Remembering the good old school days 40 years later

Forty years ago, the end of a school day at Naval Base Secondary School (NBSS) meant making a beeline for a nearby makeshift stall which sold laksa and 10 cents ice kacang.

The stall was always packed with students clad in blue and white uniforms, remembers former student Sarah Arasee Muthu, 55.

Now an assistant project manager in the social sector, Ms Muthu is the spokesman for her class of 1974 and the emcee at a reunion dinner attended by some 100 students from her batch last night.

The ex-students, together with 18 of their former teachers, most of whom are in their 80s, re-lived memories of their younger days at Orchid Country Club.

Former teacher S. V. Chandran, who used to teach history, geography, English and maths, said he was glad his old students had invited him.

"I usually don't go out due to sickness and age," said the 82-year-old, who has Parkinson's disease.

But for the former students, having their teachers there was important.

Regional sales manager Gajandaran Das, 55, said his teachers were understanding, even when students were rebellious. "I remember going to fields to catch spiders and often missing the bell," he said, adding that a teacher would often come after him.

The school was then located at Bah Tan Road, in the British Naval Base. But it moved to Yishun Ring Road in 1988, where it still stands today.

Last night, the alumni also presented a $10,000 donation to current principal, Mr Sulaiman Mohamad Yusof.

Ms Muthu said the donation was a way to give back to the school for all the good memories and lessons it gave them.

Aptly titled "Nostalgic Moments NBSS 74", the event took about two years to organise. Getting in touch with former schoolmates was not easy, she said. Still, the effort was worth it.

Her description of the four years spent in Naval Base as being the "best" of her life was a sentiment that most classmates shared.

Ms Annie Ng, for example, who is a head of administration, said her days at school were coloured with friendship and memories of playing five stones.

For Mr Gajandaran, the dinner was a good chance for him to catch up with his old buddies and teachers. "The teachers hugging us... it's difficult to describe in words."

This article was published on May 4 in The Straits Times.

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