30 years of silence, 50 years of existence


by Lee Chin Keong



I locked eyes with this hefty man in a batik shirt standing right in front of me and pondered for a few moments. Gosh, I could hardly put a name on to this familiar face!  He smiled, chuckled a little and uttered a few words, as if he was making an effort to trigger my memory.   It was not long before I gave up.   When he finally identified himself, I just couldn’t help but cracked up.


Scores of people with beaming faces streamed into the cocktail room abuzz with noises.  The room decor was just right for the mood.  The quality of the finger food and the warmth of the waiters had somehow surpassed everyone’s expectation.  While digital photography took the centre stage, exchange of name cards was a common scene.


Everyone in the room had a common interest. The tremendous sense of camaraderie got all of us hyped up.  It was an eventful night for all the Sam Tet secondary alumni to get together.  It was a night where most of us had not met for a good 30 years.  It was also a night where we shared the reflection on our 50 years of journey in life. 


30 years of silence is non-trivial.  Back in the 70’s and 80’s, internet was non-existent and mobile phone was a novelty gadget.   Of course, there were some diligent ones who resorted to the traditional letter writing as a means of staying in touch, but that did not sustain very long either.  Blame it on the technology or the human behaviour, but the gospel truth is right after year 1974, some of us left the country in pursuit of tertiary education.  Others were anxiously joining the workforce, be it employed or self-employed.  Hardly anyone was in the right frame of mind to keep the social network alive.  As one decade after another went past, a long total silence set in.


The turning point came in the mid 90’s when the pervasive use of mobile phones and internet had helped bridge the communication gap for most of us.  We began to make time to chat, meet and gather.  Small group gathering sprouted.  Marathon outing for joggers mushroomed.   By the end of 2005, one bright idea tossed over the Google email group eventually landed us in KL at the Alumni night on 29th April 06.


It was indeed a gratifying feeling to see some of my ex-classmates doing so well on their own hook.  And what really amazed me was a handful of them who did not excel in school turned out to be presently living high on the hog.  More often than not, such remarkable life achievements can well be attributed to one’s blood, sweat and tears. So much for the materialistic side of the story.  When I gazed at the huge throng, it was a disturbing sight to behold.   There were those overweight ones who could have been leading a sedentary lifestyle by design or by choice.   By design, I mean the nature of the work has somehow dictated their lifestyle.  By choice, I am talking about their die-hard habits and behaviour that has an adverse impact on their health.   It is high time for us to take stock of our life and get our priorities right by bolstering lifelong conviction on health matters taking precedence over wealth matters.  Getting back to basics will be a tall order but it is worth our while.


Hitting the 50-year milestone is quite an achievement.  Some wonder how many of us will remain alive and kicking after the next decade.  But I would prefer to focus on the journey (or the process) rather than the destination (or the longevity).  It is important to constantly remind ourselves to relish every single moment, to cherish every sweet memory and to count our blessings.  As long as we have memories, yesterday remains.  As long as we have hope, tomorrow awaits.


Come what may, life goes on.


The article was written in May 2006 in Singapore

The writer left Sam Tet Secondary School at Lower 6 in year 1975.  He now resides in Singapore with his family.  He has been working for Hewlett Packard (chin-keong.lee@hp.com) for the last 17 years.