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My Visit to India
My long awaited expectations were fulfilled when, the day after my final examination, I was informed that I had been able to book a passage on the S.S. Rajagopal. It was scheduled to sail on Monday. I travelled to Singapore by the night mail on Sunday but, on my arrival, I was sorry to hear that my ship was in port. After staying in Singapore for four days I embarked on the ship at one o'clock in the afternoon.
What torture it was to embark! There were eight hundred people waiting to get on board and, as there was no shelter nearby, we all had to bask in the sun. After much pushing, pulling and dragging of luggage, we barely managed to embark by one o'clock. I went to my cabin and fell down as if never to rise again. That evening I had a high temperature and only the next day did I manage to get up. The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived at Madras on the sixth morning.
The wharves are on the outskirts of the town and because of customs and other necessary examinations, we had to go without food the whole morning and afternoon. The only conveyance available was horse-carts and hand-carts and, having no idea of Madras, we went to the railway station. It was a misty, rainy evening and it made Madras seem very dull. At the station we had our bath and changed and went to look for something to eat. As there was only one eating shop in the locality, so it was Hobson's choice.
Early next morning, we set out by train. Though all railways in India are broad-gauged and thus faster than Malayan railways, it took us three days and nights to reach our destination. The climate seemed quite warm in Madras but we experienced the first chills of an Indian winter when we reached Delhi.
My destination was a small town with only one tarred road and a number of paved roads and alleys connecting it with the other important towns. Though this was the end of my rail journey, I still had a bus journey to complete. As the bus to my village was leaving in the evening, I went sightseeing. I wore a pair of white trousers but, within an hour, they were brown and had dark patches of mud all over. The streets were littered with decaying rubbish and there were ruts all over the roads. There were few motor vehicles other than buses and goods lorries and the main means of transport was horses, camels, bullock-cart, and hackney-carriages.
In the evening I boarded the bus with the greatest difficulty, as there was a large crowd of passengers. We started along a main road which they called paki (paved) but it was worse than any estate road in Malaya. As my village was off the paki road, I had to travel along a stretch of kachi (unpaved) road. The road was so bad that I had low hopes of reaching my village especially after the bus had gone into a pool of water and refused to budge an inch. The wheels began to skid and we only managed to get it out after pushing for all our worth.
I arrived at my village just as it was getting dark without further mishap. But a new difficulty arose when I began to walk to my house which was in the centre of the village. It had been raining lately and the paths, being rather slippery, made me yearn for a pair of spikes. At last I arrived at my house, after tediously trying to keep myself on my feet.
Though I did not like my village, the fields of green attracted me and I became a frequent wanderer in the fields. The larger cities are equipped with all the modern necessities of life and are improving by leaps and bounds. Though the older parts are not attractive owing to the small stuffy buildings and narrow roads, the modern parts are very attractive having beautiful buildings and wide thoroughfares.
Lahore, the present capital of the Punjab, is an extremely beautiful town. Though it is being rapidly modernised, there remain some historical places as well. One of the main historical spots is the Puruna Qila which is a massive stone fortress built by the Moguls. It has walls which are about 30 feet high and there is sufficient room for a car to travel on top of it. It is now under government control and sightseers are charged gate fees for its upkeep. Some parts of it are decaying fast, but most of it is well looked after. There is a building which is now used as a museum where old arms and uniforms of different periods are displayed. There are caretakers also who are well-versed in the origins of the exhibits. It is one of the buildings which built centuries ago and shows the skill of Indian workmen.
I enjoyed the Indian scenery, natural and artificial, for one and a half months, after which I set on my return journey on the first of February. Indians are strong believers in omens and I think that some lucky omens must have occurred on the day I left as I reached my journey's end without any mishap. Friends who saw me were struck as if by a bolt from the blue for they never expected me to return in such a short time.
A Rainy Afternoon
The distant rumble of thunder heralds the approach of rain. Ominous grey clouds obscure the sun which, a moment ago, was shining serenely in the sky. All that was blue is now grey except for momentary streaks of lightning. The atmosphere is one of gloom. The birds cease twittering; the fowls have grown silent and apprehensive; the cat stretches itself languidly; trees and plants are tense and expectant; and shelterless people make a beeline for their homes in no leisurely manner.
Then it comes. The first drops are like the first few bars of a musical prelude that reaches a crescendo almost at once, and the rain with all its fury beats a tattoo on zinc-roofed houses. The streets are deserted. The sidewalks are thronged with a motley crowd of people seeking sanctuary from the rain. A torrential flow of water gushes out of drain-pipes into fast filling drains.
The dim lights of a car can be seen in the distance. The car draws near, wading through the flooded road, its windscreen-wiper gallantly striving against the incessant onslaught of the rain drops. Wistful eyes follow the receding car. Growling grey clouds glower down on the earth and seem to derive a secret pleasure from our helplessness, A cyclist, drenched to the skin, splashes his way along the road, leaving the sheltered to conjecture what could have lured him into that deluge of rain.
The rain shows signs of abating. The rivulets in the gutters have subsided. The blue of the sky parts the grey curtain of clouds and the sun peeps out occasionally. A fine drizzle is all that remains of the shower. The roads are invaded by disgruntled and impatient pedestrians and cyclists continuing their interrupted journeys.
Everything looks exhilarating. The dusty roads are now washed clean; the very air has grown cooler and more refreshing; the plants and grass look greener and more exuberant; and the sinking sun lends a mellower tint to the western sky, suffused with the colours only Nature can paint, as twilight creeps in.
How I escaped from the Kidnappers
Often have I read reports in the local papers about persons being kidnapped and held for ransom; but not until I myself fell victim to the kidnappers did I realize what a terrifying experience it could be.
I was cycling home at full speed the other evening after an enjoyable game of cricket at school when, just as I was turning into Ipoh Road, a green car drew up not twenty yards in front of me, and two masked men stepped out from it into the middle of the road and signalled me to stop. Even in the fading light, I could see the muzzle of a revolver levelled menacingly at me. Not knowing what to do, I was forced to obey. After examining my pockets, they told me to get into the car. Not knowing the reason, I attempted to ask them. Instead of answering, one of them gave me a blow on the face and told me to be quiet. Observing another car coming, one of them pulled me into the green car and ordered the driver, to make a move, while the other made off with my bicycle.
On our way to their hideout, I tried again to ask the gangster why I was being treated in this way. He told me with an angry look that I would know later. Having travelled about ten miles, the car stopped. The gangsters jumped out of the car and ordered me to follow them. The path which we took led into the interior of a forest and gradually became narrower.
Fighting our way through the bushes, we finally came to a small stream and while crossing this an idea occurred to me. I thought that I could hide in the bushes and make my escape in the dead of night, but as I turned back I was stunned to see three other gangsters in the rear. This made me give up the idea of escaping. Finally we came to a hut into which I was dumped with my hands and legs tied. I passed the night uncomfortably.
When the door opened again, I saw that it was already day. After untying my hands, one of the gangsters dragged me into an opening in the forest. There were five other gangsters sitting together and talking. When they saw me, they drew out their revolvers and started to frighten me.
Finally they took a small piece of paper, on which was written something which I could not read owing to my fright, and told me to sign it. I hesitated, but after receiving some blows, I changed my mind. They were all glad when they saw me sign the paper, but they were not generous enough to give me some food to eat, and I was left once again in the hut with my hands and legs tied.
They came back that evening and after giving me a small cup of water to drink, they told me that if my father did not give them the money within a week they were going "to do something" to me. With only water and no food, I passed three very difficult days.
On the fourth day, as they were preparing to do something, I heard heavy foot steps and to my joy I saw a police patrol, who took the gangsters by surprise. After a careful inspection of the place, they carried me to their truck and took me home. As I was not well, I had to stay in hospital for a week. After my recovery, my father advised me not to go out until the activities of the gangsters subsided.
Neglect, the vice of mankind, is a brother of Sloth; he is as cool as Patience and sure as a bullet. Every home rebukes him, but he is none the less persistent. From morn till night he waits at every door with sly and vigilant eyes; at times his infinite patience is rewarded. In he slips, silent and swift. People receive him resignedly, indeed his presence is even sweet and his faults disappear, as if they never existed at all. He slowly takes up the reins of the home -mildly, yet effectively. He has many protégés too. They follow him in different disguises, all labouring and sweating as energetically as imps. Finally they reach their goal - quarrels, sickness and diseases, even utter ruin.
Men, famous as well as unknown, suffer from their ravages. Criticisms fly from every corner of the globe: some are pleasant while others are piercingly painful, but none so painful as Neglect.
Everywhere in great cities are trouble and strife. Men run into men frequently, but cars run into cars more frequently; the results are injuries and deaths. Whose fault and whose work? None other than our comrade's - Neglect.
He comes in the name of Rest; then he clamours for amusement, and finally he casts off his sheep's clothing and starts devouring souls, families, and even nations.
This major enemy of mankind exists everywhere. There is no wall too thick, no mountain too high, no ocean too wide for him. Not even the swiftest ships or planes can evade him. How then can we retaliate? No bullets, no cannons, not even the atomic bomb can annihilate this immortal enemy. The one and only course we should take is defence against him from within, and vigilance and diligence are our surest weapons.
I Conquer Everest!
The heat of the sun was unbearable. I could almost see the mercury in the thermometer rising. How I longed for an ice-cream potong! My legs ached with walking, but I struggled on. Soon the temperature fell at such a rate that, in less than half an hour, I was really shivering with cold.
Beyond me lay a white expanse. I needed but a few seconds to go racing to the spot. What a wonderful sight! Around me lay mile upon mile of white "ice-cream", sparkling in the sunlight. I fell upon the "ice cream" and devoured mouthfuls of it.
I am no orologist, but there was no need to tell me that I stood before the famous Mount Everest. Once in full view of the mountain, I decided to try my hand at mountaineering, so up I went. At first I ran, then I walked, and then ran again. I admit it was quite an easy task, compared with all the narratives of other adventurers. Whenever I felt tired, I took mouthfuls of the "ice-cream" and was refreshed, though it was but tasteless snow. Once refreshed, I ran on faster than ever. I certainly enjoyed myself, although. I did not stop to look about the place and examine it in detail. My aim was to see the "Roof of the World". So I started off again at a good pace.
Nothing could discourage me from proceeding with my journey - a journey that many people have undertaken, only to fail miserably. But how could I fail, I, a powerful virile rock? In my confidence, I even surpassed the mighty god, Hercules.
I thought I felt tired after so much running, so I began to make my way up slowly; inch by inch I worked myself forward. At last, exhausted, I sat down. Looking up, not seventy yards above me was the summit of Mount Everest, a shining, translucent mass of crystalline ice. The crystal seemed to beckon me. I needed no second invitation but literally flew up the icy sides. Once, my right foot slipped but I kept my hold. Up, up, up I went. There was the crystal cone, with only two feet between me and victory. The poem about King Bruce and the spider came rushing into my mind. Eagerly I stretched out my hands and gripped the crystal cone. There on my left lay the "Roof of the World" - my mission was completed.
Something creaked and I found to my horror, that it was the cone breaking off. Down I went, tearing down the treacherous sides, kicking and throwing the snow away as fast as it covered me. Crash!
I awoke with a start and found myself far from my bed, my head against the wall. About me lay my bedclothes torn to shreds, and I felt as if I had been running a cross-country race. My legs were aching.
While I was breakfasting, the next morning, my head was still aching from the crash against the wall. A groan escaped my lips when I realised that all my climbing had taken me from my bed to the other end of my room only. Pitiful hallucination!
Last update on 31 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
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