TO LIVE AND LOVE LIFE
After Form Six when most of his classmates opted for economics, business administration, law and accountancy, Beng chose literature.
"Why take literature?" his classmates asked in bewilderment. "You can't buy bread with Shakespeare nowadays!"
"Because I want to live and love life," Beng replied almost dogmatically, but his classmates stared unbelievingly at him.
Beng fondly remembered that in his childhood he once asked his father to take him to a seaside to hear mermaids sing. His father did that, though he was always very busy working to keep the family alive.
For that outing, Beng was very grateful. The father and son lay joyously on the beach and listened to the singing waves. Beng fancied he heard some mermaids' songs, and asked his father if he heard them too. His father replied that there were no mermaids; but he told the child captivating stories of sea-dragons living in underwater palaces with a majestic display of crab-generals and lobster-soldiers, with tortoises as state ministers.
The stories were so realistic, so full of details and so enchanting that for a time Beng thought they were true. His classmates probably had not tried listening to mermaids' songs, Beng thought, nor had heard such fantastic stories in their childhood. Or else they would not give such incredible looks when told that literature helps a person to live and love life.
Beng came to the university with a mission. He came here not just to get a degree as a passport to some well-paid jobs. He came here to search. What exactly he wanted to search for, he could not define. Nevertheless he was determined to search for something to make his life meaningful, and he vaguely knew he would find it in reading literature, for, to him, literature is a study of life.
Beng had a grandiose concept of the university as the centre of intellectual activities where great minds met and expanded. But this grandiose concept was badly shaken in the first few weeks of his university life. He found most of the lectures dry and boring. Except a few outstanding rare breeds who really taught and inspired, most others literally dictated notes over their students' heads, and the sheepish students slavishly took them down word by word. But Beng refused to let boring lectures dull him. He amused himself with outlandish thoughts.
"Why can't lecturers cyclostyle their notes and give them to their students if they have to give notes? Surely it's more effective and economical than taking notes verbatim. But then the lecturers would have nothing to pass the time with," Beng mused to himself. "Tutorials are equally disappointing. What's happened to intellectual discussions, the expansion of the mind?" Beng demanded.
Despite these setbacks, Beng's life at the university was rewarding. He never forgot his self-set mission to search for that something to make his life meaningful. At first he searched for mermaids and sea-dragons, singing waves and whispering trees, and though for some time these did fill him with some intense nostalgic feeling of childhood bliss that stirred deeply inside his heart, nevertheless they were not compelling enough to convince him that they were the answer he was looking for. Then he met Alice, a pretty girl who also read literature in his class.
In Alice' eyes, Beng fancied he found life's meaning; in her bewitching smile, life's joy; in her soft-spoken words, life's comfort and assurances; and in her every single movement, life's poetic expression. How he appreciated and love every moment he was with her, walking down a canopied path together towards a lecture hall, never talking yet actually communicating; or merely sitting silently in a library corner facing her, holding her little hands, looking into her misty eyes, and reading messages off them. Life indeed was wonderful and godly.