"... and the ones with black or purple flowers are called 'Datura niger', okay"Dr. Vikram Palimar, on the subject of jimson weed poisoning
"It's 'Datura African-American', okay."Shaki, that bloke who sits beside me in class
For some reason, Dr. Vikram feels compelled to end each and every one of his sentences with "okay". Entertaining for a while - quite tedious to listen to in the long run.
Right this very moment, I feel like going straight to bed and not waking up again till Monday morning comes. I have only slept for only total 6 miserable hours in the past two days, and I can actually hear some of my bigger arteries pulsing like little time bombs in my brain. Before the day is out, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to go 'tick, tick, tick, tick, coma'.
I just returned from a rather perniciously exhausting specimen of a Microbiology test at the lecture hall place and I can't hit the sack yet because in a couple of hours, the college inter-batch Creative Writing competition will kick off. There's a chair there with my name on it. Unfortunately. But I don't see the rationale in participating anyway since Batch 17's total score for the cultural events is already triple of what we racked up so far. Even if my batch bags the first and second places in all the remaining events, we will still lose - so why bloody bother, I ask you?
Well, at least I won't be the only representative for my batch this year since that rather biggish Seychellois girl is joining too. I don't think I have ever spoken more than two words to her though.
Anyway, since this post is so "filler-ish", I delved into the terrifyingly fossilized depths of my old Friendster blog archives and resurrected the transcript of my entry in last year's competition (which I won by the way, muahahaha) in this post. Those that knew me back then when I was a noob blogger would have probably already read and pooh-poohed it. For those that didn't, here's your chance to pooh. So pooh away!
The theme was: The Changing Society and the Changing Seasons,
This is a largely unremarkable sort of noise – at least to most. But to Wen, it was the reassuring sound of another meal partially secured (you might say it’s almost music to him). It was the sound of a coin striking the base of his tattered hat which sat between his legs. Incidentally, Wen was also a musician. However, he’s not the kind you are liable to run into in polished orchestral halls, rock concerts and drug rehabilitation centres. No, he’s the type that you would most probably fall over if you’re not watching carefully where you’re walking. Most unfortunately for Wen, he cannot warn you if you happen to be on a collision course with him. This is because – well – he can’t see you coming. He’s blind.
This is the story of Wen, the beggar musician of Old Main Street – the erhu virtuoso who had been out of a job for the past two decades.***
It was another sell-out night at the Changing Seasons Theatrical Hall, home of the Changing Society Performing Troupe. Hundreds of Beijing’s citizens filled the theatre nightly hoping to catch the famous performers of the fine art of music and story-telling of the ancients – the Chinese Opera.
Tonight, the mesmerizing Li Jien, whose bewitching voice impressed the legendary playwright, Hu Zhan, and garnered the much talked about marriage proposal from the Governor, had given yet another perfect show. Li Jien was a paraplegic; a disability much looked down upon by the great frowning face of the industrial, booming great land of China. She would have ended up in a chopstick factory suckling on a menial salary sorting pieces of bamboo – or even more probable, on the streets with a bowl in one hand and nothing else in the world at all in the other. She would have, had Mr. Zhu did not enter the picture.
It was Mr. Zhu that conceived the Changing Society Performing Troupe in 1975, a group showmen that consisted exclusively of the physically impaired – the Cripples, the Lepers of modern China. No one knew exactly why he bothered to do so. "Too much money in his coffers," some said while some credited him to be a wily businessperson who capitalizes on the novelty of disabled performing musicians. Hardly anyone however, said that he’s a good man doing great deeds; such was the cynical and labyrinthine mind of the modern Chinese everyman. Such was the Chinese.
Wen thought the world of Mr. Zhu. It was Mr. Zhu who plucked him out of the dilapidated orphanage he was living in (if one can call it living indeed). Mr. Zhu told him that he had a gift – a spark of talent for the erhu. Mr. Zhu did not think that he was useless because he was born sightless. He gave him clothes, three hot meals a day and most importantly, some semblance of a purpose in life. It was essentially a rebirth that Mr. Zhu had given him.
Wen remembered what Mr. Zhu told him and the rest of the troupe. He said, "China today bears no appreciation for the arts of our forefathers and compassion for the unfortunate. I am hoping to change society and you are going to help me." He was a firm, decisive person not given to bandy about with flowery speeches. Wen committed every word to memory.***
Ah - another yuan for Old Wen. The world’s kinder to him today. He hoped that the passerby paid him for his beautiful rendition of the Autumn Ballad – not out of pity. But he knew that that was not the case. The world today holds no love for the older arts. They sit in cineplexes watching moving pictures on screen, sing along to half-naked women gyrating on the MTV and attend concerts of musician who dress like ghouls and scream at the top of their raspy voices.
Wen gazed longingly with his sightless eyes at the old theatre he knew was standing in front of him. Quietly, he shed a tear for the late Mr. Zhu. The Changing Seasons was slated for demolition in a week’s time. It was a monument to the deserted roots of the Chinese people. Soon, it would be just rubbles of a broken joy – Wen’s joy. Wen’s lost joy. They changed society a little bit in the old days but finally – and inexorably – society turned their backs on them.***I actually contemplated stopping the story here at this point and pass the manuscript up.
I never did like happy endings - I prefer thoughtful, brooding ones. But I wrote on anyway.***
"Excuse me, Old Sir," said a nice young man. Wen could hear the 'niceness' in his voice.
Wen Grunted in reply. It had been awhile since anyone talked to him. Frankly, he was out of practice.
"You play the erhu beautifully," the young man continued. Wen could hear a kindly smile in his tone. "You were with the Changing Society Performing Troupe, weren’t you, Old Sir?"
To say that Wen was taken back was the understatement of the century. It was not usual that pedestrians would stop to converse with him. I was even stranger that a young man should do it. What really baffled him was that a young man actually knew about the old Chinese Opera troupe. He wasn’t even sure that the youngsters nowadays have actually seen an erhu.
"Yes," Wen replied, utterly bewildered.
"Well," said the young man, "My name is Chen Wei. I am with the Youth Cultural Revivalist Movement of Beijing. Our society was formed by the ministry to explore and restore the traditional performing arts; Chinese Opera, folk-dancing and the likes. It would be an honour, Sir, if you can come with me to our Youth Centre to teach us what you do so brilliantly – much better than this street corner, Sir."
Wen actually heard reverence and excitement in the young man’s voice. He broke into a toothless grin and told the lad amidst his tears that, "I will come…"
It never stayed still, does it? Just when you are sure that things would never get better, the season changes again. And an aberrant society flipped back into its father’s boots. Mr. Zhu would be delighted, Wen was sure. Mr. Zhu would smile.
The strangest thing is that I know absolutely groundnuts about Chinese opera, the period cultural conditions in China and erhus to be perfectly frank. I cow-crapped everything - even that "famous" playwright's name (from the top of my head that came). And I'm quite sure that no sane Chinese man would ever call a performing troupe as lame a name as 'Changing Society'. I bet that sounds retarded in Mandarin.
When I penned this lot of waffle, I was secretly praying that one of our lecturers who knows even less than me about Chinese Opera would be judging this. Anyone else with the least knowledge on the subject would go all technicolor in the face, believe me.
I still got another hour and a half to go before I have to leave my room for that stupid competition. I wanted to take part in the Cartooning event actually (you know - branching out, spreading my artistic wings and all that jazzy jazz) but the obscenely gifted geniuses over at the Student Council have scheduled that to clash spectacularly with Creative Writing.
Gosh, I'm so bone tired. I don't think I can write very well with one brain lobe tied behind my back.
I think I'm grammatically impaired.
I think a blood vessel in my head just went "pop!"
I think I rather go play Battle for Wesnoth.
k0k s3n w4i