Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Cold Winter Morning in South Africa.

Here today I will share an experience from my childhood far from Singapore, in South Africa
I have firsthand experience of a traditional African belief -- if a relative of pregnant woman kills the child of a fortunate family, her child receives all the good luck. I learned all about this when my dad was the principal of a school in this beautiful southern tip of Africa. 

Imagine a lovely little country side, full of flowers, deep colours, fruit trees and fresh air, silent except for the ting, ting sounds of cattle bells carried to you by gusts of wind. Lovely white winter’s snows - summer days long enough for a beautiful jog up and down the mountains. This was once my home.

My safe and secure world of toys and friends was bliss for a boy of 3. And a school Principal was like a chief of the village and responsible for many aspects of school administration, such as collecting and depositing revenues. To reduce the chance of theft, all fees collected were banked the very same day. something strange happened on this particular day. The cash my Dad sent a member of his staff to deposit was returned to him at home, apparently due to some fault with the bank account.  My Mom, always careful, divided up the cash and hid it in various places around the house.

Later, my parents hosted a party for the teachers of the school at our home. It was a very cold winter night, and the guests were happy to chat in the sitting area. Suddenly an interruption by a “knock knock” on the kitchen door. Knock! Knock! Knock!  My mother saw 3 boys standing at the door. She asked what they wanted. “Oh Madam A student of the school has met with an accident  and we want to meet Intate.” Intate means a man in good standing. My father went out to meet them, as it was customary for the principal to sign to certify deaths in the village

As Dad was trying to get details, curious little me went out to say hello and socialise. One guy in the group carried me - my parents may have seen this as a very genuine touch. But the next thing my parents saw was a gun at my head. Mom said “Ayyo kallammarane, Mon avarudey Kayyil aanu.” - They are thieves and our son is in their hands. And my dad whispered to my mom “They know today’s banking didn’t happen.” They wanted the money in the house.

 “Don’t waste our time ....  open your locker and we don’t want anyone else in this house to move or else this kid will be dead.” The guests were frozen, and I was perplexed, I felt the toy on my head was a gift for me... and my mom and dad and all the others at home must have known that one wrong move and the bullet in it was for me.

As soon as the 3 reached the locker in the bedroom and saw part of the cash, they lost interest in me and mom quickly locked me up in the bathroom. But these guys not only knew the deposit had not been completed also knew the exact amount that should be in the house. “Give us the money! don’t play games.” My father stood his ground. The guys started walking out holding the gun to my father, forcing him out of the bedroom through the dining area to the kitchen.

My mother ran behind my dad trying to pull him and get him away from them. Two guys went out of the door while one remained inside trying to force my father through the door, when mom literally pounced on my father and gave him one final pull - my father flew into the dining area, while she stood in the kitchen face to face with this 6 feet 2 inch guy. Mom focused all her energy to give the guy a push, and the guy flew out of the door and she banged the door closed. The would-be robbers retreated. The battle was won.

Life is so momentary. The next minute is unknown and we have to still be at our best. The way we react to a situation can make or break lives. If my mother had not pounced on that guy at that time my sister mom and I might have had a totally different life. As Mrs Clinton said to all the little girls, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams." Please remember that nothing can stop a woman or a man who has courage, conviction and love from facing down opposition and improving their society. 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

My Name is Naveen and I am 34 years old....

After my stint of being stateless in a country I thought I belonged (India) and hanging state of affairs with my country of Birth (Singapore), I was given the choice to accept my citizenship in Singapore with a National Service obligation.  For those of you who don't know Singapore National Service is compulsory for boys after 18 to be full fledged citizens... it's a 2 year process and really exciting.

I was 34 at that time. I celebrated my 34th birthday in India and I had told everyone around I was going 18 and my cake had an 18 year old candle.....

On the 3rd of Feb I joined the National Service camp. The volunteer who came near our car as we got off told me that family can move to the viewing area. I told him I was a recruit as it is called and the poor boy was stuck. I was ushered in to the waiting area.

I was seated with boys who looked absolutely innocent by the age. There I am sitting a corrupted 18 year old man. I did not look naive I am sure but yes I acted naive.

We had to fall suit for the oath. And that’s when I lost a few heart beats of mine. A captain with a bass voice walks in and says to stand in attention.  Probably after school that was the first time I stood in attention. Never mind but I did. The next sentence I hope I had not heard it as my pulse rate went at 144.. “I WANT ALL OF YOU TO BEHAVE WELL AND SING ALONG WITH THE NATIONAL ANTHEM WHEN IT IS PLAYED DURING YOUR OATH TAKING." Also included was I will check your mouth movements? I am not joking I thought Life as Naveen Manomohanan ends there as at that point I had not even heard my National Anthem fully, except for my mother humming it at times.

The introduction went passed and then played the National Anthem "Majula Singapura" it was lovely and I was desperately trying to move my lips to at least get somewhere near to the language. OMG, I realised I could be a good actor.

We were marched into a room were I realised I was in a battalion which was called Bravo... I was listening to the introduction I am Muhammed Imran 20 years old. I am Avinash and I am 21 and there is came in I am Naveen Manomohanan and I am 34 years old .... Perfect Silence and I said I was married and I am going to have a baby soon. My platoon called me POPS. ... and I became a premature dad to 46 and before I could know the 47th my own son joined the team....