It all started on 21 January 1978 when this all boys batch of students enrolled themselves at the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara Kota Bharu (now known as MRSM Pengkalan Chepa). They were the second generation of students of the science college, replacing the all boys pioneers which started their studies at the college in 1973. MRSM Kota Bharu is the second science college set up by the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) in helping the Bumiputeras to pursue science-based disciplines at the secondary level.
I was earlier offered a place at Sekolah Menengah Sains Pengkalan Chepa, a neighbouring fully residential school. However, I was more keen to take up the offer from MARA. MRSM was a kind of special school those days. We were not required to wear a specific uniform. Any smart attire was sufficient! I suppose that was the reason which accepted the offer. One has to undergo some sort of aptitude test before being considered.
After the paperwork was completed, we were assigned our respective dormitories. Mine was F-7 where Abang Amin and Abang Adib were the dorm-captains. They were form 4 students who were selected to look after us, the freshies. The dorm has two sections, separated by an attached bathroom. That was the first time when I slept on a double-decker iron bed. In fact that was the first time when I spent a night away from my home in Kota Bharu. I am sure that was the case for many of us who were at the tender age of 13 at that time.
There was where I meet Lani, Bobok, Mat Zin, Ah Chai, Zairy, Jamie, Bulu, amongst othes, for the first time. Our batch consisted of boys from many parts of Malaysia, including Datu and Edward from Sabah. I suppose those days 1 Malaysia need not required any promotion, we were living the values. Somehow, along the way, we have turned into a society which is very conscious about race and religion. I wonder who was responsible in leading us into this kind of thinking?
After my parents left me at the end of day, these boys in F-7 literally became my brothers. We enjoyed and suffered student lives together for the next 5 years. Our brotherhood remains until today. When we meet each other, especially as a group, we will suddenly behave like teenagers again. Positions or titles do not separate us as the bonding that we built was based on when we were ordinary persons, not convoluted with other motives such as business, political or other interests.
Life in MRSM was very interesting. In addition to studies (which was not necessarily the first priority of many of us those days) we were involved in many other sporting and cultural activities. Apart from nurturing academic excellence, they MRSM system those days gave special attention to character building, nurturing leaders. While our teachers taught us the academic stuff, they also were our adopted parents. They let us explore our potentials, help us up when we fell and provided counsel when our conducts went out of line. I will be ever grateful to all my teachers who had provided me with all their loves and guidance. May Allah bless them all with guidance and eternal happiness.
Against this backdrop, many of us tried to attract attention of others in many ways. When someone did something out of ordinary such as making fun of himself infront of the rest, we will term that behaviour as "Buat Top". After a while "Buat Top" turned into Wattop, the name which our batch was known for until today.
This year these students are celebrating their 50th birthdays. Yes, we are crossing the half-century mark. This may mean different things to each of us but one thing for sure, our brotherhood had survived the test of time. In conjunction with this milestone, I am attempting to pen the memories when we were there as well as some other stories after we left the college.
I hope my other Wattopers would chip in their bits as well so that the final outcome, a book with the same title, could be published.