The Victorian 1967 - Part 2

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(2nd prize, Junior Section)

The majestic sun began losing its glory, outlining the distant western hills with a blaze of red. Dark silhouettes of coconut palms jutting out into the coolness of the bay, exhausted fishermen returning from the shimmering blue sea, depicted a scene fresh from the creator's hands.

Out in the deep blue sea, the blazing ball of fire made a reflection of blood red on the innocent calm waters of the lagoon, silhouetting the black profiles of the distant ships against a heavenly blended myriad of colours. Distinct shapes of swallows and crows dipped for water and soared for height as they swerved about in an erratic course for sanctuary.

With the tide beginning to rise, relentless waves coasted to crash against the rocky outline of the beach, ad infinitum. As the fiery sun began descending into the God-created chasm behind the western hills, final red rays enriched by the dark surroundings, pierced into the horizon as a gesture of defiance as the sun yielded its realms to darkness.

A frail solitary figure stood leaning against a waving palm tree, staring with watery eyes into the perpetual invasion of waves and at the wide, rolling expanse. Her long flowing hair ruffled gently, like the tops of the palms gazing at her. The beautiful patterns on her sarong were in no significant contrast to the rolling waves and palm-dotted beach. Her flawless profile and prominent nose were silhouetted in the fading light; her sarong swaying to and fro in the wind, portrayed a silent, sad figure derived from an artist's brush with no less talent than Leonardo da Vinci or Picasso.

Her swollen eyes stared transfixed into the huge waves, as if they were transparent and her sight stretched into the farthest nook and corner of the horizon. Pent-up tears gathered in her eyes as she struggled to get out of the wicked chasm of her past. The dark clouds that accumulated in the skyline seemed as dark and unrewarding as her destiny. Lightning flashed and branched in the dark sky, outlining her drops of tears.

Her memories were long and eventful, joyous and sorrowful, romantic and exciting and lastly, were of him and his treachery.

"Why had this happened to me, God?" she murmured between sobs. "Why? Why? Why?" each repetition increased in emphasis.

As if in reply, the waves increased in fury and height at her every question unleashed at Him. The creaking royal palms around her swayed and dipped solemnly as if in salutation and comprehension.

A lone animal howled eeriely in a distant peak, its profile outlined against a full moon sailing coincidentally past. It seemed to depict the defiance in her heart.

"That treacherous, cheating heart," she shouted above the roar of the marine orchestra, her voice shaking in anger.

Then with a serene, clear countenance, her beauty shining as the full moon shines, she lifted her head towards the glittering stars, towards the distant heaven.........

"Oh! God haven't I been faithful? I have always loved you, God, but why did you give me this worthless life? Is my cloud never to have a silver lining?"

She whispered fervently, her clasped hands rubbing each other in despair.

The wind gradually showed to a breeze as the God of Wind held his breath to consider this outburst. The waves writhed and rolled under the angered sea........

The tranquil moon seemed to have creases on her forehead as her heavenly sight followed a lone figure, diving from a cliff into the thirsty cruel rocks below.

         Oh Mother Nature!
                Why art thou so cruel?
        Why dost thou end guilty life in watery graves?
                Have mercy on them.


The biting wind tore angrily at the man's shirt and sarong, as he cleared up the debris left behind by the raging storm which had died only moments ago. Acting on impulse, he glanced up at the sky to see if the storm had really abated for good, or whether it was just waiting for him to tidy up before unleashing its fury on him for destroying its handiwork. His face puckered into an angry frown when he saw that there were still masses of black cloud overhead. He was looking around for confirmation of his disillusioning first impression when his attention was distracted by something on the desolate road. He stared curiously at it, with justification, too, considering the lonely surrounding countryside, that it was dusk and that there had been a violent storm only moments ago. As they came nearer he saw that it was a Chinese girl of about twenty-five with a baby clasped in her arms. He stared incredulously as she turned in his direction. His master seldom had visitors, other than the art-dealer, who lived about a mile away, and even then none of them had been ladies.

Before he could open his mouth to sppeak - he was too surprised anyway - she started to speak in broken Malay in a loud, almost hysterical voice:

"Sir, please give us some food and shelter for the night. We are soaked to the skin and my baby will fall ill if subjected to this cold wind any longer. It hasn't eaten anything at all today. It is tired and hungry and has cried itself to sleep. I have lost my way, sir, and I come from a far-away place. I have no home, no relatives, no clothes, no money - nothing. Please, sir, my baby will die, sir, please….."

"Stop!" cried the servant, only half understanding her jumbled string of sentences. "If you want, I'll give you a glass of hot milk for your baby. But for you, nothing. You young and strong - cannot work - ah? You think you cry, can fool me - ah? I am too old-lah. I know all your tricks - choosing a respectable bachelor's house so that your tricks sure can work. Lucky my master not here, if not, he call police, put you in jail. You think this one Home for Unmarried…" his natural hostility asserting itself.

"Shut up, you blachan! How dare you insult me? Do you think me a beggar, or miserable servant like you? I come from a rich respectable family, unlike you. I am only in this state because my husband died a few months ago and I came here to look for my long-lost brother. I last heard that he was here and since I had no one else to care for me I came to look for him. My belongings, including my money, were stolen - what's the use of telling that to a devil like you? You can hoard your glass of milk and follow your master to Hell."

With that, she walked away. Only after her anger had cooled was she aware of her present condition. She looked at the sky anxiously and, holding her sleeping child closer, hurried along looking around for shelter before the storm came down. Neither she nor the servant were aware of the handkerchief she had dropped at the gate.

Meanwhile, the servant resumed his job, since it would do him no good if his master came to find the lawn untidy even though the approaching storm provided a plausible excuse. He was interrupted by the sound of an approaching car and saw that it was the art-dealer in his Mereedes. He hurried to open the gate.

"Hasn't your master returned home yet?" was the dealer's first question.

"No, sir." replied the servant, "he told me he would be late because he was going to buy some art materials."

"Oh, I see." The dealer got down leisurely from his car, and then spying the handkerchief, "Oh, so you've been having visitors, eh?" with a sly smile and a wink.

"No, sir - yes, sir, you see…"

"I understand-lah, don't explain," assured the dealer.

Before the flustered servant could open his mouth they heard the hum of an approaching car and he saw that it was his master returning.

"Good evening, Che' Hassan." greeted the dealer, "our friend here was just telling about his lady-friend."

"Oh - good evening, Meng. Let's not talk in this infernal naturally air-conditioned place. Now what's all this about a lady-friend, eh Ahmad?" when they were all comfortably-seated inside.

"You see, sir, one Chinese girl with a baby came to ask for food and said she want to stay here for the night. When I was so kind as to offer her a glass of milk, she yelled at me, you know."

"Where is she now?" asked Che' Hassan.

"How I know? She said something about Hell and walked off leaving handkerchief there as present for me," replied Ahmad, smiling.

"You mean you sent her away in this cold wind and the approaching storm?" demanded Che' Hassan angrily.

"What, she said she don't want milk...."

"What are you so angry about, Che Hassan?" cut in Meng. "After all he did right. Would you want to take someone into your house to find the next morning she had run away with your money and other expensive possessions? This is especially so in a desolate place where people get the impression that you are not acquainted with the ways of the world. Come, on, man, be sensible."

"Before we proceed any further, Meng, where's Ahmad? Ahmad! Come here! I want you to go and find that lady - apologise to her for your rudeness and escort her here. If you want, you can take a sweater along if you feel cold. But on no account must you return without her. Do I make myself clear? I know, Meng," and held up his hand as Meng opened his mouth to protest, "Meng, in this case how do you know that this is a real case or fake?"

"Look, Hassan, if you want to take on every Ali, Ah Kow and Ramasamy who comes to your house with a long story, where is it going to end, man?" asked Meng hotly.

"Meng, you shouldn't speak like that. God, no matter what you call him, created some people more fortunate than others so that the fortunate can help the less fortunate and at no time must we shirk this moral obligation. Even though you can give only a small amount, if you give it in goodwill, it is better . . ."

"Come now, Hassan, no preaching please. If you say that God did create some people more fortunate than others, why didn't he create all equal so that there wouldn't be so much trouble?" Meng was not prepared to listen to preaching but egged on by curiosity.

"That's the point, Meng. God did create all men equal. But people who did good deeds should be rewarded and those who do bad, punished. Thus, this is God's way of punishing, to atone for their wrongs."

"What about some people being more intelligent than others?"

"What is lacking in intelligence can always be made up through hard work. I don't know how far this is true, but I have been told that it is up to the individual to train and cultivate his brain. Let's not deviate from our original argument, Meng. As I was saying, Man's fate is not fixed. No one - neither me nor you, nor anyone else - knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Or have you and Ahmad travelled through the realms of time, and found that your future lives would be bliss to eternity, that you have resolved on this drastic attitude of not helping people in distress? Today it is they who are unfortunate enough to seek others' help. Tomorrow it might be you. It's no use offering excuses on difference of colour or things like that, like Ahmad does - in the eyes of God, all are equal."

"I admit that some of your arguments do have some logic. But I can't agree with all your statements."

"I never asked you to. What I am telling you is my own opinion - what I feel is right. You're at liberty to accept or reject it. Now, if I'm not mistaken I hear Ahmad coming, with the lady, I hope."

Ahmad entered with the lady behind him. She was about to fall when Meng, who was nearest the door, supported her and led her to a chair. She was wrapped up in blankets and the baby was given Ahmad's previously-offered glass of milk while some food was set before her. She ate hungrily. Meng, who had been staring at the girl all this time plucked up courage to ask her name. Now that her hunger was partly satisfied, she look up to examine the person who spoke to her. She, too, stared at his face while Ahmad and Hassan looked on puzzled. At last she spoke, hesitantly.

"My name is . . . Chong Kien Moy." On hearing these words Meng appeared stumped.

Almost unconsciously he exclaimed, "My sister!" Then recovering himself, he rushed up to her almost shouting, his voice full of joy.

"I am Meng, your brother!" While sister and brother cried and laughed in turns, Ahmad turned his face away, appalled at the fact that he had insulted the sister of his master's best friend, while Hassan looked on with a tolerant smile.

"You know, Hassan," Meng suddenly burst, "I came to your house to purchase that painting of the mother and son which you told me about, but now I've got a live painting free of charge!" And they all burst out laughing.

(3rd prize, Senior Section)

The moral sense of right and wrong is the conscience. When we steal, our conscience would immediately impress upon us that we have done something wrong. On the other hand, when we help a person in need, our conscience does not trouble us and we tend to feel satisfied and pleased with ourselves.

The mere existence of the conscience is sufficient testimony to the enlightening belief that human beings are fundamentally good. The very fact that we know that hurting someone is wrong, indicates that basically, we do not wish to hurt. The conscience acts as a natural built-in safeguard against wrong and in this way establishes the concept of good. If the conscience did not exist, then a distinction between right and wrong would be quite impossible.

If all human beings are good, why then do such persons as criminals exist? It would be simple, though inaccurate, to venture that the conscience is wholly absent in criminals. Certainly, specific personality traits are not the monopoly of any particular individual or group. No doubt, certain human characteristics may be more developed in some and less in others, giving rise to differences in behaviour patterns. One cannot doubt, however, the existence of these traits in every individual (with the obvious exception of the mentally deranged) whether to a greater or a lesser degree. The conscience is present in criminals. A criminal knows that his actions are wrong - yet he does execute them.I would attribute this to motivation - and in many cases, very strong motivation. If I were to ask you to kill a fully grown chicken without any reason whatsoever, you would probably refuse flatly. But, if I were to dare you to do so; or if I offered you an attractive ten dollar note if you were to do so; or if you were starving, and the chicken appeared to be the only source of nourishment, then perhaps killing the poor chicken would not be too difficult a task. Your conscience has not disappeared. It is strong motivation which has prompted you to act in a manner which your conscience would normally register as wrong. The dreaded Gestapo must have been very strongly motivated to have been capable of the gruesome acts which became so much a part of their lives. And, this is true, the motivating forces are compounded of political and racial superiority complexes.

Such a quality as aptitude may well be innate. But no one is born a murderer. Human beings are fundamentally good, and though strong motivation can alter behaviour trends, this essential goodness is universally present and can always be reinvoked, thus restoring the true human spirit. It is therefore a source of great satisfaction that the tendency nowadays is towards the rehabilitation of criminals rather than the long adhered to: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth policy.

Still, you may not agree. You may well cite instances where people are selfish or greedy and state categorically that you cannot possibly reconcile such traits with the concept of good. But, has it never occured to you that such opinions are usually the consequence of one single observation? Perhaps in one particular case a person might have acted in a selfish manner. But, does this imply that he is selfish to the marrow? Definitely not. We generally magnify isolated defects and identify the unfortunate individual concerned entirely with them. This rush to judgement is unfair, the human being is fundamentally good.

Acceptance of the title of this short essay as a universal motto would mean the defeat of man's greatest enemy - suspicion. The stage would then be set for a new dimension in human relationship.

This must be soon.

        What conscience dictates to be done,
        Or warns me not to do,
        This teaches me more than hell to shun,
        That, more than heav'n pursue.


Early in the second decade of life, every boy and girl enters the stage of sexual maturation - adolescence. The physical changes in the body have a profound effect on the total personality - emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

Adolescence is a time when childhood dependencies and ways of life are abandoned, more or less for good. This cannot be achieved without conflict and confused feelings - moodiness, loneliness, self-doubt. Each adolescent must begin to find his identity, his own place in relation with work, his moral commitments. It takes years for this transition to adulthood to approach a degree of stability.

Adolescence makes its appearance gradually. Between the ages of nine and twelve - the period of pre-adolescence - the child loses some of the charm and tractability of childhood; he begins to grumble about accustomed routine at home, to resist rules and challenge regulations. His language and habits become sloppy. His attention and concentration suffer, his homework becomes an ordeal. In every way pre-adolescents and their parents frequently get on each other's nerves. It is the function of adolescence to bring order and direction into these fitful beginnings of growing up.

The adolescent swings from independence to dependence and back; he is fearful one day, over confident the next; he is moody, over-sensitive, never quite sure of what he wants, sometimes wanting quite opposite and irreconciliable things.

At about fourteen or fifteen another change appears; the child is still unstable, moody, unpredictable, in conflict with adult authority and with himself - yet in many ways he is more grown-up. His interest in the opposite sex has been awakened and is openly expressed.

At this stage the child can be as meticulous about his appearance and manners as he was careless a few years before; he is considerably more responsible; he may throw himself into work with more vigour. He still lapses into introspection but he is making an attempt to solve his own problems on a more mature level.

Through experimentation the adolescent discovers his own powers and emotions his own capacities, interests and-desires. Gradually he arrives at a self-chosen code of conduct and morals.

Young people hope to discover Utopia, a world better than the one they inherited from their elders. They rush ahead disregarding obstacles, yet they are easily discouraged by the magnitude of the struggle towards maturity. Optimism and pessimism alternate; these swings of moods resulting in a show of independence, of cynicism, opportunism or callous anti-emotionalism. An understanding adult is the only safe bridge for an adolescent as he moves from childhood to adulthood.

But no matter how much care is exercised, clashes between the generations are inevitable. The challenge of adolescence to parental authority can be resolved only by respect for the differences and the need for compromise. A parent should realise that, since his own youth, great changes have taken place in manners, in clothes, in sccial conduct, in recreation, slang and language patterns.

However the adolescent behaves, he still needs his parents. More than anything else, the adolescent needs his parents' trust in him.


A room has dimensions; the mind none.
A room is rarely empty, the mind almost always
For the knowledge of life is an elusive eel
        that slips and slithers past our groping, grasping minds,
Not because we do not want to catch it
        but because we cannot.

Man should rather swim in the vast pools of enjoyment;
        should laugh, dance, sing and make merry
Because Man is flesh; just flesh and blood
        and all else is of no consequence; 
        all else is emptiness.

Emptiness is all around us and even within us
But where enjoyment reigns supreme, emptiness is no citizen;
        he disappears from our minds without warning, 
        exiled by the spacious splendours of enjoyment.  
And where enjoyment has evaporated, emptiness returns,
        again plays upon our fickle minds, our feeling hearts.

Should we not then rejoice?  Why grudge ourselves that?  
For Man from emptiness is born, unto emptiness does die;
        from eternity to eternity, with life bridging the gap. 
And therefore let us play upon this bridge; let us rejoice 
        while we are alive; not waste time in seriousness 
        but spend it in joy.

But what if that bridge leads us to the glorifications of immortality?
And Life is a test; the reward being the key to the door of the unknown?
The test where enjoyment gains no marks;
        where ambition and achievement does?

Then what will we, we who laugh, who dance, who drink be?
        just failures,
        leprous failures,
        miserable outcasts,

Condemned to walk the fringes of the unknown.
        To wonder
        and to be
By a burden of bewildering loneliness.

(2nd prize, Senior Section)

No calamity, I presume, befalls a man greater than those in petticoats. Fine days have on man effects which are various - in me it is usually marked by a general weakening of the senses. And only on such a day could this have happened.

I fell in love with an Italian model.

She was sleek, this femme fatale, and was dressed in blue. Enamoured and mesmerised, I decided that she was mine. Love it was at first kick, and she purred like a warm cat. The usual formalities having been negotiated, I was bestowed the ownership. The Chinaman shook my hand and slapped her on the seat. "Nice scooter," he said.

To the Chinaman it was an added wealth, personally it was a misadventure. The Italian became a constant source of irritation. Spark plug trouble, faulty coil, mechanical disfunction, and she drank like an oil tanker. Model 150 li had qualities which, if present in human form, would.have earned me a handsome dowry.

Apart from its oleaginous recesses which were far beyond my comprehension, my scooter had a bizarre homing instinct. And the attendant at "home" always had everything within his grasp, which included the interior of my purse. A wire here, a cleaning there, nothing was beyond his magical touch - and the engine continued to buzz again without failure. Pigeons have been known to have deviated from the course, but to this mechanical terror, a faint put-putting which culminated in an irritating stall was always a sign of nearby aid. Home to a scooter is where there are screw drivers and an oily concrete floor, the smoky atmosphere of faulty machines and the man with the magical hands ever threatening the contents of my purse.

It is always difficult to put in so few words the so many problems which amassed from this mechanical maniac. The transformation of a foreboding sound into effective onomatopoeia was always a step nearer towards achieving the impossible.

"Whaddya mean your scooter went spffllorraww?" roared the mechanic irately after annoyance wore out his sympathy.

In the intervening silence as I tried to recollect the vividness of the symptomatic sound, the mechanic scratched out his growing displeasure. He gave that look which mechanics always reserved for Thurber and me.

Sometimes after verbal attempts had been seemingly futile, the pundit of spanners and screws would decide to give it a try. He would go for a spin around the block and would return again with the machine subservienty docile. There usually was disgust on his face fitting of a man who had seen hell. But long association had made me quick to interpret that he was just magnifying the bleakness of his outlook in the interim between then and the period of credit extension, as his analysis had now made it alarmingly inevitable.

"Ball bearing," he would say, "lot trouble." If the news was specially alarming he would burst out in the National Language. "Jangan laju-lah, nanti satu kali dia p-i-i-i-i-ng!" He would throw out his oily arms in an obvious gesture signifying my ultimate meeting with my Creator.

Curiosity is sometimes the better half of despondency. As times of frustration occurred with monotonous regularity the urge to find out was even greater - for if you had to do it, you could as well do it with a ceremonious p-i-i-i-i-ng. So off we zoomed along the open highway, ever gaining speed and distance in this hopeful anticipation of the ominous mechanical protestation which would put an end to all the miseries which had been plaguing this trouble-prone mind, and exams, and failure and . . . klong! klong! klong! hooi! As the scooter grounded to a halt it soon transpired that in this moment of great anxiety the kick-starter had decided to drop onto the road and had thereby produced the ensuring sound - the last being the rude exclamation of a trishaw puller in front of whose moving trishaw the jumping starter had come to rest.

Portable starter, irate trishawman - but no p-i-i-i-i-ng!

The Italian had soon learned to adopt an attitude given to the perpetuation of my misery as was proved one day as we approached the traffic light. The latter had, among other things lately been collaborating with her in malicious plots designed to overthrow men - starting with me. The light was turning amber one day as I squeezed the throttle in an effort to make it before the red. It was then that the engines started slowing down considerably. Needless to say, it turned red before we were even within cursing distance. I made the mistake of accepting the attitude of resigned acceptance even before the grand finale - for almost as soon as I rested one foot on the tarmac, rain began gushing down my collar.

The incident which I was about to narrate (before the painful reminiscence of the scooter's disgusting association with electronics and Nature led me astray) also involved the participation of a traffic light - though this time it emerged amicably innocent. The light was already red as we indulged in a favourite pastime of scooters and like-minded creations, namely that of weaving our way in between stationary vehicles to the forefront of the impatient assembly. So we went; left, right, in and out, till we finally managed to zoom triumphantly on a clear passage to the left of a waiting Mini-Minor. The weather was fine and all was well with the world.

Then she decided to open the door. Whether she had finally decided to continue the rest of the journey on foot after thanking her driving friend or she was allured by the latest fashion in a nearby shop-window, I did not know. But she decided to open the door - and was about to walk calmly out when it caught her attention that in a bid to avoid the sudden swinging outburst, I had made a spectacular dive onto the kerb and had, in addition, swerved the scooter so near a passing pedestrian that, had it taken its full effect, would have given him enough flat-feet to last a year. Ladies have been known to have produced in men phenomenal abilities to perform great feats of daring - had that jump been placed in the high-jump pitch, I would have carried away the biggest cup for that event.

"Oh, er . . . I'm sorry." She muttered somewhat inaudibly.

"To say the least - " I blurted, desperately trying to extricate my left leg which had, in the preceding confusion, entangled itself in the pedestrian's grocery basket.

The lady dropped herself nervously onto the seat without attempting another move to get out of the car again. I don't know whether it was because of the look which I gave her that she changed her mind, but constant association with mechanics is known to have its effects.

Kok Sum had funny associations with my scooter which always prevented us from reaching home soon. Having him as a pillion invariably signalled a time of recalcitrance on the scooter's part - often it would slow down considerably until it had been relieved of the extra burden. The nearest we got to eternity was in a slight feud with an oncoming cyclist - we left him postrate but with life enough to indulge in all the swear words within command. Kok Sum, on the other hand, paid her a near compliment by expressing his morbid fear of 'travelling fast without anything around him." For once the slowing down was deliberate.

Prying into a nature whose secrets I was not privy to was a dangerous affair even for rectification of a certain rattling. The mechanic pried open the head-lamp from whose interior the said effect had been issuing whenever the scooter was mobile. His hand extracted five or so screws which had somehow run loose. But the interior seemed intact, and nowhere it seemed, was a locality where loose-screws could belong - a fact which I could determine from the puzzled look that he gave me in an attempt to determine their source. And mechanics could be very trying sometimes, especially when they had decided to join force with your irritant and thereby produce in you a strong sense of foreboding.

"All right - stop looking at my head!" I then finally said.

(3rd prize, Middle Section)

War, defined as a violent conflict between two or more opposing factions, probably started long before recorded history when two groups of armed hunters met in what each party claimed to be their territory. Their weapons then were probably bare fists or broken sticks and stones within their reach. From such crude weapons, men have developed over the centuries, sophisticated and expensive equipment especially meant for war and having no useful purpose in times of peace.

Comparing the arsenal of today to that of the past is like comparing a man to an amoeba. In the past, wars could be waged for years and yet be of little consequence to the majority of the population. But now, when men are using projectiles which hurtle through the air faster than the speed of sound, sophisticated vehicles which cost millions of dollars and take hundreds of thousands of man hours to produce, and destructive forces which can kill long after the actual. explosions and from incredible distances, wars are costly, both in terms of lives lost and equipment destroyed.

At present, with such an array of formidable weapons, men dare not risk full scale wars, least of all, a nuclear war. If such a war does come, then the fear that the world might come to an end might prove true. Civilisations have been wiped out in wars of the past when hand-wielded weapons were used. Now, with the terrifying weapons in use, the end of the world is possible. It is the fear that such an event might occur, that keeps the nuclear powers from solving their problems through use of force.

Minor conflicts, confined to small areas, however, still persist. The Vietnam war and the recent Middle East flare-up are examples of such conflicts. The latter exemplifies a quarrel over territory though oher factors contributed to the starting of the struggle. In the case of the Arabs the aim was to free Palestine and drive out the Israelis whom they considered intruders. The Israelis on the other hand wanted to ensure their own safety and to uphold their right to survive. In the end neither problems were solved. The Arabs lost even larger tracts of land while the Israelis are now engaged in a fierce legal battle in the United Nations over their rights. The result does not seem at all favourable to both the Arabs and the Israelis.

In the Vietnam, billions of dollars which can be spent to create a better world, are being spent in the struggle. All types of weapons are being thrown into the conflict and the countryside is almost completely ravaged. Millions of dollars worth. of equipment diverted from peaceful purposes, are being used and destroyed, for almost no reason, in the war. Lives are lost and the question of who is to rule Vietnam is still unsolved.

In both cases, no matter who wins, the countries involved do not gain anything except perhaps prestige. No problem, except the problem of population explosion, is solved. Both the victor and the defeated will take years to regain their previous prosperity.

In the past, the world wars were supposed to put an end to tyrannies and dictatorships but what was the result? Although Nazism was crushed in Germany, an even more evil power has risen. Communism has taken a hold of and swallowed a large portion of Eastern Europe. Poland, Germany, Czechokoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania and Bulgaria are now confined behind the Iron Curtain. In abolishing evil and thus solving a problem, the war created another even more difficult problem.

The Second World War set back the clock for many countries and sapped their energy, killing an entire generation of males. Germany lost three and a half million and Russia seven and a half million in battle death alone. Deaths out of the battlefields and civilian deaths almost equal the amount. The other countries engaged in the struggle lost a large portion of their armed forces but not as much as the two countries mentioned. In the war only conventional weapons with the exception of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were used. If in a third world war, nuclear armaments are used, then casualties may be as much as a hundred times the number in the last great war.

Coming away from international disputes to the even more confined struggles for power, there is Malaya to provide an outstanding example. After the Second World War a new enemy - international communism - crept into Malaya. Its aim was to overthrow the goverment by force. Although a state of emergency, during which internal strife almost shattered the economy of the country, existed for a dozen years, the Reds were finally defeated with the aid of Commonwealth forces.

Civil wars like the Spanish Civil War just before the Second World War, are struggles for power. Though both sides probably wish for a better country their ideologies offer differ and the differences cannot be overcome. The result was the Civil War of Spain where millions of young men took up arms against each other. The development of Spain was temporarily halted. The scars of the war have not completely healed.

In the United States a civil war existed for four years during which families were broken up by misunderstandings and disagreements. Though the South lost, the problem was not totally solved. Hatred between the North and the South existed for decades afterwards and the negro problem still remains.

Wars may be started in an attempt to solve problems but they seldom solve any problems except that of population explosion. Wars only bring out more problems, more distrust, and pave a way to more wars. Even the First World War, supposed to be a war to end all wars, led to the even more fearsome Second World War.

(3rd prize, Middle Section)

The sound of muffled sobbing disturbed my peaceful slumber. "Hell! Why must they come so early?" I mumbled to myself as I floated down from the ceiling and eyed the open coffin in which my now empty shell was lying. As I gazed at the obese and unheathy-looking body lying in the coffin my mind went back to the events of the previous day. It was my fortieth birthday and I had been looking forward eagerly to it. Unfortunately the excitement had been too much for my heart and I had suffered a stroke. "It's a real pity that I can't taste all that wonderful food they prepared." My mouth watered as I thought of the chocolate cake and the roast chicken but the sensation soon passed away because spirits don't feel hungry - well, not experienced ones anyway, but I was only fifteen hours old.

"Look at that crowd coming in," I said in disbelief. "Why, they wouldn't even speak to me when I was alive. And listen to what they're saying - the hypocrites!" I worked myself into a righteous rage. "I shall haunt them, I shall give them bad luck, I'll, I'll........." Here I ran out of breath.

"Hey, you there!" I heard a rumbling voice call. I turned round - to find a pitchfork confronting me. My eyes travelled down the length of the pitchfork to the face of the person holding the fork.

"Your horns are crooked," I could not stop myself from saying, then stopped as Satan's face turned a fiery red and smoke belched from his gaping nostrils.

"Very funny! Well, for your information, that came from my last encounter with Gabriel. He got the better of me that time. Now are you coming peacefully or do I have to use force?" He shook his pitchfork (I noticed that it was rather rusty) at me.

Fearfully I mumbled "Yes!" and followed him.

"Right, grab hold of my cape . . . not my sleeve, you numbskull…" and before I knew it we were whirling down, down into the depths of the earth.

On the way we passed other bat-like satanic forms who were flitting about with broomsticks in their hands.

"They're practising their dancing for the Hell Ball next week" my host explained, "and they don't want to soil their pitchforks."

The heat grew greater and greater. I noticed that we were flying towards a fiery pit with flames that shot a hundred feet into the air. Panic overtook me.

"I don't want to go to Hell. I haven't done anything wrong," I wailed. "I'm going to let go. The heat is becoming too great."

"Do you think every Tom, Dick and Harry like you can enter my kingdom? You'll have to appear before my court first and I can assure you, the judges are very strict."

"It's all very well for you to say that but I'll probably die of heat stroke before we reach your court."

"Don't worry. The court and all my chambers are air-conditioned. Do you think I can stand the heat myself? And anyway you're already dead."

Thus reassured(?) I hung on submissively while we plunged through the pit and emerged into Hell proper.

I was struck dumb by the beauty of the place. Why, it was like the most beautiful place on earth. In front huge buildings jutted into the sky. Every space was ingeniously utilised for living. Houses were built between neighbouring stalagmites and I discovered that there was even a city built among the stalactites high above us. The whole place was flooded with subdued blue light and was pleasantly cool.

"Well, I'm glad you like the place but we haven't time to lose. The court's over there."

The court began as soon as everyone was seated.

"You, from the world above, are seeking permission to enter into the Kingdom of Hell," began the Chief Judge.

"Hell! that's not where I want to go .. I mean heaven, no I mean hell . . ." I cried in desperation.

Ignoring me the judge began to read out the list of my forty years' sins. "Stealing his brother's rattle, drinking his sister's milk... (deep breath)... drawing pictures in his classmate's book, putting a frog in his teacher's bag..." Fascinated, I stopped my protests and listened. Did I really do all that? My sins passed from teenager to University student to working man… All the judges had horrified looks on their faces. One of them fainted during the reading of my University exploits. I just couldn't believe that. How could I have done such things? Why … I was quite a man!!! My chest swelled out and pride glistened in my eyes.

At last the exhausting list came to an end. The judges looked at each other then nodded knowingly. Sudden fear flooded my mind. Visions of boiling oil, castration, whipping and other delectable tortures made my blood run cold.

The chief judge cleared his throat and began, "We are all unanimous in our judgement. You are too bad for Hell. I think Heaven will accept you."

"But, but… I want to stay here. I want to attend the Hell Ball. I'm sure I'll look nice with a pair of horns, and dancing with a pitchfork," I pleaded.

"No, your qualifications are meagre to say the least. You seem to suffer from a misconception that only good people go to heaven. Well you're wrong. You'll go to heaven and learn how to be a goody-goody angel. Others come to Hell to have a good time. Do you know we have two Hell Balls every week? And that's in addition to all the other social activities."

"At least let me attend the Hell Ball…."

"No" he said reaching for the hot-line to Heaven. "Hello, is that Saint Peter? We've a real problem case on our hands. We'll appreciate it if you'll take him off our hands as soon as possible."

"Humph!" snorted the holy Saint. "I told you so. You should have handed him to us straightaway. Well, I'll send Gabriel over with a strait-jacket."

And before I knew it, I was standing at the Pearly Gate while a stern looking Saint Peter glowered at me. "Ha! You're a hard case all right. I can see it in your face." I shivered in my pants and wished that the clouds would swallow me. "Now let's see, I'll enrol you for a course in good manners first, followed by a course in giving love, followed by a course in...........

My heart sank and my despair must have shown in my face. The Holy Saint softened and said "Oh it's not as, bad as that. I dare say you'll be earning your Wings and your harp soon enough, and who knows, maybe even a halo to go with it. I doubt if you'll get a golden one though," he added as an after thought, as Gabriel led me through the Gate.

And that was my fate in twenty years' time. I did get my wings eventually, and a bronze halo, followed by a silver one . . . but of course that's another story.

(3rd prize, Middle Section)

Is fashion created as a joke on our fairer sex? The old fashioned women may hold this view, but our 'in' girls would laugh their already scanty dresses off. A fashion about ten years before its time is indecent. Ten years after its time, it is hideous. A century after, it may become romantic.

Fashion plays an important role in our social life. We cannot escape from its grasp if we want to be socially 'in' for the reason that they are the result of our own vanity - the desire to be up to date and to keep up with the Joneses no matter how ridiculous fashion may be.

The worst victim of fashion, needless to say, is the weaker sex - woman. The speed with which women react to a newly-created fashion, has become an international joke and this has put them at the mercy of the cartoonists, poets and society which takes the chance to poke fun at them.

Strange fashions were created to attract the opposite sex to a particular part of the human anatomy. Among the Fulanis of Africa for instance, it is the fashion for every young belle to have as long a neck as possible. These beautiful necks are decorated with coloured beads. In China, during medieval times, it was the fashion to have small dainty feet. This was believed to be attractive. Big feet in China reflected the lower caste. Thus, because of vanity, these people went through the pain of having their necks stretched, (maybe one way of increasing height) and their feet bound up. They can't be blamed of course, because fashions are that arbitrary.

Where women's clothings are concerned fashion plays a great part. Let us delve into the history of fashion. During the Elizabethan Age, the richer the women were, the more fussy about their clothes they became. Their gowns that they dragged - literally - along were of satin and velvet weighed down with jewels and pearls sewn on them. Then the hoop skirts and large puffed sleeves were in vogue but this soon gave way to the long trains but narrowed skirts. At the end of the 19th century, dresses had a tight fitting bodice and bustle. This led to the 'hour-glass' silhouettes or, in modern words, a dress that hugs a figure of 38-19-38. During the Jazz Age the hemline crept up to the knee, the waist line disappeared and the new sheath dresses were cut to follow the natural curves. Here zippers began to reign.

Ask the girl who is nearest to you how she feels in her tight fitting dress. The last thing that she will say is 'uncomfortable.' Just to fit into her dress I can bet that she will willingly sacrifice the creamy delicacies for a cup of sour lemon or tea sans sugar. The accent today is on simplicity. So simple are today's clothes that the moral authorities are finding it hard to persuade these people to keep away from the scanty bikinis and the latest - 'the topless.' This may be hideous - like going back to the era of Adam and Eve but when men are bored what will the designers come up with - the bottomless? Unlikely? Well, the 'baby doll' dresses far above the hips are coming and the see-throughs are even catching on in Kuala Lumpur. God help these women but yet they accept all these. Let us hope that designers come up with something more practical in future.

Another fashion is in hairstyles. The latest is the short hair with two 'horns' pointing forward just below the ears. This is not too bad when compared with the 18th century style where the hair is set over a frame-work with false wire, rolls, pomade, ribbon, lace and even feathers. So high were some heads that a portion of the door had to be cut off and some poor ladies had to walk for they just could not travel in coaches. Why all the trouble? If you think it is simple to have a hairstyle like that, ask any girl fashioning a beehive. The pony tail is alright if it is under control. A swing of the head will cause annoyance to many. Well fashion is fashion and as a Chinese saying goes: beauty is more important than life.

What about shoes? Nowadays we have the flats and baby heels instead of the noise makers - steel heels. Whatever discomfort shoes cause does not matter as long as they are in fashion - not even if the sharp heels sink into the mud or blisters are formed on the tarsals caused by stiletto type shoes. Now, boots, like that of the wild west, have come into fashion and the next fashion will be that of the cave men - bare feet. (This has already happened in Canada)

Whatever fashion it is, it will be a novelty at first, then a bore and finally it would give way to another novelty and yet another. So those who look upon fashion as a joke, should device something new. They will have a good laugh for a period but no more.

VI The V.I. Web Page

Created on 08 December 1999.
Last update on 30 January 2000.

PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng