Glorious Essex Days!
I was taken for a trip down memory lane two Sundays ago when I received a surprise long distance phone call. Normally, when a person’s first words to me are “Oi! A**hole! Where have you been?”, I’d reply with some profanities from my own dictionary. But, it was Rose, my flatmate-capati maker-cook-confidante-lookalike of three years from my Essex Days. So instead, I shrieked with joy, instantly recognizing her voice. And, off we went catching up on lost time. There was much to say, since, after all, it’s been a good two years since I last heard from her!
The years I spent in Essex were, without a doubt the best three years of my life. I made great friends there, most of whom I am still in touch with till today. Many, of them I talk to once in two to three years (like Rose) but whenever we do talk, we could talk for what seems like forever! To add to my list of friends I was reunited with this month, yesterday, I was in touch with A.J a course-mate of mine for three years from Sri Lanka. He was one who used to camp at our flat to do assignments and to study. (Actually, he was just looking for someone who’d make tea for him!). It was fun then; even during every exam season! Exams usually fall every summer, and A.J would bring tubs of Haagen Dasz to our flat and we’d binge on ice cream while mugging! (hence, note the "tembam"ness in the photos!) There were a few others (Sam, KV, Asad etc etc) that later joined our study etc group. Oh, we had a whale of a time studying (ha!ha! Boleh percaya ke?)
When I think of Essex, I remember the days we spent in Colchester, a quaint, small university town where we used to lepak after classes. Our favourite haunt was Tilly’s, this little coffee shop in town that had this delicious iced-chicory coffee that tasted almost like cendol but minus the cendol. I also remember lazy Sundays spent walking to Wivenhoe, a pretty little fisherman’s village just 15 minutes away from our campus.
For more excitement and fun (and when duit scholarship masuk), we’d take a half an hour bus ride to Clacton-On-Sea, and spend some time at the Pier where they have fun rides or go dipping in the sea. Actually, only us Malaysians had the guts to go dipping in the freezing British sea. I wonder what the Brits around there thought about us then. Whateverrr! It was fun anyway
Essex was also known as a party uni. I won’t lie and say that I was so "baik" and that I never visited the dancehalls at uni. Those who studied in England probably know that, Essex is popularly known as THE partay uni of England (or so they claim) and “boasts” of parties every day of the week. Every Wednesday and Saturday, we’d have something (read: majlis tari menari) at the Students Union and on other nights there would be other events (read: majlis tari menari lagi) organized somewhere else and I did go once in a while to let off steam. Ok lah, I had my share of fun.. .and apparently, I was quite a d.a.n.c.i.n.g q.u.e.e.n according to some! *cough-COUGH! * Which is funny actually, when I think about it. Cos these days, I have no idea how to move to music anymore, much to my son’s dismay! I'm so out of it, and more like a kayu now! Well..it's time for change anyway..
BUT, BUT, BUT! To keep myself “balanced” and as to beringat as mom perpetually reminded me to then, I had my “sisters” and "brothers". These blessed souls, were the people from the Islamic Society whom we had discussions and Quran recitals with. They were a neat group. One sister whom I remember oh-so fondly of, is Sister Rafah Kayali, a Jordanese who has the purest and sincerest heart in the world. And such a strong woman too! She was like a “big sister” on campus. I was the more feminist one in the group. Always arguing on women’s rights in Islam. Whenever we had discussions with the brothers on campus, especially on Polygamy..I was always called to debate the issue. (Setakat itu je lah Ustazah Anedra boleh ceramah. Itu pun tunggang langgang. Lain, belum berapa pandai! )
the lovely sisters
Then of course, there was my Big Crush, for a certain someone called, S, a coursemate of mine who is Irish-Pakistani and had this broody look which is to die for! He was also a "brother"...and I helped him with our coursework (of course, I was more than happy to do so!) I think I possibly had this on-off crush on him throughout the three years. Sigh..my heart still flutters a little teeny weeny bit, whenever I see his photos. It was a silly CRUSH and went no further than that, though. S and I are still in touch till today and he is married now. Alhamdulillah... A.J brought him up in our conversation yesterday and was teasing me about it. You see, S was his house-mate for a while, and A.J knew what I was up to! Teee-heee-heee! Come to think of it, my monkey-crush on S was quite hilarious! Sighs.. Silly, silly me! The things we do at that age huh?
graduation day with mama and a blur aunty
Well, it’s been a good 8 years since we graduated in the summer of 1997. Rose is now the Head of Research in a local hospital in London, married with a daughter. A.J is now running his family’s gem business up in Sri Lanka, also married and expecting his first, this August, while Sam is married to a coursemate of ours, Aisha and they have a daughter. The rest of us are scattered all over the world, KV in Paris, S=Essex Crush is in London running his own business, Pash in the States is about to marry a CNBC reporter, and A in Canada is an Amway high-flyer!(?).
mom, dad and moi
If you had known us 8 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen much potential in us to be where we are today and what more as parents. We were this carefree bunch of students, always laughing and having the time of our lives each day. I can’t recall a day in Essex when I was feeling down (but then again.. I do suffer from extensive memory loss!). How free we were then, no worries, not much responsibility except to study (and exams were only once a year at that!).
Time really flies! Its such a wonder how we’ve “grown up” with time too! My Essex days were truly oh-so glorious. And the most glorious thing of all is that I met and made life-time friends while I was there.
I could go on forever talking about the good ol days. There are just so many feel-good stories to tell and so many friends that I have not mentioned in this post. I probably won't even ever manage to write it all down! So, I'll just keep those memories in my heart where it belongs.
I have to say, it was fun to walk down memory lane with Rose and A.J. Especially when we're older and more mature then we were the last time we met. I had a good laugh, and shed a few silent tears somewhere in between. It was good to catch up. It was GREAT. But the best thing about it was that we discovered that some friendships, like ours, do last forever.