Tuesday 22 May 2012

Fainting In School

Though the British had returned and took control of Singapore, life was not any better for us than during the Japanese occupation. The rationing of rice and sugar was no more but we needed money to buy things. And money was hard to earn.

By this time, my dad had built a bigger and better attap house in our new estate at Neo Tiew Road, relegating our place at Cashin Estate to lesser importance. Nevertheless, my brother and I were still posted there to look after it.

Every morning, I would have every many chores to do before I could go to school.

One Monday, I left home without a proper breakfast after helping my brother to pick vegetables and feed the pigs. I just swallowed a few small bananas and cycled to school.

At school, it was Monday Assembly - Chinese-school style. It began with a flag-raising ceremony. The national flag of the Republic of China was raised, a colourful flag with a quarter at the top left in blue. On this patch was a 12-point white sun. The remainder of the flag was red in colour (see picture below).

In Chinese, we would say "Qing tian bai re man di hung."

At the time, we were Chinese settlers in a British colony and so remained Chinese and honored our motherland, which was China.

As the flag was raised, we sang the national anthem of China, which was the san ming zhu yi. After that song, our principal recited the will of Dr Sun Yat Sen. The ceremony ended with the paying of respect to the portrait of Dr Sun with three deep bows.

After this, the principal would start his long lecture, followed by the Senior Teacher and then the Discipline Master, and any teacher with something to say. At times, there would be a moral lecture on some theme of the week. The theme could be about Honesty, Helpfulness, Friendliness, etc. A Moral Student would then be picked at the end of the week as an exemplary student.

One week, I was picked as the model student for Loving Kindness as the teachers found I loved everyone and they in turn were friendly to me.

On this day, I am standing right at the front of my class in a straight line in the basketball court that is used as an Assembly Area. I feel very tired and my legs have become lighter and seem to float. All of a sudden, a thick black curtain cast itself right in front of me and I couldn't see anything any more....

The next thing I knew, everybody was calling my name, but I found it hard to reply. Slowly, I began to feel people pinching me; it was painful. I could hear them call me some more. When I answered them, they were so relieved. "He's alright now," they said.

I felt as if I had been asleep and when I opened my eyes, I saw Mr Yeh - a teacher with a weather-beaten face and one who cycled to school everyday. Around me were all my friends grateful that I had come around. My teacher asked me two questions: "Did you have enough sleep last night?" and "Did you have your breakfast?" He then gave me a cup of warm water to drink.

Later, two schoolmates from upper primary sent me home. One used his bicycle to pillion me, the other rode my bike. They then returned to school on one bike.

As my fainting case was the only major incident to happen in my school so far, I became suddenly very famous. I was known as The Boy Who Fainted, The Boy Who Nearly Died, and The Boy Who Died And Was Resurrected!

The teachers also became very concerned and would ask me if I had taken a good breakfast, how I was that day or simply to take care.

This was around 1949 when I was in Primary 5. By 1950 year end, I was ready to graduate from Kay Wah Public School. At the graduating ceremony, I was chosen to deliver a message to thank the school and my teachers for a successful education.

My form teacher, who was also my principal, was praying hard that I would not faint. The speech was written by him and I learnt it by heart.

I was a bit nervous at first but after a few sentences, I calmed down. I could tell that the principal was very pleased with my performance that day.

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