I rarely go to Old Boys Weekend. Maybe because the OBW is always held in Ipoh, more than a hundred kilometers away. Secondly, most of the times I lack information about the date so when it comes, I have already booked myself for some other events and have to miss the OBW.
But I was there during the last OBW. It was not really fun - not many old boys turned up. The first time I attended the OBW (when Shafri Man was elected STAROBA President) the event was far merrier and the crowd much bigger.
But there was a rugby game. An inaugural match between STAR and Sekolah Alam Shah (I think it is called Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah now). And the trophy was aptly named after Arshad Ahmad, well justified for Arshad Ahmad's name is quite synonymous with rugby, not only in STAR and Sekolah Alam Shah (where he is now a senior assistant) but in the whole country too.
After 30 years, my last visit was actually my third time in STAR. Naturally, I went around the hostel. Oh my, it was in such dilapidated conditions I was lost for words. I was a Blue House guy and between Blue House and Green House there are concrete benches - or shall I say, broken concrete benches. They must have been there for quite some time, a sore reminder of how STAR has moved forward. The takraw courts between the two houses are also in a bad shape and unusable. But my biggest shock was the bathroom and the toilet - it was bad thirty-years ago but now it is unmentionable since there is no such word as "badder". Even the cubicle (a pride for anybody appointed as the house captain) has been demolished. So no cube and no pride left.
STAR is famous for its traditional white rugby jersey while the Malay Colege with its black. It is a long tradition and I couldn't remember any game when I was in STAR that our school team wore another colour. It was always white against black - and white always triumphed. And remember when Mat Hero with his last gasp kick that won STAR the Perak championship in 1970 - he wore white. And the losing MCKK team in black.
Though it was long ago, I have yet to erase it from memory. But for the Arshad Ahmad Trophy, STAR managed only a draw. It was not against MCKK but against Alam Shah (a school not known for its rugby tradition) and on home ground too. What a shame. Well, we can always excuse it by saying Alam Shah is coached by Arshad Ahmad. But my biggest anguish was not at the draw (you can beat them some of the times but definitely not all the times) but at the jersey. STAR was wearing a colourful jersey of maybe yellow, red and black. No longer that famous white jersey because tradition is not important or maybe the right words are "buta tradisi".
Even the school badge has been reworked. If you take a closer look you will find the original curves are no longer there. So the hardwork done by the late Tun Hamdan to make the school the second most famous boarding school in the country has come to nought. Maybe experiment after experiment by new headmasters, teachers (who are not part of the tradition) will one day turn STAR into another footnote in history.
Now they give out certificates for sports day. Instead of medals, they pass out certificates maybe because they are cheaper. Or maybe, the school wanted to be the first school in Malaysia to replace medals with certificates - perhaps in the world too. A feat that can go into Guiness Book of World Records. But at the same time, the school which once was famous for its sports would one day become nothing but a laughing stock for other schools.
Tradition is something worth holding on. Its just like our anthem the Negaraku - at one time, many politicians wished the tempo could be faster (or more military-like) but it has been sung that way for ages and when Dr Mahathir wanted to change it there was a lot of opposition. Tradition is also important for schools - one of my sons used to attend Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Victoria (it was called Victoria Institution once) because some headmasters thought all secondary schools ought to be called Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan. Well, the old boys fought tooth and nail and now the government has decided it should revert to its old name, Victoria Institution.
Innovation is a sign of times. But innovating for the sake of change alone is nothing but a foolish effort to destroy history, tradition and values that are dear to our hearts.