Memoirs of Dr. Andrew C. S. Koh, chapter 2

Form 6 in Telok Intan:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The next chapter of my life landed me in a town called Telok Intan. I spent two years of my life in Telok Intan from 1970 to 1971 to pursue an upper secondary education in the Horley Methodist Secondary School, HMSS. This was a 2-year course, the first year, lower form 6 and second year, upper form 6.

Telok Intan is a medium-sized town in the Lower Perak district of Perak with a total population of 128,179 in 2016. The town was first called Telok Mak Intan, which means Mak Bay, but was later changed to Telok Anson which means Anson Bay. After the third name change in 1982, it is now known as Telok Intan which means Diamond Bay. This is a predominantly agricultural-based township with many unique colonial buildings and home to the famous leaning tower of Telok Intan, a pagoda-shaped building with a clock tower frontage, standing proudly at 25.5 meters, and slanting leftward. This is the Malaysian equivalent of world-famous Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In the first year, I stayed with the family of my aunt, my mother’s younger sister but I shifted out to a homestay with another family in the second year in search of freedom, independence, and autonomy.

HMSS had a long history dating back to 1899. It was founded by the Reverend W. E. Horley, who also founded the Anglo Chinese School, Ipoh, in 1895. HMSS provided me with a good overall pre University education. The teachers were very friendly, respectable, knowledgeable, helpful, and dedicated. About ten classmates from MES Tanjong Malim went on to HMSS Telok Intan. Some girls students from Convent School Telok Intan also joined HMSS for Form 6.

My memories were also failing me here. I don’t remember very much of the time in Telok Intan. I was a School Prefect and President of the 6th Form society. Among other things, we published monthly newsletters and yearly magazines. My best friend in Telok Intan was a student one year my junior. He was a top student from Bidor who joined HMSS in 1971. We were roommates in the same homestay. He was quite a joker, tall, fair, handsome, and intelligent. We did a lot of things together. Printing newsletters, playing games, cycling, listening to music, doing outdoor activities, and so on. By now, I have passed the age for tops, marbles, catapult, fighting fish, and spiders. These were the things I did in primary school.

In those days, we did not have internet, mobile phones, tablets, e-mail, WhatsApp, Google, and so forth. We communicated directly person to person, and face to face. We had more human interactions. We did not have to make prior appointments. All meetings are more or less ad-hoc and spontaneous. I still enjoyed playing the guitar but was not involved in any band. I did not join the Boy Scout movement in HMSS. I practiced Take Kwan Do in the evening and played some games but did not excel in sports or athletics. However, I was a good and conscientious student, did well in my studies, and was one of the top students.

I remembered one tragic incident in 1970 when one of my classmates committed suicide by hanging himself in his house. He suffered from depression but did not seek medical advice. A few weeks earlier, he shared with me that he was a failure, was unpopular, was not good in studies, and was voted into any positions in any society. He said he envied my popularity and wished he could be in my shoe. He also had a look of sadness and depression on his face. A few days before the incident, he was seen walking around the neighborhood carrying some ropes with him. The whole school was shocked when it happened. Nobody, including me, expected that he would take his own life. All the telltale signs were there. In hindsight, I should be more caring and should have taken him to seek medical advice. This could have prevented the tragedy, but it was too late.

There was a classmate who had become a Christian in HMSS Telok Intan. He was friendly, honest, caring, and warm, a good role model. He shared the gospel and the love of God with me. He invited me to Christian fellowships. I attended some of these meetings, enjoyed the sharing, friendship, and refreshments.

I also remembered one of my classmates, who developed schizophrenia in the second year. He became more and more psychotic, could not continue his study and had to leave the school.

I liked the annual nature study outings organised by a lady science class teacher. One year, she took us to an island resort called Pulau Sembilan for a nature study outing. We spent 3 days and 2 nights to study the fauna and flora of the island resort. It was a most memorable trip. I remembered I was stung by a jellyfish and one of my legs was swollen but I recovered quite fast and uneventfully.

Being a poor student I needed extra income to finance my study. I was thinking of giving private tuitions. Then one day, a nice girl from the Convent School approached me and asked me whether I wanted to give private home tuition to a Form 4 student. I said yes and that was how I started to give tuition to the girl for 2 years. Little did I know that this girl would eventually become my wife.

My time in Telok Intan culminated in the Higher School Certificate Examination, HSCE. The result of this examination would determine whether one will make it to university or not. I did very well in the HSCE and was able to enter the reputable Medical School at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur the following year. I was also awarded a Perak State Scholarship that will pay all my tuition fees and cost of living allowances for the whole 5 years duration of my course. The scholarship was God sent. My parents were poor and could not afford to finance my University education. Even though I was still a free thinker at that time, God provided for me through the scholarship. God’s providence was at work in my life. I remembered one of the interviewers for the scholarship interview was my father’s friend, who was a member of the Parliament of Tanjong Malim. During the interview, he was very friendly and gentle and put me at ease. He asked very simple questions that I would have no difficulty in answering!

to be continued……..

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