Thursday, August 23, 2007

A slice of the past

Is all we have
And when it's over
Of the path that sends us searching

-Reflections, Mae-

I was just sitting of my couch today, blankly staring ahead at the fish tank under my bed, sifting through my thoughts of the past, wondering about the present, musing about the future.

I just had to pull out one of my old essays, which I wrote back in secondary school. It wasn't so much what was in the essay itself, but it was like reading a recollection of my thoughts then. At certain parts I pretty much guessed what I was about to write next, and it felt kinda refreshing, affirming that the very same you once existed back then.

I know I don't make any sense now, (to those of you who are reading this), but all the same I'd like to be reading this post some 5, 10 years from now. It would be really interesting, to see what I (future) would think of myself (present).

Well, enough ranting from me (present), I'll let you have a really long one from me (past). Bear in mind this was written some time ago, as the holiday assignment that I never handed in. When I look back at it now, it seems so elementary, to some extent even childish. On my first read through I picked up so may errors and redundant words and phrases. But I had fun rereading it, and I'm sure I'll be thinking the same when I read it again loooong after this.

Oh, just to let you know, this was written to conform to 'SPM English', which was basically spamming every adjective you know, and wedging in as many idioms as your brain holds and basically, just trying to show off your command of the language. It's VERY cheong-hei (long-winded), now that I realize. Here it goes, quoted verbatim (word for word) :

It was a beautiful morning. I woke up early. I cast my eyes to one corner of the room, which housed a huge grandfather clock. It’s two gold-gilded hands kept the time, as it had for the past few decades. Eleven in the morning, on a Saturday. I was rather surprised myself; I did not usually rouse so early in the day. Throwing off the thick woolen blanket that my father received as a mansion-warming gift from a certain dignitary years ago, I hurried to the dressing chamber. I undressed from my silken pajamas and donned something more practical and suited for the day ahead.

Attired in a pair of slacks and an immaculately pressed white shirt and a burgundy tie, I then proceeded to the dining hall. The two massive oaken doors open on their own accord without an audible creak. I deliberately clicked my heel on the smooth, polished granite floor. At once, a chorus of voices greeted me in harmonious unison. ‘Good morning, young master’. Waving a hand in dismissal and seating myself, I then get on with breakfast. I survey the spread and note rather glumly that it was not as impressive as the previous days. The usual savouries, being cold ham, fois gras, caviar, poached quails eggs and an assortment of cheese were laid out amidst tureens of soup and boiled congee. Something was amiss, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Wait, where was my morning tea? My burrows furrowed as I realized the usual teapot that contained the aromatic, brownish liquid that I enjoyed so dearly, had gone missing. What treacherous doing was this? Who could have possible plotted such an evil scheme to deprive me of life’s pleasures? Demanding an explanation, I snap my fingers twice. A rather jittery maid-servant approached my cautiously. I glare gloweringly at her, and she, startled, takes a step back and fidgets uncomfortably in my presence.

As she explained, it slowly became clear to me that it was not the doing of members of another noble house seeking cold blooded vengeance by taking it out on my beloved tea leaves. It was in fact, far from that. It was purely the folly of one particular blundering servant who set out to brew my tea but dropped the whole glass jar instead. It shattered quite literally like falling glass. Oh bother, and the next shipment would only arrive the following week. I rubbed my sore temples, as all civilized folk do when in deep thought. But wait, Butler did mention something about a central commoner trading center where all manner of cheap, common goods including tea could be procured. It was hardly any good crying over spilt milk, or rather, tea. Now, there was a specific name for that place. I rubbed laboriously, searching deep in the folds of my mind for that elusive word.


A few servants stopped their work and looked puzzledly at me, pondering if their master had possibly gone absolutely deranged due to his lack of tea. A cold scowl set them back in their places and on with their routines. Commoners could barely sympathize and would hardly feel the pinch of losing a good invigorating cup of Earl Gray in the mornings. And with that, I sauntered off gaily in the direction of my chauffeur. I wondered what surprises the impoverished other side of the world held in store for me. This was quickly becoming quite an experience for me.

Absolutely fascinating. How should I begin describing a place as such? It was simply packed to the brim with people of all shapes, sizes and also smells, which I noted with a growing sense of distaste. It was at that precise moment that recalled the wise words of my forefathers, ‘Commoners rush in where we fear to tread’. Alas, if only they knew how much truth that held. I wrinkled my nose in disgust and proceeded.

I was no less fascinated. Shelves with packaged, canned and fresh foods as well as other objects of interest lined shelves in every plausible corner. I must applaud them for their space-saving ingenuity. People milled all around while pushing metal contraptions that held many things. Remarkable indeed; these people actually shopped themselves and did not hire their butlers to run the errand. The sheer vastness of the place and the many varieties of items on display perplexed me, as ashamed as I was to admit it. Where could the tea be?

I promptly stopped a man who was perambulating a child around, supposing he was one of the staff who kept surveillance on the children while the parent was away purchasing.

‘Good sir, could you direct me to the section which houses the tea leaves, preferably Earl Grey of the English variety?’, said I, with a hint of Cambridge in my English.

The man did look confounded, but pointed me in the right direction nevertheless. I fished for some loose change in my pocket and tipped him. Walking towards the beverage section, I could not help but wonder why the man I had tipped was staring at the hundred dollar bill in his hand as if it were manna from heaven. As I drew nigh, lo and behold, I stumbled across an entire rack of tea that spanned from one wall to another. Amazing! Absolutely fantastic! These people deserved more recognition that we accredit them for. I started browsing through the assortment of teas.

After a good ten minuets of thorough searching, I concluded that commoners simply did not know how to appreciate good tea. So many different varieties, but seemingly no recognizable brands. How did they ever thrive on shredded tea leaves placed in small porous bags? As with all other matters regarding these people, the answer eluded me. I was ruefully dismayed at the notion that the whole expedition was an absolute waste of time. Yet, my nerves were frayed because my day had not been complete without my drink. Woe was me! I scratched my head and chewed on the end of my manicured nails, as I had once observed on a documentary on common folk. Well, I supposed I would simply have to survive on a box or two of this meager substance for a few days. I randomly choose one and plucked it off the shelf. It read ‘Lypton Tea, the finest in quality’. I shrugged nonchalantly. For a pittance, I supposed it was a reasonable bargain.

Another new experience greeted me at the cashiers. There were literally hundreds of people lined up to fork over precious cash in exchange for their goods. Interesting. They were actually civil enough to form lines, though it seemed more like a human menagerie than anything else. Then realization hit me like a brick and I cursed politely under my breath. I too would have to line up and actually wait my turn. Then the memory of the man I had tipped resurfaced on my mind. Perhaps these people would succumb just as easily. Well, it was no harm trying.

I crumpled a hundred and threw it at my feet, looked away, and coughed courteously, just loud enough for a number of trolley wheeling customers to notice. They eyed me cautiously at first, but upon my walking away and whistling the ‘Blue Danube’, they took steps and ventured closer. Their eyes flicked up, now eyeing each other instead.

One man lunged daringly forward and grabbed the bill on the floor. His grubby, brown stained hands unfurled the note. He flashed me a toothy grin, his eyes twinkling in sincere gratitude. He then waved the note in the air triumphantly. ‘It’s real!’, he called out. By now most had gathered nearby, with more than a passing interest at the whole situation. The crowd watched my every move intently, perhaps even fervently praying for more bills to fall through holes in my pockets. I shrugged for the second time today and absent mindedly threw a few notes a distance away. The crowd no longer needed any provoking. Yells of ‘I saw it first’ and ‘It’s mine’ erupted as a stampede of people grabbed and dashed madly for the few crumpled bills.

I suppressed the urge to laugh out loud. The good news was, that the cashier aisles were now almost clear of people. It seemed as though everyone wanted a piece of the action and jumped in to join the fray. The cashier efficiently scanned, packaged and took my money in a swift, well-practiced motion. I promptly took my tea and left, without bothering to wait for any change, having no wish for a mad horde of people to be on my heels. It really did no good to be running in my handmade leather loafers. They were comfortable, but wore out so very easily. I departed from this ‘supermarket’, more than content in the family limousine, relieved to be breathing purified air again.

As we passed and witnessed a certain scene, a rather rude outburst of laughter erupted from my person. It included snorting, knee slapping and various other forms of uncouth behaviour. The driver even dared raise his brows questioningly at this volte face of my manner.

But this was outrageously hilarious! Never in all my sixteen years of life have I seen ladies squeamishly waiting in queue to use the privies. Just wait till father hears about this!

Postscript :
This post was a little emo, off the usual Jonnian train of thinking. Hope the essay made up for it :D

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