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DINNER 2002 - THE UNTOLD STORY

Much has been written about this year's dinner and I guess the euphoria is still in the air for the committee as we reflect on what we have achieved as a team. Yes, it was a team effort and a bloody good one that is! It was indeed a satisfying experience to be a dinner advisor this year and as I reflect back on what has transpired over the last few weeks before the dinner, it will be a shame if I do not share it with you.

POSITIVE CASH BALANCE
The first thing I asked June the following day after the dinner was the account balance. She knew that I am very particular about adhering to the prescribed budget for the dinner as we want to come out of it positive and knowing her, I knew that the team could do it. To all, I like to say that we did reflect a positive cash balance on the dinner - my only criteria of a successful dinner organisation. The committee will submit to the Alumni the finalised account in about 2 weeks time. To some, having positive cash balance may a trivial thing but to us in the committee it is a crucial matter as we are all VOLUNTEERS and we had to organize this dinner with no firm financial backing. The Alumni's mandate is very clear -all events organized must be self-sufficient and with my self being in the Alumni, I know its limitation when it comes to funding. So we had to soldier on without any guarantees.

DINNER ANGELS & BOSLEY
I cannot take this away from the trio of Jun, Ija and Che Na with Hudal aka Mr Bosley. To them, I salute for all your commitment and dedication in getting the job done. You see, I only know them very well when we were doing Projek BUDI in 1999. I don't remember much about June and Ija except that I knew that they were in PBSM and some uniform group. However, I remember Che Na who used to be the small cute one among the trio. In school, we hardly talked to each other. When I starting working with them in BUDI, I noticed that they have chemistry and commitment to make our Alumni a success. They brought in their friends to volunteer and their batch is always a close knit one. And they are always fun to be with. That is why I said that we have the right chemistry in the team. I work very well with Hudal and the trio and they speak their mind to me. They are also full of ideas on how to make the dinner a good one. Some of these ideas, I must say, were received with initial skepticism from me. But I was wrong and they knew what they wanted and I was there to support and encourage them.

After all these years, these ladies are real life examples of what SMSS Alumni networking is all about. They share their strengths and complement each other. They have chemistry with each other. Of course, when under pressure and stress, we sometimes can get uptight but there is always Bosley and me around to balance the dynamics of the trio.

JUNE the "Rafidah Aziz" of the team was aptly chosen to be the Chief Financial Officer and she performed way above expectations. She collected almost all the ticket sales single handedly, coordinating with the batch reps. She started of a database of all alumni contacts which we will use in future and she has to put up with a lot of crap from some people. Some may say that she can do this because she is not working but mind you, she is a mother to 4 kids and also have to attend classes during the weekends. For this, I have to salute Rafi for his patience all these months and I have to promised him that I will not take away anymore of June's time for the next few months. Rafi - your patience and support did not go unnoticed. However, I was a bit disappointed you did not turn up that night.

IJA- the "Datin"of the trio. If Hudal is Mr Nice Guy, she is Mrs Nice Lady - who seldom refuse a task assign to her. She is also in the Alumni committee and therefore she has to wear 2 hats for the dinner. Ija was the main lady for the venue. Through her contacts at Saloma, which I will not dwell into here, we got almost everything we asked for. We asked for a closure of the Bistro and we got it. We asked for free parking and we got it. We asked for table cloths for all the outside tables and we got it. We asked for a room for the dinner secretariat and we got it. We got almost everything that Saloma had. It was unbelievable! They even did not have any more chairs and tables for us and that is the main reason why we could not sell anymore tickets. Ija was also responsible for the Alumni folder's design, the life membership plaques and coordinating that night's event. Lokman - I salute you for allowing Ija time off to do all these for us. I was also disappointed that you did not turn up that night - as it could be a template for your company's dinner.

CHE' NA - The promoter and publisher of the event. I came to know Che' Na last among the trio. She had some experience in event management before and was aptly chosen to take the lead on promoting the event. All the dinner logos and program book were entrusted to her for production. She also has to seek advertisers for the program book, which was by no means an easy task. Advertising in a dinner program book is something a lot of companies do reluctantly and advertising in an alumni program book certainly does not get you the kind of coverage as advertising in a magazine. But with her perseverance and support from her friends, we managed to fill up the pages in the program book. She is also someone who has a lot of ideas and at times can speak her mind. Che' Na, Keep it up and keep the ideas flowing as we need people like you.

For Mr Nice Guy HUDAL aka Bosley - you are the balancing factor among the angels. It is important to have someone like you who balances the chemistry of the team. I remember when we were studying Chemistry in school; we had this factor that we had to put in to get a balanced chemical equation. I liken you to that factor. Well liked by everyone in the team Hudal had to play his role as Dinner Director in between his full time job at Petronas. However, he managed to guide the team by giving them the right kind of advice and accomodating to the needs of the team. As dinner director, Hudal was a worried man at the end of June when some pledges did not come in and ticket sales were still low. He kept asking me who could underwrite this event but I told him that my success criterion is simple - positive cash balance and having fun at the dinner. We do not need splurge on luxuries that we can't afford as at the end of the dinner, someone has to pay for it and it is not going to be the Alumni. Well, Hudal you did it and though we are competitors in the business, you can still call me for lunch.

MURPHY's LAW IN ACTION
If there is someone who believe that Murphy was anywhere near our dinner, it must be me. It is for the believe of Murphy's Law that we had always planned for contingencies. However, we did not plan for any contingencies if anyone of the trio could not turn up and that is exactly what almost happened.

You see, what can go wrong went wrong right till the dinner nite It started 2 weeks before the dinner when Jun and Che' Na wanted to send the program book layout to the printers. The whole program book was in Che' Na's PC hard drive and it could not be retrieved because of certain problems. June and Che' Na spent the whole weekend trying to fix the problem until she almost gave up. She called me to inquire whether I could loan her my PC which I obligingly did but told her that I could not be of much help to her as she is technically far more superior than me what it comes to this stuff. They had to call the in house MIMOS expert to help out (Rafi) and the trio worked on both PCs until the wee hours of the morning. By Monday morning, June's face was smiling again and I sighed a heavy relief.

Murphy came to visit us again on that Saturday morning. All the planning had been done. All the preparations were almost ready. I was still struggling with the slide presentation for the night as we were having problems editing the slide images and mixing the music. I went to pick up the life membership plaques and it all read 1978 for all the life members! Too late to change so we have to use them first and correct it later

At the venue, it was drizzling. Ija called me up to say that they cannnot have the other buffet line at the tables outside for fear of the tables getting wet in the event of a downpour. The place was also very crammed to seat 180 people comfortably with the buffet lines. Crazy ideas went through my mine on how to handle the situation, as I was uncomfortable with the idea of 600 people cramming for food at one location. Lin of Saloma re-assured me that it was allright. I had to go along with the idea. Then the big screen outside could not be lowered down. Majdi wanted to do it himself but I cautioned him against it as it is Saloma's property. The Saloma technicians came to the rescue. Then the lorry that was supposed to pick up the Gamelan equipment could not turned up. Sabri came to the rescue by arranging someone else to pick up the equipment from the school at 3pm. Phew!! All was finally in place.

Another drama unfolded earlier in the day when June almost missed the dinner that night. I collected the door gifts from her house that morning and almost freaked out when I saw her face all puff up as though she has been in a fight the night before. She was all stressed up with her school assignment and dinner preparations. I had told her to finish her assignment, go to bed early on Friday and not to think about the dinner. But she told me early Saturday morning that she did not get to sleep at all as she was all tensed up for the big day. Her face and eyes were swollen - not because of a domestic dispute but because she took something that she was allergic to. Looking at her condition that morning, my knees went weak as we only had a few hours to go before the big event and the most important person of the dinner was unwell. I immediately called Hudal to prepare him for the worst. Modern medicine works wonders and June only needed a jab (not from Rafi but the doctor) to be on her feet again. I saw her at about 4 pm and sighed relief.

LADY LUCK
Lady luck must be smiling on me now I thought! However, late in the evening the slides that I wanted to present that night were still not completed . I was thinking about canceling the slide show, as I could not preview it on the big screen before the dinner. It would have been my biggest disappointment. I told Azura, my MC partner that she had to write the MC scripts, as I have to attend to other things. Oh! We did not even had time to practice our lines. With too many scribblings on a piece of paper, I could not make out her writing, so I finally said "Okay, I will do it and lets meet at 9.30 pm to rehearse". My heartbeat then was racing faster than Schumi.

The dinner started and I was still frantically waiting for my slides to arrive. When it did arrive at about 10pm, I was ready to be MC with Azura. We had practiced our lines a few minutes earlier and then off we went to be MC. Though I knew Azura from way back in 79, we did not really know each other very well. All I knew now is that she is working at that glamorous new network. We exchanged a few e-mails and that was it. She is very supportive of the alumni and was instrumental in getting the coverage that we need. I always told her that we may be small in numbers but we must have the right coverage for other people to have an interest in our alumni activities. I think we clicked pretty well that night and as it turned out, we delivered our lines just like those AIM awards. The part that I don't understand till today is that I was supposed to partner June but I guess she chickened out at the last minute. Lady luck was smiling on us again and I guess Murphy had no choice but to leave us alone for the rest of the night.

Success was in the air when batch 81 took the stage. Rozie had to use someone's powered sunglasses and I guess she was at "dizzying heights" on stage. They really delivered a solid performance that left me to wonder till today why they wanted to cancel the performance in the first place. Soon after, everyone was congratulating us for a job well done. I was eating the free ice cream when Azura called me for an on camera interview. I was really not up to it so I gave her 2 questions to ask and answered it in one. She was dumbfounded and the cameraman had to cut the recording, as she could not ask the next question.
As the dinner came to a close, we were all patting ourselves in the back and reconciling our thoughts. The time has come to assess the damage and to do the clean up. Again, it was marvelous teamwork as we were not short of hands. We did carry a few losses like some missing program books but that was all. June had to go home with her bodyguard and the rest of us adjourned to Concorde for supper. That is where I had my real dinner..errrrr..breakfast.


It is just impossible for me to write about all the colourful characters that I worked with in the course of organizing this dinner but I have to say one thing here - this dinner had unearthed many new talents that will fill our shoes in the years to come. We had for the first time help from batches in the 90s. This is a very encouraging sign as it is the alumni objective to expand the level of participation to the more recent batches. Mind you, we had 16 people from batch 2000. They had only left school about 2 years ago and are now in colleges around KL but when they heard about the dinner, they wanted to attend and did not mind paying for the tickets. They also sportingly agreed to perform for us. Kudos to Batch 2000 for what I will term your "inauguration night".

All I have to say is that I am proud to be working with a team of wonderful dedicated people who are not just doers but who are also out to have fun.

Thank you again to everyone who has contributed to organizing this dinner.

Good luck to batch 82 on your next dinner.


Rusihan Anwar Zaihan - Dinner Advisor 2002

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