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Sunday, 8th March 2020, Kuala Lumpur

Music, love, respect and appreciation took center stage at this Sunday luncheon extravaganza

(editor’s note: As our W. Bro Manoj Sharma wrote this article he could hardly say much about just how instrumental he was in making this wonderful event a standout success. So, I will say it for all of us who attended. Our W Bro is a consummate Emcee, with artistic talents galore, that he so generously and freely puts to use for our entertainment. Of this there is no doubt)

With the theme of "this is your masonic life” and the oldies but goodies music blasting us back to the good old days there is no doubt this Appreciation Luncheon held by the Brethren for their DGM, RW Bro Dato Jeyaraj Ratnaswamy was a huge, memorable and meaningful event. One for the ages.

The Word Spread Like Wildfire

It was Thursday, the 23rd of January 2020. Our District Grand Master (DGM) R. W. Bro. Jeyaraj Ratnaswamy, made it public at the Festive Board following the Selangor Chapter meeting that effective the 31st of March 2020, he would be stepping down from his position as our Ruler, as he had to take up a job with the Malaysian Government. The Companions present were stunned. Nobody, absolutely nobody saw it coming. The word spread around like wildfire, across the Eastern Archipelago via text messages. Many spoke with him thereafter. He was thanked for his leadership by Brethren and requested to continue in the role.

Eastern Archipelago Stewards Lodge Goes Into Top Gear

That same evening at 10:20pm, I was on a chat with W. Bro. Niran Rajaratnam, the Worshipful Master (WM) of the Eastern Archipelago District Grand Stewards Lodge (EADGSL) No. 9888 E.C.. Seven minutes later, we came to the conclusion, whatever the reasons for his resignation, we should show our appreciation. The conversation ended on that note.

Four days later, at the break of dawn, the WM got in touch and said he was planning an official lunch and would seek the assistance of Brethren from the EADGSL. He broached the idea of presenting a "this is your masonic life” and invited me to lead it. I thanked him for his kind invite and suggested he reconsider his choice. About a week later, we started bouncing off ideas, got into further details and clarified our objectives and roles. He said he’ll deal with the logistics of the venue, registrations, payments since he was in KL. He gave me carte blanche to come up with the creative, involve whomever I felt was necessary and organise the rest as I saw fit from Singapore. Thus began even more days of planning over how best to do things in the limited time. We texted, spoke when we could, but never once organised a committee meeting nor got a chance to meet, till the day before the event, when I made my way up to Kuala Lumpur. Yet the process was fluid and I deeply appreciate the candour, professionalism and trust between us and the other Brethren who subsequently stepped up to assist with various things.

The Brethren Rally Together

We didn’t have much time during the day, so in the evenings and on weekends while W. Bro. Niran dealt with the logistics and registrations, I spoke with Brethren across the Eastern Archipelago. The plan was to stitch together the DGM’s masonic journey from a country lodge in Seremban to becoming our DGM. I must confess, I was bowled over by the reverential terms in which everyone spoke about him, without always knowing precisely what I was asking the questions I was asking for. As things moved along a clear picture appeared. With 2 weeks to go, after toying with different concepts, I settled upon a musical theme for the event. This was after confirming that the DGM not just loved his music but was fond of a particular era and type of music. It’s probably unnecessary in this article to get into further details of the concept, as the ultimate intention was served - to have a happy and memorable lunch for the DGM, with him feeling our love, respect and appreciation for all that he has done for us and our District.

Music to Bring Us All Down Memory Lane

Instrumental to this were the fun loving, good sports that the following Brethren were, in delivering heartfelt speeches on behalf of the Brethren of our District. They took the DGM down memory lane and in two cases, even sang three songs.

V. W. Bro. Alan “Hound Dog” Tang

W. Bro. Jacob “Dr. Love” Pang

W. Bro. Danny “Piano Man” Koh

W. Bro. Karuna “Crooner” Moorthy

W. Bro. Ahmalu “Eagle” Rajah

W. Bro. Vijendran “Times Are Changing” Markandu

W. Bro. Vijay “Brown Sugar” Natarajan

W. Bro. Rajash “Bohemian Rhapsody” Singh

W. Bro. Niran “Not An Englishman" Rajarathnam

W. Bro. Kenneth “Sergeant Peppers” Khoo

W. Bro. K. “Rastafarian” Jeyaraj

Much “R E S P E C T” to Anne Eu for her written speech and Jane for making the all important presentation of a gift, (that was especially chosen by W. Bro. Niran) on behalf of the ladies and Brethren present.

W. Bro. Karunamoorty, then tail-ended the speeches and presentation, with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, to add to W. Bro. Danny Koh’s earlier renditions of “Come Fly With Me” and “I Got The World On A String”. The three songs represented the 3 phases of our DGM rulership to date. The first phase being him inviting the Brethren to come step up and go along with him on the journey of uplifting the District. The second phase being a representation of how at ease he became at fulfilling his role and orchestrating the myriad affairs of the District, the visible peaks of which were the wonderful Tercentenary Celebrations in Kuala Lumpur and the Bicentenary Celebrations in Singapore. The third phase being how clearly he had thus far left his mark on our District in his detail oriented, open and inimitable way.

The almost 300 people gathered sung along to the last verse of “My Way” and awaited the DGM’s response. He stepped up to the tune of, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to accompany his earlier entrance to another Pink Floyd classic, “Another Brick In The Wall”. Everyone listened expectantly. Some with visible sadness in their eyes. Others with a buoyancy of spirit due to the lighthearted affair. All with their ears perked up just in case any clues were dropped.

DGM started on a lighthearted note

The DGM started on a lighthearted note and elaborated on the photo that I used as the backdrop, selected from gigabytes of archives, that I felt best represented him in a snapshot. He then commented how lucky it was that we called it an appreciation lunch (an absolute last minute switch the day before the event) and not a farewell lunch, as after the 31st of March, April’s Fool might just follow. He got the Brethren and Gentleman to stand, raise our glasses to toast the ladies present, as it was International Women’s Day. He thanked the ladies for adding colour to our proceeding over the last four years and for beefing up our numbers. He thanked the almighty, his dear wife Jane, his son Ralph and family members for standing by him. He thanked me, W. Bros. Bernard, Niran, Karuna and all those who helped put together this event. He then turned his attention to address the Brethren at large and mentioned, none of what was achieved in the four years was possible without the Brethren of the District, that maybe he guided it in some ways, but that was about it. He invited the Brethren to give themselves a round of applause. He quoted from an earlier speech by W. Bro. Vijendran and said, “Change will happen and change must happen”. He assured us that as time goes on, there will be another Brother who will rise up and take the District from strength to strength. He highlighted how we were one of the favourites of Grand Lodge and they put us on a high pedestal. He gave hearty congratulations to W. Bro. Khoo Boon Khean, who was just elected to be the Grand Master of Grand Lodge Mark Master Masons of South East Asia, and also the Grand Master of Grand Council of Royal Select Master of South East Asia that same morning. He thanked us all for coming, by sacrificing our Sunday siesta. He concluded by saying how blessed, honoured and indeed humbled he was by all the kind words of thanks and appreciation and may God bless us.

As usual he did not fail to deliver an enthralling speech. With that concluded the official proceedings on stage.

A Four Hour Luncheon and No One Wanted To Leave

The event lasted for almost 4 hours, from 11:45 am till 3:30 pm. Thanks are also due to W. Bro. Bernard Au, who worked tirelessly with me on the cuts of music and helped with audio visual on the day. W. Bros. El Tai, Xavier Goh, Douglas Chow for assisting with photography and archives. W. Bro. Louis Ruehlmann for helping with the guest book. W. Bro. Ngeoh Jian Cong and his team for the videography. The Brethren of the EADGSL for all the many things you did. And most importantly the close to 300 ladies and Brethren who turned up to make it a very special event. The event was a culmination of all your effort and was much appreciated by our DGM.

I trust the following short video put together by W. Bro. Ngeoh Jian Cong and the photo montage put together by yours truly, serves as a suitable historical reminder of the fun had by all.

Do watch the video till the message at the end, it should serve as a dose of good cheer during the lockdown caused by Covid-19.

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