My school, St Xavier's, is legendary in Malaysia. It was founded in 1875 by a
Christian brotherhood that belonged to the La Sallian order. It was called
St Xavier's, after the saint.
It was an imposing
school that had been reborn after the allied bombing of Penang during the
Japanese occupation. My father had attended this school, and so I was proud to
keep the tradition going. There was a huge hall with curtains that seemed to be
a hundred feet high and there was a balcony within the hall-I was reminded of
opera houses. There were dressing rooms behind the stage and trapdoors beneath
it. Large, colored-pane doors opened up on either side giving the place a bright
and sunny atmosphere during the day. The doors kept out the rain during the
monsoon seasons. It was where I took my final exams. There was a chapel where
Catholic children went to pray but I was never asked to convert or coerced into
thinking that my faith was inferior to theirs.
There were five blocks of classrooms, three storeys high. The canteen was at
the back next to a huge yard, where I played with my friends when I was younger.
Ten years later, it was where my friends and I had serious discussions about
physics and girls. The basketball courts were on the far right near the
brothers' quarters. They were the white robed pillars of the school, fine
examples of selfless men who were knowledgeable and
exemplary. We never went anywhere near their quarters as it was
Then, there were the workshops hidden behind the canteen where we learnt the
industrial arts as it was known at that time. The Science laboratories
overlooked the yard just below the library where we spent thousands of hours
reading tales of faraway cities and people, did our homework or tried to impress
a sixth form girl-the only girls there were in the sixth form - as St Xavier's
was a boys' school. The girls were usually transfer students from the Convent
school across St Xavier's, since that school did not offer a sixth form.
Due to the lack of space, the school field was across the road adjacent to
the Convent. We enjoyed playing sports there or marching with the school band as
we had an audience of girls in braids watching from the balconies of their
school next door. There was very little interaction between sexes those days
except for the odd debate or carnival. This made the boys do silly things in the
field to catch the girls' attention - these made for excellent and entertaining
stories for years to come.
However, above all, the most important feature about my school was the
culture imbued in us by the teachers,
brothers and staff. We loved our school more than anything in the world. The
traditions and the culture of hard work, honesty, humility and selflessness will
live on in every boy (and girl) who passed through its hallowed halls.