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A Day's Snipe Shooting
It is a surprising fact that I have come across countless numbers of boys and girls who do not know what snipes are. They haven't even heard of them. This ignorance may be due to the fact that the malarial conditions of Malayan outdoor life have discouraged people from venturing out to satisfy their curiosity. Out of my lean and low ability I will try to bring to my reader's mind a picture of a snipe.
The snipe is a species of waterfowl. It has long thin legs, a black and white mottled back which makes it very difficult to distinguish from the marshes and swamps which it - frequents - and a clean white breast and a thin long beak. On the whole it is as large as a skylark but is more fleshy and muscular and is a first class swimmer and diver. But the snipe is a very crafty bird. It shows great presence of mind when it is in danger.
But reader, talking about snipes makes my mouth water. I did not know a dish could be so tasty - there are no adequate words to describe it - but this is on condition that you can depend on the cook. It was after having tasted these delicious birds that my interest in snipes - and the whole animal world - was awakened. I heard that the snipes which were given me to eat were shot that morning in the mining marshes of Ulu Yam. I was then all eagerness to go shooting and I worried some friends of mine to take me along. They seemed only too glad to oblige me but it was only after the trip that I found the joke behind the willingness - every man without a gun in the hand had to pick up fallen birds.
Saturday morning found me on the road to Ulu Yam in a Morris Minor. It was very early in the morning and the sun was scarcely up. I was dressed in a khaki jacket and pants with boots and puttees to match. Everything below my waist was perfectly dry and clean. I felt perfectly comfortable and happy. Surely, I thought, shooting snipes was child's play. But woe is me, I was soon to learn my lesson.
When we arrived at our destination, imagine my dismay when I saw before my eyes a typical Malayan marsh, a sight not at all pleasant. The bushes and scrubs fairly terrified me because they housed the only things I dreaded in life. Believe me, I don't mind facing the King of the Beasts but I would certainly pass into the happy hunting grounds even at the sight of a dead snake. To add to all these horrors the dirty stagnant water surrounded the whole place. The soft grey mud and decayed vegetation gave off an unpleasant odour.
My friends, having had previous experience, were discussing the weather. One even said that the weather was fine - and fine indeed it was I thought! We broke into parties and I was told to follow three gentlemen with guns. Since we couldn't shoot from the road we entered the marsh and started tramping through it. The soft mud sank under our feet and the water bubbled at every step. Silently we tramped through the grey dawn and I was rather surprised to find that there were no snipes about, The cold air made my teeth chatter and gradually a cold shiver began to run up and down my spine because my boots had become not only wet and muddy, and also very irritating. By the time we had done a mile, I was wet up to my knees and my boots, were heavy with clogged mud and my curiosity was somewhat damped. Presently the sun was seen peeping over the horizon and the birds of the forest began to see another day of their life.
The sun came up rapidly and it was about six o'clock when my friends suggested that it was time they had a shot. But instead of looking up they were looking at the marshes and water. Presently, one of them pointed to a bush about 20 yards away and told the others that that was their mark. I was told to go and beat the bush. I didn't know the reason but being a greenhorn I had to obey though my heart was in my mouth for I expected to come upon a family of crawlers. With falling steps, I approached the dreaded spot and made some feeble attempts at beating it. But my friends yelled at me to walk through and make as much noise as possible and to keep up my dignity. I followed their instructions when all of a sudden changk! - changk! changk! went the snipes around me, shooting up into the air at lightning speed. The surprise was scarce over when bang! bang! bang! came the shots all around me. I stood still paralysed with fear and the Good Lord be praised that I did so. I cursed the makers of arms and ammunition. I cursed my friends. I cursed the snipes for having lured me to such danger and I cursed myself for having been a greedy fool. And for all that, the miserable nincompoops had only succeeded in bringing down one of those birds. I came back with the trophy and laughed at my friends, though the joke was on me.
But I was soon to learn that shooting snipes was not quite so simple as shooting at targets. Of my companions, an Indian was the outstanding shot. After some time shooting, I felt that I could safely play the part of William Tell's son to that Indian. The difficulty was that there was not time for aiming and the target was constantly on the move. So after I had heard about a hundred blasts, I had the satisfaction of seeing about sixty snipes. They were indeed a sight for sore eyes. The thought of roast snipes for dinner drove me on and once more I felt cheerful. But my troubles were not over.
It was about 11 o'clock when one of my friends brought down a snipe which fell about 50 yards away. I ran across to pick it but when I came near to it my legs went deeper and deeper into the mud. I was about ten yards from the snipe and already my feet were two feet in the mud. But what I hadn't noticed in my eagerness I now recollected with a shock. I was gradually sinking. I wriggled to get out but the more I moved my body the more I sank when to my great horror I found myself waist-deep in the mud. I yelled for help and my friends proved worse than Job's comforters. They laughed heartily for about five minutes and then told me to keep still and I only knew too well the consequences if I moved. They then threw a pole across and dragged me to safety. But I really thought that I was three feet towards my grave. This kind of swamp is what the Malays call tanah goyang which consists of water and decayed vegetation.
To add to all these disappointments, I was not given an equal share. Gunners had equal shares and I got a few odd birds for all the trouble I had taken. It was about 2 o'clock when I reached home tired and hungry. Never before did I realize how sweet life was. But the sweetness of snipes counteracted the sweetness of life and yours truly is now an experienced snipe shooter.
The thoroughly selfish man aims at obtaining as much happiness as possible for himself and does not care whether other people are happy or miserable. In order to attain his object, he tries to appropriate as large a share as possible of the good things of this world. Whenever he has an opportunity of doing so, he enjoys himself, though his enjoyment is obtained at the expense of his fellow men.
All over the world we find the selfish taking an unfair share of everything, and trying their best to use others as means for the attainment of their pleasure. They seem to be quite blind to the fact that by this course of life they are to a certain extent sacrificing their general happiness for the sake of a limited number of very invaluable pleasures. It is quite possible that a selfish man may be winning and may induce his friends and relations to sacrifice their interests to his.
It sometimes happens that there is, in a family, a notoriously selfish person, who makes himself or herself intensely disagreeable if crossed in any way. Such disagreeable persons often have their desires gratified at the expense of the more amiable members of the family, who are known to be unselfish and do not resent any wrong done to them. But in the long run they fall in their own object, and find that by exclusive attention to their own happiness they have deprived themselves of the highest and most permanent sources of happiness. Therefore the best way to be happy is to make others happy.
Effects of the Slump
Slump is a curse to the world as it is detrimental to the welfare and prosperity of the general public and individuals at large, followed by so much chaos and confusion on all sides.
While production has been striding along, consumption has been limited. This phenomenon is followed by trade depression, and consequently exports have stopped. A country like Malaya, which depends on rubber and tin alone has to struggle hard to meet its current expenditure. So many solutions and schemes were tried by the Rubber Growers Association, Tin Planning Association and Planters Association of Malaya, in turn, but all with little or no effect.
A keen observer who goes out for a ride will see many shops closed, mines left deserted and rubber estates forsaken. It is hardly possible for an observer to cross a street where there is not a notice printed "To Let" on the door of a shop. The Indian coolies are repatriated and committees have been formed to support the unemployed of each community. The tin restriction has been enforced to raise the price of tin and consequently increase its importance.
The revenue of the government is dwindling, and such things as retrenchment and drastic cuts in the recurrent expenditure are seriously contemplated. .
While the resources of a country are of little avail, new methods should be adopted to relieve it. Malaya which does not cultivate foodstuffs should encourage this cultivation. The High Commissioner even felt this need and appointed a committee to examine the suitability of the ground to cultivate rice and other cereals. The committee's reports were very satisfactory and schemes have been devised to better the prospect of the cultivator, incidentally making Malaya an agricultural country.
If the aims of these people are achieved, there is no reason in the future why Malaya, even when a worse slump sets in, should fear the soundness of its potentialities.
The Awakening World
Hast thou no ear to hear my call,
Which gladly summons lingering light?
Or hast thy pride disdain'd my fall?
The Prince of Night in slumber reigns
Like sleeping infant in a bed.
So still the world endures its pains
To rise, tho' Time has gone ahead.
But hark! amidst the country round
And far and near among the farms,
I hear sweet chirps, I see lambs bound;
I hear the crowing cock's alarms.
The drowsy lilies of the fount,
The drooping forests of the wild
And dewy grasses of the mount
Once more await the daylight mild.
Behold! the Prince now fades away
And Dawn Majestic from her birth,
Ascends to rule the Throne of Day,
To send Sun's light to ends of Earth.
The glimmering light announces day!
The golden glow advances fast,
For Phoebus speeds his coaches' way,
Until the bright Morn comes at last!
It was ten in the morning. The sky was clear and the sun was quite high up in the heavens. I was alone in my house passing away the time in reading an interesting detective novel. My parents, brothers and sisters had gone to Tanjong Malim to visit some friends leaving my servant and me in charge of the house. They had left home at daybreak and were to return two days later. Not requiring the services of my servant for some hours, I gave him permission to go and visit his uncle. I had locked all the doors and windows of my house except the two windows and a door in the front of the house and as explained in the beginning of this article, I was deeply engrossed in the detective novel.
The sudden blast of a motorcar horn disturbed me. I did not at first take much notice of it, for my house was very close to that of a Chinese who received many visitors everyday. Then I saw a man who was of the same nationality as I making signs to me. I put my book carefully down on the chair on which I had been sitting and hurried to the stranger.
He was a man of about twenty-five, huge and very strong, with a walrus moustache adorning his upper lip. He looked to be uneducated and fierce. He asked me if I could show him where a person he named lived. I knew the person he wanted very well and began to give him directions leading to the house. He silenced me by saying that he was a new arrival and consequently had no idea of the roads of Kuala Lumpur. After some hesitation, I promised to show him the house, provided he took me there and back in his car. He at once agreed and I told him that I would be with him in ten minutes. Having hurriedly changed and locked the door and windows I went to my neighbour's house and handed to him the key of the front door lock with a request to hand it over to my servant if he happened to return before I did.
I hurried back to the stranger who had been watching my movements with much interest and was about to go and sit by the side of the driver when he, smilingly, offered me a seat beside him at the back. Thanking him I sat by his side and began to direct the driver to the house which was a mile from mine. On our way we had to pass a very lonely road. The driver increased the speed and the car being an old Ford burst into a deafening roar. I began to be afraid and suspicious. Here was a man who wanted me to show him a certain house, but for him to break into such terrific speed without caring to take instructions made me suspicious. While I was thus occupied, I heard him shout out, "Look! look! a child has been run over by a car." I was in the act of turning my head to the pointed side when I felt something heavy fall on my head and something, which seemed like a handkerchief, being wrapped round my mouth, before I could cry out for help. I began to feel dizzy and weak and darkness came over me, and I became unconscious.
I knew nothing more until I woke up and found myself lying on a rough bed with my hands tied behind my back in a room with only one window. The furniture in the room which I saw at a glance was roughly made consisted of a single evil-smelling bed, a home made table and two stools and a few picture cuttings pasted untidily on the walls. The floor which was made of rough cement was very dirty and looked as if it had not been swept for months. As I was thus occupied in in observations, I suddenly heard a key being turned in a lock. Thinking that my captors were coming to see whether I had regained consciousness or not, I shut my eyes and appeared to be unconscious. The door opened slowly and a head followed and then three persons stepped boldly into the room. I opened my eyes slightly and instantly recognised the stranger in the Ford car, who seemed to be the leader. They went to the window and door and made sure that I could not escape. The leader then gave me a kick. I neither flinched nor cried out but remained like a corpse for fear of further violence.
Seeing that I was still unconscious they went out of the room locking the door carefully. I at once got out of the bed and quietly walked to the keyhole and listened to their conversation. I heard the leader telling his colleagues his plan which was to leave me alone in the room as I was not strong enough to escape and all three of them were to go to Kuala Lumpur and write a letter to my father demanding a ransom. With a deep sigh and the laughter of the three still ringing in my ears, I put my head between my hands and began to curse myself for coming out with a complete stranger. Suddenly I heard footsteps approaching my room. A key was turned in the lock, the door was flung open and the same three men walked into the room. They seemed to be very determined to carry out their plans.
Without any hesitation, I got out of my bed and in a voice which I could scarcely recognise as my own asked my captors why they had shut me up in the room and were starving me in this manner. Their leader smiled and told me that he and his comrades were out of a job and, finding it hard to earn their daily bread, had kidnapped me to extort money from my father. Suddenly he changed his manner and in a stern voice told me to write a letter to my father telling him that I was being treated very kindly and not starved and asking him for money. He told me that if I did not agree I was to be starved to death in that dungeon.
I was in an awful situation. I suddenly thought of a secret code which only my father, my brothers and I understood. A letter in this code required a certain amount of time to prepare, so I told my captors I had no materials with which to write the letter. Two of them went to find the required writing materials and left the third in charge of me. This man, thinking me to be a weakling lay down on the bed and ordered me to sit on a home-made stool which was lying opposite the bed. I sat on the stool and began to think of the letter. The secret of this code was that every fifth word only was to be considered when reading the message. I at once thought of eighteen words which were to be the message and set myself to find the remaining seventy-two and arranging them so as to give the message an innocent appearance.
After an interval of about twenty minutes and just as I had finished composing my message, the two returned bringing writing materials, a small bunch of bananas and a bottle of tea. With them was a third man, who was also of the same race as his comrades. The leader spoke kindly to me and asked me to help myself to the refreshments that he had brought. He further asked me to write the letter and at the same time warned me not to try any monkey tricks since he had brought a friend who would check what I wrote. I then proceeded to write the following letter:-
My dear and loving Father,
Bearer and his comrades have given me assurance that no injury will be done. Fear need not be entertained. Am held for ransom of quite a large sum. Am safe if you pay bearer only two thousand. I am being looked after well. Not starved or ill treated. For a day I had very little hope. If you can pay the money there is nothing to fear. I fully hope that you will manage to find the means to get me out of and away from this wretched place soon.
At the end of the letter I signed my name. The leader handed it to the third person who read it and explained the contents word for word to the leader. He seemed to be very pleased. They did not in the least realize that the letter was totally against their interests and that it did not contain the same message as they thought it did. In fact, taking every fifth word, the message actually read:-
Have no fear. Am quite safe. Only being starved a little. Pay nothing. Hope to get away soon.
The leader took the letter and, putting it in his breast pocket, left the room with his comrades and locked the door from the outside. The next thing I heard was the noise of the same old Ford being started and driven away. I went to the window and on close examination found that the shutters had been nailed to the frame. I further found that the wood was rotten and might yield to my hard knocks. A stool was to be my battering weapon, and for fear that that operation might attract the attention of the kidnappers if any of them happened to be nearby, I thought of a plan. I began to groan very loudly and yelled out saying that I had a stomachache. Receiving no reply I peeped through the keyhole to make sure that no one was in the vicinity of the house. I could not look through the keyhole because there was something in the keyhole which I thought must be the key itself. I further began to shout and knock on the door. Still no one answered me.
I gave up my first plan and thought of trying another. I took off my shirt and spread it out and pushed it under the door so that if I should manage to make the key fall it would fall on my shirt. I looked for something with which to push the key out and I was lucky enough to find a nail embedded in the earth floor of the room. With the help of this nail I managed to push the key out of its hole and it fell on my shirt. I carefully drew back my shirt and picked up the key with which I opened the door. Stepping out I found myself in a hall with all its windows shut and no one in sight. I thanked my lucky stars and breathed a silent prayer. I opened one of the windows and got out.
The position of the sun indicated that it must be about 5 p.m. I hurried away and came to a path down which I walked for about five minutes. Fear of running into my captors overcame me. Somehow the place seemed familiar to me. I was relieved to see a coolie cutting grass. On enquiring I found that I was within ten minutes walk of Batu Arang Railway Station. The coolie told me that the path I was taking led straight to the station. I broke into a trot and in a few minutes reached the railway station. By now I was well acquainted with the place for I had been there once with my father. The last train to Kuala Lumpur had left; therefore, I went to the house of a friend of my father's and stayed the night there.
I related my experiences to my host who, the next morning, took me in his own car to Kuala Lumpur. When I reached home, I found that my father for certain reasons had not gone to Tanjong Malim and had received the letter that I had written and one which the kidnappers had written asking him to place a certain amount of money in a certain place and time. He had read and understood my bold letter but did not know what to do. When my father saw me he was very glad and reported the matter to the police. The police with my help succeeded in rounding up the kidnappers and bringing them to justice. Thus ended my wonderful adventure.
The Spirit of Adventure
Ever since civilization was born, man in all spheres has been guided by various sentiments. Philosophy, religion, and virtue are the better forms of human nature, while on the other hand, we have lust, injustice and rapacity. Mankind has done good, and has done bad through these qualities. Each trait has its place in history, and it is possible to enumerate persons inspired or actuated by each of these feelings. But one great factor has not been named and this is the spirit of adventure.
What is this so-called spirit of adventure? It is as hard to answer as the question "What is life?" or Pilate's famous enquiry, "What is truth?" Individuals attribute individual renderings. To some adventure is everything, to others nothing, while yet some, to save themselves the trouble of thinking, remain indifferent.
The spirit of adventure may he defined, although very inadequately, as one of God's good gifts that drives persons and nations into the obscure and unknown to kill humdrum. It is the incentive to brave hidden dangers and unseen obstacles. Because of this, it possesses a special appeal to youth. The desire for adventure, glorious, hilarious adventure, is inherent in man, passing down the centuries, inciting people in different ages. Adventure is the medicine for that very serious ill - boredom.
Mr. H. G. Wells said that a bored person would willingly commit murder or some such cruel thing. One can imagine how humdrum, dull and monotonous life would be without thrills, and thrills can only be appreciated if mankind has the love for things out of the ordinary. Life must have some outlet for surplus energy, and one of these outlets is adventure. It is to kill boredom and its adherent evils that young people throw all comforts of luxurious homes to the wind, grasp knapsacks, don old clothes and roam into the strange, the new and the thrilling.
The man of the world asks, "What are the advantages gained by this spirit of adventure?" The answer is "The whole of modern enterprise and achievement." Indeed, adventure and progress are twin brothers, going hand in hand. "Nothing venture, nothing gained." "Safety first" is actually "safety last" to full-blooded youths. The modern British Empire is a glowing example of the result of this love for adventure. The sons of the seas of Great Britain are stirring examples of those who follow the call of adventure.
Not the remotest chance of success is possible without this spirit of adventure. The mighty Roman and Greek Empires from which all modern art, philosophy, and literature have come, would not be household words, as they are now, if the ancient Greeks and Romans had not made themselves worthy of posterity's envy. These empires were founded simply because the desire for adventure had been inculcated into these nations to make them forsake paltry house interests for the more noble work of colonisation and territorial expansion. Rome and Greece would certainly have not leapt to the limelight had they not followed adventure's call.
Therefore so long as noble motives guide the human race, so long as humanity is open to thrills, so long as we are human, this spirit of adventure will ever guide us. In fact so long as national honour and glory retain their meanings as they do now, love for adventure will never be quelled or submerged.
The Fishing Industry in Malaya
Fishing is one of the leading industries of Malaya. It is carried on by three types of people, namely, the Japanese, Malays, and the Chinese. The Japanese have always been so ambitious a people that, at the present day, they have acquired European methods of fishing. They have a small but a very efficient fleet of motorboats in which they spend a few days fishing miles from the mainland. They use drift nets to catch a species of fish known as ikan merah. This fish is about the size of an English sole and is of a reddish hue. It frequents the deep waters to which the Japanese go. This fish is caught in a very peculiar way. The nets are lowered and expert swimmers are employed to chase the fish into the nets. The nets are then hauled on board and the fish are packed in ice and salt. This method of catching this fish is, in a sense, dangerous for some divers have been known to have been killed by sharks while others have been entangled in their nets. Although these are horrible deaths to meet, yet the casualties are few for the Japanese divers are brave and fear nothing. They have been so prosperous that they have also founded a club for Japanese fisherman in Singapore.
The Malay fisherman comes next in the quality of fish caught. He does not use nets but he uses a line and hook, or wire and basket traps. The traps are placed in position at early morning and in the evening they are taken up by the fisher who has to dive down for them. His catch, of course, is small and not of much value. On the other hand the fish caught by hook and line are large and very delicious. The majority of the fish caught in this way are the ikan parang. It is a fairly large fish which has small silvery scales.
The Chinese come next, as far as quality is concerned, although they exceed their rivals in the amount procured. The Chinese fisherman is a humble man who lives in a poorly furnished hut beside the sea. There are many Chinese fishing villages in Malaya and heading each is the chief fisherman. These fishermen use long wooden boats which are not made to stand heavy seas, for they fish within a mile of the coast. They go out every day when the tide is retreating. When they reach the fishing grounds they release their nets little by little over a semi-circular course. The nets are held afloat by blocks of light wood, while the bottom is weighted with iron rings. When this encirclement is over, the crew stand on a sand bank, and gradually draw their nets in. This way of fishing enables them to catch many kinds of fish, which abound in these waters. The catch is then placed in the boats to be sorted. The crew get a few fish for themselves, while the others are sold.
A Trip to Morib
The idea of an excursion to Morib, a seaside resort, was proposed towards the end of the third term by the boys of standard VII A. This was greeted with exclamations of joy by those who had not visited the place, those who had done well in the examination and those who had plenty of pocket money. So it was fixed that the trip should take place on Sunday, September 11th, 1932.
On the appointed day before the appointed hour, being anxious not to miss the bus which was to take us to our destination, I made my way to the school. Before long, I discerned another coming up the school road, and soon afterwards many more boys arrived. The bus arrived at 7.30 a.m. and after making room for our form master, we started on our journey. We stopped at Brickfields Road near the Catholic Church to pick up more boys, and with their addition, we were, as one would say, packed like sardines. The bus started again, despite the suspicious eyes of many policemen, and made a non-stop run to Morib.
Soon we left the town behind us and those of us who were in buoyant spirits could not refrain from giving vent to their feelings by singing some of the latest popular hits. Between snatches of songs, we managed to glance occasionally at the beautiful scenery along the road to Klang. On reaching KIang the bus crossed the Belfield Bridge and we rumbled past the Klang Convent just before the junction of the Simpang Lima.
The scenery was more now pleasing, pineapple and oil palm plantations being part of it, and coffee and tapioca estates and oil factories were constantly in the horizon. During one part of the journey we saw a stream in which black water was flowing. When we were all getting tired of sitting down we suddenly saw the sand gleaming through the rows of coconuts. We then knew that we had arrived at Morib. As soon as the bus stopped, we jumped down as quickly as we could. After stretching out our cramped limbs we set out to make a day of it.
We stripped to our singlets and shorts, and went off in separate directions. Besides cricket bats, balls and a football we had also brought a gramophone, and as the tide was not in yet, we cranked up this instrument and played some records (despite the furious and equally irritating glances and stares of the other occupants of the beach). Some played cricket, some played football and yet others played rounders, but an hour later we ended our games and went for a stroll along the beach. On the way, some of us collected hermit crabs for our little brothers at home and when we left Morib a number of these poor crabs were in each boy's pockets.
At 12.30 p.m. when the tide came in, we waded into the water, and played a curious game of water polo. After half-an-hour's swim we changed into dry clothes and, at this juncture, our lunch-baskets occupied some of our time. To prevent our stomachs from disagreeing with the curry, we took another stroll along the beach. Some who were too heavy to move stayed behind and gave the gramophone some work to do. Soon after our return we went into the water again and had our last swim for the day. We put on our everyday clothes again and bade farewell to Morib. We started at 4 p.m. but many of us were too tired to talk and slept with their heads on the laps of our friends. Kuala Lumpur was reached at 5 minutes to six and a weary, yet happy, party clambered from the bus to cycle home after an enjoyable day at the seaside.
Is Life Worth Living?
We, who have been launched upon this great stage through no fault of our own to fight and brave the jealousy, greed, cunning and sins of mankind, often have to struggle, fall and rise again in a bitter fight for existence in a world where the motto is "the weakest must go to the wall," to be tossed about like rudderless ships on a seething ocean, to become the helpless playthings of a whimsical God, who as he blesses with the one hand seems also to curse with the other. We put to ourselves this question 'Is life worth living'?
The optimist decides to fight his fate while others find refuge in the mighty power of a little bullet. Life is wretched, life is miserable, life is sordid but life is also glorious, it is wonderful. God who made the good things of the world made also the bad that by looking at the bad we may the more easily appreciate good. He who made the angel willed that there should also be the devil and He who gave the life that is the most cherished possession of mankind, brought in death to rob us of it; He who made the wonders of the world - nature and beauty - decreed that there should also be greed and jealousy, and we, mankind, the wonderful objects of His creation have multiplied evil, driving the good to the background of the stage. We have made the world the evil thing that it is and unless mankind begins to take a different outlook on life, He may find it necessary to cleanse the world by a destruction far worse than the Great Flood.
Many, indeed, are the men who after a hard and bitter experience have found life deceptive, cruel and unkind, but I, who am on the threshold of life with an unsullied soul and an undefiled body, believe that, to me and to those of my age, life is worth living. Life promises great things but mankind is inclined to misrepresent and misunderstand these things. He seems to think that to be successful in life is to be an owner of plenty but he fails to realise that the beauties of life are in nature, that he that finds solace in nature is nearer to God than he who thinks that happiness is in wealth.
Mankind seeks beauty and it is the material beauty that he always thinks about; the beauty of buildings which must necessarily fall one day, the beauty of the woman which like a flower is in bloom for sometime only and then withers away, and when this beauty vanishes as it ought to, he finds life hideous and beautyless but if he only knew that there is beauty in nature that lasts forever and is still the same when we, the products of dust, are dust again, that there is beauty in the most common things around us, that there is beauty even in a raindrop falling; then perhaps he will find the happiness that makes life worth living. Nature is a mystery, no man has understood it quite, but we can be happy even if we understand a little of it.
At night nature stands unmasked; the stars wink out of the bosom of heaven shedding their tiny rays of light on the watcher; the trees stand in silent communion with their God - Nature; the moon smiles radiantly shy, holding out her arms to us. How often have we, when out on a moonlight night in the cool, felt our souls pass out from us to enter the outstretched arms and remain there long - reluctant to withdraw from the embrace? Have we not on these occasions lifted our eyes in silent prayer to thank Him who created us?
Dawn drives away the gloom of the night, and the world sees yet another day. The sky is glorious, the cast brightens up every moment, slowly the huge ball of fire rises above the horizon and sends its bright illuminating rays into every corner of half of the globe. Birds out in quest of worms twitter away amid their busy work, cattle and sheep move out of their folds in search of fresh pastures, mankind sets out to everyday toil bearing Adam's curse upon his shoulders to toil, sweat and swear that he and his family may have something to fill that part of their bodies which is never satisfied for long but soon cries for more. Has not dawn got enough beauty to delight us as long as we live?
Dusk holds forth its splendours to the unappreciative world, the sun sets with all its glory, the sky in the west is one shining mass of gold. Day is ending, birds wend nestwards, animals to their folds. A great hush settles upon the noisy world.
But does mankind glory in the approaching peace and quiet? No, that vain creature is off to spend the night more profitably at clubs, cinemas and dances, and when penniless he finds that he can no more enjoy these pleasures, and life to him becomes hideous and miserable, but he does not realise that he himself is responsible for it. He has made the world artificial and as such beauty cannot last, he is surprised and crushed by the result. He has to reap what he has sown and unless he sows a different seed his harvest will be the same. But nature does not change. It is the same forever and if we derive our happiness from it our happiness will be constant. As long as dawn, dusk and night are on this earth, is not life worth living?
Love awaits us on the horizon, love that blesses and soothes the heart in times of calamity. Love is holy, love is sacred and it is the greatest blessing conferred on mankind but the world has made love a gamble, changed the love of hearts into a love of money. Marriage has become a business transaction. A millionaire with beautiful houses and innumerable servants marries the belle of society though he is lying on his back, too old to walk. A charming widow with plenty of money captures a young, handsome husband although she has no teeth and has only half an ear and he loves her so much that he prays daily that she may meet with an accident and die and that they may not meet again even in heaven.
Though the world has made real love unreal and visionary, yet real love does exist and it is to the lucky that it comes. For the love that awaits to embrace us in all its fragrance, to warm the troubled heart and make life a paradise, is a dream from which there is no awakening. Life is worth living and may it please God that you and I may find the real love and not its base immitation.
Gird your armour on and stand firm, everyone. Face life as it ought to be faced, turn more to nature and you will find that life is, after all, a paradise.
The Novice who made Good
It was recess and a large crowd of inquisitive schoolboys had collected in front of the notice board. They were gazing at a notice pinned up in bold letters which read:-
The Annual Athletic Sports are fixed to take place on July the 29th and 30th. Boys who hope to do anything at the meet should start training under the coach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.The Sports Secretary,
lst April, 1932
The boys got really enthusiastic about this and started sprinting and dashing down the school corridors as if on the running track.
"Ouch! Oh! you little scamp. What do you mean by charging your head into my tummy like a battering ram. Can't you see where you are going?"
"Oh! I am very sorry, I didn't see you. I was training for the School sports," weened the little fellow nursing his eye.
"What! The school sports?" cried Charles, "What do you mean?"
"Yes, the School sports, haven't you read the notice yet?"
"No, but I am going to. Mind where you are going to next time, boy."
With this retort Charles hurried to the board. A crowd of Seniors stood chatting in front of the board and among them was Pat Tody, last year's champ. He had swept the board easily last year and he felt quite confident of repeating it this year. None disputed that he was the star at the sprints, the quarter mile and the long jump. Charles joined them and read the notice.
"I am going to have a try this time," he said with a hopeful air, "and I am going to start training at once." The rest burst out laughing.
"You taking up athletics, Oh! help me somebody, I am fainting," mocked one.
"My giddy aunt, you can't beat a snail suffering from lumbago and rheumatism," remarked another.
Charles felt discouraged. The rest left roaring. Tody, gasping for breath, sneered. There was more in the sneer than words could intimate. This was the giddy limit to Charles' patience. In a fiery passion he burst out at the retreating, laughing Seniors,
"I am a molly coddle, am I? I'll show you. Fit for nothing am I? A snail with lumbago and rheumatism would beat me, eh? Wait till I show you; I'll show the school what I am!" Spent after this torrential outburst, Charles sought the sanctuary of his study.
This incident spread like wildfire and Charles became the laughing stock of the school. Everywhere he went he was made the butt of everyone's jokes. Cheeky lower form boys flung insults at him and laughed in his face. Life in school became an intolerable hell for Charles, but he did not give way and struggled all the more to keep his head above the water.
On the first training day there was a record attendance, just because the boys wanted to see poor Charles and sneer at him. Charles turned a deaf ear to everything they said. He was told by the coach to do a slow jog round the track with the rest and, of course, Tody who made training far from pleasant for Charles was one of them.
For a month a little jogging and long walks were all they had to do. After the month little bursts of twenty five to thirty yards were included and here Charles began to show up slightly. He could keep up with Tody. Boys started talking that Charles had improved immensely but that Tody was sure to beat him, though twenty yards was no distance to judge one's speed. Tody bragged that was not running at all, that he slowed up slightly to make Charles feel that the Champion was nothing after all. Charles did not keep late hours as Tody did, attending dances and parties contrary to the coach's orders, but he kept a strict diet. He had in fact put heart and soul into the spirit of " I'll show them."
Days lengthened to weeks and weeks into months till it was a week before the Sports. Invitation cards had been sent out and parents, uncles and aunts looked forward to those two days to see their sons and nephews battling for athletic honours. Charles had changed wonderfully. Gone were his draggy shuffle and round shoulders and in their place were his springy firm step and a pair of massive square shoulders. The coach had said a few things to him "You have got a chance my lad, I think you are faster than Tody. Anyway I wish you both luck."
At this time there happened something, which changed our hero's future. Ma Nicholson's tuck shop was full of Senior boys and was doing a roaring trade. All the bustle was caused by the arrival of Ma's beautiful niece Mary. Charles at first took no notice of the boys who were talking about the girl at Ma's.
One day when he went down to take his regular cup of beef-tea, he got a thrill when he found himself looking into a pair of most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. He smiled and she smiled in return. Oh! what a gorgeous smile thought Charles. Before long he found himself talking to her. Tody appeared on the scene, entered into the conversation and soon made Charles feel that he was not wanted. Charles excused himself and went away. From then every moment he could spare he spent it at Ma's and soon he got very friendly with her, and he was sure that she, in turn, liked him very much.
Sports day came. The school was tastefully decorated with flags and bunting and the Pavilion was crowded with guests. The track was marked and athletic accessories could be seen on the field. Charles accompanied Mary to the Pavilion and when they were near it Tody forced himself into their company.
The sports began with the hundred yards dash. Bang! went the gun, the runners were off and as expected Tody won easily with Charles second. Tody's experience had told against the novice Charles. When they met, Tody sneered but Charles pretended not to notice it.
In the 220 Tody led all the way to be beaten at the tape in a brilliant finish by Charles. It was Charlie's turn to boast but he refrained from doing so. Tody grumbled that his spikes had struck a pebble on the track, which was very unlikely.
Excitement ran high when the quarter mile race approached. It was the deciding race for the Victor Ludorum of the school between Tody and Charles. Just before the race Charles saw Mary who said, "Charles you must win, I don't know why, but you must."
"With you cheering I will," replied the gallant Charles.
The competitors were called to the mark. Charles was next to Tody who had the inner berth. The crowd cheered till their throats were hoarse. Just before getting on the marks Tody winked at Andy, another competitor, who nodded understandingly. There was something crooked afoot. The crowd hushed itself when the competitors crouched for the gun to go.
They were off. Tody took the lead with Andy second and Charles third. The first corner was reached with Tody striding with Andy and Charles close behind. The cheering was deafening. Will Tody win or will Charles? The second corner was passed and the third; the runners were keeping a fast pace. Tody sprinted and so did Charles and the latter was passing Andy when the rascal spiked him.
Charles almost fell but he steadied himself. He clenched his teeth; he must win or die. Mary's eyes came before him. He sprinted with the spiked foot for all he was worth. He was gaining on Tody. Will he beat him in time? The tape was getting nearer and nearer. Charles was now level with Tody - will he last? The tape burst.
Charles had won. The crowd rushed in and shouldered the fainting hero. A doctor was sent for but before he arrived Mary's congratulating smile had almost healed his injured foot.
Years later when Charles had graduated as a doctor he played a ring game before the Altar and Mary was his partner.
What I Learnt in General Science this Year
The first lesson we had on science, in standard seven, was on chalk, which in science is known as calcium carbonate. We learnt that chalk was formed under the sea by very minute creatures. The remains of these creatures sank to the bottom of the sea, and formed a soft, grey mud known as ooze. I was surprised to know that such small creatures were able to form such large deposits of chalk. We went further and found out by experiments that limestone, corals, shells, and so on, were natural forms of calcium carbonate. I used to think that lime water was something to drink, but now I know that it is a solution of lime in water, the water being poured off after the lime is deposited at the bottom. There are many other things that I learnt about chalk, but it will be needless to mention such minor things.
We next went on to study carbon dioxide. I learnt that carbon dioxide forms chalk when it passed into lime-water and that it is used to make soda-water, which many people take as a refreshment, but are ignorant of its composition. In Hygiene I was once told that carbon dioxide is a very poisonous gas, but I have now learnt that it is not very poisonous. Water drowns people, but it is not poisonous in the same way as carbon dioxide suffocates animals and men if it occurs in large quantities.
During the second term we studied a very common substance - salt or sodium chloride. We found by experiments that salt is composed of sodium and chlorine. We would never think of eating sodium and chlorine, for these substances would burn our insides out. But when sodium and chlorine are combined together, they form a very harmless and necessary substance.
Our next work was the study of Archimedes' Principle. We learnt how to find the specific gravity of substances by this principle. Boys who never learnt science would be at their wits end if they were asked to find the density of, say, iron. I would just weigh a piece of iron in the air and then in water and find the difference. Then I would divide the weight in air by the weight of water displaced by the object. This will give me the density of iron.
I next learnt that certain objects float in water because the upthrust of water displaced by them is greater than the weights of the objects. This is why steel ships, of modern days, float in water, while a piece of solid steel sinks.
We then turned our attention to the study of plants. We learnt that plants breathe, feed and grow. We found out the way in which water is taken into the plant; how a plant makes its food from carbon dioxide in its leaves. We learnt that a plant breathes through small openings in the leaves and gives off water vapour in the same way. This was very interesting but I cannot mention as many things as I should like to.
During the latter part of the year we studied the pressure of air. We found that air exerts a pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch. This is an enormous amount, and yet we are able to bear such a great pressure. Our bodies have been adapted to such a pressure and if it were reduced we should feel dizzy and bleed through our noses and ears. We learnt also how air pressure is used in many of our modern inventions. Train brakes are worked by air pressure. The vacuum cleaner, diving bell, air gun, pumps and many other things, used in everyday life, all depend on air pressure.
And as this year draws to an end I am sure I have not wasted my time and labour in the science rooms of the Victoria Institution.
(This is printed as received - it is an actual examination essay done within a time limit of 50 minutes).
National Fairy Tales
Long, long ago, the Chinese people used to go to the temples to worship their gods. They were faithful and loyal to them. Among these gods there was a god known as the King Dragon. During that time dragons were worshipped as gods because they were believed to dwell in the sky. This King Dragon had a fearful appearance. He had two beautiful horns, and a pair of glistening eyes. His body was covered with golden scales which glittered in the level morning sun.
The King Dragon which the people worshipped was supposed to bring rain and rich crops to the country if they allowed a pretty girl to be his wife every year. If the people opposed him, the country's crops would be ruined. The girl which the King Dragon chose would afterwards be the wife of the chief monk of the Temple of King Dragon. Year after year, no one dared to oppose this scheme.
One certain year, a rich man had a beautiful daughter, who was eighteen years of age. She dared not go out from her father's house because she and her father were determined to go against the custom. Nevertheless, this girl was seen one day by the Chief Monk of the Temple of King Dragon while he was going out to buy oil for a lamp. A week later a notice was sent to the rich man saying,
The King Dragon has seen your daughter. His Majesty wishes to have her as wife. The ceremony should be held on January 15.By Order
The Chief Monk of the Temple of King Dragon
The rich man felt very griefed for he had only one daughter. The ceremony was to be a month hence.
At this time it happened that there lived a young man, who was skilful in the use of sword, spear, arrows and other war weapons. He was a traveller and was fond of doing good turns to others. One night when he passed the rich man's garden, he heard men and women crying. He went in and bade them to tell him what the matter was. The rich man then told him the whole story. The traveller thought for a while and said, "I will help you, and I am sure it is not the King Dragon who wants a wife." The rich man made no reply but nodded his head and agreed.
The day for the ceremony had come. The traveller bade the rich man's daughter hide in a place while he himself dressed like the girl and went to the Temple. He was led to a room and a few moments later, a crafty young man came out from a secret panel, and said, "Take your seat, I am the man who has chosen you as my wife, and not the King Dragon." Immediately the young man bounced from his seat, and drew out a sword from his garment and pointed it at the man commanding, "Stand still, and do not shout, or I will kill you."
The heart of the crafty man died within him and he obeyed. The crafty man was bound with a rope and the traveller carried him off through the back door. Two monks suddenly jumped out with weapons in their hands to fight the traveller. Fortunately, the traveller was ready and he fought off the two with his sword. Soon after, another group of monks rushed forward with swords, spears, sticks and iron bars. Seeing his danger, the traveller escaped from this crowd by jumping over the fence with the crafty man in his grip.
The next day a trial was held, and the crafty man and the monks were ordered to be kept in prison for a year. Thereafter, the rule about marrying a wife each year to the King Dragon was a dead letter.
(An actual examination essay - time 50 minutes).
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