In late 1966 my very close friend Halim Bond left Muar town to study in Johor Bahru. I had many wonderful moments with him and will always treasure those periods when we were hardly separated from each other even for a day. Together with another of my very close friend Sheikh Ibrahim (Yem), the three of us were inseparable and would always be seen together in many parts of Muar town. When Halim left us, there was a void in our very small fraternity but soon a new member came into the picture and he became another of my very close friend until today. Mohammad Zin Abdullah is known among Muarians as Zin Zipper and his father was known as Dollah Seben because he was the seventh Dollah in his class (according to Zin himself)
Zin came into our fold even before Halim left for Johor Bahru but was not too close and visited us not too frequently.
How on earth did Zin get this title of Zin Zipper? The owner of this title himself can’t remember and few speculated and all were wrong but I do. It was sometime in late 1966 that the four of us Halim, Yem, Zin and me were watching a movie on street gangs at the Cathay cinema (can’t remember the title of the movie). One of the gang leader somehow looked like Zin and the name of this street gang is ‘The Zipper’. While on our way home, Halim suggested that we bestowed Zin a nom de plum of Zipper and so it was. From then on, Zin is known as Zin Zipper and this name sticks with him like glue.
While cycling at Tanjung one evening, Zin and I noticed a big banner being displayed at the Muar Tanjung Club announcing that there would be a New Year Eve’s party to be held on the 31st December, 1966. Immediately we both decided to attend since there wasn’t much activities going around.
The Muar Tanjung Club of my time was the most exclusive club patronized mostly by the top ranking officials of the government departments, successful businessmen, politicians and entrepreneurs. This was obviously the place where many government policies were discussed and those in the commercial sectors would plan their strategies on how to improve their order books. The club would begin early and members would congregate bringing along their friends for a nice breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and nasi lemak. Some would begin their early morning with some rounds of tennis to burn some calories they consumed last night. By lunch many more members began to flock inviting clients and potentials for some possible business arrangements and this kind of activities would continue until dinner time. Of course those bachelors who were deeply in love would bring their sweethearts to impress. The club was opened only to members and those wishing to have some nice moments inside the club must be nice all the time to their friends who were members.
Once a while there would be parties organized by the club committee members and some other NGOs like the Lions and the Rotary clubs and these events were mostly confined to their members and selective guests. This time the event was to celebrate the end of the year and to welcome another new year and they had opened it to the public. Zin and me were only sixteen plus and in most cases boys our age would be barred from entering this kind of party but we were adamant. The enchantment was just a week away.
This was my first experience attending a party at the club and was looking forward from the day both Zin and me had decided. We knew that most attendees would be elderly people with their spouses and the younger ones with their girlfriends but for us, we would be coming without a female accomplice. Even if we had girlfriends, it would be impossible to get their parents’ approval.
It was 31st December 1966, Zin arrived at my house around 7.30pm and I had waited for him since 7pm. He was neatly attired, not the kind of shirt and pants we normally used going to house parties. The party would start around 8pm and cycling to the club was just fifteen minutes away of cycling time. I had my dark long sleeve tucked with a black trousers and my uncle Pak Mat Rippin looked at both of us from his house amazed. He must be wondering why were these two boys properly dressed? Pak Mat was a draughtsman and he worked extremely hard and as much as I can remember, he seldom slept early. Sometime he would work as late as until five in the morning. So everytime I arrived home late at night, he would stare at me while at his drawing board. A truly good man my uncle.
According to Zin some of our friends would be going to this party as well, so we might as well share a table with them. The night was cooling as the monsoon season was in its midst. The moon cresent was dim and the dark clouds moving slowly gave an early indication of a heavy downpour to come. We cycled at a moderate pace as we had plenty of time and noticed some other cyclists heading the same way and they were all well dressed. One or two cars overtook us and as we reached the road where the town mosque stood, we could see the club brightly lighted and the arrival of the guests and the sight became more visible as we approached nearer. Those riding their scooters of Vespa and Lambretta had their pillion riders tightly seated. By the time we reached the front road of the club, the combo’s soft music reached our ears. Couples walked toward the stairs leading to the hall and we could see some already had their foot loose. Some men had their suits on while few others had their ties neatly hung by their necks. The women were dashing with their swinging skirts walking decently by the side of their menfolks.
Having parked our bicycles, we headed to the stairs and as we reached the hall, we saw our group of friends already seated by the window facing toward the Muar river. Sahak Doktor, Mohd.Adib, Awang Yours, Usop Sepuloh Sen, Hamid Cowboy, Mohd. Shah and one Chinese lady. All of them waved at us upon seeing us at the hall and suggested that we joined them which we did. The hall was beautifully decorated with balloons hanging over some parts of the ceiling and it swayed gently by the current of air from the ceiling fans.
Everyone was drinking liquor and Zin was staring at me. I thought why not we try one glass, I have never tasted any liquor before but I’ve tried a glass of beer and didn’t quite like it. Unlike any other days where we need to buy coupons, tonight we could buy by cash. Zin nodded at me and I nodded back at him. He went to the bar and came back with two small glasses of liquor.
“Its gin and lime”, Zin said as he handed the glass to me.
As I sipped slowly, I thought it tasted good (obviously because of the lime) and I began to drink pretending to be like a real man. The music was good played by a seven piece band brought from Malacca and because of my passion in music, I listened to the music more than watching the dancers showing their skill. The band’s version of ‘Fly me to the moon’ I thought was really pleasing to the ears and they mixed the slow jazz movement to the rumba beat. Couples flocked the floor and they danced gracefully and when the song ended, they waited for another and this time the band did my favourite ‘I left my heart in San Fransico’. The tenor player did a beautiful melody to the song accompanied nicely by the pianist. I noticed Zin left his seat for the bar and came back with another two glasses of gin and handed me one. As time went by, I noticed I had already drank four glasses and so was Zin.
Everyone was enjoying their moment waiting for the countdown and it was already 10.45pm and the music had begun to be more lively. The floor was packed with dancers, even those sitting with us were dancing among themselves. I began to feel a bit dizzy and when I looked at Zin, he was just shaking his head to the tune of the music with his eyes closed. Then I felt like vomitting, and I’d better get myself prepared to look for a quiet place outside the building to avoid being embarrassed.
I did the right thing because as I stepped outside the building, my stomach could not tolerate any longer and I began to vomit. I stayed outside alone and trying hard to let go whatever I could so that it could lessen my dizziness. Then I saw Zin running out from the building and he too began to vomit as well. I went to him while he was still vomitting and held his chest gently. We both looked at each other and smiled. We noticed a pipe attached by the side of the building and together we washed our faces. I was still not in a good condition and my head was really heavy. After having washed our faces, we went inside but I told Zin I had enough of liquor and would prefer soft drink this time. He went to the bar and this time he got himself a glass of beer and bought me a glass of fresh orange. I was still feeling dizzy and as the music became louder my head began to spin faster. It was almost 12 midnight and everyone was waiting for the countdown.
Sahak Doktor had just finished dancing with the Chinese lady and asked me whether I would like to dance with her? I told him my head was too dizzy even to stand up and preferred just to sit and listened to the music. Then I saw Zin running towards the stairs and I could sense that he wanted to vomit again. I stood up slowly and went outside to be with him. This time he was squatting and I could only watch. Then suddenly I heard the announcer said using the microphone “Ladies and gentlemen, the time we have been waiting for is about to begin, goodbye 1966 and welcome 1967, and the countdown began…Ten, Nine, Eight….One”. There was a thunderous cry of “Happy New Year”. While everyone inside the hall was enjoying their moments, two young and inexperienced lads trying to grow older were outside the building suffering from the price of trying to grow older.
“Din, lets go home, I need to lie down’, Zin said.
“Ok, I think so”, I agreed and we walked slowly towards our bicycles.
On the way home, we stopped several times just to vomit and when we reached the tembok of my house, Zin dropped his bicycle and ran towards the nearby drain to vomit again.
My uncle Pak Mat Rippin was still drawing his building plan and when he heard our vomitting sound, he came out and inspected to find out what on earth was going on? Then he came to me and said, “What have you done to yourself, so young and you have started to drink, and who is that boy?” I couldn’t answer him as I was really not sober enough to start any conversation.
“Who are you and who is your father?” Pak Mat asked Zin. Like me, he was not in a good state of mind and kept silent.
“Din, go inside and wash and go straight to bed, tell your friend to stay for the night”, Pak Mat said and this time he seemed annoyed.
We did as Pak Mat told us and went straight to bed. While trying to doze off, quietly Zin said to me, “We should not have drank so much, its terrible to be drunk.”
Yes, but how come others were alright when in fact they drank more than us?” I asked Zin.
“Maybe they were more experienced and had been drinking for quite some time”, replied Zin in a soft tone. Seconds later I heard him snoring and soon I joined him. The next morning, Zin left for home and promised to come back later.
That was my first experience in drinking liquor and I was sixteen plus and it was obviously not a good experience. Since then I hardly drink liquor whenever I attended any social functions. It was a bad experience that I do not wish to repeat. Another good lesson I learnt is we should not try to go ahead of our time unnecessarily especially during our growing days. I thought I was old enough to be like a real man only to realize that at sixteen plus I was still a kid. Maybe it was a good experience afterall because until today I don’t drink liquor at all, in fact I stopped drinking beer as well.
Memories that we left behind are sometime hard to find and are time that we once borrowed to spend when we get into our future. As for Zin and me, we are now in our future and our yesterdays are recollections that had taught us some valuable lessons. These are lessons we cannot buy, we need to pass through the passage of time to understand many things.