So I had dinner with some university classmates recently. I think the fact that we are all current or former Government employees says something about Singapore, but I’m not sure what.
Also recently, I saw a photo of our graduating class at a friend’s blog. It’s been more than four years since the photo was taken, and I’ve forgotten most of the day’s happenings, but I remember the emotions: in the beginning, taut tension* and camaraderie^; then, as we realised that the procession of graduates would take a fairly long while, the nervous energy started to dissipate and we started to get more comfortable, really soak in the occasion. We talked about classmates who had chosen to miss the ceremony and cringed when a graduate tripped, stumbled and nearly fell on her face on stage and mentally warned ourselves against doing the same. Then it was our turn, and in an orderly line we snaked our way out of the rows of chairs and onto the bottom of the stage. We were supposed to walk up the stairs to the stage and a little further, then stop for a photo to be taken – one’s face would then be displayed on a large screen, for the benefit of the audience – and then walk to receive the degree from the person who was presenting the degree, where another photo was to be taken (I believe it was President Nathan presenting the degree; it was; I just checked the photo). We went up in time-honoured alphabetical order, and Afdillah (what is he doing right this moment, I wonder?) made us all laugh by making a funny face at the camera.
One thing I used to do in school that I don’t think a lot of folks knew about: I’d get in early in the morning, go to the media centre, walk down the spiral stairway to its basement and, there among the computers and shelves of books and with the morning sun streaming in from between the window blinds, if there was no one around (which was usually the case that early in the morning), do cartwheels on the carpeted floor. I doubt I can do cartwheels anymore.
*I wonder now whether it was because I was going to be presented on stage with something I had worked four years for, or because my parents and grandma were there to see me receive it.
^I remember a near-acquaintance unexpectedly helping me with my unruly graduation gown – a sign of the sort of esprit de corps we felt among us that day – but the camaraderie was a little strained because, despite numerous promises to remain friends and keep in touch, we knew deep down we were in no informed position to make those promises.