…and the form 4 came. My friends and I were on the way to the Surau when we came across a bunch of them. I blurted,”Hah, ni lah abang-abang junior kita!”. Yes friends from Saina, it was me who uttered those exact words which then led us into that big ‘meeting’ later on. The statement was said in an attempt to break the ice. I didn’t mean to be a prick or to sound like a smartass. I was simply being friendly.
Fast forward. A few days or was it a few weeks later? Well, it was after night prep class, I think it was on a Friday (or was it Thursday?), all the form 1 students were ushered into A11 dorm. “Eh apahal pulak ni?” I asked but nobody answered. I saw a bunch of form 4 students inside the dorm, as if discussing something. “Kami nak ajaq sikit hangpa” one form 4 student yelled. One went on with how rude the junior (which was us) to the seniors/older students and went on to touch on the ragging tradition in other schools, the register name, the clicks, the gangs, the hardship they hard to endure in their last schools.
Suddenly, “Sapa dia yang buat lawak gelak kuat gila sampai boleh dengaq dekat class atas tadi?” an abang yelled. “Saya” a friend of us stood up, we called him YB because he acted as a YB during our orientation week’s final night show. “Hang ulang balik lawak hang tadi, aku nak hang buat lawak sampai kami semua gelak!” I was trying hard to contain my laugh in because it seemed funny for someone to force another person to make him laugh. My friend repeated his jokes. “Tak lawak pun! Buat lagi sampai aku gelak!” one of the seniors joined in. “Takdak idea bang”, my friend answered half scared and half smiling. I forgot what happened afterwards but we moved to the subject of who said the “Abang-abang junior”. I was shaking. These form 4 students seemed so big and when you added loud voices to that, the fear factor was overwhelming. “Sapa dia yang cakap? Baik mengaku, kalo dak, hangpa duduk mencangkung kat sini sampai pagi!” I didn’t want to confess. I was scared. We were looking at each other as if trying to put the blame on somebody.
“Hangpa tau dak, dulu aku kena ragging, aku kena tiup mentol menyala sampai padam!” one yelled. “Aku dulu ada “registered name”, hangpa tau dak ada budak mati semata mata nak dapat “register name?” said another. A kinder looking senior walked in and said something to one of them. That kinder looking person was elected as the head of students when they became form 5. After discussing for a few minutes, they concluded the ‘meeting’ but before that they reminded us to be more respectful of the older students, greet them with salam whenever we come across any. Phew! A huge wave of relief swept over me. The meeting turned out to be a catalyst for the senior and juniors to bond closer. They became our abang and our reference whenever we got problems in sports, financial, studies, anything. Even when my batch became the most senior, some of these earliest seniors would greet us like brothers from different mothers.
One evening, I saw one of the wardens brought a few orange balls the size of soccer balls to the hostel and gave them to one of the seniors. Turned out they were basketballs. Few of the seniors were very good with basketballs and offered to teach the lot of us how to play. I was excited! It was the beginning of an extraordinary love for a game that I thought was only meant for the Chinese. The basketball team was also amongst the first sports teams formed. We had the junior and the senior teams. I was a Center for the junior team due to my height.
I gave my all to improve my game. On weekends I would jump 1000 times divided into 4 intervals per day just so that I could jump higher. During the fasting month, early morning, my friends and I would go down to the court after subuh, played a few games and came back to the dorm half dead, hoping the day would turn to night faster.
When the Piala Perdana Menteri (a yearly event for the SBPs which consists of debate, sports and a few other competitions) for the northern zone was around the corner, the senior team would train at night and us the juniors would watch from far since we weren’t given the clearance to join them. Cikgu Yusuf, a man who had no background in basketball, (but a man whose passion to see whatever team under his guidance succeed was unparalleled) saw our aching desire and allowed us to come to the court. We would go chasing ball that went astray or simply pass the seniors their water bottle. We were proud to be a part of it. We looked up to the seniors and Cikgu Yusuf like heroes who were holding the glorious banner fluttering in the wind, whispering promises of victories and respect. We knew we were destined for greater things in the future. The junior team was the team that made it into the national level. I promise I will write on that because it was an emotional occurence, which transcended race, beliefs and ego.