The debate over the famous pianist rages on with several letters to the Straits Times forum page today.
Frankly, I don’t see any need to get too upset over this. I am resigned to this fact of life: The talented and gifted will always get special treatment.
Take the sportsmen for example. During my NS days (which was a very, very long time ago) the sportsmen always got excused from duty while the average Joes like me have to carry the extra load. I suspect it is no different today.
I am reminded of my time as platoon commander in one of the combat engineer companies in 30 SCE back in the 70’s. Both my CSM and Coy 2IC were sportsmen. As such, we hardly ever saw them. (Although the CSM did occasionally appear out of nowhere and made his presence felt by screaming at the Coy HQ staff, and putting a couple of store men on charge and then disappearing unnoticed. Reminds me of this line from the famous poem, Sohrab and Rustum, “Like the lightning to this field I come, and like the wind I go away”) My OC was one of those, shall I put it delicately, ‘trusting type’ who left things pretty much to us. So the company was mostly run by the 3 platoon commanders, all NS 2LTs; which was a bit of a surprise to me – I thought the career soldiers should be much more ‘on’ than us NS boys.
Things got so bad that one day, one of my men, who was on guard duty asked me; Sir, you kena take (extra duty) is it? No. I replied. Why do you say that? Oh; because I always see you on duty; if not DO then standby PC. Sigh.
I know of someone who had a brilliant strategy to take advantage of the army’s high regard for sportsmen. Even though he was never much of a sportsman in school, once he got into army uniform, he became an outstanding sportsman overnight, specializing in one sport after another – depending on which sport was in season. As such, he spent a large chunk of his NS stint staying out of camp. Also, he was on good terms with some of the players in his team, who were themselves captains of other sports teams. Thus, he was able to become a reserve in sports that he knew nothing about; such as boxing. Every time there was a boxing match, he prayed harder than the officer-in-charge for the welfare of the regular boxers. Once his badminton team worn a championship and he went to his Bn CO and asked for 3 days off as a reward for his team members. “2 days. Take it or leave it”, countered the wise commander. He reluctantly took it ……. and then proceeded to see his Bn 2IC and got another day off.
The same applied of course to the talented singers and dancers. I heard some of them never even got to put on an army uniform, let alone carry a rifle and charge up Pengkang Hill. I heard that one of them even became a famous director or something.
Well; back to the average Joes. What can I say? It’s like that one lah. Just grin and bear with it lor; and tell yourself, “I have done my part. I don’t care about others. (Your friend here didn’t get to ROD until age 50 ok). Don’t begrudge the famous pianist. Just think of all the wonderful things that he missed; such as:
1. Blogging about the good old army daze.
2. Gazing at the beautiful lights of Jurong town in the still of the night from Tower 1 of Safti Magazine (the old Safti, now called Pasir Laba Camp – how I detest the government always changing the names of places and established institutions) and contemplating the meaning of life.
3. Gazing at the beautiful lights of Johor Bahru in the still of the night from Hill 180 in Marsiling (they didn’t change the name of that one; they simply bulldozed it away) and contemplating the meaning of life.
4. Watching beautiful tracers* skim the surface of Sarimbun Reservoir during night life firing, chased by their reflections in water below.
5. Trying to follow the path of the 155 artillery shell as it hurtles over a highway to the hill on the other side, in ROC (Taiwan).
6. Seeing many places that most Singaporeans never saw, nor will ever see; from the sand pits of Tampines, to the kampongs of Hong Kah, Bt Batok, Bt Panjang, Marsiling and Kranji.
7. Sleep-walking in a mine field (with dummy mines of course).
8. Sleeping in a flooded foxhole on a rainy night, after trying in vain to bale out the water with your helmet. At least nowadays, if I have difficulty sleeping at night, I can think of that foxhole - definitely beats counting sheep.
9. Buying hot coffee, fried bee hoon and other wonderful snacks from the village lasses in Sungei Gedong at midnight. (I hope my son’s canoeing team buddies read this blog. Maybe now they will understand why WN’s father is such a cheapskate – always like to buy those cheap chocolate wafers.)
10. Last but not least, seeing Lee Hsien Loong clear rubbish in PT kit.
* A tracer is a bullet that gives out light when it leaves the barrel. So you can actually see the path the bullet travels in the dark.
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