I took this black and white photo in 1979. This depicts the small road and the left gate of the Methodist Secondary School at that time. Two casuarina trees lined the road on the right. The bigger one,nearer the school is not in the photo.
What does this photo remind me of? Two important things in my life when I was a young and naive teenager - asking questions and keeping secrets.
Teenagers of olden days did ask a lot of questions but they did not get as much help then as they can nowadays. Sometimes only a forum could enable them to ask some questions and get some answers. Most of the time even parents did not wish to answer their pertinent questions.
When I was young I would ask my mother questions. The questions she did not want to answer would get me this answer " Ask your father." And I knew that I need not ask those questions again.
Teenage boys in particular were keen to know, in all their sincerity about growing up, love and life. When I was a Guidance teacher in the Methodist secondary school, I was asked on very salient question during a forum for teenagers : " How do I get girls to admire me?"
I replied off the cuff (and partly based on my own youthful experience) : "you need to be a basketball player and be able to shoot lots of baskets or you need to play games well and be a star" . That was before Beckham, or Yao Ming, or Federer.
In the years which followed I observed that what I said was very true. The best sports boys get all the beautiful girls.And some of the married sports men in town also get lots of girls to admire them.
Girls never did dare then to ask "How do I get boys to admire me?" Today magazines the Internet and friends can help them.
Another question which was very popularly asked of teachers was "how do you keep your secrets?"
My answer was :"It is easy. Tell it to a big tree and it will keep your secrets. You will not have the burden of that secret. But the tree has."
I will let you into my secret .
Yes indeed it was very helpful. All children were brought up to know that once you reveal you own inner thoughts to another person and she becomes the second person to know what you think she has the burden of keeping it. If she tells another person your thought, it won't be secret and private any more. The whole world will know.
It is good to train our young up to be P and C most of the time.
Indeed I told my own secrets ,or when some one told me to keep things P and C, to the casuarina tree outside the school staff room.
It was a beautiful casuarina tree which must have been planted by missionaries. There was another huge casuarina tree in the Methodist Primary School. We used to admire these trees as they were so majestic and decorative. Casuarinas are not the natural flora of Sibu.
Many years later the beautiful casuarina tree outside the staff room was cut down and I felt very sad about its demise. I felt as if I had lost a friend. It had seen me growing up to a young woman and it had listened to my secrets.
So tell a tree your secret. In the movie "In the Mood for Love"Tony Leong Chou Wei told his secret to a tree in Cambodia.
Young athletes would continue to get the most beautiful girls. Other young girls would lose their hearts to them and it would be unrequited love for many of these poor girls.
Whatever it takes I would advise children to ask a lot of questions. And some answers must be given.
And with regards to secrets - I would still say the same thing - tell it to a big tree to unburden yourself.
If you don't have a tree to talk to, the God of the Universe would be delighted to listen to you.