Sunday, December 25, 2005

Torch Light (part 3)

(Source of pic, Leonid Mamchenkov)

Continued from Parts 1 and 2...

Right! Enough of boring history and tribal disputes. Let me tell you a little about myself. I come from a small family of four; I have an elder sister. My parents have been fishermen all their lives. It was therefore natural for friends to assume that I will continue to ply this age-old family trade. Surprised then my parents were when the 27th generation and current Grand Wizard paid them a visit, informing them that their only son has passed the aptitude test for qualifying to be a wizard apprentice. Their surprise came on two counts. One, I never got around telling them of this intention. Two, I was not expected to make the grade.

Well, I did. Make the grade, that is.

And contrary to popular belief, I have never taken much interest in the line of fishing. And it is not that I looked down on the occupation. The idea of hooking a fish by its mouth, letting sharp pain run through its entirety before it earns its relief via death, did not exactly appeal to me. So revolting was the idea to me, I have come to avoid it in my diet.

Nor did I as a child, prefer wizardry though it is a position much coveted by both young and old. That was not to say that I was just floating through my younger days. I had actually frequently thought of what I wanted to do and tried my hand at a couple of jobs.

I initially toyed with the idea of becoming a carpenter. It was the idea of creation that appealed to me. Alas, I found the tools unwieldy and my early creations were at best laughable. So my first ambition died an unsightly death. Literally so. I recall "fondly" that I was the earliest dropout from the carpentry course. And I am sure the teacher was not even sorry to see me leave.

I then entertained briefly the idea of joining the cavalry. I was mostly mesmerised by my own imaginations. That of myself clad in shining armour, wielding my trusted sword, riding a handsome thoroughbred, mane flowing with the wind, cantering into the sunset. My application was abruptly rejected on the grounds that I lack both the physique and height. In addition to that, I forgot one other important detail. I do not know how to ride a horse.

But that was not my wildest dream, yet. If speed and romance appealed to me, then a sense of freedom and control simply fires up my heart. Flying encompasses all these virtues perfectly. So, I signed up for the dragon forces. To fly a dragon, to spew fire balls at the enemy, to feel that rush of adrenaline as you tangle with other dragons, to merge with your stead and become one mean fighting machine. Wow! I was really taken into that idea for quite some time. Yet, it never occurred to me that if I couldn't get into the cavalry on grounds of lack of physique, there was no way the dragon forces will even bother to look at my application. I hope they recycled my application form.

Yet, I was never once disheartened by these rejections. These early dreams were to continue to live on in me though I was to realise bit by bit as I matured that I have to seek out other "better" pastures. At a strategic point in my life, when I was eighteen, a former fellow carpenter apprentice brought me to the Grand Wizard's mage, to watch the wizard apprentices train. Something about what I saw gripped my despairing heart. There was no speed involved, not much excitement, no feeling of freedom. But I have seen enough.

I wanted to be a wizard.

I still know not exactly why I wa so attracted then (as well as now) to wizardry. It could have been the mystery and mystic of it. It is not likely to be the high regard my fellow townsmen have for it. It could also be its importance to the survival of the town. I never pinpointed the reasons.

I was nonetheless overjoyed to have found a very important piece in the jigsaw of my life. The next thing I knew, I was signing up for the first available wizard apprentice course and taking the prescribed aptitude tests. It is quite surprising that I passed these with such consummate ease. After all, it was the first time I am coming into contact with spells and magic.

With that little success behind me, I have but one minor detail to take care of. Okay, maybe it was not so minor. My parents. I approached my soon-to-be teacher for advice and help. She concluded that I needed a person of more weight and prestige and appealed to the Grand Wizard on my behalf. In turn, the Grand Wizard generously took time off his busy schedule to pay my parents a visit and explain my position. Any backlash to be expected from them did not materialise, though they were still a tad unhappy about my irresponsible behaviour. After enduring a minor bombardment from them that evening, I was given the green light to pursue my newfound dream.

What followed was a number of years of sheer hard work and training. I made satisfactory progress. "Never outstanding but a steady worker and a quick thinker" was how my teacher likes to describe his protégé. The training proved grueling at times, not on the body but on the mind, but I came through it relatively intact.

During my apprentice years, I have seen quite a few struggled with the pace. A small number (our class was not large to begin with) even dropped out as despair over poor progress drained them of initial energies and enthusiasm. Yet, we never greeted these "drop-outs" with scorn. Instead, we see them off with deep regret and sadness. With each that leaves the mage, there will be one less to endure the rigours of training or to celebrate with the triumphs of mastering a particularly tricky spell together.

As I take my final steps in my journey towards qualification for wizardhood, those days shared with my fellow apprentices will not be forgotten. I will also remember fondly how my parents eyes lit up with pride as I told them a couple of days back on my impending "Final Test". Against the backdrop of their pride stood a little worry for my safety. Despite the cavern's perfect record of returning apprentices to the welcome arms of their parents, each apprentice's parent will still harbour a little fear in their hearts over the safety of their children.

I did my best to allay the anxieties of my parents, though I have no idea if what I said actually succeeded in doing so. But, if there is something I can be sure of, it is that I'll be able to see those same looks of overflowing pride, minus the worry, when I emerge from this cave and return home in one operating piece.

Akan Datang: My respect for Jim

96 days to go.

P.S. Enjoy your respective Christmases.


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