Now & Then- Club House
Sunday 28/2/2021- Clubhouse
Last night I dropped into The Clubhouse hosted by my friend Johan. He was talking about going home on the next Hari Raya. By the way, The Clubhouse I referred to here is an app to host audio chat online. It started in April 2020 but I only knew about it in February 2021. This app is not open to the public yet; it is by invitation only. Thanks to Haafiz Nordin for the invite. For now, it works on iOS only. Since I am not an iPhone user, I use my iPad Mini4. I hope something similar to Twitter will be available on the Android platform soon.
The name Clubhouse reminds me of my childhood days of Rumah Kelab that I visited every day in the late ’50s until the end of the ’60s. It is located on my father’s land about 20metres away from my house. It was a one-story black timber building containing one cupboard where the radio is being kept, a few shelves for books and benches to read books and newspapers. During those years, very few households could afford a radio and no one in my village bought newspapers. It was here the people and the students from religious school Madrasah Amir Indra Petra, founded by my late father, gathered to listen to the radio and read newspapers and books. May be it was here the village elders met and discussed the affairs of their village before MERDEKA(Independence). I was still in primary school back then. Looking back, this Rumah Kelab idea was brilliant! I have a photo of me taken on the steps of the clubhouse when I was about four years old( 1956). Radio was the only electronic communication and broadcasting device during that era. During that time, we did have Kedai Kopi(coffee shops)in our villages, but there was no radio and no newspaper. Those were the days.
Compared to the present time, we have radios in our house, in our car and wherever we are because we can listen to the radio via our smartphone. Nowadays all of us are armed to the teeth with all communication equipment at our disposal. We can send letters and photos to anyone where they are. We can have live video chats via Zoom, Google Meet etc. Sadly, we are now drowned in news and information; and some are fake and useless. Whatever I am grateful to live during this period of rapid change in ICT. It is a great enabler and disruptor. It is up to us to make the best use of its various abilities and capability to make our life better and safer.
Back in the mid-1980s, a new type of clubhouse got very popular with the middle class and corporate executives back then. I was a member of Kelab Darul Ehsan(KDE),Ampang, Selangor. I joined the club because I used to work for the holding company that owned KDE and its location was about 5km from my house in Taman Maluri. At KDE, we have restaurants, swimming pools, gymnasium and an 18-hole golf course. I just managed to get 24 handicaps to allow me to play golf. Compared to the Rumah Kelab in my village, this is a heaven on earth. With MERDEKA and the growth of the middle class, more and more people are enjoying a better lifestyle-especially those political elites, senior government officers and senior corporate executives. I could still remember when I went for lunch at The Banker’s Club, I was told to put on a tie. As a working CEO then, I only wear white with a dark blue jacket.
In the days before we had hotels all over the cities and the towns, we had Rest Houses for government officers when they travel for business or for leisure. When I was the JKR District Engineer for Alor Setar, I usually stayed at Kedah House in Penang whenever I went shopping there. It cost me RM30 for a room! It was cheap in the ’80s. It was one of the benefits of being a government officer who earned a lower salary than those working in the private sector back then. Nowadays, it is better to work for the government.
In 2003, my friend Wan Hulaimi took me to Paris for a weekend retreat from London. We had a cappuccino and latte at the famous Le Deux Magot Cafe at Latin Quarters in Paris. It was here where the intellectuals of Paris talked about philosophy, politics, economy and social issues. The cafe in Paris is another form of clubhouse for those who shared the same interests. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was not easy to write and to print and spread ideas. It is here in the cafe where the discussion took place and ideas spread by words of mouths. The cafes are the breeding ground for a revolution in the 18th Century and nationalism in the 19th Century. Beware of cafes and coffee.
The word club means a group of people who share ideas, lifestyles, hobbies and even business interests with other club members. House is the physical place to meet and interact. Now the ‘house’ has gone virtual. It is online -floating in the cybersphere. Thank God, we still have our Kedai Kopi(coffee shops), Kopitiam and Starbuck around as our real clubhouses to meet friends and business associates. When I was a student at Sheffield University, I had to go to the pub to discuss engineering subjects with my lecturer!
Places can take many forms-physical or virtual. It is the conversations that matter.