still had vivid memories of the accomplishments of the school under his tenure. It was a memorable and treasured sight to see the man relating these facts to his students of his days on his ninetieth birthday. Certainly, we students would have forgotten most of them if not for these evocative stories. The occasion of a joint-celebration of ours and the Headmaster's own Golden Anniversary on his ninetieth birthday was certainly an event to cherish.
Reported by Yap Kian Fui
Our thanks to Dr Christie Tan Tiong Tee, Dr Lee Aik Hoe and Raja Ahmad, the appointed photographers, and all the others who took the photographs for our collection.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE EVENT
CLASS OF 1965 - 1971
CLASS OF 1964 -1970
Last update: January 8, 2020.