Our Class of 1965 – 1969/71 (The “Class”) was the only one that had gone from Form 1 through Form 5 of the Victoria Institution under the tenure of Headmaster Mr Murugasu, who served from mid-1964 till end of 1969. From the day we set foot into the V.I., we were in fear of the HM. But, as one from "The Class” said, “By the time we were in our third or fourth year, we had begun to enjoy our days in the School”. It was a school that was full of healthy, educational and character-building activities: the Cadet Corps, the School Band, the scout movement, the Library, House games, societies, clubs, debating teams, annual sports, and the many games in the sports field. They were mostly student-run and regulated, and were tuned to perfection in an environment of strict discipline, partly imposed, and partly self-driven. As a result Victorians could aspire and attain high standards in whatever they did. All these to match their already superlative performance in their formal classes.
During these years, the V.I. made many favourable headlines for its examination results and in the sports arena. It was a well-known fact that Mr Murugasu was the main driving force behind it. Very few of us students had experienced the softer, kinder touch of the man who believed in the rod in putting things right. Mr Murugasu etched an image of a “disciplinarian” in our minds. When he was transferred out of the V.I. at the end of 1969, he left an enormous vacuum to be filled.
How did the idea of the gathering with Mr Murugasu come about?
Fast forward forty-nine years from 1969 to early November, 2018. Most of us from “The Class” have now retired. Two years before, Lip Ping had started “growing” a WhatsApp chat-group amongst “The Class” members when he wanted to invite the members to his daughter’s wedding dinner. In the process, the members caught up with Pete, a member who had lived in the U.K. since leaving Form 6. After the dinner event, some of the members from the chat-group would meet up to socialise with Pete whenever he came to Malaysia once about every quarter on business.
In early November, Pete suggested to the writer, not for the first time, that it would be GREAT if “The Class” could host a gathering with Mr Murugasu as our Guest of Honour during his (Pete’s) trip to Malaysia later in the month. But one could not be sure what kind of response one would get from the members of “The Class”. This had been the nagging deterrent all the while. But this time, we were determined to have one irrespective of the response. Given our age, and Mr Murugasu’s, we asked: If not now, WHEN?
Throughout all these years, this was the first time that “The Class” had tried to organise a get-together with the HM. In the past, many of the members had not been desirous about meeting the Disciplinarian voluntarily despite so many years having passed since our schooldays. But, surely, by now they had “grown” out of it. With much anxiety and apprehension, this writer extended the invitation to Mr Murugasu to attend a gathering with “The Class.”
Within two days, Mr Murugasu had accepted our invitation. It left us with less than two weeks to gather a crowd for the Event and to organise it. Through WhatsApp and with some persuasion and perseverance, we managed to garner twenty-six attendees for the Event, which was to be held in the Hash Room of the Royal Selangor Club at the Dataran on 24th November, 2018. We named the Event “An Evening with our former Headmaster, Mr Murugasu – by the Class of 1965 – 1969/71”.
The attendees were from all sectors of the V.I. of that time, namely, the Prefects, Club 21 members, the Librarian, Sportsmen, Senior Scouts, House Captains, publication editors, and Scholars (Dr Lewis Scholar, Rodger Scholar and Treacher Scholar). Present were two Datuks (three had signed up), four Doctors (one was also a Datuk), and even a Puan Sri! Five ladies, who had enrolled into the School in 1970 after Mr Murugasu’s tenure as Headmaster of the School, had no qualms about signing up for the Event.
At a quarter past seven, Mr Murugasu, who had celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday a month before, arrived at the porch of the Club to be met by a handful of members. After a round of handshakes and greetings, we marched to the Hash Room, which was decorated simply with a polystyrene V.I. badge with the words, “VICTORIA INSTITUTION” and “CLASS OF 1965 TO 1971”. The badge had been inherited from a previous function of “The Class.” Most of the attendees had already arrived, each wearing his/her name tag stuck on the shirt/dress to enable easy identification by the Guest of Honour.
There was easy mixing between the attendees and their former Headmaster. But there was always a show of respect and courtesy by all the attendees, and despite the excitement of meeting and conversing with the once-feared former Headmaster and Disciplinarian, they all bore smiling faces. The HM kicked off the Buffet Dinner at 7.40 p.m. followed by the ladies and the rest. There was abundant food for our band of oldies, much more than we could cope. During and after the meal, the attendees took turns to come to Mr Murugasu’s table to mingle and chat. Later on, Mr Murugasu got up and moved around, again mixing freely with all the attendees and taking photographs with them. Some acted really pally with him, and even patted his shoulders. One actually put an arm around Mr Murugasu’s shoulders!
After the session of the Group photographs, Mr. Murugasu, at our request, gave an “off the cuff” speech, which was fully recorded on video. After his speech, we spontaneously burst into the full three verses of the School Song. This was followed by three cheers for the former Headmaster. The camaraderie went on until about 10.30 p.m. when we reluctantly permitted Mr Murugasu to leave. A few of us walked him to his car, and after another round of “handshakes”, we bade him farewell.
Many of us stayed back at the otherwise empty bar and, accompanied by drinks, continued reminiscing over what had happened. We were very pleased with ourselves for having spent an evening with our former Headmaster. An elderly man now, he was gentle and kind in speech, and had with a touch of diplomacy, too. We naturally reciprocated. How glad we were to have met up with him!
During the evening, Mr Murugasu had mentioned about a book that he had taken a few years to write and which had just been completed. With further editing, this book will probably be published in the second half of next year. It will be a book on the early days of the V.I. under the British Headmasters and on the educational system of the days. It is a book on our School which we are all so very proud of!
Other than the launch of his book next year in 2019, it will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mr Murugasu leaving the V.I. as Headmaster. He had brought the School to such heights the likes of which we will probably never see again! And the year 2019 will also see Mr Murugasu celebrating his grand 90th birthday!
(Food for thought: Some things for us in the “Class of 1965 – 1969/71” to get involved in?)
Yap Kian Fui, 1965 - 1971
1965 -1969 / 1971:
Last update: December 8, 2018.