That One Word Which Changed My Life
‘O’ level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison
Words mean more than how it is supposed to be. Words can hurt, mend and even change a person’s life. In the journey of my life, there was always that one particular word which seems meaningless at first. However, as my life moved on, it became the word that changed my life. The word was ‘Faith‘.
I was a sixteen-year-old student then. I had almost everything a teenager could have. Family, wealth, friends and even fame. I was one of the top scoring students in my school, thus I enjoyed the attention of almost all my schoolmates. Strangely, whatever I possessed was not sufficient. I had that narcissistic thought that I could do more but I wanted to do something different. Therefore, I decided to join a secret society. I told myself that if I could be ‘somebody’ in the pleasant side of life, why would not I be also that ‘somebody‘ in a different, darker pursuit of life.
True enough after almost six months with my new friends, I was made a ‘leader’ of a district. However, through that journey, I totally let go of my studies and my family. I was still under that unceasing belief that without studying, I could overcome my ‘O‘ level examinations with flying colours. I deflected the incessant advice and warnings from my family and friends that I was turning out to be the total opposite of who I was.
Then came that fateful day when I took my ‘O‘ level results. I had spectacularly failed my examinations. However, astounded and crushed I felt, all the feelings were dissipated abruptly It was replaced with a feeling of intensive wrath. As to whom, what and why that wrath was created, I did not know exactly. Amazingly but to my utter disgust, my teachers and friends kept telling me that I should retake my examinations. They had the faith that I could actually have done better. It was a similar scene at home. I did not know why they kept using the word ‘faith‘. In a normal person’s mind, he would have known that it was actually a form of encouragement and comfort. Sadly, I was thinking otherwise. At that moment, I had that repetitive though that everyone was indirectly telling me I deserved it.
That night, I ‘celebrated‘ my failure with my friends at a discotheque. I was drowning my sorrows through booze. My secret society members were all present and thus, I was in a made-up belief that they were there to console me. Suddenly unprepared, a fight broke up between my group and a group of a rival secret society. It became chaotic with people trying to make an exit and people tussling with one another. Then it all came to a stop. Apparently, someone had shouted that a murder had taken place. Everyone’s eyes were looking at me as I was holding an ice-pick and directly under me was a bloodied body. I had committed a sin that was almost destined for hell.
After the Trials and Hearings, I was sentenced to ten years for the Charge of manslaughter without intention. I still remembered the faces of my parents, sister and close friends when the Judge read out the Verdict. My loved ones showed tremendous relief and when I was about to be taken away, my mother who was in close proximity, said this “Son, I still have faith in you.”
Five years had passed and I was in my last two years of my torturing incarceration. Everyday had passed slowly and uneventfully. It was on one day when I attended a religious counselling that all my senses were awakened. It was a one-to-one counselling session and it turned out to be the most unforgettable event. The Ustaz who evidently did not even know me before, said a lot of words that broke my ego. “Son, I have faith that this is where you should not have been in”. “Son, if God, your family and me, a stranger have faith in you, why are you not having faith in yourself?” Surprisingly, almost every sentence the Ustaz said had the word ‘faith’ in it. Through his encouragement and my family’s advice, I enrolled in prison school. I decided to retake my ‘O’ levels.
A year had passed and tomorrow, I was going to take my results. As part of the prison’s reintegration programme, it was arranged that my family would attend the results presentation. Just then, I was called out of my prison cell. I still agonizingly remembered my Officer’s words “Son, please have faith in God. Whatever he planned is for the good of us.” Following that, he dropped me a bombshell. “Son, please get ready to go home as your parents have passed away in an accident.” My world went blank.
Now, I am in the last few weeks of my incarceration. I had just competed my ‘A’ levels examinations. Through the faith of my teachers, I had done tremendously well to reach my present condition. Apart from that, there was a last letter from my parents, which was written before their passing on. That letter was what drove me on until today. “Son, no matter what you have done, whatever you become, please remember we will always have faith in you.” ‘Faith‘. A word that actually was part of my daily life but I was oblivious to it. It took me a great amount of time and sufferings to realise and discover that the word would actually change my life. I am still in the process of my rehabilitation but now, I have my ‘faith’. Faith from my family, friends, teachers and most importantly, faith in God and myself.