The Ides of August

*I jinxed it with my previous blog post*

We are a convoy of bombs and bullets hurtling down a secluded Mandai Rd at an ungodly hour of an unconscious night. I am the highest ranking ground commander supported by two drivers and an armed escort all of whom have literally just graduated from vocational-training mere weeks ago. And I, on the other hand, have never had the experience of a drill activation before, let alone the actual thing.

It’s like winning a lottery that an activation occurs on a night staffed by such an inexperienced and unprepared crew. Our walkie talkies are on different frequencies and its the third time I stopped my driver from making a wrong turn. I am oscillating between two polarised states of exhaustion and anxiety; the only thing keeping my drooping eyes open is my boiling nerves and the realisation that the mission could easily fail if I reacted wrongly to any scenario, that I had no one else except myself at this ungodly hour to depend on in a contingency, that the minutes on my wrist watch were ticking away faster than my heart beats and definitely faster than the speed by which the convoy was moving.

In one hand is my walkie talkie, in the other is my phone in case the comms fail. On my lap is a horrific mess of pens, markers and files – contingency plans, checklists, ammunition vouchers, route cards, radio callsigns and codewords, contact numbers and what not.

This wasn’t even the hard part yet. The night (or rather the wee hours of the morning) would last far longer and my sweat-stained uniform would be far more drenched in the coming hours. But I shan’t talk about it here.

My Malay driver interrupts the meditative silence (at this point of time we had pretty much expanded most of our energies on most possible topics of conversation), “Sergeant, do you know why we are being activated?”

“Aku tak tahu lah. Maybe Malaysia chut pattern again,” I answered cautiously. Cautious because the institutionalised distrust of Singaporean Malay soldiers has since bled into my psyche, however much I’ve tried to prevent that. He was the stereotypical Singapore Malay after all – schooled in ITE, religious (he booked in with a prayer mat), and conscripted into a stereotypical NS vocation for minority races.

His reply surprised me, more for its unequivocal patriotism than for its unnecessary angst – “Fuck Malaysia.”



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