It came. The day came when you my boy, Ahmad Amirul Ariffin would be set morphed into a man. You have to wonder why people refer to National Service as Ah Boys to Men – when boys become men. But it really would be just that.
In the year 2020, at the age of 19, my dear son, my first born, had received your letter to be enlisted. Year 2020 had been a year to remember. Year of the COVID-19, a pandemic that had everyone around the world, well almost, in lockdown. Your letter had you to be enlisted on the 2nd of July 2020. However due to the lockdown and safety, the enlistment date was pushed to the 14th of July.
You had finished your polytechnic studies in Ngee Ann Polytechnic though with no graduation ceremony. Nonetheless it was another feather in the cap to your meteoric rise. No work and you lazed around most of the time asleep or on the phone. However, I was very happy with the situation because I had the whole family at home.
As time got nearer, you got worried. You ran your clicks, did your workout, hit the gym when it opened in the final days of your pink NRIC. You were fit but I had told you that National Service require one to be more than having the ability to run 2.4km or pull-ups or dumb-bells.
There is the long march, the distance run with full pack. You may just have log PT, well I did. I tell ya, you can feel that someone did not put in their fair share of effort. You nod here and there. I know, you couldn’t visualise the whole idea. You decided that tomorrow would be a day to start. There was always tomorrow.
Well tomorrow had come. We had to leave you at the Selarang Camp car-park itself. You were on your own. My mind was racing. I kept asking would you be able to handle this? I wouldn’t be around for you to ask for help or guidance.
That morning, this uncertainty and nervousness hit me. I know how it was and I am sure that my time it was much tougher. However, this was you, my own blood being left in the hands of strangers in what would possibly be a “torturous” environment. Well I would have exaggerated but it was that unsafe feeling.
Whatever it was, it was something you had to go through. I know you had to do this because I may not have done enough. You need structure with the ability to adapt and stand on your own two feet. National Service was this.
N.S would shake you up, bring you back down, make you alert, aware of your surroundings. N.S would unearth your intrinsic values, character. It would ask you, how would you be facing your two years? Positive or negative. I knew this because I asked myself the same question when I was in the bunk overlooking the parade square as more of my kind rolled in.
Well it did shake you up. You called to say that you had an ache in your heart of being away from the family for so long. Your mum was sad. More so your little sister Adina. She cried for two days. First was when she realised that you were not there with us when we prayed Maghrib. I had to bring her to Prata Alley to take her mind of it. She cried that night before sleeping and the day after at Teh’s house. She was looking out the window in the room and the topic of you being enlisted came up. That was enough to open the flood gates. She did state that she will cry if the at the sixth floor your name was mentioned. True enough.
There wasn’t much we could do. You need to adapt as we need to adapt. More so for you because you would need to grow up fast, change your ways. No more slacking, late nights, late noon “roll call”. Cloths need to be washed by yourself and folded. Cupboard need to be neat and bed too though you wouldn’t have much problem with these because you had been trained to make your own bed since young.
You would be on your own. It would take time for you to make friends, to find a buddy and someone to count on. You had to make through this because your friends in the neighbourhood would almost completed their N.S having gone to Junior College instead.
You would have to have responsibility for your life. Your actions would be guide by how we had brought you up and I pray that it would be enough. Finally, as I have told you, I hope you remember that a man is nothing without honesty and integrity.
You like it or not, you would have to go through this. And we had discussed your options. We had a plan. Do your best and pray that you go to command school. All goes well, sign-on and enjoy the perks of being a civil servant comfortably. We will know three months from now.
N.S would do you good son. It would prepare you for what to come in life in the future. N.S would make you grow as a person, N.S would make you a man.