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Thoughts on Leaving School
Have we not, as little boys and girls, envied our elders? Definitely we have. Can any of us claim that we have not at some time or other in our school life looked forward to the time when we would leave school? How often have we, after sitting for hours at our desks, got up, saying, "I am sick of all this!" and then consoled ourselves by saying, "Oh, it is only another ... years before I leave school"?
These are thoughts which flash through the mind of every boy and girl in school. When we get into Standard Seven or so, we yearn for the day when we can leave school and be rid of the bother of homework and examinations.
But what are our feelings when the long-awaited time comes? Says Shakespeare, "All things that are, Are with a more spirit chased than enjoyed....."
And so it is with leaving school. We are not happy; indeed we are sorry that we have to leave school. This is especially the case when a boy has been closely associated with the school and has at all times tried to do something to bring honour and prestige to his school. He feels that the school has been part of him and that he cannot do without it. He recollects the happy hours he has spent at school - the hours that he has spent with his numerous friends, the hours that he had spent in doing something which brought him the praise of his headmaster and his teachers.
The days when he was at the top of the school and when he was granted the privilege of guiding and teaching the younger boys seem to have passed like a dream. Recollections of the various classes through which he has passed bring him great pleasure. The hours that were a drudgery to him some years before, now seem to have been hours of happiness and enjoyment. He now realises that the teachers whom he had regarded as tyrants had really been his foster-parents. They had advised, instructed and guided him into what he is today. He finds that words cannot express his gratitude to his teachers.
And what of the future? The future seems to be very dull and lonely. There is a feeling that he is going into a hostile world, a world in which there are no friends or relations, a selfish world where everybody only thinks of SELF.
Pudu at Night
Pudu, a suburb about two miles from the heart of the Federal Capital, has been called a Chinatown because its population and make-up are predominantly Chinese.
Silence reigns in this town during the day and business is conducted peacefully. The people are not very active, and the streets are sometimes empty. But at night this town hums with activity. The traffic is heavy and many people can be seen on the roads. The night scene presents a different aspect of the vicinity altogether from the one in daylight.
What immediately catches one's eye is the illumination. The lights of this street are like a cluster of planets and become a fixture in the sky. Little groups gather around and watch the blazing spectacle as children do when watching their first fireworks display. Illuminated shop-windows and brightly-lit advertisements are a marvel to behold.
As we go further on, the imposing Majestic Theatre holds our attention. Right at the top of the building can be seen the letters MAJESTIC boldly lit up with neon lights. The second performance of the evening is about to begin and, as usual, there is a long queue of cinema fans the booking office. The ladies, attired in attractive cheongsams, stand out distinctly in the crowd and the men, not to be outdone, don their best evening suits and brightly polished shoes. Trishaws, bicycles, vans and limousines intermingle to form a sort of jigsaw puzzle. A loud buzz of conversation mixed with the continuous harangue of the quack Chinese physician and the honking of motor car horns jars on unattuned ears, so much so that even the voice of one's neighbour is almost inaudible.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The quack Chinese physician is sounding his gong and soon a crowd gathers round him, standing in a semi-circle. He explains to the spectators the efficacy of his medicines in an unceasing speech. He performs practical tests to prove the veracity of his claims by making an incision in his own forearm and then applying his "blood healing" ointment. In order to convince his gullible audience that he is no quack, he performs a few more tricks. Those who believe him purchase his medicines, while others merely scoff and sneer and after some time drift away. Many gaily dressed young couples are having an evening stroll. Appetising aromas waft through the air from the neighbouring food stalls and one is tempted to take a snack here. The children play in the five-foot way and they become so absorbed in their own games that they are oblivious of everything else going on near them.
Nothing is more absorbing than this scene. If the reader thinks this description gross exaggeration all he has to do is to take a stroll along Pudu Road any evening and see for himself the wonderful sights of Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown.
The Challenge of Destiny
The shadows lengthen and darkness descends; humanity is poised on the edge of an abyss of destruction. The world is seething with unrest, with nation at the throat of nation, with hate, envy, greed and intolerance rampant. The threat of war overhangs our generation and man seems powerless and afraid. The forces of evil are rampant and man is being borne along on the dark tide of hatred and fear towards the menacing sea of catastrophe.
This is a picture of our age. Further grim austerity lies ahead; dangers threaten the happiness of all; our way of life is in jeopardy. That is the aspect one sees on the threshold of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Have faith and optimism been extinguished by the force of present events? Are we marching forward to a better future? Are the days of our glory spent? Are we, as individuals, advancing with stout hearts and undefeated spirits towards a nobler and richer way of life? Or are we overcome by the spirit of defeatism?
Not a bit! The severity of our trials will be a test of our courage, the pressure of adversity but an initiation into more responsible adulthood. The gathering darkness is but the preliminary to a brighter dawn. Out of the furnace of present adversity can be forged the superstructure of a new and better world. The extent of our difficulties may be the measure of our opportunities and to-day's problems the stepping stones to future progress.
The tempo of life demands that we march forward. The only alternative is retreat. The Challenge of the Century is that we must make immense progress or suffer calamity. The present crisis is not the death knell of our endeavour. The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. After all, life is a battle. Strife and struggle are the warp and woof of human life. Every age has its difficulties and dangers, every century its challenge to the human spirit. We can allow misfortune to paralyse our effort or we can use the spur of hardship to drive us on more resolutely towards the City of Achievement.
So let us be valiant of heart and firm of purpose! Effort, initiative, and the crusading spirit can overcome the tempests of our times. Some of our difficulties are but clouds, dimming for a while the glory of a new horizon, but incapable of resisting our advance, hurting us only if we are weak of heart, and restricting us only if we fear them. So let us not look upon the disadvantages of our times with a jaundiced eye, seeing a curse in our insecurity and malice of Fate in the acute world problems of our day. Rather should we look upon these as a challenge and use them as spurs that can eventually lift mankind to a nobler plane.
So do not sit back! Wake up! There are lots and lots of things to be accomplished. In the mighty book of existencee, man has hardly completed reading the first page. However severe the present test, we have the consolation that world resources today are far greater than have ever been, for
A tree with fruit unharvested;
A path untrod; a house whose rooms
Lack yet the heart's divine perfumes;
A landscape whose wide border lies
In silent shade beneath silent skies;
A wondrous fountain yet unsealed;
A casket with its gifts concealed;
That is the year that for you waits
Beyond tomorrow's mystic gates."
On a Visit to the Dispensary
Although the high and spiritual-minded Oriental would have found ways to cure himself of his ailments by seeking the advice of yogic mystics in the past, yet being a more materialistic-minded Easterner of the twentieth century, I am compelled to wend my way to the dispensary in search of relief whenever illness lays her icy hand on me.
One of the first persons who attracts my attention in the modern dispensary is a big-sized man, with a bullying, domineering voice, a face like a ham, and hair like the bristles of a porcupine. His prototype is to be found in all free dispensaries and he commands attention when he starts shouting at the puny sentinel guarding the door of the doctor's consulting room, in an attempt to get there first. In vain do the others mumur to convince him of their prior rights. Chivalry vanishes the very minute he sets foot on the dispensary doorstep, persons of this type earning universal hatred wherever they go.
Less often met with is a person of a different nature but equally annoying. He is the kind who robes himself in old clothes which have not been in a washerman's cauldron or felt the under side of an iron since their creation. He may seem to be a dullish solid-looking citizen reading a newspaper but his outward appearance is no index to his true character. Before you know where you are, he has become a stern moralist, a solemn philosopher, laying bare all the hollow shams of life. In his company we begin to drift on the seas of boredom and tearing ourselves from his clutches is a truly Herculean task.
More to my taste is someone who walks in wearing the latest style in Hawaiian shirts. His entrance into the dispensary seems to be accompanied by an awakening blast of sartorial trumpets. That shirt he wears is a flame and treasure of lost sunsets - "the gorgeous East in fee." I imagine myself giving him my heartfelt thanks for throwing a splash of colour into a sordid dispensary waiting room.
But oh! What experience is there more thrilling than that of hearing my ticket number being called out. Methinks the raucous voice of the sentinel guarding the gate to the medical fortress seems as sweet as Tchaikowski's Pathétique. As I walk down the narrow aisle, I seem to be strolling down a garden path. The brown chengai pews are transformed into tall purple dahlias and all a sudden, lo! the long wait is over.
Improve each moment as it flies;
Life's a short summer - man a flower -
He dies, alas; how soon he dies!"
What invaluable advice is contained in these lines of Dr. Johnson. Time is the most precious gift that can ever be bestowed. Yes, time is indeed priceless. It is beyond replacement: a second lost is a second lost forever, gone "beyond the great depths." We should handle it with prudence, treat it as we would treat money - thriftily and wisely; we should use our instinctive judgement to the full and we shall find Time a valuable ally, a weapon which can do the impossible, a something - an inexpressible something - that can extend boundaries, dethrone kings, create states, shatter empires, make wonderful inventions, and infuse fresh hopes. Time is, in short, a most invaluable gift from the Gods.
It is unfortunate that very few of us employ our precious seconds and profitably. Alas, how many have squandered, are squandering and will squander, minutes - nay hours - in frivolous tasks. It is said that Elizabeth on her death-bed cried out that she would give "million of money for one inch of time!" How much better it would have been if she had uttered those words sooner!
The minutest division of time is the second. We should not neglect even that particle. Let us remember that old maxim:
Small sands the mountain, moment make the year,
And trifles life."
Years are composed of months, months of weeks, weeks of days, days of hours, hours of minutes and minutes of seconds. Let us learn not to waste the second and we shall then not waste the minute - thence an hour, a day, a week, a month and a year. If we can fill the passing minute with sixty seconds' worth of unlagging work, we are well on the way to achievement, to success and to ultimate happiness.
Time is, as Shakespeare so aptly described it, "noiseless and inaudible." The fact that we cannot feel it, hear it, or handle it, is the cause of our own downfall. We seldom realise the passing of time from seconds into minutes and into hours, and the result is that we are often behind time - so to speak.
Time is free, absolutely free. We have nothing to lose but everything to gain if we employ our allotted precious seconds with prudence and industry so that
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose."
Some Odd Uses of Music
What is music? Harmonious notes combine to form chords which in turn combine to form melody: melody is music, says Milton in Arcades:
In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare goes even further when he states that
Nor is not with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils."
On close examination, we find that music is indeed queer. If not in all forms of music, at least in classical music, the expression of the composer's thoughts is put into sounds. If one has an ear for music, no matter what nationality one belongs to, one can understand the thoughts of the composer by listening to the music. A lonely person finds solace in music. Music instills courage into soldiers. It launches certain persons into moods of exotic rapture.
There are many kinds of music and often each kind is used for a specific purpose on a set occasion. Generally music is a form of entertainment. People dance to music. Many people take pleasure in just listening in to music while they relax. Of course, different people listen to different types of music. Some like modern music while others like classical music.
It is interesting to know the odd uses music is often put to. Music is frequently used in physical training to develop a sense of rhythm. The people taking part move in uniformity according to the music.
Recently, beginners have begun to learn to type on typewriters with the help of music. They type according to the tempo of the music and thus they get the required rhythm and speed for typing.
Music plays an important part in the movies. It dramatises the scene. For example, during a murder scene, the music played gives an atmosphere of weirdness, which supplements the scene. Such a scene, without the music, loses half its effect.
In many parts of Europe, shepherds collect their sheep with the help of music. They blow upon their horns which give off very sweet tunes. In Vienna, these tunes were indeed regarded as so melodious that they gave rise to the composition of The Tale of the Vienna Woods by Strauss.
On battle fronts, music is used to rouse up the spirit of the soldiers. It instils courage into them. Their fears are soon forgotten and courage prevails.
In India, the snake charmer is a common spectacle. He puts music to an extraordinary use and charms snakes with it. He plays a clarinet-like instrument and controls the movement of even a deadly hamadryad. It is indeed true, as James Bramston says, that
"Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast."
Whenever the average Malayan boy is asked if he likes reading the reply is in the negative. Why is this so? In the first place, he considers reading a waste of time; in the second, he has not got into the knack of reading; and thirdly, he has not been told what to look for in reading.
Teachers of English often advise their pupils to read a lot to improve their English. "Read a lot," they say. The poor boy makes a beeline for the School Library, lays his hand on the first book he comes across, takes it home and begins on it. After two hours or so he finds that he is only at, say, page forty. His interest wanes and the snail's pace of his progress dampens his spirit. When he endeavours to reflect upon what he has read, he does not recollect anything. His heart sinks to his boots.
That is an example of the case of a boy who has attempted to start at the top of the ladder but found himself not even on the bottom rung. Let us look at the boy who does read a lot but who does not know what he is reading. You may have rubbed shoulders with hundreds of this type of readers. In the eyes of their parents and friends, they are bookworms and must have a good command of English. Do not be taken in! They are only trying to pull the wool over your eyes. A person many have read many a book and yet remain illiterate and uneducated whereas another who has read only a few good books, is better off for the simple reason that he knows what he is reading and reads it with comprehension and cogitation.
In Ruskin's words an author writes a "book" because he "has something to say which he perceives to be true and useful or helpfully beautifulů." In the sum of his life he finds this to be the thing or group of things evident to him; this, the piece of knowledge or sight, which his share of sunshine and earth has granted to him to seize." He does not state what he has to say in a point-blank manner. That would merely be a conglomeration of facts which would mean nothing to the reader. He creates characters to give what he has to say colour and vividness and to make it appeal to the reader.
Often what he has to say is camouflaged in the form of a parable to make sure that we know what we want before he gives it to us. He is like Jesus relating the Parable of the Sower. A poor interpreter will take the story at only its surface value and think no more about it. What lies beneath the story, concealed in the words, is the true substance that Jesus was trying to convey to the people. The works of a writer are like that; they are words which conceal great thoughts.
Let us bear this in mind. There are thousands of books written every year. We cannot expect to read all of them: so, before we pick up a book to read, we should ascertain if it is really good and suitable. We should read what the critics have to say and find out in what way the author has expressed his thoughts and whether the subject matter is treated in a light manner or otherwise. Only if we find that a book will be of service to us should we read it. We should strive to extract all the essence we can out of a book and leave out all that which cannot be digested.
It is very well for us to study philosophy and psychology from books but putting what we have learnt into practice is an important thing. We should study the natures of our fellow-students and our masters. The application of a little psychology here and there in the classroom or on the field will help to make this world a better place to live in.
There is one thing that we should never do with books: we should never let books lie idle on the shelves. We should make them work for us. They are there to be read and digested and used for reference. There is nothing so disgusting in a house as a bookcase stacked with the world's best books without a sign of their ever having been read. Hilaire Belloc once said, "When I am dead. I hope it may be said: 'His sins were scarlet but his books were read.'"
"A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on a purpose to a life beyond life."
When I was very young, I took a fancy to aeroplanes. I often wondered how they could remain in the air although they were so heavy. The first aeroplane that I saw was a Japanese one. Later I saw some American B-29 Super-Fortresses which I tried to model with pieces of cardboard stuck together with glue. That was the beginning of my hobby. After that I began making model aeroplanes with bamboo and paper.
About three years ago, when I was living in Raub, I managed to buy an aeroplane kit through a friend. I made the model but it could not fly. I was greatly disappointed and gave it up. When we moved to Kuala Lumpur, I found many model kit shops. So, I started making model-aeroplanes once more.
All the models that I made were rubber-powered. About the beginning of this year, I started playing with a model engine. It was ignited by compression, and did not have a battery or a sparking plug. Making and flying engine-powered models is much more interesting and exciting than making and flying rubber-powered models.
Some boys think that aeromodelling is very expensive. Although I must admit that I am usually short of pocket money towards the end of every month, I still think that it is not very expensive to have an engine and an aeroplane. In my case, I spend a lot of money making new models. When we get tired of one model, we can exchange it with someone for a different type.
Some boys ask me what fun I get out of aeromodelling. If they will only just try to make and fly a model aeroplane, they will find out how interesting and exciting it is. Aeromodelling is really not very difficult. We need only common sense, patience and some money to achieve success. The Selangor Model Aeronautics Club will help any modeller who may have any difficulty with his models. When a boy takes up areomodelling, he should keep in contact with another aeromodeller friend. By comparing notes and models, lots of new ideas can be picked up.
Aeromodelling is a very wide subject and we have to gain a lot of experience to be perfect at this hobby. Through my aeromodelling, I hope one day to do aviation work either as a groundsman, a pilot or an aviation engineer!
Last update on 31 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng