It was dawn, a mesmerising one that morn. The air was refreshingly cool and tranquil. They arose early, only the faithful few. They meandered toward the sacred ground upon which the flag pole stood, as it had been since time immemorial.
They gathered and stood reverently silent in the feeble twilight of the morning star, in the shadows. Which dawn, I remembered not, but from tales of old, they did stood on that dawn. Why always dawn, well, I liked dawn and why the heck not.
“Arise, O Phoenix, Spirit of Raffles. Rise from your ashes …,” they drone faintly at first, slowly building up into a crescendo. Like ancient conjurers and sorcerers, they sang that haunting song, the almost forbidden, almost blasphemous and almost forgotten song. They sang mystically as if to summon the twin headed Phoenix, magical and mighty, to arise, so surreal almost perfect, only wanting the wind tune of bagpipes.
And the Phoenix rose as the sun rose to summon the rest. They, the not too faithful, drew near. Some yawned sleepily. They greeted one another mutedly. They assembled before the same flag pole on the same sacred ground. RH flag was already resting on the shoulder of the solemn flag bearer. They straightened their backs and held their chins up high, waiting for the appointed moment.
They began to sing the RH anthem, all eyes affixed on the slowly rising flag, “Raffles the greatest in the whole country, let’s go, go, go…” They sang with passion and pride, in esprit de corps, in solidarity, devotion and honour, one for all and all for one. They all sensed it, felt it and almost touched it, the warm presence of the hall spirit of camaraderie, one people, one family, one Raffles Hall.
And so I was told or was it just another old man’s tale.
Well, I could only attest that the hall spirit was very much alive during my stay at RH some three decades ago. Yes, she was still as intoxicating and exciting, bursting with exuberance and enthusiasm, full of passion and fervour. How else could we had had fought with such decibel during song fights and tenacity during games? How else could meek undergraduates be transformed into such a mighty fearsome yet fun loving horde that we were on the pitch and off? Truly, we must had had been empowered by her, immersed in her intoxication.
We were intoxicated, yes, very intoxicated by a spirit of another kind in victory celebrations. This spirit has a refreshing body, soft and smooth. We could see her, smell her, touch her and taste her. The refined preferred her cool and bubbly in body hugging crystals, to enjoy her lingering fragrant and bouquet. The ruffians appreciated not her subtle elegance or delicate beauty, for they just gulped her down by the gallons. Uncouth barbarians! They were better off with horse piss.
There was yet another spirit, a more menacing one. Often seen in shadows or felt in darkness, only at night and only at old RH@Nassim Road, and always in glimpses or always in apparitions. Old RH was haunted again as I was told.
RH was haunted by the spirits of some departed souls that roamed the dark nooks and crannies insatiate. Sad tortured spirits awaiting eternal bliss or relief or release of some kind, and in the meantime, preying on weak minds. Despite sceptics’ vehemence, these dark chilling tales persisted for a few unfortunates did go into the night at RH nonetheless, always jilted and always broken, and still wandering in the dark.
In the light, believers declared aloud that the Spirit of the Omnipresent God dwelled in them, the chosen ones. They proclaimed that they had no fear for the Spirit was mightier. They praised and worshipped reverently. Some prostrated, some lifted arm, some knelt, and some wept. Spirit-filled they went forth to share the Good News, perform signs and wonders, and save lost souls with the promise of eternal life in the holy presence of God.
In between or grey, atheists disavowed such notion, such belief or such faith as mere crutches or fairy tales or scary tales. There was no such spirit who dwelled in Man, only Man’s own spirit, his mind or his higher conscience. No such dark wondering spirits either. No more, no less.
Atheist’s doubt aside, RH was definitely overflowing with spirits, and those who had walked through her corridors could never deny that their walks were very spiritual indeed, even for the atheists. We were so full of life, so spirited then.
Just another rumination by an intoxicated, spiritistic, spiritualistic or spirit-filled old man.