Departure to National Service, revisited

Service National

This, my friends, is a post I wrote before leaving for National Service last year.

I remember how terrified I actually was to go there. After hearing that at least sixteen trainees died during the entire execution of the National Service programme, I began to fear for my life. I did not want to die, and I was aware that I ran the risk of dying. I never saw myself as a survivor, and in actual fact, I was the weakest among all the 200+ trainees in Camp Miri (physically). I saw with my own eyes how distance made the heart grow fonder… Just a few months prior to NS, I was regarded as a good-for-nothing scoundrel by the people close to home ; on the day I left, the same people wept bitterly.

2009.06.16 came with its anecdotes. For starters, I met two of my closest friends in NS, whom I affectionately call Léa and Juliane. I remember how the bus moved back and forth, minutes before we finally left for the airport. I remember the economy class flight we were on, as well as the cultural shock I got when I found that almost none of the trainees could speak English (only seven or eight of us could). I remember how disappointed I was to note that there was no hot water in the bathrooms, as well as the holes on the concrete floor in our room. I remember the slop we were served, and how all of us threw our fish into the bin in disgust (the gravy served with it was freaking GREY IN COLOUR). I remember how we were assembled without our uniforms – it was wonderful to see a sea of colour. All of us had our hair in good shape back then ; the boys sported mohawks and whatever other outlandish hairstyles we could name. It was at the 8:35 night gathering that we first learned the National Service theme songs. (Speaking of which, I reckon that this current batch – Group 3, 7 Series, would already be sitting for their night assembly.)

I must revisit this three-month ordeal which I went through, and how I survived each day. Well, of course, there’s the National Service Journal, in which I wrote day after day without fail just to preserve my sanity, pictures and videos to show people what I’ve been through. But the pictures and videos in the journal don’t show the darker side of NS : vice. No one mentions (or ever dares mention) about brawls, bullying, theft and/or harassment in the media – many of us are clouded by fear and/or ignorance that we only mention isolated cases to the media. In truth, we don’t know how many more people would’ve suffered. Fine, there are some moments which I did cherish back there, but they don’t justify the suffering we went through.

Point taken. NS isn’t meant to be a walk in the park. NS is meant to be a watered-down version of a game of survival of the fittest, n’est-ce pas ?

It’s fine when companies clash against each other. I remember the sweet revenge we had over our rivals Charlie when Bravo was crowned Best Company, I saw how united the trainees in Delta were and thought of emulating them, and I remember, quite vividly, how a trainer from Alpha and I were engaged in a cold, intellectual war. But it’s definitely not fine if within this conflict, there are signs of vice. It’s as though our youth has become incorrigible.

Lord, as much as I’m against NS, please bless our trainees and trainers. I know Seniors Simon, Ref, Titty, Harun and Rahmat will be going about their task again. If they all land in the same company again, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Regardless, this malady needs divine intervention, because I just know we aren’t going to solve the problem.


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