Professor Dr. Jamaludin Md. Jahi in 2010, smiling the way I first met him.
I was sitting at extreme left, Jamaludin sitting 5th from left. This was 1966 when we were in Form 4.
Jamaludin was sitting 3rd from left. I was squatting at extreme right. This was 2010 when we were 60 year old grandfathers.
Today I received news that one of of classmates in secondary school passed away due to cancer. Like me, he was 65 years old. He was a retired professor with a doctorate degree.
I remember my friend Jamaludin Md. Jahi the first day we entered a fully residential secondary school. The school was Sekolah Dato' Abdul Razak (SDAR), Tanjong Malim, Perak. The date was 14th February 1962 when lovers around the world were celebrating Valentine's Day. The school had since been shifted to Seremban in 1972, first at Sikamat and then Sungai Gadut since 2002.
We came from contrasting backgrounds, all of us in the class. I was then a scared kampung boy from the remote district of Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan. In contrast Jamaludin came from Merlimau, a sub-urban area in Melaka. I can confirm that because eventually I married a girl from there.
I was an orphan then, since my father died when I was three years old and I was raised purely in the kampung way, like I said in a remote area of Negeri Sembilan. But Jamaludin was brought up in middle class. His father was a teacher.
In those days the children of teachers living in a kampung anywhere in Malaya (as the country was called then) led different lives compared to other kampung boys and girls. Again I can this, because my late father-in-law was a teacher too. In fact my late father-in-law and Jamaludin' late father were friends and colleagues.
So when Jamaludin entered secondary school, even though it was hundreds of miles (as we measured distance then) away from home, he was just like a duck entering a pond. He did not show any nerves. He was talking and mixing easily to every one of us in the class room.
He was very unlike me who was thinking of my mother and siblings I left in the kampung. I was always in the verge of crying and scared to talk to anybody, when Jamaludin was always smiling all the time. It is ironic that the last photograph of him which I took in 2010 was of him smiling. It was almost the same smile that he gave me and our friends on that Valentine's Day in 1962.
I found it tiresome to shift talking from my Negeri Sembilan dialect to the way urban Malays talk. But to Jamaludin this was no problem, since the Melaka dialect is almost the same to the 'Melayu bandar' dialect.
Jamaludin was in the A class in the six years we were in secondary school (the first year was the Remove Class). But I was demoted to the B class in Forms 2 and 3 for being naughty. But after Lower Cercificate of Education (LCE) I was back in the A class and together with Jamaludin again.
As the say, we choose friends. So in school we chose our friends. I had my friends and Jamaludin had his. This also meant that I and Jamaludin were not close friends.
After Form Five and passing the Malaysia Certificate of Education I had to look for a job but Jamaludin entered Form Six and then the University where he eventually was awarded a doctorate and became a professor. Before our final meeting in 2010 we only met once after that, although there were times when we were close by, for example during Hari Raya time when we were both in Merlimau, Melaka.
So farewell, my friend. I will miss your smile.