The Passing of A Friend – Yusof Ismail

Two days ago (Saturday), I saw an sms from a primary school  friend, informing me of the passing of our friend, Yusof Ismail(YI), just the night before. The guy who sms-ed me was Yusof Yaacob (YY).

yi_1Yusof Ismail, the last time I saw him, during a re-union in 2002!

Yeah, we used to have 2 Yusofs in the class, and YI is known as the Big Yusof, while YY is known as the Small Yusof.

YI succumbed to diabetes. A few weeks ago YY sms-ed me, and also wrote in our e-group about YI being admitted into the hospital in Kota Bharu, and had his leg amputated 🙁 .

Let’s see how much I can remember about YI…

YI and I were classmates the moment I came back to Kelantan from Singapore in 1970. We were in primary 2. YY was still in a different class then. Later all three of us, plus a few others became and remained classmates until we finished our primary school.

I do have special memories of YI. First, we were both the tallest boy and girl, respectively in the class, so, many friends liked to tease us. YI seemed to enjoy the teasing, but not me. We had a love-hate relationship – I liked him as a friend but when he started making passes at me, I hated it.

Later I found out that even his family knew about me! I didn’t like that either. Actually I was fuming with anger! Despite that, when he competed in sports, together with other friends, I would cheer for him!

On the other hand, I built a special relationship with his father. He was a well-known cab-driver in town, and a very nice man, was always extremely nice to me! When I was in secondary school, and had to take the cab to go back to Kota Bharu (i.e. to school), and YI’s dad, who was affectionately known as “Tok Ayah”, would make sure I got the front seat (next to the driver), so that I didn’t have to sit with other strangers, especially male passengers.  It was so even if it was not his turn to drive. Those cabs, or “kereta sewa” would only make a move when it gets 4 passengers for each trip. Tok Ayah would refer to me as his “daughter-in-law-to-be” (Menantu Ayah), of course jokingly, and I just had to put a smiling face. I just didn’t have the heart to tell this jovial man that I would never fall for his son, who always faired poorer than me in class! (I might sound aloof,   but reality is, I needed someone I could look up to, to be “that special person” to me).

(remembering the comics of Tok Ayah always makes me smile alone 🙂 )

I was told by other friends that YI was actually a few years older than the rest of us. He started schooling in a Malay school, and later when he wanted to join our school (National-type English Primary School), he started in primary 1 again! I don’t know how his parents forged his birth certificate, but in those days, it was no uncommon for people to do so.

YI was active in sports, and he was The MSSK (Majlis Sukan Sekolah-sekolah Kelantan) Sportsman for 2 yearsi.e. 1973 (I think) and 1974. He became the champ for high jump and long jump (under-12 category) – no surprise, right?

Here’s a photo of us when we were in primary 4 (10 years old?). I found the photo in the photo folder of our e-group (thanks to YY, who is the one standing in the middle row, far right):


I am the one standing behind the headmistress, (the late) Puan Rabiatul (the teacher in the middle), and YI is the one standingbetween me and the girl in the pinafore (back row). I know the pic is too small but at least you have some idea how tall YI was, and how tall I was too 🙂 .

I didn’t see YI again after I left primary school. I actually saw more of Tok Ayah then!

The first and the last time I met him (after we left primary school), was during a re-union (during Raya) in 2002. The above pic was taken then. Here’s a pic of us having food together, and reminiscing the good old time:


There’s a bit of me on the right (in red).

I remember YI was telling us that her daughter was getting married 🙂 .

I am glad I had that chat with him then. To my other friends, when are we going to have another re-union?

We can’t wait for too long. Life is indeed very short!

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