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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I am proud of my country

I am proud of my country

In his poem of patriotism Scott says If a man is not proud of his country, he will be burried without honor. When a man returns after a travel to his country he must be bubbling with enthusiasm and his heart must be pulsating with joy to land on his native soil. We have heard of great martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the sake of their country. So it is only proper and fair that one should love one's country.

To love one's country one need not have taken part in the liberation movements. One need not have carried the flag, shouted slogans and stood in the front line of agitators. His ancestors need not have shed blood for the sake of the land, nor there is any need for any material sacrifice. Still one may be proud of one's country.

There are many things why one must be proud of one's country. It may be due to the climate, natural regions, its people and the government, its tradition and culture and manufactures. The relation which the country has with other countries is also a point to be considered.

Considering the above norms let me say why I am proud of my country. My country has an equable climate. We are having bright sunshine throughout the year and plenty of rain. There are virgin evergreen forests. There are some good rivers, and the hills and valleys make the country beautiful. The sea coast is not straight but has bays so there are some good harbors.

Our people are quiet, hard-working and peace loving. They know their land gives them plenty in the form of grains and fruits and so one need not be hungry. The forests have natural wealth and the plantations are rich producing money spinning rubber. Our mines produce valuable tin making the country rich. We are a developing nation and a lot of good things will have to be done.

We have a good government which is democratic in set up. We have had a succession of enlightened rulers who have taken measures for improvement. The upheavals we see in some countries are practically absent in our country and the people are law-abiding .

Our country has had a long history of several centuries. Several cultures have flowed in here and so there we see a mixed culture. This is reflected in the way people dress and eat; the buildings show the effect of these over-riding cultures. Our country has very friendly relation with neighboring countries and we are held in high esteem. Considering all these I am proud of my country.



Books cost a fortune and this means that not everybody can afford to buy many useful reference books. There are many people who crave for knowledge but are unable to satisfy their needs due to lack of money. Libraries can help solve this problem.

Libraries are important to people whether it is a developed or developing country. Well-maintained libraries in each town are gift to the people. It is very much a basic need for students ranging form the primary school children to the college students. The public too can make use of the library for a leisure reading and to gain more knowledge thereby making good use of their free time.

A well maintained library should have a wide selection of books. They should have books on almost all subjects such as science, literature, English, art, history, philosophy, engineering, medicine, technology, etc. In addition, newspaper, magazines and periodicals should be available. Hard cover story books, paperback novels, plays should also be available in abundance. They should be neatly arranged by sections and labeled easy access.

Singapore is a model country where everything is properly planned. Each town has its own library which is in turn controlled by the National Library of Singapore. In addition professional bodies and councils have their own libraries catering to their own need. The National Library of Singapore serves the people of all age groups. Ranging from children to senior citizens, separate facilities are provided. The current best sellers, periodicals, magazines from local and oversea publishers are also available in the National Library. Hence the people should make use of the library to gain more knowledge.

Old age and youth

Old age and youth

Everything that begins will surely end. That is an indisputable fact of living. All of us were born into our bodies some time ago, and some time ahead our bodies will surely die. In between birth and death we go through many periods where our bodies change slowly but imperceptibly. Youth and old age are but two of the distinct periods that many of us go through, the exceptions being the ones who die before they can complete the normal course of living.

The differences between youth and old age are obvious. A young man is usually full of vigor and energy. His body is in its prime and he can do anything that requires physical strength easily. Usually youth is the time when young men and women look the most attractive. Their skin shines with the glow of life. They are drawn to each other and eventually pair off to produce children of their own. They are full of hope for a wonderful life together. They laugh, sing and seek all sorts of things to enjoy themselves with.

Old age is a totally different matter. An old person no longer possesses the vigor and energy of youth. Physical exertion is out of the question. Even climbing the stairs can be impossible. Wrinkles and age-spots ravage the once-smooth skin. The glow of life is gone and the body is no longer attractive. In fact it can even appear repulsive. The magnetic attraction for the opposite sex fades, memory fails, and possibly senility sets in. For most old people laughter is rare and hopes are dashed. The future is only the grave.

Examples of these vast different between youth and old age are my grandparents. I had, on occasions, gone through the family album. Inside the album, in black and white prints are photographs of my grandparents. My grandfather was a handsome young man and my grandmother was not unlike the many pretty girls I meet on the street. I am sure my grandfather was a strong man judging by his considerable muscles in the photographs. Grandmother’s skin was smooth and fair.

That was many years ago. My grandfather is already in his grave and my grandmother is in her late seventies. I remember just before he died a few years back, he was a bent old man withered with age. He could not walk after having a stroke. He either lay in bed or had to be pushed around in a wheelchair. It was quite unbelievable that the handsome young man in the photograph became helpless cripple. Time really changes everything.

My grandmother is still living, but what a hellish life it is for her. She has become what we might call senile. She cannot remember simple things like where she left her comb. Also she gets upset because she knows she cannot remember and keep saying how useless she is now. We, the younger ones, try to help her as much as we can, but she, despite being old, is very stubborn. Sometimes she does remember bits and pieces of things but she cannot put them in any logical order. This adds to her confusion. All we can do is to attend to her daily needs and keep an eye on her so that she does not endanger herself. Sometimes I wonder how such a pretty young lady could turn into such a helpless old woman. Again time changes everything.

In my youth then, I see that I am headed for old age. If I live to see my old age, I would not like to end up like my grandparents. However I do not know if this is for me to choose or not. Only time will tell.

I choose a career

I choose a career

Soon I will be joining the hundreds of school leavers to enter the world of the adults. Childhood seems to have lasted such a short time and I wish that it could last longer, but it cannot be.

The next phase of my life will require that I choose a career, or at least some kind of employment so that I can become a useful member of society. This presents some difficulties.

I am not inclined towards any career in particular. Some of my friends know exactly what they want to do in the future, but most of us do not. I actually have no idea what sort of job I would like to do. Any job seems all right to me. However I have to consider my parents and I try not to displease them.

It is their wish that I become a doctor, or a lawyer at the least. I suppose those are the dreams of most parents. A doctor or a lawyer is highly respected and makes lots of money. So they are the aspirations of many young people. I have to be realistic though. I cannot become a doctor because I am not in science class. So becoming a doctor is out of the question. I could study to become a lawyer, but I have absolutely no interest in law. So becoming a lawyer seems remote too.

What else could I do? I have to list the possibilities down: teacher, banker, businessman, soldier, policeman, politician, artist, writer, journalist, sailor, interior decorator, farmer, race-driver – the list seems endless. Unfortunately the hippies seem to have faded from the scene. It would be an experience if I could join them for a year or two. That would make my father’s blood pressure shoot up for sure. Come to think of it, my father grew up during the time when the hippies were a rage, so he might not mind.

Anyway hippies and bumming around are definitely not suitable. I have to earn some money in order to live.

If narrow down the list I find that the greatest possibilities lie in journalism, writing or being a commercial artist. These three thins are what I would not mind doing for a living. The other professions contain too many things I do not like. So unless I have no choice, I probably would not do them.

To become a writer or an artist means that I will have to take up a course for these things. I will have to start finding out what sort of courses are available locally. I definitely cannot go overseas to do them. My parents will not be able to afford it. So immediately after leaving school, I will have to make efforts to see whether these possibilities can be realized. If not then I will have to look for other possibilities.

Anyhow I feel better now after having some idea of what I can do in the future. It is still not definite what career I will take up. At least I know where to begin.

What career would you like to choose after leaving school

What career would you like to choose after leaving school

Today, it is not easy to choose a career. Hundreds of students pass various examinations every year and compete with one another for positions in the various professions which are not so many as there are applicants. I would, however, like to choose teaching as my career.

Teaching is an interesting career for several reasons. As a teacher I can learn many things, especially if I teach to an udder-secondary school. If I teach History or English, for example, I have to read many books to make my teaching lessons more interesting to my pupils. Thus, I can acquire more knowledge of the subjects that I teach than what I can learn from the class text books. It is indeed a fact that a teacher learns a lot from the class text books; but that is hardly enough to make the teacher's lessons interesting to pupils. A good teacher must therefore read many other books.

Again, as a teacher, I have to speak well so that my pupils will be able to understand my instructions well. In this way I can improve my powers of expression. Even my pronunciation of words will improve to great extent.

Further, as a teacher, I shall have enough leisure to read and prepare for various examinations. It is possible today to sit for many important examinations by studying entirely at home. Thus, I can acquire important qualifications.

Finally, as a teacher I will be respected as an educated person. People will assume that I have certain qualifications and show their regard for me and the opinions that I express. Thus, I shall be able to live a happy life.

The advantages and disadvantages of co-education

Read list of advantages and disadvantages of co-education

I study in a co-education school. In my class there are about twenty boys and twelve girls. We learn many things one another in the course of being in the same class everyday. Sometimes the interaction is pleasant and sometimes not. In other words co-education has its good points and bad points, that is, its advantages and disadvantages.

The main advantage that I can see is that we learn that boys are different from girls in many ways. In short, we learn how to handle each other. Boys tend to be more physical, while girls are far gentler. However this is not a universal rule, for tom-boys do exist in our class and they pack a harder wallop than some sissies who also exist in our class. Anyhow I learn that the two sexes behave generally in fixed manners although there are exceptions.

I suppose this sort of interaction will come in useful in the future when boys and girls become men and women who will produce the next generations. I am a boy and I have to admit that I learn a lot about how to handle both boys and girls. I have a friend who studies in an all-boys’ school. He always asks me how I handle the girls. He is quite ignorant about girls, for I have seen him being tongue-tied in front of girls. None of my classmates have such a problem.

The one big disadvantage about having boys and girls in the same class is when we go for physical education. Boys and girls just cannot do the same type of exercise or play the same game together. So we need to have two teachers, one for the boys and one for the girls. Our headmaster has come up with the ingenious solution of having two classes doing P.E. at the same time so that the boys and girls from each class combine together under one teacher each.

Another advantage of a co-education school becomes obvious when the school holds the school sports, concerts and other functions. In sports a co-education school can see full participation from both sexes. Also the harder physical work of preparing for a sports meet can be done by the boys while the gentler tasks of preparing food and drinks as well as serving guests are best left to the girls. The boys and girls get to learn their social roles.

In concerts and other functions it is undoubted that both boys and girls are needed. In a co-education school there is no problem of finding the persons to take part. However in an all-boys’ or an all-girls’ school, they will have to “borrow” the necessary boys or girls in order to run their functions. I myself and other boys have had to go and serve our all-girls neighbor for some of their functions. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed my duties there, for the girls there really appreciate our help thus lavishing their attention on us. I suspect that they enjoy our being there too.

Our girls too get to go and help out at an all-boys’ school. I am sure they enjoy themselves too.

I have not studied in an all-boys’ school before so I do not really know what sort of situation exists there. However I would not change my place here for anything else. It is definitely better to have girls around than to see only boys everyday.

What opportunities have you had at school or elsewhere of listening teacher and speaking English?

What opportunities have you had at school or elsewhere of listening teacher and speaking English? How far have they been helpful? What changes would you suggest?

All the subjects in school are taught in Bahasa Malaysia except for English Language. Thus the opportunity for using English in school is very limited. I do converse in English with some of my friends, but only with a few of them. This is because most of the others cannot converse in English.

Some of these others do not have ample command of the English Language. Yet there are other who are either too shy to speak English or they simply refuse to do so. The teachers are not much help either for some of them can hardly speak English. It is only outside school hours that I get to speak English to teachers who can do so. Such opportunities only come when we have to return to school for games or other activities.

It would be beneficial if the school could have special periods or days each weak where the students and teachers are encouraged to converse in English. In that way both sides benefit and we do not have to be at a disadvantage because of our poor command of English. My father’s generations are proficient in English because English was the medium of instruction then. I am not saying we should go back to their time. I am just saying that we should not lose our proficiency in English and thus become handicapped when we face the outside world.

However the mass media provide much opportunity for listening to English. Television especially is very helpful. Most of my favorite programs are in English and we hear it being spoken although mostly by Americans. I cannot complain though for I do learn a lot from them. In fact I can see how different spoken English can be in the U.S.A, England, Australia, India, Malaysia and other countries. Though it is basically English each speaks, the pronunciation, accent and local flavor are plainly discernible. I can, quite accurately, tell where a person is from by listening to the English he speaks.

Unfortunately while I can hear English being spoken via television or radio, I cannot speak back. So again the opportunity to speak English is limited.

I suppose I have to live with the fact that the number of opportunities for listening and speaking English is limited. That does not mean that I give up using English. I realize that English is a very important language in the world and it is definitely important that I become proficient in it. We all should be proficient in it because most of the important discoveries and advances in science, technology and other fields are available in English. So if our command of English is lacking, we lose out and always are left behind.

Is family planning necessary?

Is family planning necessary?

My answer to this question is a definite Yes! My reasons are as follows.

When a man and a woman settle down and start having children without considering what sort of life they and the children will have, they are behaving very irresponsibly. Often the result of such irresponsibility is a family that will undergo a lot of hardship. I give an example of this.

An uncle of mine works as fishmonger. In the eight years of his marriage, he already has eight children and more seem to be on the way. He can hardly make enough to feed himself and his wife. With eight more young mouths to feed it is not surprising that he simply cannot cope.

His children do not have decent clothes to wear or sufficient food to eat. They live in a squalid squatter shack near the edge of town. My mother, who is his sister, does what she can to help. However the amount of help she can give is limited for she is a housewife and my father is not too keen on giving unending assistance to someone (my uncle) who is so irresponsible. So my uncle moans about his misfortune and complains that no one wants to help him. What he will not admit is that he is the cause of his own misery. He suffers the consequences of not planning his family.

There are hundred of families that live the way my uncle does I the squatter settlement. I have visited them on numerous occasions and have to say that they live in miserable conditions. They do not have piped water or proper drains. Basic hygiene is not observed. As a result the people living there are not healthy. The children are especially prone to all sorts of illness. My cousins seem to have perpetual runny noses and smelly bodies.

The future of these children is not bright. Without proper upbringing many of them will end up on the wrong side of the law. I know that some of the residents of this area are thugs and gangsters. Some of them have already been arrested for crimes such as drug trafficking and armed robbery. What hope is there for children brought up here?

On the other hand one of my father’s cousins is careful about his children. He only has three, all of which are given a good home to grow up in. he is by no means rich. He earns his living as a van salesman. The difference is that he is concerned with the quality of the children he has, not quantity. He makes sure they have enough food to eat and their well-being is looked after. The result of such care is so obvious. The children live in much better conditions. They are a joy to be with. At least there is less risk in getting some kind of sickness from them, as in the case with my less fortunate cousins.

On the whole I will say that a planned family of about two or three children is best. The children have a chance of a happy childhood. The likelihood is that they will grow up to be good responsible citizens too. In a large unplanned family, the parents have not enough time to bring the children up properly. Besides having a difficult childhood, the chances of growing up into wrong company is very real indeed. Consequently, they suffer the rest of their lives.

The signs are obvious. A planned family has a much better chance of being a happy one. An unplanned one has virtually no chance at all.

What I dislike most in people

What I dislike most in people

What I dislike most in people is when they do not keep their words. I have had many encounters with people who do this and I must say I find it most unpleasant.

I usually keep my word. If I find that I am not able to because of extraordinary circumstances, I make it a point to tell the person involved so that he or she will not feel let down. For example if I were to tell a friend that I will come to her house at 9 a.m. but cannot do so, I will make sure I let her know before that time so that she will not have to wait for me in vain.

However, I know from experience that many people do not keep their word. I have been kept waiting a number of times by friends who said they will meet me at certain time but come later or do not show up at all. What is worse is that they do not even apologize or say why they did not keep their word. These people then become less of a friend and more of just an acquaintance. I do not feel sorry for it. I am definitely better off without having to endure further disappointments.

It seems to me that some people simply say things without meaning what they say. They just utter words out of convenience. There is a man who replies “no problem” to any request made to him. He works as an electrician-cum-plumber. When we require his services we would ring him up and invariably his answer will be “no problem”. He always promises to come the next day but almost always he fails to show up. So we ring again and he will again say “no problem” but again he will fail to keep his words. Perhaps after a week or so he will appear to render his services. Sometimes we can wait, but more often now we get someone else to do the job. This someone else also does not usually keep his words but at least he does not say “no problem”.

Then there is an uncle of mine who is just as bad. Once he borrowed my father’s crash-helmet promising to return it the same evening. He never did return the helmet. When asked he denied that he ever borrowed the helmet. My father decided to let the matter rest as it was an old helmet not worth arguing over. It goes to show how untrustworthy a man can become. His words mean nothing. It has no value at all.

I always go by the saying “say what you mean, and mean what you say”. It seems many people can not be bothered about saying what they mean and meaning what they say. They just say anything they like and do something else. It is impossible to trust people like this. They will let you down.

It is best that we keep away from such people. However this is almost impossible to do because the whole world is filled with them. It seems to me there are more people who do not keep their words than people who do. Perhaps this is the result of living in the modern world where people are more concerned about making money than keeping their words. Money can kept in the bank, words cannot. Money can be used to buy things, words can’t.

As for me, I would rather keep my words. At least I also keep my integrity and honesty. If I do not have these two so important things, then whatever I do in the world will only make things worse, for I will have cheated and lied. I will become just another untrustworthy person that I dislike. I cannot allow myself to dislike myself.

A nightmare

A nightmare

I was seriously preparing for my school examination. Normally people call it exam fever and I believe I was haunted by the feeling of falling ill while the examination was on. But I was able to banish such fears and concentrate on my studies. But this fear crept into my subconscious mind and it played havoc on me. I have now the consolation that it was all a dream.

On November 16, my birthday was arranged to be celebrated in a colorful manner. There was a small party that my father arranged for my friends. I spent the whole evening enjoying myself while my parents were busy watching television. I pretexted as though I had to prepare for the examination, but I was cheating myself with the thought that I would wake up early in the morning and make up the lost time. While in bed, sleep seemed to elude me and the bug of falling ill during the examination began to harass me. However after sometime I slept.

If Alice’s experiences in the wonderland were bizarre, mine was shocking. To my subconscious mind the bogey of illness during the examination was true. I felt a sudden irritation in both my eyes and what started as an irritation became an unbearable pain. I started shouting and my parents rushing into my room. They consoled me, more than that they could do nothing. It was ten at night. My mind became agitated that, I thought that I might not be able to sit for my English and Mathematics examinations.

My father soon realized the problem I was facing, “The Exam Fever”. He made me stand against the wall and by understanding my agony, he carried me downstairs. He then put me in his car and drove me to a nearby hospital. On the way he was consoling me about the examination and trying his level best to make me relax. I explained that I was having an irritation in my eyes as though thousands of needles had pricked. On arrival at the hospital, the doctor performed many tests and finally told my father that, due to nervous feeling of examination, I had spoiled my brain which had affected my eyes. I could not sit for the examination, and he would issue a medical certificate to be produced to the authorities.

My father was undaunted by the doctors’ decision. In total desperation he put me back in his car and drove to another hospital. He explained to a doctor about my case but not the real situation. The doctor had diagnosed correctly at the first sight itself. Before he applied ay medicine he asked me to open my eyes slowly. I said that I could open, but the doctor insisted. By the time tears started rolling down my cheeks and, with the tears forming between my eyelids, I could open my eyes. The room was dark but for a small lamp. There was no doctor. Where had my father gone? I still felt the tears rolling down my cheeks. All I saw was the clock on the wall opposite my bed. Now I realized! Oh! It’s a dream. Soon I overcame myself and was happy to realize my folly. I am really happy because it was just a dream.

Storm caught

Storm caught

It does not happen to everybody to come face to face with a storm. I had had such a bitter experience. Even today I wonder how I kept alive in that storm.

It happened this way. The afternoon was just pleasant and I took my bicycle and was on my way to a village some six kilometers away where a relative of mine lived. The path lies through an avenue of trees with fields on either side as far as the eyes can see. But for one or two stray cottages here and there, there is nothing to shelter one on the road. When I was about half way, dark clouds gathered in the sky. It was threatening and I pedaled hard but before I had gone a few hundred meters, there was a sudden burst of thunder and a blinding lightning. It began to rain cats and dogs and the rain came down in big drops. The light was very poor and the road was bad. As the rain was lashing on my face I could not pedal at my bicycle. I knew it was dangerous to go and take shelter under a tree in such a heavy rain because lightning would strike green trees, so with great effort I kept to the middle of the road. Suddenly the wind rose and gained momentum. It grew wild and before its force the trees simply danced. One could hear the howling noise of the stormy wind.

I was soaked to the skin. My fingers were benumbed. I could not push hard. Now and then I could see the heavenly rage in the lightning flashes which appeared to hiss almost by my side. To add to my fear, there was a sudden thunderclap and a big tree crashed to the ground. In this situation the will to live alone goaded me on. As the road was soaked with flood water, I could not ride the bicycle. There were pot holes and swirling water. But it was not a question of abandoning. I prayed to God to conduct me safely.

At long last, the flickering light from the village was seen and I was in my relative’s house after a few minutes. What a relief to be under a roof behind closed doors in such weather! My relative gave me a change of warm clothing and I had never enjoyed a warm cup of tea as I did that day.

No room for true craftsmanship in the modern world of mass production

There is no room for true craftsmanship in the modern world of mass production.

To a larger extent than not, I agree with this statement.

I say this based on my experiences with hand-made and mass-produced things.

In my house there is a set of furniture handed down by my great-grandparents. In spite of more than a hundred years old, the one table and four chairs of this set are in immaculate condition. It is obvious a lot of care had been given in making these beautiful pieces. I cannot detect a single nail in them. The wood used is teak and the table and chairs are still sturdy. In fact I would say that they are sturdier than some new ones. They are products of real craftsmanship.

In my house too are some tables and chairs break after a few months. The wooden ones show signs of slip-shod workmanship and judging by the rate of wear and tear, they will be useless long before the hand-made ones.

The craftsmen of yesteryears made things of high quality. Also they made them to last a long time. Mass-produced things cannot have such high quality and they do not last long. I suspect that manufacturers of mass-produced thing purposely make things not to last so that the consumers will be forced to keep buying new ones. It is good business for them, not so for the consumers though.

Another thing about mass production is that the workers are generally not skilled craftsmen. They are merely employed to operate machines or do some routine work. No creativity is necessary or encouraged. They just do as they are told, and that is to produce as much as possible as cheaply as possible. On the other hand a craftsman is usually not very much concerned about how much profit he will make. He is more concerned about how well he makes something. He has to be creative and skillful. Thus the product of his work is what we admire as craftsmanship. He may not get much for his work, but for him satisfaction is not so much in money but in a job well done.

Modern radios, tape recorders, cars, furniture, computers and other goods are made only to attract buyers. They last only until the manufacturers come out with newer ones with more gimmicks and features. It is an on-going game played by manufacturer on gullible consumers. Their advertisements are basically: “buy, buy, keep buying our products.” So the consumers keep buying and buying. The craftsmen and their laboriously slow ways are forgotten.

“The twentieth century is an age of greed” Do you agree?

“The twentieth century is an age of greed” Do you agree?

Being in an age of rapid scientific and technological development, it is only natural that man will find himself caught in the endless rat race. If before, we live in prosperity and harmony caring for our neighbors and subordinates, now we live in prosperity and harmony, but caring only for ourselves and never being satisfied with what we have. We are now, sad to say, ignoring the very existence of our neighbors. This selfish attitude is so common that we no longer regard it as a vice but rather as life’s pre-requisite.

In this realm of desire for material well-being, man says that greed is an inevitable consequence. If man in the stone age believed in survival of the fittest, man in this modern era believes in the survival of the wealthiest. Many people let money rule their lives, as they feel that money can buy them fame, respect, power and even happiness.

Take for instance the attitude of children at present. How often do we find kids selecting their friends from amongst the wealthiest and prettiest only. Worst still, some parents instruct their children to behave in this manner.

The attitude of students today, whether they are in the primary, secondary, or tertiary level, are also changing. The only thing on their minds is to obtain the highest possible qualifications. There is no more or at least minimal co-operation among students. Leisure is slowly giving way to textbooks, researches and endless hours of painstaking mugging. They are aiming for an excellent pass so that they would be recognized and their names will be on the lips of everyone around their campus. They hope for the most “respectable” job offering them the highest pay.

Realizing the importance of money, man however has gone so far as to regard money as an end and not as a means. Men will do all they can do to satisfy their greed for money. It is not surprising that crime rates are soaring limitlessly all over the world today. Discontentment and greed are the most common reasons for man to fall into using unscrupulous means. They rob, murder, frame others, cheat, swindle and now the most popular crime is selling and smuggling drugs, to be rich within the shortest possible time.

Last but not least, the numerous crises happening all over the world are classic examples of greed. Greed for power can be seen in innumerable invasions made by many powerful nations over the helpless Czechs, Afghanistan and Vietnam; the sophisticated nuclear balance between Russia and America, the unending terrorism in Palestine, Sri Lanka the civil wars which has time and again broken up all over the American and African Continent.

Above all, the emblem of greed and selfishness rings throughout the world when the hard-earned money that some caring people have donated to the poverty-stricken Ethiopias was swindled by the trustees. What could be worst than this unspeakable, inhumane act! And what can be a better proof that the twentieth century is indeed an age of greed.

Advertisements are boring, unless and often misleading

“Advertisements are boring, unless and often misleading.” How far do you agree with this opinion?

In our present world of consumerism, advertisements are very much the norm because manufacturers have to attract us to their products, which they do not want and we do not need. Everywhere we go advertisements loom before us on billboards, leap out at us from magazines and newspapers, whiz a lingering impression on the mind. Advertisement jingles hail us every morning over the radio and through the day, and we watch consumer products come alive on television, singing and dancing to promote themselves.

Are they boring? Generally not, but there are exceptions, of course. Take for instance the Pepsi-Cola advertisement on television, “starring” Lionel Ritchie and a host of dancing youths; exuberant excited, bubbling and fizzling with life and energy. With its foot-tapping beats and delightful visual effects, one requires a great deal of self-control to sit still and not dance along. Or consider the advertisement with that famous line, “When a man you’ve never met before suddenly gives you flowers, that’s Impulse.” Yes, the advertisement for the body-spray, Impulse. The whole idea of a man absorbed in his daily routine being suddenly roused out of it by a whiff of Impulse and then going through a series of impulsive actions to compliment the lady wearing it, is romantic and endearing to most women. This combined with the light, tinkling piano accompaniment and soft-focus filming makes the advertisement an attractive one. Then we have the newspaper and magazine advertisements, in vibrant color, interesting graphics and witty slogans. Take a look at most cosmetic advertisements like Maybelline or Cover girl, where the page is attractively splashed with the newest colors the manufacturer has come up with a pretty, lively girl caught in mid-laughter. Therefore, advertisements today are generally interesting due to the visual and sound effects made possible y advanced technology in the various mediums of print, sound and film, and a little imagination, especially when rival companies try their best to attract consumers and so try to advertise better.

Are they useless? Not necessarily. In many ways advertisements help to keep the cost of most publications low so that we can afford them quite easily. This applies in the case of our daily newspaper “The Straits Times”, the Sunday “Asia Magazine”, the popular “Readers Digest” and especially the publication we are all familiar with, our respective school magazines. The advertisers pay to advertise and this payment subsidizes publishing cost so that we pay less than what we might otherwise have to pay. Advertisements also help to ease our boredom sometimes. How many times have people been roused out of a bored stupor once they see an interesting advertisement on a billboard or bus or when lazily flicking through a magazine? Also, advertisements either interesting or otherwise, especially of otherwise, do promote conversation among friends when they discuss them, how an advertisement is so silly, or another is unusual and imaginative and yet another is introducing an interesting and attractive product which might be worth buying. This then brings us to the last point. Are advertisements misleading?

One of their uses is that they inform us as to what is available on the market, but is this information wholly true? Their main function is to attract buyers so naturally, only certain details regarding a product are highlighted while others are not provided at all. We are made to believe that a product is long-lasting, worthwhile, multi-purpose and bound to give us that happiness we cannot find elsewhere. Perfume advertisements promise to bring the opposite sex falling at one’s feet, dictionary and encyclopedia advertisements promise to give us all the wisdom and knowledge in the world, cosmetic advertisement for “Ponderosa Steak & Salad Restaurant” promises juicy and tender steak and delicious salad. I have eaten there and found the steak to be of very low quality, for a very high price, but the salad was everything the advertisement led me to believe.

So in conclusion, I would say that modern commerce trade and industry cannot survive without advertisement. The most advanced advertising technology course gives new ideas and also acts as “Survival of fittest” in this dynamic decade. However there should be control over misleading advertisements.

Honesty is the best policy

Do you think that “Honesty is the best policy”?

This is an old and often repeated proverb, but it is true? It has a suspiciously worldly flavor, for it means that from a worldly point of view it pays to have honesty. Now a man of complete honesty will not ask whether honesty pays or not. He feels he must be honest, even if honesty brings him loss or suffering, simply because it is right to be honest and wrong to be dishonest. This proverb is therefore of little use to people of sincere honesty: it is really meant only for those unprincipled men who will be honest only if honesty pays, and will be dishonest if they think honesty will pay them worse.

Probably honesty does pay in the long run. In business, for example, a man who deals straight forwardly with the pubic, who sells at fair prices, who gives good quality, and can be relied upon not to cheat, will generally establish a reputation that will be a fine business asset. People will be glad to deal with him; and though he may not make a fortune he will have a sound and satisfactory business.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that success is often due to trickery, and great fortunes have been built up upon dishonesty. Too many successful rogues have proved by experience that for them dishonesty had been the best policy. Of course some of these people come to a bad end, and lose all they have gained by their lies; but many maintain their worldly success is more due to ability, lucky opportunities, and business cunning, than to honesty.

And many examples could be given of men who, from a worldly point of view, have failed because they have scrupulous honesty. A martyr who prefers to be burned at the stake rather than say what he believes to be false, may be a hero; but in the eyes of a worldly man, who thinks only of worldly success, he is a sad failure.

But if we look at such cases from the spiritual point of view – if we consider that truth and righteousness are far more important than wealth and rank and prosperity – then, in the highest sense, honesty is the best policy in the end. “For what it shall profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Read more about 'Honesty is the best policy':

Read 1:
Honesty is the best policy
Honesty makes us brave and strong. We are not afraid of anybody or anything. Honesty could lead us to face some problems; nevertheless, we are loved and respected by others. Problems are cured themselves later thanks to the understanding of everyone on our situations.... Read more

Read 2:
Honesty is the best policy
From my own experience, I absolutely agree that honesty is the best policy.
One fine day, while I was on my way to school, I found a wallet. It was lying outside the lift.
Opening the wallet, I found two hundred dollars and some coins inside. There were some pieces of paper but no identity card. I was tempted to keep the money, but I remembered what my teacher had taught us that honesty is the best policy... Read more

Read 3:
Honesty is the best policy (a story)

Read 4:
Honesty is the best policy
Generally, honesty is the best policy in any situation. Some people are very reliable and they hate those who tell lies for any reason. Other people accept “white lies” when situation arises, even if they usually do not like lying. I strongly agree that honesty is the best policy in a relationship... Read more

People who look for excitement and danger are foolish.

People who look for excitement and danger are foolish.

Things that people do for fun or for money are very numerous today. Some of these things are positively dangerous, but there seem to be no lack of people eager to do them. Bungee-jumping, rock-climbing and sky-diving are certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. Then there are less dangerous but no less exciting pursuits of motor-racing and professional boxing. These are all exciting and dangerous things. Some even earn a living doing these dangerous jobs. Why would people put themselves in such dangers? Would they be considered foolish?

Those who purposely go out to get some excitement are usually those who are bored with their lives. Bungee-jumping is a predominantly western invention and the participants are usually bored westerners who would do anything for some excitement. It needs a certain amount of guts to be able to jump off a bridge only to be saved from certain death by a piece of rubber cord failed and the thrill-seekers perished. Yet the others persist. I suspect these others are not only bored with their lives, they could be unconsciously looking to either end their boredom or their lives. In short they could have suicidal tendencies. Would people bent on killing themselves be called foolish?

Rock-climbers and sky-divers also take enormous risks. Deaths resulting from accidents are not uncommon, but people continue to do them. I asked a friend who does rock-climbing why he pursued such a dangerous sport. He said every time he reached the top of a rock, the feeling of excitement and achievement was quite incomparable. It is intoxicating and he is hooked by it. So he seeks to repeat the high, despite the obvious risks.

I suppose the exciting feeling holds true for the other unpaid dangerous sports as well. They get the adrenalin flowing through the blood. These excitement-seekers are obviously addicted to it. The only thing they get out of their pursuits is excitement, which has to be repeated. No other gain is forthcoming except some respect from others. Perhaps respect is also an excitement thing for some.

The professionals who take great risks are far better off than the amateur ones in terms of financial rewards. Race-drivers are usually millionaires. So are boxers. Also these professionals are well covered by insurance and they do not take unnecessary risks. In fact they are very careful indeed in their work.

In conclusion, I would say that amateurs who look only for excitement and danger are foolish because they stand to gain nothing and to lose everything. They are putting their heads on chopping block for the sheer thrill of it. The professionals are different. They get paid and make sure that their necks are well padded. Thus they are not as foolish, not by a long shot.

Women should be restricted to work connected with the home and children

“Women should be restricted to work connected with the home and children. They should not engage in politics, commerce or industry.” How far do you agree with this statement?

Before I begin with my opinion of the statement, let me analyze the statement itself. The word “work” should not be taken to mean doing something for a salary but rather to engage in an activity. To agree with the first sentence would be to say that women can only obtain jobs such as teaching, since they would be dealing with children then, if they were teaching, lower levels, or jobs like being domestic servants, seamstresses, cooks or interior decorators, since they would then be doing something connected with the home. The statement implies that women should not engage in charity work, literary work, nursing, acting, singing and dancing and many other activities which they do remarkably well and have received critical acclaim for, for example Lady Edwina Mountbatten for her charity work, Jane Austen for her perceptive writing on Victorian society, Anna Parlova and Margot Fonteyn for their breathtakingly beautiful ballet dancing, and Florence Nightingale for the new hospital hygiene rules she established in nineteenth century in England and which we inherit today. Obviously, the whole idea behind the statement is that women should not engage in activities unconnected with the home and children because they are not capable of doing them at all, especially in politics, industry and commerce.

This idea is not necessarily true. For decades and centuries women have been involved in activities not even remotely connected with the home and done them well.

In the fifteenth century, the famous woman Joan of Arc led the soldiers of her country to war, to the admiration of many. Queen Elizabeth I ruled England in the sixteenth century, using her own wisdom and never allowing the decisions of her ministers overrule her, nor did she ever marry. England did not see ruin during her time and in fact, it flourished, especially in arts and culture. The famous and revered works of William Shakespeare, among those of other equally famous writers, were produced in that period. Queen Victoria of England ruled almost half the world, the great British Empire, at the peak of her reign in the nineteenth century. Even in contemporary times there existed Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India, etc. The remarkable thing about these women is that the people voted that they do such work, and they have performed on par with their male counterparts.

With regards to industry, a tour of any factory today will yield the sight of rows of women along the assembly lines, working to produce consumer products which are the basis of today’s civilization. In Singapore, women contribute largely to the economy in this way and have helped fill the labor shortage in this area. This is a vital contribution since Singapore is a country based very much on industrialization. Women are needed in industries and should engage in them, either at the assembly department or even at the top of the company as administrators.

Commerce is one area where women are not a rarity either and where they can succeed. Women today do set up their own businesses and make huge successes of them. Take for instance the cosmetic business with big names like Helena Rubinstein or Elizabeth Arden, or even the fashion business. True, these are businesses largely directed at women, but the fact is that women are also running them and doing it well.

Another reason why the statement restricts women to the home and children would be that if a woman was to engage in something so diversely different from the home, she may neglect her own family and home. This is a cynical approach because, in fact, if a woman were allowed to broaden her horizons and outlook, she would make an open-minded approach towards her family and home. She would make an interesting conversationalist, relate better with her children since she could better understand what they face daily outside home and be a source of knowledge and inspiration to them and also relate better with her husband since she would understand how taxing a job or demanding activity outside the home could be. With today’s modern appliances and gadgets, she would have no excuse for neglecting her housework either, and in fact, it is about time that the family helped women out with the housework.

Therefore, I feel that women should be encouraged and trained to venture into any field of activity if they feel capable of handling it.

Parents and children – Are there ways to improve understanding?

Parents and children – Are there ways to improve understanding?

In our modernized world today, we tend to take for granted others opinions and feelings. What matters most is our own opinions and ideas. Parents and their children are not excluded from this category. Parents expect their children to think and behave like they do. Their children on the other hand expect them to understand and respect their feelings. This, I feel is the root of all parent-child problems.

In my opinion, it is perfectly normal for parents to want to protect their children. However, this natural instinct should not be overdone or the consequences would be most undesirable. Youngsters of over-protective parents tend to exhibit rebellious tendencies. Behind their parents’ backs they exhibit all kinds of bad behavior and some even find themselves involved with bad company. Worst still, some youngsters deliberately do things forbidden by their parents right under their parents’ noses. This will inevitably result in parent-child quarrels and misunderstandings.

Youngsters on the other hand, in spite of having the right of freedom of speech, thought and action should not be over-demanding. They must realize that parents most often know what is best for them. Thus, advice and, less often, scoldings, should be taken constructively and in a humble manner. They should not regard these as obstacles and hindrances but rather as care and prevention for them to face the world. After all, these parents have tasted more of the spices of life.

Thus, looking at there two points, it is important for parents and their children to strike a balance. Parents must allow freedom but there must be a limit to it. Youngsters must be satisfied with their freedom and respect their parents’ wishes. They must take their parents’ protectiveness as a sign of concern and love and not of selfishness and possessiveness.

In obtaining freedom of speech, youngsters must know the difference between standing up for a point and being merely rude and stubborn. Freedom of thought must be guided so as not to lead one astray. Freedom of action does not mean that one can do anything regardless of other peoples’ wishes and desires. These are the techniques that parents wish to impart to their children and should therefore be accepted gratefully.

Apart from these factors, youngsters, at the age of adolescence are prone to imitating others. They get easily influenced by others, especially by the media. They become impressed by the western idea of freedom and independence. The youngsters who try to adhere religiously to these western norms often abandon the ever-essential virtue, that is, filial piety.

The enormous generation gap between parents and their offspring is the only unavoidable factor giving rise to the parent-child problems. Parents fall to realize the needs of the child because they have never felt these needs during their times. On the other hand, their youngsters fail to realize their parents’ needs as they have not reached that age of wisdom yet. Thus, in my opinion, the only way one (either parent or child) can overcome this problem is by being tolerant. As Harper Lee wrote in the book To Kill A Mockingbird, one can only understand others when one jumps in their shoes and walks around in them!

Physical education is important

Do you think that physical education is important?

The value of physical education has been realized since the earliest times of human existence. The Greeks and the Romans considered it indispensable to the development of a good personality and character.

Today in all the schools and universities in the world, a great deal emphasis is being placed on physical education as a means of producing citizens of good character and personality.

Physical education develops the muscles of the body scientifically and increases muscular activity and physical strength. All this makes the body active and efficient. It is now also realized that there is a close connection between the body and the mind. Therefore, if the body is active, the mind too is active. Proof of this can be easily found among children. Children who are inactive physically are usually also mentally lazy. An active and efficient body is a healthy body. When the body is healthy, the mind too is and therefore happy. Thus, physical education contributes greatly to the health and happiness of an individual such an individual could do a great deal for the good of society.

Physical education can also contribute to the strength of a nation. If the youths of a country receive proper physical education, they can build up a strong country to protect itself from foreign attacks or invasions.

Further, physical education provides opportunities for contacts with people of other lands. Athletes of all countries meet at various countries at various times to compete with one another and thus promote common understanding among countries for the benefit of one another.

It is therefore, not without reason that physical education has been a part and parcel of academic pursuit today. I do therefore agree that physical education is important to all people.

Monday, August 10, 2009

School leavers should get some working experience before going for further studies

Do you think school leavers should get some working experience before going for further studies?

It would certainly a good thing if school leavers get some working experience before going for further studies. One reason is that they get a taste of what work is and thus are in a better position to know what they want to study further.

As it is, the smarter students get channeled directly into universities and colleges the moment they finish school. Most, if not all, of them do not know what the real working world is like. When they finish their studies they are plunged into the competitive work market often without a hint of what it is like. So they have to learn very quickly how to cope with the sudden change. The luckier ones get jobs they like. Many get stuck in jobs they have no inclination for and only keep at the jobs because they do not know what else they can do.

This causes job dissatisfaction. The results are unhappy workers in unhappy companies.

However, if school leavers were to get a taste of working life first, they will soon have a pretty good idea of what it is. They will have probably discovered too what sort of jobs they prefer to do. With this precious knowledge, they will then know what courses to take up to ensure they secure the right jobs on graduation.

Most of my teachers are those who went straight to university or college on finishing school. They have virtually no experience of life outside school. So when they return to school to teach, they are ill-equipped to teach the children what it is like outside the school. Some teachers who had had to work outside before becoming a teacher have far better knowledge of the outside world. The difference is obvious. I am in no way saying that the former are inferior teachers. It is just that they would be better ones if they have had outside experience.

As for my self, the moment I leave school, I am going to get myself a job. It does not matter what job it is or for how long I will have it. I only want the experience of working. Only by involving myself fully in the working world will I know what it is like and how to cope with it. Even if it is for a few months, by that time, I will have a fairly good idea ò working life. Thus I will be in a good position to decide what I will like to do in the future. I will not be a confused jobseeker nor an unhappy employee.

Education is very necessary. Do you agree?

Education is very necessary. Do you agree?

Whether or not education serves the right purpose in our society is a difficult question to decide. Very often people do not take up professions for which they are trained; at other times they do not get the opportunity to use their training. When most education at the school level is either free or subsidized, it becomes essential to examine the question in great detail.

Is education really necessary? Did we not live before this quantitative expansion took place, before education began to be imparted to members of all classes? In Britain till mid-nineteenth century education was class privilege. Britain could expand the area of its education on the basis of the industrial relation. Can the developing and the under-developed countries afford to take similar measures?

For generations our people have depended only on life to educate them and they have all learned through experience. Even at a higher stage of education mere theoretical knowledge is not enough; it has to be related to actual experience. Many young engineers and technicians find that what they have learned in their schools and colleges is not of much use to them and they have to learn everything anew once they take to practical work.

However solid these arguments may appear to be, I firmly believe that education alone can save us. It alone can help us build a better future. Ignorance never was bliss and to believe in it would be a folly. It is not gold that makes good people or good countries. It is knowledge. Knowledge is the only thing which can come to the help of mankind. Education is one we cannot neglect. If we want young minds to grow and be aware of the world around them, if we want our country to be in the forefront or at least on par with other countries, we must educate our people for all advanced knowledge and for peace and war education is necessary. We can never be free if we depend on other countries for the technical know-how. Even if practical knowledge is acquired in the fields and the factories, we have to have some one who knows about the soils and the fertilizers and can build our factories.

Today war is not a mere matter of bravery of courage. Wars are won or lost on the basis of literacy. Modern weapons are so sophisticated that an illiterate soldier cannot use them. Education is not a mere ability to sign one’s name. It is the basis of something much more important. Even basic hygiene and cleanliness are connected with the level of education. To some extent they are also connected with the economic situation. Education helps to solve both the problems at one go. With better education better jobs will be available.

There is no time to dilly-dally about matters related to education. If we want progress, we must ensure minimum education for all.

Student Study Just To Pass Examinations. Do You Agree?

Student Study Just To Pass Examinations. Do You Agree?

I agree fully with the above statement. I am a student and I study just to pass the examinations. It seems the same with my schoolmates. We are all only concerned with the examinations. We do not study other things that do not require us to sit for examinations.

The reason that we do not study other things is because we have no time for them. School subjects take up all our time in school and much of our time in school and much of our time of school. Everyday we have to learn so many things whether we like it or not. Lesson continues one after the other with hardly a break. Our brains switch from history to geography to mathematics to science with a speed of light. We manage most of the time, but sometimes it get so tiring to study, and many of us think to put off our study. For me, any initial interest I have in any subject is quickly killed off by the sheer amount of information I have to absorb. No one is allowed to learn his or her own pace. Everyone is force-fed a diet of information regardless whether he or she can cope with it or not (haiz…so pity the one’s who study…).

Then there is always the next examination around the corner. Since very young we have been taught this: passing with flying colors an examination is the best, just passing it is just a normal statement, but failing is very bad indeed. We are expected to pass. Our parents, teachers and all grown-ups applaud us when we pass with flying colors. If we pass they say nothing, but when we failed we are made to fell worthless. I myself have been caned by my mother because I got red marks in my report card (but in secondary I have improved better!).

No one wants to be considered worthless or be punished for failure, but that is what the world is. So we become obsessed with examinations. We study because we do not want to fail. I have heard some teachers’ say that we should study to acquire in my years in school is that if I fail I am finished. I have to pass with flying colors to prove that I am not worthless.

That is how I feel. For some of my classmates who cannot cope well with the workload, they simply give up studying in some subjects. They are already marked as failures by the teachers so they see no point in studying anymore ,but some teacher always teaches them, help them on their homework, support them but the hard work seems have no effect on them, maybe they are meant to failed. Lucky I do not fall in that category. I still study and do my homework as diligently as I can, but I do these things with only one thing in mind and that is: I have to pass my examinations with flying colors.

So the students study very hard indeed. Passing means success in the world. Failure is unspeakable. The fact remains that they study not for the sake of knowledge but only so that they can pass the next examinations. I am no different from them.

Private tuition – is it necessary?

Private tuition – is it necessary?

As far as I am concerned, private tuition is not necessary for me. I shall give some reasons.

I find that if I pay attention in class when the teacher is teaching, it is adequate to see me trough my lessons and homework. If there is any doubt I can always ask the teacher concerned.

Today most of the things taught in school are not too difficult to follow, as long as I do not neglect my work. Mathematics, Science, Geography, History, and English are not that difficult to handle provided I take an interest in them and put in some genuine effort. So in all years in school I never had to have any private tuition. Yet I can get through my examinations without any problem.

I notice that my classmates who take private tuition are usually not interested in their studies. In class they have a “couldn’t-be-bothered” attitude thinking that their tuition teachers will cover the lessons for them later. What they do not realize is that it is so much easier to pay attention in class than having to spend extra time in the afternoons just to cover up for the wasted time in school. The extra time can easily be spent for other more constructive things than having to repeat a lesson.

Also private tutors do not come cheap. The parents have to fork out a considerable sum of money for the services of the tutors who are ordinary teachers anyway.

The trouble with taking private tuition is that the students can become too dependent on the tutors and cannot function on their own. Everything has to be spoon-fed.

Private tuition is only necessary if the child is really weak in certain subjects. But nowadays it is trendy to go to tutorial centers or engage private tutors.

Whether private tuition does really improve the performance of an ordinary student is debatable. Some of my classmates take private tuition. I do not see them doing exceptionally well in tests and examinations. Some of them still fail. Those who do not take private tuition perform just about the same as those who do. One who does not have private tuition, does not feel disadvantaged nor less capable than those who do.

I have to concede that not everyone has the same ability or intelligence. So some students may really need extra tuition before they can grasp what is being taught. Perhaps then these people can benefit from private tuition. But for the majority of students, like my classmates, they do not need private tuition. What they need is to do their classwork properly and they should have no troubles passing any examination.

The teachers in school are always there to help if we bother to ask them. They are already paid for their services. So there is no need to pay them extra for the same things they teach in school.

Is a little knowledge dangerous?

Is a little knowledge dangerous?

Yes, a little knowledge is always dangerous not only to that person, but also to others. There is certainly a great deal of truth in this statement. We may also refer to another proverb “empty vessels make most noise”. Knowledge is desirable and should be attained by anyone at any cost; however, a little knowledge, which may be slightly better than no knowledge, can be dangerous.

It is normal to see people with little knowledge trying to make others believe that they are very knowledgeable. This often makes them proud and they tend to treat others with little respect as well as looking down upon others. Sometimes, some people might believe them and with this “little knowledge”, these people will try to lead others which will usually end in disappointment and disaster.

Those with little education and some of a particular age and sects of women are such examples. They will try to read on a variety of subjects and then try to impress others. In employment they will think themselves to be high and mighty. They always feel that work is below their dignity. The result is that they will be fired. These people will become dejected, disappointed and confused.

Some people may disagree that a little knowledge is not a dangerous thing. On the other hand, it can motivate them to further their efforts to gain more knowledge. This may be true in some cases. But psychological studies have revealed that this type of persons is very rare.

So it is always good to know something well. Gaining knowledge in a particular field will definitely make one a master in a subject. Let us not be jack of all trades and master of none. Let us at least be a master of some.

The ills of modern cities

The ills of modern cities

The most glaring ill of modern cities is that the people in it are always in a hurry. Businesspeople, wage-earners, laborers, pedlars, crooks and assorted characters all rush about in their activities. It is rush, rush and more rush. City folks rush to work, rush to get their work done, rush to have lunch and rush home. Then perhaps they rush to have dinner or rush to a party. Finally in the early hours of the morning it is a rush to, as they say, grab some sleep before the rush next morning.

I was in Sydney, Australia, for a visit once. As I took a leisurely stroll along the city streets, I was amazed at how everyone seemed to be walking very quickly past me. Even old ladies of seventy simply overtook me without any difficulty. Some younger ones were actually running towards God knows where. To cross the busy roads, everyone crowded near the traffic lights. The moment the lights changed to green for the pedestrians, they took off not unlike sprinters off the blocks. That was a rush indeed. I was forced to walk quickly too, otherwise I was likely to be trampled on by the crowd.

NO wonder modern city-dwellers suffer from all sorts of stress-related diseases. Some of these stressed people are probably rushing towards an early grave too.

In a city like Kuala Lumpur, after the workers have gone home, the uglier side of the city emerges. The night-sports open up attracting all sorts of people. Prostitutes, drug addicts, drug pushers, con-men, thugs and other potentially dangerous characters abound. The police are hard-pressed to handle them. The crime rate is always rising.

However, compared to other cities like New York, Kuala Lumpur is relatively tame. In New York, everyone knows that it is dangerous to even go for a walk in some areas after 5 p.m. The likelihood of getting mugged or even killed is very high. The street gangs rule and no sane person would go out to tempt them. Still robberies, murders and all manner of human perversion continue. Certainly there is great ill in this city. This trend of lawlessness s spreading in other cities as well and there is no indication that things will get better.

While skyscrapers dominate the skyline in a city, one could say squatters and shanties dominate the baseline. In some cities, it is estimated that these shanties occupy more than half the city space. On one side, the wealthy ones rush around in their posh cars, while on the other side, the less fortunate ones rush around stealing them. The imbalance of wealth is glaring and nothing is done about it. This is another ill of modern cities.

What are the remedies for these ills of modern cities? It would seem that nobody knows. Nobody seems to care too, which is another typical city illness. At the rate the cities are progressing, it certainly looks like they are headed for some sort of social disaster. Already the inner areas of some huge cities are experiencing a breakdown of law and order. The authorities simply cannot cope. There is not much an ordinary person can do to alleviate these ills. All he can do is to hope that they will go away, which seems very unlikely.

The rising cost of living

The rising cost of living

Older people like my parents are always complaining about the rising cost of living. At first I did not understand what they were talking about until they explained to me what the cost of living was.

My father says that he used to be able to get a bowl of noodles for 20 sen. That is hardly believable considering that a bowl today costs more than a ringgit. Then my grandmother says that a bowl of noodles cost half a sen before World War II. That is even more unbelievable! Now I understand what the cost of living means. It simply means how much it costs to buy things we need.

The cost of living seems to be always rising. The first car my father bought cost less than six thousand ringgit brand new. Nowadays a second hand car costs more than that. Apples used to cost 20 sen each, as my mother says. Now they cost almost a ringgit each.

My grandfather used to earn 5 ringgit a month and that was enough to feed his family of five comfortably. I marvel at that because 5 ringgit today is hardly enough for a meal at a fast food center. Things have certainly become more and more expensive and there is no indication that they will cost less in the future. Compared to my grandfather, my father earned a princely sum of a thousand ringgit a month. That is two hundred times what my grandfather earned. However I know it is hardly sufficient for my father to meet the family expenses. Fortunately my mother earns a bit as a part-time seamstress to help ease the burden. Otherwise he can hardly cope.

Things a few decades ago were much cheaper than today. Besides that there were fewer things to want. Today, the prices of goods shoot up partly because of increased demand and partly because of advertising expenses. There was hardly any advertisement in the days when my grandfather was young. Today advertisements govern every facet of modern living. We are bombarded by them from every angle, via newspapers, magazines, radio and television. No wonder we have to pay more for what we buy.

Also in those days of old, radios were rare and television were unheard of. The people have less to want. So they do not have to spend much. They spend only on everyday necessities. Today there are so many things to want. Some are unnecessary but we still buy them, thus adding to our expenses.

Anyhow bygone days cannot be recovered. The cost of living will keep rising. I hear that in Japan, most of people cannot even afford to buy a house, even though they earn much more than people here. That goes to show how the cost of living can rise to crazy levels. My father says that his Japanese friend told him that my father’s monthly salary cannot even pay for a night’s stay in one of Tokyo’s hotel. That is an example of how high the cost of living has become.

I suppose the cost of living will continue to rise. When I have children of my own in the future, I may have to tell them how cheap things were in my youth. Things will probably cost much more than today and I will have to earn much more than my father in order to cope. Anyhow, when the time comes, I will know what to do. I will have to pay whatever the cost of living requires.

The clothes we wear

The clothes we wear

It sounds strange to say that of all the animals on Earth, only human beings wear clothes. Well, we cannot deny this. Anyone who walks around without clothes on will probably be quickly apprehended and set to the nearest asylum. So we all wear clothes, basically to protect our bare bodies from the elements of nature and from unwanted attention from our fellow humans.

We also wear clothes to project an image of what we think we are or represent. Most of us would not have the guts to war anything outside our assumed social standing. As far as I can remember my grandmother has always worn the traditional Chinese samfu. It is so much a part of her image that she would wear nothing else. It would indeed be a shock to us if she suddenly wears a skirt for instance. That is very unlikely to happen.

However, my mother who is one generation younger would never be found wearing the old-fashioned samfu. She would not dare to be that brave. For her, like her friends, skirts and jeans are the acceptable norms.

My sister, a further generation down, would wear clothes that shock even my mother. Some of my sister’s latest clothes defy classification. They are a combination of skirt, jeans and pajamas all sewn together like rags. Well, that is according to me anyway. For her, it is the very latest in fashion. I really cannot argue on that. One girl’s fashion is another’s rags.

In our country where so many races live together, each day we can see various types of clothes worn by different of people. A typical Muslim woman is almost totally covered from head to toe. An Indian lady wears the body-hugging sari with her midriff exposed. An old Chinese man walks around in his striped shorts-cum-underwear and singlet. A tall Punjabi stands prominently with his huge turban covering his head.

Early in the morning before nine, young executives in business suits can be seen seated with laborers in T-shirts at various tea-stalls around town. Though the clothes they wear are very different, they would just as happily sit down together for a glass of the tarik.

Students, of course, do not have much choice about the clothes they wear in school. Once outside, however, it is a totally different story. Colorful clothes that are both cool and practical are favored by teenagers. These younger people seem to have discarded the traditional clothes of their ancestors for modern trendy ones. Well, I suppose it is an inescapable consequence of modernization.

Judging from what I have seen on films and in magazines, the clothes worn by people of other nations are far different from ours. One thing is clear though, people wear clothes to suit the conditions they live in. as for me, I normally wear T-shirts and jeans for they are the most practical clothes to wear in this hot climate. This is all right for a teenager. I can see that when I begin to work I the future, I will have to wear different clothes to suit the situation. Well, when the time comes, I will know what to wear.

The problems faced by old people in our society

The problems faced by old people in our society

Modern society is built by the young for the young. It is a dynamic creation that does not give much consideration to the old, sick, handicapped or incapable. They are merely tolerated as so much liability or nuisance. So these hardly wanted people face many problems in their everyday living.

The old, who were once young, helped to make the present society. Now they pay the price of their former neglect of the old. They themselves are neglected and unappreciated in turn.

An old person does not have the physical ability of a young person. Walking can be an effort. Crossing a road can be impossible without assistance. On many occasions I have come across old men and old women who just could not cross a busy road that had no pedestrian crossing. No driver stopped for them. So these old folks had to wait patiently until a kind soul happened along to lead them across. I have helped a number of them. Some of them were very grateful but some simply cursed the traffic. Whatever their attitudes, they were better off staying at home.

It is common to hear of old people being knocked down by vehicles on the roads. They just cannot handle the traffic anymore.

This busy world is certainly not kind to old folks. Crossing a road is just one problem they encounter. Getting onto a bus is another. The old person is usually the last to get on, if he manages. I have seen a bus conductor telling an old man to wait for the next bus because his bus was full. If the old man does get on, the likelihood is that he will have to stand, which does no good for his old bones. Rarely does anyone give up his seat for an old man, or old woman.

In the old days, most people did not go very far from their birth-place and thus families usually stayed together. The family unit is strong and practical. Today the family unit is breaking apart as young men and women travel widely in search of better jobs. So the chances are that the old folks will be left alone and neglected. Sometimes they are not wanted by their children at all. The luckier ones may have a child or two staying with them. The less fortunate ones may have to pine their lives away in an old-folk home or in their empty house that once was filled with the sound of children’s laughter. This neglect is a very real problem in our society and it is what the old dread the most – being unwanted and uncared for in the time of need.

There are other problems old folks face, but none can be as bad as the indifference and neglect of the young. The young have no time for the old even though the old have virtually no time left. Soon they will die and the young will take their place.

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Drop it where it belongs

Drop it where it belongs.

The Ministry of Environment is gearing up its campaign on television with an advertisement accompanied by a song. The song ends with a melodious jingle called “drop it where it belongs” with the letters shrinking and going inside the dustbin. Environment is the surroundings such as the roads, lanes, grounds, private or government housing estates. Singapore is the world’s cleanest city and it is important that every citizen tries to maintain the record. We should make sure that all places are kept clean and tidy.

Littering on roads, lanes, playgrounds or anywhere would make the places dirty. The drains should remain clean without being clogged up with waste materials or stagnant water as these are the ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other flies. Though the Ministry of Environment and the Community Centers arrange to maintain the housing blocks clean and tidy, it is the duty of every citizen to see that these places are not polluted by the rubbish thrown indiscriminately. That is why dustbins are provided in every nook and corner for us to throw or drop it where it belongs.

The clean environment should start from our houses itself. The leftover foodstuffs, other wastes and rubbish should be put in a plastic bag, tied and disposed through chutes. We can see the Ministry of Environment garbage trucks collecting these wastes daily. Since we have been provided with so many facilities, we should try our best to keep the city clean.

Our Government periodically launches “clean environment” campaigns to make every citizen aware of the value of a dust-free, pollution-free, clean, neat and tidy country. Strict measures, such as heavy fines for littering may achieve this purpose. But it is the citizens who are reminded of their responsibility to keep a pollution-free environment for a healthy and comfortable lifestyle in Singapore.



A crowd is a gathering of many people in a place of limited size, such as in a hall, a supermarket or a town square. In a crowd, the movement of a person is restricted. He or she cannot move freely and may often have to take action to avoid collision with another person.

I have been in many types of crowds before and I have to say that the experience is not pleasant. Though a crowd can be bearable, most of the time it is uncomfortable to be in one and I get out as quickly as possible.

Once I had the misfortune of going to a popular supermarket when it was having a sale on. I did not know that until I reached the place. All I wanted to buy was some mosquito coils and some sweets. When I arrived there, I was shocked to see the place packed with people. Nevertheless, as I had come quite a distance by bus, I decided to join in the crowd to see what was inside the supermarket that attracted the people so.

That was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. The moment I squeezed into the crowd at the entrance, I was swept into the supermarket by the sheer wave of eager people. There were all sorts of people here. Young and old, men, women and children were all gripped by the 70% discount fever that was plastered all over the place.

I had intended to go to the confectionery section but I was pushed against my will towards the clothes section. That was where most of the action was taking place. The clothes were on sale. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw respectable-looking adults involved in what looked like a gold-rush. They were literally tearing at the clothes. No quarter was given or asked. It was madness. I could see how people could behave when they stood to gain from something. Manners, courtesy and shyness were all thrown aside as they grabbed the dirt-cheap clothes.

After some struggle I managed to free myself. However it was no different in other sections. I had to fight my way through the throng to get what I wanted. Then I had to wait in line at the checkout counter, which was the only orderly place in the entire supermarket, for a long time to pay for what I got. After paying it was another struggle to get to the exit. Finally outside the supermarket, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I swore that I would never join in such a mad crowd again.

Another crowd that is unpleasant is the going-home crowd in the bus station every evening. As night approaches everyone is eager to get home and that is when people can become impatient and unruly. Young and old jostle with each other to get on the bus. The conductors yell out obscenities but no one takes any notice. All each person wants is to go home, regardless of others. So everyone rushes. If one does not then one has to wait for the last bus.

There are other crowds like those in stadiums, processions and other social activities that involve many people. Not all are unruly. This is so as long as there is no disturbance. A crowd, however, has the tendency of turning into a mob if there is excitation, as evident in football matches. I shy away from such dangerous emotions. A crowd is definitely not my cup of tea.



Hospitality is everywhere regarded as a virtue; but it is perhaps more common in the country than in the town. It is a common saying that in a big city like London, a man does not know even his next-door neighbor, and there is no place where one can feel as utterly lonely as among the millions of that huge city. The inhabitants of a large town would be astonished if a passing traveler, a complete stranger, came to their houses and demanded food and lodging from them. They would probably shut their doors in his face. But it is the commonest thing for villagers to welcome a passing stranger and give him freely food and shelter and entertainment, expecting nothing to return. This is not only because villagers are simpler and more unsophisticated than town-dwellers but because their lives are so lonely and monotonous that a visit from a stranger is a welcome event; and also because in the sparsely populated country-side there are, as a rule, no public inns or rest-houses where travelers can stay. So in the country, hospitality is looked on more as a duty than a virtue, the performance of which is a matter of pride.

The people of the East, especially in Arabia and parts of India, are noted for their hospitality. And among the people of the North-West Indian Frontier, the laws of hospitality are strictly observed; and even the most lawless raider will never rob or hunt a man who has eaten his salt, even though he is an enemy.

A great deal of hospitality is merely a matter of fashion, and is selfish in its spirit. People ask acquaintances to dinner, not because they want to do them a service but because it is “the thing to do” and because they hope to be asked back again in return. This is not the kind of hospitality which is a virtue; for that is unselfish and inspired by kindly feelings. So the Founder of Christianity taught his disciples to show hospitality only to the poor, who needed food, and who could not reward them for their kindness. While he sat at meal in the house of a rich Pharisee who had invited him to dine with him one day, he said to his host: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, lest haply they also bid thee again and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; because that have not wherewith to recompense thee.”
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Floods are a natural phenomenon. They cause tremendous havoc to human life and property but are sometimes also a blessing in disguise because they bring alluvial soil which is essential for crops. This is a great benefit compared to the havoc it creates.

Floods are natural calamities and occur regularly in certain low lying area. The unexpected flood causes great misery. The rush of water demolishes houses and destroys homes. It inundates large areas under cultivation, wrecks public services and makes the life of the survivors miserable. Sometimes man is prepared for it and has learned to take advantage of floods to enrich their soil, trap fish and more logs of wood.

Floods, however have always brought out the best in men. Men organize rescue and relief activities for strangers without expectation of personal gain. Voluntary organizations organize relief camps and provide medical facilities. Floods bring out the best in men to the surface. People throughout the world make collections and airlift relief materials to the victims.

The increasing incidence of floods can be reduced by construction of dams and catchments areas. These activities cannot be carried out by a single man, but can be achieved only by the Government as these require colossal resources, organization and manpower.

Every single man can contribute to prevent flood by planting trees and preventing denudation of vegetable plots. Forestation is one of the best alternatives to arrest floods.
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The unselfish devotion of a housewife

The unselfish devotion of a housewife

The housewife has always been among the unappreciated lot. Her unflagging devotion to her husband, children and grandchildren has always been taken for granted. She slaves all day as wife, mother, nanny, cook and housekeeper without any thoughts of rewards. Her only satisfaction lies in the harmony that her hardwork creates in the family.

Her main duty lies in creating a comfortable environment so that the breadwinner can come home from work to relax. She becomes the sympathetic listener of all his problems at the office. She dusts, vacuums and sweeps all day. Her hobbies normally include knitting, sewing and flower making for the purpose of creating a more delightful home. She mends his favorite shirt time and time again without grudging. Her only gratification comes from those casual compliments she receives for the delicious dishes she serves which involve so much preparation and work.

Little children are quite lost without their dear mummies. The mother nurses the tiny, helpless infant. She cares for, feeds, washes and cloths the baby. She gets up several times in the middle of the night just so that her baby is soothed and comfortable, rocking and singing to her baby the old, lovely lullabies.

The mother never forgets birthdays and always manages to whip up a cake for that special day. She remembers our first words, looks out for our first front tooth. She is always there to wipe our tears after we toddle, tumble and fall.

She is always there to teach us our numbers and alphabet. She works and wears herself out to prepare us for our first day at school. She runs out of the house at the last minute to hand to us our forgotten homework book we have left behind. She always manages to stand just outside the school gate with an umbrella so that we do not get soaked in the rain.

Her sharp eyes always watch for the first signs of cold. She waits over her children night and day worried and anxious as they go through their share of flu, measles, mumps and chicken pox. She coddles her poor sick children. Then when we are well again, she scolds us sharply for not finishing our vegetables.

She administers the timely slaps on the hand every time we get into those mischievous pranks. She angrily sends the whole lot to bed without any supper. Then she gets up in the middle of the night to pull over us our blankets and stroke our hair reassuringly.

She continues to remain her daughter’s best friend, her son’s best confidant. She nags at us with her old fashioned values and chides us for being stubborn. But she is always there when things go wrong to lend a shoulder for us to cry on.

Her grandchildren look to her as a marvelous “sugar-mummy” who spoils them with home-made toys, sweets, ice-cream and jellies. She has an infinite store of old, fascinating stories to keep us bewitched for hours. She has a marvelous knack for providing delightful old fashioned remedies to cold, cuts or broken toys.

There is indeed no tribute which is fitting to the housewife’s simple, selfless devotion to her family.
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