Vic was a friend to the very last

ROYALTY: A former schoolmate who died recently leaves a vacuum in the lives of his friends

Syed Nadzri, NST

VIC died as he had lived — smiling, laughing, funny — but devoted to his friends and thoughts. He was affable to the last.

This old classmate was not out of his witty character at all the last we met not long after he was admitted to University Malaya Medical Centre. “Come sit beside me. What have you brought me? My blood pressure’s too low,” he murmured from the hospital bed, signalling for reading materials that I had failed to bring. That was Wednesday, May 23, just four days before his death.

Tunku A’amash (second row, centre) with classmates at the Kuala Kangsar railway station in 1969.

Vic, or Ku Vic or Tunku A’amash Tunku Adnan, a Negri Sembilan royalty, died due to complications from leukaemia two Sundays ago, just 10 days before his 58th birthday. It appeared to be a brief battle, because none of his closest friends knew he was that sick since he was joking and jesting away just days before.

He was in hospital for about a week, having been wheeled in after complaining of joint pains, loss of appetite and extreme fatigue.

He had phoned me a few weeks earlier asking for advice and tips on how to deal with gout, which I, on stressful occasions, suffer from.

After several days, he came on the phone again. “It’s not just gout but also some blood infection because I feel the pain in my shoulder and all joints.”

And that was when I suspected my friend was really ill. His absence from the funeral of our endearing former English teacher C. Kamalandran, who died in Petaling Jaya earlier in the month, raised my suspicion further.

My worst fears were confirmed when in yet another phone conversation shortly after he was admitted to hospital, he dropped the bombshell about the leukaemia.

I went into a daze that whole day and when news came a few days later that he had passed on, I was devastated like many others because Vic had struck that gracious chord with just about everybody, especially his classmates and a certain section of the community that shared his strong views on civil liberties.

There was an outpouring of grief and condolence the moment the sad news spread. It was all over the Internet.

This tribute, which is my third obituary in this paper in less than a month, is more than a week late, but that’s just because the pain of losing someone so dear proved to be a bit too much for me to piece my thoughts together.

His voice kept ringing in my ears: “I have lost my appetite but, today, I have a strange craving for seafood and squid. Do you think that’s OK for gout?” he asked just a few days before he died.

Every one of our classmates felt the same kind of loss because Vic was someone we grew up with at Malay College Kuala Kangsar during our formative years from 1967 to 1971.

Vic, just before he died

Vic showed his leadership qualities right from the start when we were in Form One, which was also the year he displayed his other talent by winning the Kuala Kangsar Open Talentime, singing Bobby Darin’s More. Yes, at 12 years old.

The blue blood in him was no hindrance to his good-humoured, extroverted spirit.

We studied together, slept in the same dormitories and ate the same food, though at times he complained loudly about the quality. School hostel meals, what did he expect?

Long after we left school, the bonding among us continued with Vic playing a pivotal role, keeping each other company when the need arose and providing moral support in many things. For that he earned the nickname “King Of The World”, a title that was carried on after a certain episode when we were young.

Harry, a classmate, posted a profound message in our group email not long after Vic’s death: “In this life, the soul and the body are together except during sleep when the soul may leave the body and come back in the morning or God may take the soul at that time.”

And he quoted a verse from the Quran: “It is God that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life) but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Al-Zumar — The Crowds 39:42).

It’s your birthday tomorrow, dear Vic. May your soul rest in peace.