Late afternoon 31st December 2003. Festive smell starts to permeate the air. Although this small office above an automotive workshop at Jalan Gombak is quite sheltered from the madness outside, Rasyid can hear clearly the commotion of people laughing and being merry outside.
Once in a while, sounds of fireworks in action can be heard coming from multiple directions... Although there’s still six hours before midnight, before the whole of Kuala Lumpur also the whole of Malaysia, in fact the whole world starts celebrating happy new year!
Mohamed Hasrat have just completed an assignment for Pak Syed, the office owner. Rasyid who is sitting beside looked at Hasrat and asks: “What about tonight bro? What’s your plan?”
The last one month, the Singaporean became the only companion for talking and exchanging ideas… While spending night and day at the office finishing up Pak Syed’s latest book.
Hasrat was about to say something when Pak Syed interjects: “ What’s wrong with you? Thinking of enjoying only… Just think… What have you done all year? Have you been a success or a failure? What have you contributed? What have you done with your life? Have you done anything beneficial?”
Rasyid refused to answer. He just held his tounge… Quite… Long pause….
The old man continues: “By right, in times like this, you should be evaluating what you’ve done with your life. Make a self-examination… See the mistakes and what went wrong… Not like what you’re doing now, just thinking of having fun… How can you achieve success? Just look at me…”
Pak Syed went on to give a lecture about life and success, about writing and publishing books… About how he himself made his moves before becoming a famous writer. The lad just listens, not thinking at all about having fun. There’s just too much on his mind. New year is just around the corner but yet the problems weighing him down are not settled. Everything feels so plain and tasteless …. How can one have the mood to enjoy? Even looking at a crowd makes him feel uneasy, even queasy. Is it possible to celebrate new year like this?
Suddenly Rasyid remembered what it’s once like during year end celebrations in the 80s and 90, when he really likes to enjoy and have fun. Then, he really deserves it if Pak Syed wants to give a lecture. In those days he would prepare early the shoes, pants and shirts to wear and show-off… To make sure he would look really good and rise above the crowd… Plan in advance with friends, discuss which locations are happening, which venues best to hang-on for the night.
Places like Merdeka Square are not so bad, you can see free concert and fireworks show. But the lad is so used to spending his college days at exclusive nightclubs like Scandals at Bukit Bintang and Faces at Jalan Ampang, places where the patrons have class, not simply any Joe or John Doe off the street… Then only can he find the type of girls that could meet his rather discerning taste.
In those days, his weekends are often spent with friends of similar persuasion, dancing and chasing girls, that is if they don’t bring their girlfriends or dates along… Laughing all night, enjoying and having drinks, sometimes at up to seven discos a night! From Scandals to Faces, then a change of air at Traqs. Eh… Was it Trax? Forgot the spelling, even the disco does not exist anymore. What is sure, it used to be at Jalan Ampang too, not far from the many clubs inside the golden triangle of Kuala Lumpur.
When new clubs (well, they were considered new in the 80s!) like Phase 2, 11 LA and what nots grew up out of nowhere, it just means there’s more interesting places to frequent and fill his youth. If possible, every and each place must be explored to his heart’s content… What can you say, being young with seemingly limitless energy to boot..
Often, these sessions of ‘laughter and happiness’ only end after 5 in the morning… At times up to 7 at old discos like Reflections (at the basement of Merlin Hotel, now known as Concorde Hotel) which operates until the sun comes out! Before all the pub-crawling is closed with early breakfast at roadside footstalls in Bangsar… Forget about Subuh, the complusory early morning prayers forMuslims… Forget about everything! As a Muslim, you’re not supposed to drink and be so free with girls but being young and ‘free’ then, who cares?
At times the former PPP/ITM (the preparatory college for studying overseas) student will ‘lose’ his way at Bukit Gasing, Petaling Jaya or the area behind Bukit Ceylon next to Bukit Nenas… Or at any place where there’s plenty of cars ‘breaking down’ (wink! wink!). But that was then, when he really enjoys attention and likes to be surrounded by friends especially girls. Now, the situation is different, so much different….
Rasyid’s age of enjoyment is long gone… So much have changed until the lad who used to really love talking - whenever there’s people he must be the centre attention - has become a rather quite person, almost like a dumb. He has gone through too much to redeem all the sins of yore and this includes leaving the crowd to be a rather unsociable person, not caring what he looks like until he becomes so comfortable with old clothings which are practially rags, not caring at all about grooming.
If once, the lad is very fussy about his looks, now he does not care. He wears shirt, pants and clothes just to keep himself from being naked, not thinking at all about trend, matching colours, branded goods and such, whether it’s made overseas or just local poduct from Gombak. Not that he wants to pick-up women or go to discos and night-clubs, look smart, follow the dress-code or just simply showing off... This guy has long left the hypocrite world which he used to be proud of…
It’s not that Pak Syed don’t know this… It’s been almost two years since Rasyid started being with him helping out in writing and editting his books, about five of it… Is there just too much thrace of sins and leftovers of guilt apparent enough for the guy who have not tasted nightlife for years? A guy so busy trying to clean himself and turn a new leaf but yet easily accused as someone who just wants to enjoy and have fun? Is it fair?