Sunday 28 June 2015

WATTOPERS Turn 50s: Celebrating 38 Years of Brotherhood - Part 7 (The search for water)

Many of us took the supply of piped water for granted until the past few years where those who are living in Klang Valley started to experience water shortages. While generally we had adequate water supply at the college, there were occasions where we experienced severe water shortages due to low water pressure that occurred over some extended periods.

One way of overcoming the problem was to wake up and get ourselves freshened up very early in the morning when other are still asleep. This will only work if the water tanks supplying water to the dormitories were themselves got replenished overnight. There were instances when only selected bathrooms had running water in the morning. If one were late, one had to queue or had to rush to class without bathing.

When the toilets at the dormitories were totally without water supply, we had to go around the college to bath and clean ourselves. There were a number of options. Some would go to the academic building and do their business in the toilets. Some went to the dining hall. After a while even the water supply to these places became dry.

Under desperation, the next target would be the fire hydrants around the college. It was not a weird thing to see boys bathing using water from these hydrants only with their shorts on. The girls had to carry the water back to their dormitories using pails. Given that their dormitories were closer to the dining hall and sure, it was more convenient for the girls to source water from these places.

The girls hostel, then known as Block A
After a while some of us became selfish and decided to keep the valve openers to themselves. Those who were in possession of the openers became like kings as people would have to get the openers to get water. Looking back, such practice could lead to hazard should there be a need to use the hydrants under emergency circumstances.

Our survival instinct did not limit our efforts to search for water within the college parameters only. Another option was to sneak out through the holes in the parameter fences at the back of the dormitories and wine to the teacher training college nearby to bath and clean ourselves. For security purposes the holes were quickly patched to avoid outsiders from intruding into the college area. Somehow, other holes would reappeared and they were instantly used to search for water and other purposes which I will share later.

Towards the later part of my life at the college, hostel blocks for the teachers training college was constructed in-between MRSM KB and the teacher training college's old buildings. Mahzan recalled that the block adjacent to Block B were women's hostel because they were operating without curtains for a month and caused a lot of excitements especially for the boys who had binoculars. 

As part of the construction, a huge swimming-pool like hole was dug. When it rained, the hole retained water and appeared like a swimming pool. The boys were excited and went to swim there happily. I am sure by now we realised that swimming pools must be maintained and the water must be cleaned up on a daily basis. Then, nobody bothered about the quality of the water even when the colour started to turn dark. I never tried the "swimming pool" myself.

The other consequence of not having regular water supply was the condition of our toilets. As life had to go on and people have to relief themselves, some used the toilet even when there was no water. Surely, whatever that was left could not be flushed away. After few days, the smell became unbearable but the need to go in remained. I could remember covering my head and face with towel when I was forced to use the toilet and it was not an experience you wish to have again.

We had to wash our cloths and it was normal to soak them in water with detergent overnight before they were washed. However, a night can be very long when there was no water. Some cloth were left for weeks in the pails and the smell turned from pleasant into something very bad. When the water supply resumed, proceeding with washing were very testing indeed. When the laundry service was introduced it provide huge relief as at least our uniforms and other clothing could be cleaned when we had water problems.

It was really tough then for us to endure the periods when the water supply was disrupted. However, it also to a certain extent hardened our spirit of survival and was an indirect lesson of overcoming challenges of life. I will not ask for my children to experience the same but I would certainly appreciate the experience and the lesson that came together with that part of life in MRSM Kota Bharu.

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