Ex-convict turned NUS student: Everyone deserves a second chance.
If you see an uncle studying in NUS, it could be me. I might be the oldest student in NUS, why is this so? I had a problematic past that is not known by many. The media had approached me on countless occasions to invite me to share my story. However I do not want to attract too much attention because uncle already has a family now. Luckily, social media is wonderful because I can share my story anonymously.
This is my story of how two women changed my life.
I grew up in a family with 3 other siblings and I’m the youngest of them all. Although my siblings are good role models who excel in studies, I didn’t follow their examples. In fact I was the most rebellious one who never failed to make my mother’s anger hit the boiling point. During my teenage years, I joined the secret society and done many notorious stuffs. Whenever I got detained by the police, my mother would never fail to bail me out. But she would nag at me for the entire journey back home. “你为什么学人家打架？你再这样每三天就进警擦局，老板要炒我鱿鱼 了。”. Later on, we had a big quarrel and I left home when my mother threaten to disown me. I remembered before I walked out of the door, I told her that “I don’t need a mother like you, no big deal”. Looking back now, I realized how unfilial I was. That’s the worst thing I can say to my mother.
My old secondary school was considered to be a rubbish dump, where all delinquents gathered. Fighting is like drinking water to us, only the one with the hardest fist command all respect. Growing up in this environment made me think that fighting solves all problems.
I was never early for school. Every morning, I just simply stared at the prefect on duty, he/she would definitely be intimidated and let me in without fail. One fine day, I was late as usual. The new prefect on duty was a cute petite girl. I smiled at her and asked her to let me in but she refused to do so, hence I resorted to my usual intimidation method but she stared back right into my eyes instead. In the end, my discipline master slapped me with 1 week worth of detention. I kept swearing and cursing because this little chilli padi wounded my ego. Therefore I decided that I had to teach her a lesson. After school, I gathered my underlings and went into her classroom to mess up her table and poured out all her belongings from her bag. Initially she tried to fight back by scratching me insanely hence I had to push her back into her chair. Tears started flowing out of her eyes while she stared at me with a face full of hatred as if I had killed her parents. I’m a person who has a soft spot for girls who are crying. Being totally clueless on how to pacify a crying girl, I left in a hurry after telling her, “You win”.
That night I just couldn’t forget the way she stared at me. I touched the scratch marks on my hand and smiled to myself. The very next morning, I brought a really big lollipop and waited for her to appear at the school gate so that I could apologize to her. She refused to accept my apology despite how relentlessly I tried. Finally she broke her silence and told me to take a step back. I followed her order without thinking and she slammed the school gate right in my face. “You are late for school again. Please wait for teacher to open the door for you bah.” I got outplayed out by her yet I’m not angry at all. Strangely I was feeling happy instead as I had developed interest in this sadistic little chilli padi.
The probability of me getting to know her is close to zero because I’m the kind of guy she detests the most. Luckily fate played a part in matching us up. When I heard that another ah beng was finding trouble with her, I raced to her classroom immediately. I dragged him out of the classroom and gave him a beating. I nearly got expelled due to this incident and I was shocked when I learnt that she actually begged the principal to pardon me. This incident brought us closer, then nature took its course and soon we became an item. I brought a super big Doraemon plushie to school on the day I confessed to her. The size of the plushie attracted a lot of unwanted attentions. I literally sacrificed my reputation in order to woo her. Looking back now, it felt silly but chasing a girl requires you to do 100 or even 1000 silliest stuffs.
I should have cut my connection with the secret society and be a good son/boyfriend. At that point of time, brotherhood meant everything to me, fighting for my brothers is like a natural law. On the night of our 3rd anniversary, I received a call from my gang leader informing me that another gang had slashed one of our own. Before I could leave, she grabbed my arm and told me:
“Can you promise me that you will never get into a fight again? I’m very tired of it already. I will really walk away if you ever fight again.”
I brushed her hands off and lied to her that I need to go home to settle some family issues, before rushing off to meet my brothers. It was a path of no return. I collected my weapon from my leader’s van and proceeded to the clashing point. In the midst of all the hectic fighting, the image of my girlfriend kept flashing in my mind. This isn’t my first experience in this kind of fight but I was overcome by fear on that night. I started sweating profusely and voices of my girlfriend kept ringing in my ears repeating what she had said earlier. For the first time in my life, I felt really scared and decided to run away from the fight. A sharp object slashed through my arm when I was pushing my way out of the mess. I knew that it was a deep cut, however I gripped my wounded spot tightly and continue to run. I don’t know what I was thinking on that night, all I want is to see my girlfriend’s face immediately. When I she saw me at the door step, she burst into tears and started hitting me. I felt a deep remorse for breaking my promise to her. Not long afterwards, the police tracked me down and arrested me. Apparently someone had died in that earlier gang fight and I was placed under suspicion of murder. Till today, I can still remember the sight of her crying when the officers escorted me into their vehicle. I kept yelling at her, asking her to just go home! But she simply refused to do so.
Murder is a very serious and non-bailable offense in Singapore. It was at this point in time, everything turned for the worst under Murphy’s Law. My mother’s cancer condition worsened and her life hung by a tiny thread. No matter how hard I yelled and knocked on the prison door, the officers refused to let me visit my mother in the hospital. The day came when my officer told me that my mother had passed away, I began to weep bitterly. I felt things shouldn’t end this way because I haven’t apologized for all the nasty stuffs I had said. I began to recall the times I spent with my mother. When I was young, I’m afraid of thunderstorms in the night. Whenever there was one, I would run into my mother’s room and cuddle under her warm embrace. During Chinese New Year, she wouldn’t allow my siblings to touch the chicken drumstick because it always belonged to me. On the day of her funeral, I was allowed to make a short visit under police escort. When I met my sister, she got emotional and started shouting at me.
“You still got the face to appear here! Do you know how ma died? Even on her death bed she never stopped calling your name with her final breath.”
I was utterly devastated by her words. Till today they haven’t forgive me yet.
Later on, the judge cleared me of all murder charges and gave me a prison sentence. While I was serving my sentence, my girlfriend would visit me every single week. Sometimes she would spot bruises on my body and asked me if I had gotten into fight again? Once in a while some troublemakers would find problem with me so that they can beat me up. The old me would have definitely retaliated however the new me simply retreated while they rained blows onto me. I can’t continue living my life by relying on my fist. Therefore I started picking up my textbook again. I retook my 'O' Levels in the prison school. I worked really hard because I want to become someone my girlfriend could be proud of.
As my release date got nearer, the frequency of her visits decreased. Obviously I was disappointed but I told myself that she might be busy with life. The day of my release finally came and the thought of holding her hands again created butterflies in my stomach. When I walked out of Changi prison, she immediately hugged me and greeted me with a bright smile. Soon I realized that there was another guy standing right beside her. My worst fear materialized when I found out that they were dating. All these years in jail, she was the one and only reason that I managed to keep my sanity under those harsh circumstances. But everything fell apart when she told me to move on with life. Honestly, I was really angry with her for a period of time as I felt betrayed. However, I took a step back to coolly rationalize over what has happened and things started to make sense. After all, I’m the one who let her down in the first place. I didn’t cherish her and squandered my chance of being together with her. In fact, I should be thankful to her because I might have continued my thuggish life and even end up dying on the streets if she didn’t appeared in my life.
Both my mother and my ex-girlfriend made me who I am today. Realistically, I’m one of the few success cases. I hope that our society will remove our prejudice against ex-convicts. Everyone deserves a second chance. I hope my little story inspires you in one way or another.
This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of NUS Whispers (#30152) on 10 December 2016. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.
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