Category Archives: friendship

Who Qualifies to be Considered a Friend?

Learning to differentiate between someone who is only a mere acquaintance and someone who is a true friend

I have come across a number of individuals who casually refer to someone they know as a friend when in actual fact that person is only a mere acquaintance. These individuals should be more careful about making such statements because of the ramifications that flow from conferring such an esteemed and exalted status on that person!

What is the big deal you may ask about this practice of calling someone a friend when he is not actually a friend?

Misrepresentation of that Person

It has a lot to do with the misrepresentation of that person. A few may take it that it is good or advantageous to get to know that person better since he is a friend of your friend. Others may boldly venture into a business deal with that person based on the fact that he is considered a friend of your friend.

But when that business venture goes down the drain and these individuals part company on unpleasant terms, you may be blamed. Of course, the individual concerned should have carried out his own due diligence. He should not have merely relied on the statement that he is a friend!

Who is an Acquaintance?

Now, who exactly is an acquaintance? He or she is someone you have met and got to know a little, probably in an office, temple, club or association setting. He may also be a former colleague or a neighbour.

He has remained merely an acquaintance because there was not enough of a ‘pull factor’ for either of you to progress that relationship.

All Kinds of Friends

You become a friend of another person when you both share common values and probably a number of similar interests. You also truly enjoy each other’s company. Your shared interests and values are the ‘pull factors’ that cause you both to gravitate towards each other and thereby keep the friendship alive and thriving.

It would seem, therefore that you are both charter members of a special grouping called MAS i.e. Mutual Admiration Society!

However, if only you are investing in this so-called friendship, then do not waste your time. If the other party does not reciprocate, move on with dignity and do not try to force a friendship. Unfortunately, some individuals are unable to take a hint.

Friends for a Season / Reason

Over time, one realises that there are all kinds of friends. Initially, they meet the basic requirements as stated above. But over time, their true characters surface. Former colleagues and friends conveniently forget the favours and the assistance rendered. For some, you are currently not in a position to be useful to them any more and so they just disappear having already benefitted from this so-called friendship in the past.

The other reality is that some friendships fray at the edges over time. Not enough effort was spent nourishing these friendships. For some others, your repeated career successes and achievements may have surprised them beyond belief. Jealousy makes an unkind appearance and begins to rear its ugly head!

While a true friend will always be happy for you, those who are pretending to be a friend will display their true colours.  Some are only happy if you fumble, drop the ball and hopefully remain at their mediocre level!

Always Keep a Group of Good Friends

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine from Penang sent me a wonderful and insightful three text message. But I need to let you know that was because I am still using an old Nokia phone, not a smartphone.

Far too many people, I hear, send you all kinds of, mostly irrelevant messages, via whatsapp without realising what a nuisance that has become. I constantly hear of people moaning about having to delete such messages without even bothering to read them.

This friend received that message from another mutual friend now based in Melbourne, Australia. He too was sufficiently impressed with the message that he wanted to further share it. Now that is a truly great circle of friendship.

What Was this Message About?

Friends are the Bulwarks of Life

“Many years ago, after I got married, I was sitting on a couch on a hot humid day, sipping orange juice during a visit to my father. As I talked about adult life, marriage, responsibilities and obligations, my father cast a clear, sober look at me.

‘Never forget your friends‘ he advised, ‘they will become more important as you get older‘. Regardless of how much you love your family and the children you happen to have, you will always need friends. Remember to go out with them occasionally, do activities with them and call them from time to time“.

What strange advice I thought!

I had just entered the married world, I am an adult and surely my wife and the family we will start will be everything I need to make sense of my life.

Yet, I obeyed him and kept in touch with my friends and occasionally increased their number. Over the years, I became truly aware that my father knew what he was talking about.

In as much as time and nature carry out their designs and mysteries on a man, friends are the bulwarks of his life.

After 50 years of Life, this is what I Learned.

Time passes. Life goes on.

The distances increase.

Children grow up and become independent. Although it breaks the parents’ heart, they are often separated from them.

Jobs come and go.

Illusions, desires, attractions and sex weaken.

People do what they should not do.

Parents die.

Colleagues forget favours.

The races are over.

But true friends are always there

No matter how long or how many miles away they are.

A friend is never more distant that the reach of a need, reaching out to you, intervening in your favour, waiting for you with open arms or blessings for your life.

When we started this adventure called LIFE
Wwe did not know the incredible joys or sorrows that were ahead.
We did not know how much we would need from one another.
Love your parents.
Take care of your children
but always keep a group of good friends.

( The author of this sharing is unknown but he or she summed it up quite well. I have also taken the liberty to edit the article. )

In the twilight of our lives, if we can count five individuals as true friends, consider that a real blessing. And if you happen to have another five friends, then that again is your extremely good fortune.

Celebrities and politicians who claim to have hundreds of friends are only deceiving themselves.  Having the company of hundreds of supporters, gushing teenagers or hangers-on, however, is quite possible.

Much too often, some of these individuals mistake ardent supporters from their party or club as their friends. A number of insecure leaders who delight in surrounding themselves with a large retinue of sycophants, often make the tragic mistake of thinking that these toady individuals are actually their friends.

To their surprise and dismay, these leaders soon discover that these characters will, when the chips are down, desert them faster than fleeing rats from a sinking ship!

In summing up, always remember to keep and cultivate a group of good and trusted friends.



Troika of Exceptional Educators and Leaders

La Salle School Brickfields was blessed to have such personalities at the helm

Recently, there was a guest blog post by Denis Armstrong on my blog site that had a relatively simple heading: La Salle School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. It was an incredibly nostalgic, interesting and factual sharing of the early days of this school and of that particular era in the days when the country was known as Malaya.

Denis Armstrong also shared some wonderful photographs from that era. These included photos of some of the pioneer teachers at the school as well as some photos of the school when it was first built in the fifties. That this then nondescript, small school could rise above its grim situation and become a school to reckon with is now the stuff of legends.

However, no history of La Salle Brickfields can be complete without some mention being made of the incredible troika of educators and outstanding leaders.

Overwhelming Response to the Blog Post

This blog post had an overwhelming, positive response. To date over 2,711 individuals have read that particular blog post. It is a clear indication of the great interest that many old boys and even residents of Brickfields have on the subject matter.

However, no history of La Salle Brickfields can be complete without some mention being made of the incredible troika of educators and outstanding leaders. These individuals gave so much of themselves in leading La Salle School Brickfields to much success not just in academic matters but also in sports, games, athletics and extra-mural activities.

The Troika

The troika consisted of Rev. Bro. Gaston, headmaster of La Salle Primary School 1, S. Ratnasingam, headmaster of La Salle Primary School 2 and Albert Rozario who succeeded Rev Bro Gaston as headmaster of the school. All three leaders have since passed on but they have collectively left behind, to their credit, a great legacy.

Group photo of teachers from the three schools

Group photo of teachers from the three schools: La Salle Brickfields Primary School 1, La Salle Brickfields Primary School 2 and La Salle  Brickfields Secondary School ( 1976 )

There are two more individuals who also contributed significantly to La Salle School being a success story. They are Denis Armstrong, the extraordinarily talented athletics coach and strict disciplinarian who later became the supervisor of La Salle Secondary School. The next person is L A Fernandez, an able administrator and a confident as well as a humourous public speaker who later succeeded S Ratnasingam as headmaster of the school.

  1. Ratnasingam – A Charismatic Leader

In a troika, all the three individuals are supposed to be of equal status. However, in my opinion, S. Ratnasingam, who always chose to wear a bowtie, was the undisputed leader of the pack. Ratnasingam, a Normal Class trained teacher had the vision, the drive and the will to unite all three schools. In this effort, the troika succeeded brilliantly.

Mr & Mrs S Ratnasingam

Mr & Mrs S Ratnasingam

At that time and even now, it is quite common to see the headmasters of schools sharing the same premises being unnecessarily petty and small minded. Instead of pooling resources and being prudent, these small minded individuals insist on being difficult and are overly bureaucratic.

With the troika firmly in place there was unity in purpose and much was achieved at La Salle Brickfields during that golden era.

To his everlasting credit, Ratnasingam generously made time to undertake other civic and community-related responsibilities willingly. He was no mere pen pusher or a laid back, stodgy bureaucrat. He was mainly responsible for building a new 2 storey block for La Salle Brickfields. By his actions and his approach, he stood head and shoulders over the other headmasters of his time by being a leader who could inspire his team.

Ratnasingam also served a stint as Boy Scout Commissioner for Kuala Lumpur. In addition, he made time to serve as an adviser to the Juvenile Court in Kuala Lumpur for a number of years.

S Ratnasingam as Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur Scouts

S Ratnasingam as Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur Scouts

In retirement, Ratnasingam stayed true to his DNA! He continued to contribute his time and effort behind the scenes to the Kuala Lumpur Befrienders.

Albert Rozario – A Leader with a Human Touch

Like S Ratnasingam, Albert Rozario was also a Normal Class trained teacher. Later on, he attended and successfully completed a year-long course at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute (STTI) in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. He achieved a distinction grade in his field of specialisation i.e. Physical Education. Albert Rozario was also a good swimmer and a keen gymnast.

He had an affable personality and was pretty down to earth in his relationships with the teachers and admin staff. He also possessed a keen and sympathetic understanding of human nature and this was put to good use when he had to counsel a few individuals who had committed some malpractice.

Albert Rozario and Rev Bro Gaston

Albert Rozario and Rev Bro Gaston

Albert was also a talented administrator and a headmaster who readily supported his teachers’ efforts. He was also equally quick to recognise good performance. I can vouch for both – his strong support and due recognition during my 15 years of service at La Salle Brickfields.

Sometime in 1965, he successfully underwent a major operation, while at La Salle Brickfields, to remove an ailing kidney. He survived for more than 50 years with just one kidney.

Albert Rozario was married to a teacher, Mary who later became a headmistress at St Theresa’s Primary Convent, conveniently situated next door to La Salle Brickfields. They had eight children.

In view of his physical education qualifications and related abilities, he also served with considerable energy and enthusiasm for about three years as the Organiser for Physical Education at the Selangor Education Department.

One of his unique skills was his uncanny ability to get a teacher to undertake a difficult task. His approach was disarmingly unique: He would not summon you to meet him. Instead, he would casually accost you as you walked along the passageway to your class. As he reached you, he would put a friendly arm on your shoulder and then make the request – it was never an order or a directive. No one could ever turn down such a friendly approach!

Rev Bro Gaston – Good Rapid Writing Promoter

I remember meeting Rev Bro Gaston when I first reported for duty at La Salle Brickfields Secondary School in 1966. We exchanged pleasantries and indulged briefly in some small talk. However, over the years I, unfortunately, did not have much interaction with him.

Many old boys fondly remember this genial gentleman with a ready smile for introducing them to Good Rapid Writing – an activity forever associated with him.

Rev Bro Gaston was not very much involved in the day to day administration of the school, leaving that important task to his able senior assistant ( deputy headmaster ), Albert Rozario. But he was a familiar sight in his smart white robe along the corridors and classrooms of La Salle Brickfields – both the primary schools as well as the secondary school.

Many old boys fondly remember this genial gentleman with a ready smile for introducing them to Good Rapid Writing – an activity forever associated with him.

This was a mission of crucial importance to Rev Bro Gaston because he believed that good rapid writing was a much-needed skill that students needed to master.

He emphasised the formation of each alphabet in a smooth flowing movement. A former student and an education professional himself, Loh Kok Khuan described it as: speed, modernity and poetry in motion! Loh Kok Khuan also mentioned that some alphabets seemed to resemble rockets and racing cars and that those were the heady years when the US was aiming to land a man on the moon.

Rev Bro Gaston was the master trainer in this field and he went around the many classes teaching the skills with a passion that was contagious. To encourage and motivate the boys to take this training seriously, he organised competitions in good rapid writing from time to time.

The prize was a Parker pen – a quality pen in those days that many could not afford. Kok Khuan also revealed that a classmate who excelled in this good rapid writing and in the process won many Parker pens much to the chagrin of his fellow classmates is Chang Hoe Yoon. By some strange coincidence, Hoe Yoon subsequently qualified as an engineer and worked for a reputable regional airline.

Rev Bro Gaston was also responsible for promoting the Ukulele musical instrument.

He encouraged the boys to take up this small, four–stringed guitar-like musical instrument. For the record, the Ukulele was introduced from Portugal into the Hawaiian Islands in about 1879.

After his retirement, he returned to Canada. He was not in the best of health when S Ratnasingam decided to pay him a visit. He was overjoyed by this unexpected visit from an old colleague and dear friend and perked up considerably. Rev Bro Gaston even made a brief visit to Malaysia later.

La Salle Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur was indeed very fortunate to have had such visionary and caring leaders during those formative years before and after Malaya gained its independence. They may have moved on but the teachers and many old boys do have wonderful memories to treasure.

A Rose to the Living is Better Than…

need to make time for relatives, friends and colleagues

One of the saddest things that occurs when individuals grow old is the loneliness that engulfs them much of the time. This loneliness can be attributed, in part, to some or all of their children and grandchildren living overseas or in other cities far from home.

There is an 82-year-old widow living all alone in Petaling Jaya and her three adult children have chosen to live in the United Kingdom. She struggles with the chores and issues of daily living. For instance, she has to drive to the nearby market which is fairly congested on most days, twice a week, go up the steep ramp to park her car in a parking bay, and then walk down the steps to the wet market.

Challenge of Living Alone for Senior Individuals

What makes it all the more difficult for her is that once the marketing is over, she finds it difficult to get help to carry the goods up two flights of steps.  At one time, she was able to get a foreign worker ( a stall assistant ) to assist her. This is not always possible these days.

Are the adult children of this widow unaware of her predicament? This is not likely the case. They have grown up to be selfish and indifferent. Filial piety has been unceremoniously jettisoned.

Another cause of such loneliness is that relatives, former colleagues and friends do not seem to have time for these senior citizens. They are far too busy leading hectic lives and are often saddled with multiple responsibilities that drain their energy and focus.

Loneliness for Senior Citizens is a Huge Problem

One senior citizen, George now in his 87th year, confided to me recently that most of his good friends and former colleagues have passed on. He feels their absence profoundly. He is in relatively good health although he has some breathing difficulties from time to time because he used to be a heavy smoker for years.

He is also careful with his food intake because he suffers from some recurring problems with his digestive system. He was, however, pleased to inform me that he has enjoyed getting his regular pension payments for more years than he had actually served the government. Well, that is thanks in part to advances in modern medicine.

Financially Secure but Loneliness still Sucks

There are also some senior citizens who are deeply regretting the choices they made whilst they were young, healthy and in an exciting career pathway or business situation. They chose to focus far too much on their jobs or businesses to the extent that they had literally no time for the family. They were enjoying their career progression, their business successes and their golf outings far too much to bother about their family.

And as a result, the family grew apart from that individual. To his credit, James did support the family financially. He gave his wife, a golf widow, a generous monthly allowance and he paid for his children’s education up to university level. He also provided them with many creature comforts and holidays.

But he did not bother or care to cultivate their love and affection. The wife who was ignored and forgotten then developed her own circle of friends and took to gambling in a serious way.

Now the Family Have No Time for Him

Now in his mid-seventies, with few sincere friends and not in the best of health, he has tried belatedly to get close to his wife but has met with little success. He has also tried to reach out to his children, all grown up and successful. They have remained courteous and respectful but distant in terms of any emotional bonding.

In a not so strange twist of fate, they now do not seem to have time for him.

He has sadly confessed to some close friends how he wished he could turn the clock back and make amends.

Cultivating Friendships is a Two-Way Process

Some individuals who pretend to be friends with you easily forget that cultivating friendship is a two-way process. Both parties must want that friendship and both parties must be prepared to invest in that relationship for it to grow, prosper and bloom.

If only one party is making all the effort and the other is only reaping the benefits of that friendship, then that so called friendship will not last long.

I know of one so-called friend who consistently invites me to visit him at his home but never makes the effort to reciprocate. He always trots out the same, silly excuse for not visiting me………….he has no car!

This person is financially well off, assets and cash wise, and can easily afford a car but chooses to sponge on others for lifts and transport all the time. He pretends to be a pauper because he does not want to spend money on a bus, LRT or taxi. He is, however, prepared to burden someone else with the chore of providing him with a lift.

He only telephones me when he needs something done or to give me some news. I certainly do not consider him a friend but a mere acquaintance.

La Sallians Show the Way

Old boys of La Salle schools throughout Malaysia show the way in this regard. These venerable institutions like St Xavier’s in Penang, St Francis in Malacca, St Michael’s in Ipoh, St George’s in Taiping, St John’s in KL and St Paul’s in Seremban have very active old boys’ associations. Even smaller La Salle schools like La Salle Brickfields Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, are no laggards in this matter.

Increasingly, these old boys make strenuous and regular efforts to stay in touch with their classmates and schoolmates. What is even more remarkable is that often they invite their former teachers to join in the dinner meetings and gatherings.

These old boys, now in their sixties and La Sallians to the core, cherish their carefree, school going days and the camaraderie that they used to enjoy in that halcyon period. What is the secret to this phenomenon?

It must surely be the unique ethos, traditions and culture of these La Sallian institutions. Many have ‘ graduated ‘ from being mere classmates and schoolmates to being firm friends by choice. These old boys meet at least three or four times each year to renew, sustain and nourish their friendship. That alone speaks volumes about what it means to be a true friend. Staying in regular touch is one sure way to show that you care.

A Rose to the Living is Better than……

I would like to share with you a nugget of distilled wisdom from Nixon Waterman. A senior citizen I know very well used to often mention this meaningful quote when she was talking about relatives and friends who have forgotten about visiting her.

She used to lament: What is the point of coming for my funeral or sending a beautiful wreath when I am gone?

Don’t they know that:

‘A Rose to the Living is more
than sumptuous wreaths to the dead
A Rose to the Living is more
if graciously given before
the hungry spirit is fled’

That brief quote says it all and that too quite poignantly.

Let us all, collectively and with determination, make an effort to invest in relationships, visit friends especially senior citizens and others living alone. Let us strive to bring comfort, joy and solace to these individuals who are going through a difficult journey.


Remembering an Unforgettable Individual

 Tony Leow Sun Hock 

Tony was my classmate at St John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur during our secondary school years. He was a good-looking, well-built, pleasant and fun loving person with a cheeky sense of humour.

But there was also another side to him: Tony was a very determined person when he set his mind on a particular task or project. He also had a winner’s drive, stamina and energy to succeed. I sometimes felt sorry for an individual(s) who unfortunately got in his way once he was in this frame of mind.

No Guts, No Glory Approach

While in secondary school and when we were in Form Four, Tony was quite annoyed with a classmate who he felt was too cocky about his so-called prowess in judo. He was irritated to the extent that he challenged the guy to a fight behind St. John’s Cathedral after school was over for the day. Incidentally, the cathedral was next door to the school and the land behind the cathedral offered some degree of privacy.

Tony had that sort of bluster, bravado and bravery and was in my opinion, a rough diamond!

The fight was brief, explosive and decisive. Tony made quick work of it and it was over before anyone actually realised it. Tony had that sort of bluster, bravado and bravery and was in my opinion, a rough diamond! The next day, the class master inquired from the judo exponent what had happened to his face. He sheepishly replied that he had fallen from his bicycle! The rest of the class smiled knowingly.

In Shock and Awe

On another occasion, a friend of mine requested me to allow him to serve as a rally marshal during one of the motor rallies taking place in the estates and tin mines in the Klang Valley. I agreed and he partnered me during our night shift in an estate at about 1.30 am. It was not a pleasant situation: there were mosquitoes buzzing around us, there was almost total darkness, except when rally cars came screeching around the corner and it was a hot and humid night.

Then this friend requested me to allow him to sign off when the next rally car came up. I agreed and the next car was navigated by Tony. He was in an almighty rush and shouted impatiently and scolded my friend for being slow.

My burly friend was in a state of shock! He asked me afterwards: Is your classmate like that?  I replied: Yes, he is a very competitive person. Don’t mess with him!

Tried to Help Friends

Tony also tried on some occasions to assist friends. But these friends soon learned the hard way that Tony was a tough task master. He expected these people to work hard and not to give silly excuses. He did not brook any nonsense and was equally hard on friends who did not measure up.

I know of another so-called friend who was given a proper shelling by Tony when he asked for an ‘ easy job ‘ after his retirement from government service.  I believe this person was shell shocked by Tony’s unvarnished and directly honest response.

Devil May Care Approach

When a classmate who had migrated to the US visited us some years ago, I informed Tony. He immediately agreed to meet the friend who used to live along Jalan Templer in Petaling Jaya and also agreed to pick me up before meeting that friend for dinner. Tony decided where we were going to have dinner … at a Chinese restaurant along Jalan Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur.

Tony really believed in living life to the fullest even though he was truly mindful of the risks.

Tony also ordered the dishes: Hokkien style ( black ) fried noodles, Cantonese style( white) fried noodles, a squid and vegetable dish and a dozen sticks of satay. I tried to advise Tony about the danger of some of the dishes considering his heart condition. But in his usual, ‘devil may care’ style, Tony brushed this aside. He told us to ‘whack’ ( Malaysian speak for eat ) the noodles and he indulged in the dishes with relish. That is typically Tony in action. Tony really believed in living life to the fullest even though he was truly mindful of the risks.

Born To Be An Entrepreneur

With his winning ways and capacity for hard work, Tony was, I believe, born to be an entrepreneur.

He started his working life with a then well-known company called Anthonian Bookstore. This bookstore supplied almost all the text and workbooks for the many La Salle schools in the Klang Valley.

Next, he took up a position as a Sales Representative for Mobil Oil Corporation in Kuala Lumpur. He later branched out but remained in the motor trade business dealing with oils and lubricants.

In the early eighties, Tony started a business, SignPro Sdn Bhd that fabricated all manner of signages (signboards and signposts) for commercial enterprises and individuals. He built this business up steadily and in the mid-nineties sold off the business.

He was keen to re- focus his energies on another business which he had incidentally started way back in the seventies! Here too, a lesser individual would have given up because of the many hurdles he had to face. But this was not an option for Tony.

He had the support of a major motor car manufacturer as well as the support of a few key players. Soon he was able to go full steam ahead in his seat belt business. He grew the business, bought over his previous major competitor and even managed successfully to list the company, Hirotako Bhd on the main board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE). That was a singular, major achievement by any measure of standards.

Many-Faceted Personality

There are many other facets to Tony’s riveting personality.

For instance, as a family man, that is for his wife and children to share. As a businessman, that is for his business colleagues and maybe some employees to share. As a super keen golf enthusiast, that is for his golfing buddies to share. I also know one friend who decided it was too stressful playing golf with Tony that he subsequently declined further invitations! That is Tony for you… always extremely competitive even in the company of friends.

I chose to share only those elements of his multifaceted personality that I am familiar with because the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur had requested me to do a write-up. The Kiwanis Club wishes, in this appropriate manner, to honour and remember Tony during its 40th -anniversary celebrations in 2016. Tony has been medically out of action for a few years.

Enduring friendships, regular get-togethers and scintillating conversations

The art of living with grace and purpose

A small group of friends, some of whom have enjoyed an enduring friendship for over fifty years, meets regularly about once every four months. They meet in a comfortable room of a well-known members’ club in Kuala Lumpur. These meetings, of an informal, warm and jolly nature, usually last for about four to five hours.

The group comprises some former teachers and some former students who have managed to strike up a true and life-long friendship that spans over five decades. Some family members and even friends of these former students express surprise that they are still in contact with their former teachers!

This group has one strong, common and abiding affiliation – they are La Sallians to the core. These individuals either taught or studied at La Salle Brickfields (LSB) Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur.

LSB Punches Above Its Weight

This is one of the many La Salle schools throughout Malaysia. It may have been set up much later than the more established La Salle schools but it managed by sheer dint of zeal, tradition and an ethos that is uniquely La Sallian in character to forge an unmistakable identity.

This school also earned a number of academic, sporting and athletic honours in the sixties and seventies, relative to its size! Today, this school has a distinguished number of individuals among its former students, many of whom are now grandfathers. These individuals have done extremely well in their chosen careers.

Better Known La Salle Schools

Some La Salle schools are better known and have been established for over a hundred years. For example,  we have :

  • St. Xavier’s Institution in George Town, Penang;
  • St. Michael’s Institution in Ipoh;
  • St. George’s Institution in Taiping, Perak;
  • St. John’s Institution in Kuala Lumpur;
  • St. Paul’s Institution in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan; and
  • St. Francis’s Institution in Malacca.

A few of these premier La Salle schools are also wonderful examples of outstanding architectural design and build of that time in history. Schools such as St. George’s, St Michael’s and St John’s, for instance, inspire awe and devotion.

True friends are not necessarily those whom you have known the longest. The mere passage of time is not a good indicator.

These are the prominent La Salle schools in Peninsula Malaysia. There are also outstanding La Salle schools in both Sarawak and Sabah.

A Life With True Friends

There is no wilderness like a life without friends; friendship multiplies blessings and minimises misfortunes; it is a unique remedy against adversity and it soothes the soul.
  Baltasar Gracian

Baltasar Gracian captured the overall sentiment about friendship very well. Ponder for a while, if you will, on the accuracy of that bit of distilled wisdom. Can you imagine a life without true friends?

I keep repeating true friends because one has to be able to carefully evaluate just who one’s friends are. This is no easy task because there are, as you well know, all kinds of ‘ friends ‘!

True friends are not necessarily those whom you have known the longest. The mere passage of time is not a good indicator. They are those with whom you have worked or struggled together; those who have supported each other in both good and difficult times; and those who have stood by you in your darkest hours. True friends have thus over the years, through their shared values, created memories of an unforgettable nature. Such friends are really true friends.

It is such authentic friendships that often warm the cockles of one’s heart!

All Kinds of Friends

One category of friends is known as Friends for a Reason. They have somehow managed to have gained entry into your circle of friendship because they have an ulterior motive.

They want some favour(s) from you. If it is forthcoming, then that objective has been achieved and soon they will move on. They will continue to stay, however, if they can reap more benefits.

If and when you retire and you then cannot do much for these individuals, they will disappear from your life much faster than rats from a sinking ship! It may only then dawn on you the kind of ‘ friend ‘ you had!

Then you have Friends for a Season or seasons. These are your friends, not for life, but just for a season or seasons. They may have struck up a friendship with you while working alongside with you at a company or organisation.

It was a friendship based on convenience – not values. They may have gained a lift to work from you or they may have played golf with you on some weekends. The arrangement worked for both of you, at least for some time. Then the person concerned moved on.

At other times, this friendship may have been severely tested by a careless remark or an uncharitable comment. Such friends are not pleased when you are doing well in life. This is a not-so-strange phenomenon of human nature. It is often hard to recover from such personal bruising, intended or otherwise. Once the damage is done, it takes a big hearted person to forgive and forget. Those types of individuals are a rarity!

The Secret To Real Happiness

What is the secret to real happiness? That is, indeed, a million dollar question.

Many are still searching for it. Some think it matters to acquire material possessions… expensive branded watches, mansions, high-end sports cars, helicopters, personal jet planes and yachts etc. The list is extensive if you are in the business of acquiring possessions. Yes, it does provide momentary pleasure from time to time.

From my personal experience, I believe that it starts with one having a clear purpose in life.

As we age, we should also at the same time consciously widen our interests in life and acquire new skills, pursue new hobbies and get to know more individuals. In other words, keep reinventing and renewing! Do not shy away from these activities.

These individuals may be in your neighbourhood, from different professions or they may be business associates or even friends of a friend. Through this deliberate interaction, you are likely to be better informed and more in tune with all that is going on in society.

It also enriches the soul to try and render assistance, on an on-going basis, to as many deserving people as possible. In other words, do not stay aloof from certain sectors but do get involved in the wider society.

Take a leisurely road trip and discover nearby towns and cities. The fun, excitement and thrill are in the journey and not necessarily in the destination.

It is certainly not, as some selfish people put it, a waste of time. Many people have confessed that they have instead gained a lot from all these altruistic activities.

Rent We Pay for Our Room On Earth

Wilfred Grenfell said it wisely when he commented: “The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on earth.”

That is the reason why so many individuals around the world join community service and leadership clubs like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and Apex. They have a desire to make a real and positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate in the community.

Take up line dancing if that interests you.
Learn to sing and yodel.
Learn to play bridge.
Read widely on a regular basis and in that wonderful process, broaden your knowledge.

Seize opportunities to travel and sightsee whenever possible because in the process, you too will gain a new appreciation of life. Take a leisurely road trip and discover nearby towns and cities. The fun, excitement and thrill are in the journey and not necessarily in the destination.

Stimulation For The Mind

Attend CPD talks from time to time because continuing professional development should be a life long process …  not just when you are in harness! I recently attended, for instance, a morning talk on a topic of relevance organised by the Malaysian Association of Social Workers. It proved to be a most interesting presentation.

Similarly, I have also attended talks conducted by the Befrienders. This is a well known Malaysian society providing a valuable service for the community. The Befrienders have established a 24-hour life-line for those who are troubled or depressed. Those contemplating suicide often turn to this helpline in the wee hours of the morning.

These much-needed services have been provided because such kind hearted people cared enough to make a difference … quietly, diligently and without fanfare. That is the essence of real community service.

Embrace The Process

In the same vein, I have also attended a masterful presentation on the country’s economic prospects. The presentation was delivered by an eminent professor of economics from a leading university. The list of possibilities offers something for everyone … if only he or she is interested.

Thus education, in its truest sense, should be a life-long process i.e. from the womb to the tomb. Embrace the process gladly and keep discovering new vistas of interest and relevance.

Filling A Void and A Deep Need

True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from friendship and conversation of a few select companions.
– Joseph Addison

Coming back to the matter of the informal quarterly meetings and fellowship gatherings of this small group from LSB, I am struck by the eagerness, warmth and cohesion of the group of about eight individuals. They are faithful in their participation, enjoy the lovely and oftentimes spirited banter among good friends and in general look forward with eager anticipation to the next gathering.

I personally think that these discussions of a general nature are often scintillating, brought on by the exuberance of a gregarious group deep in the midst of recalling past glories, humorous incidents, unforgettable personalities and odd happenings. Of course, without a doubt, some drinks and a really delicious meal along the way helped in the process.

I would like to close my post with a quote from Vincent van Gogh, a luminary from the past. He said, “I feel the need of relations and friendship, of affection, of friendly intercourse … I cannot miss these things without feeling, as does, any other intelligent man, a void and a deep need.”

I am, therefore, looking forward to the next such gathering scheduled to take place sometime soon.