Chapter 7 – Gainfully Employed At Last!

Brother was having his annual leave in August ’68 when my letter of appointment
arrived from the Public Service Commission. I was attending my secretarial
course and Brother decided that the letter was important looking enough for my
immediate attention. While I was struggling with my Pitman’s shorthand, Brother
showed up excitedly waving the official brown envelope outside my classroom
window to get my attention. Upon reading the contents, I quit the course that
very afternoon and raced over to the State and City Planning Department
situated at Pearl’s Hill Terrace. I nervously introduced myself to the HEO
(Higher Executive Officer) Mr Teo. He was a genial fatherly sort of fellow and
immediately welcomed me to the establishment. He put me on the payroll with
immediate effect, generously overlooking the fact that there were less than two
working hours left for the day. It was one of the happiest days of my young

Mother was obviously pleased that I
had landed a “decent” job with the Government Service, which to her, meant a
secure future for me. I agreed to give her $100 a month, leaving me with the
princely sum of $75 for my general expenses. I managed to budget quite
successfully, saving a little each month to buy clothes to add to my somewhat
humble wardrobe. On fine days, a few of my colleagues and I would saunter over
to Chinatown just up the road from our office to enjoy lunch together. On lazy
days or when it rained, we would have lunch in the staff room with our lunch
order taken and delivered by the office boy. Oh, how I miss the good old days
when a dollar would get you a generous packet of “Nasi Padang” (Indonesian
rice with accompaniment of your choice – “Rendang”, “Sayur Lodeh”, “Sambal”
and so on…) or a great big bowl of “Seafood Curry Laksa” in the
Chinatown food-court. As for drinks, 20 or 30 cents would get you a plastic
pouch of pure sugar cane juice, soy bean milk or whatever fresh fruit juice you
fancy. With hawker food like that, it was no wonder that no-one bothered to
bring sandwiches from home!

My popularity in the office soon increased because I was such a happy soul and
friendly with just about everyone there – but how could I not be? They were a
great bunch of folks to work with and I had every reason to be happy now that I
am a full-time working girl.   I don’t
really know what it was, (maybe because I looked so much like a bookworm?) but
as soon as the required 3 months’ probationary period was up, I moved up the
ladder from a general clerk to become the unofficial librarian and with it,
came a few extra bucks in my paypacket! How lucky can one be? Man, talk about
an easy job – all I had to do was turn up for work each morning, look in the
“In” tray for any book request by any of the honchos and get it out for them.
If the required book was not in our library, I would contact the National
Library and the office boy would get it for me. Returned books were duly sorted
out and replaced in their respective categories or sent back to the National
Library. About once a fortnight, some new books would arrive by mail and I
would spend a few minutes cataloging them before getting the junior clerk to do
the typing. Is it any wonder I loved my job?

Naturally, such light duties meant plenty of spare time… and just because I
had such a strict upbringing did not mean that I abhor attention from the
opposite sex. On the contrary, I was quite a little flirt – I would spend ages
chatting with most of the eligible bachelors who would drop by the library at
the slightest excuse! There was a smorgasbord of men (Australians, British,
Jewish and of course, Singaporeans) because SCP was part of the UNDP (United
Nations Development Program). It was all just harmless fun, of course, merely
adding a little spice in an otherwise mundane working day. Our HEO often
remarked with amusement that the architects and town-planners used to get the
office boy to get their reference books for them before I came on the scene.

The office Christmas party that year was a memorable one for me, being the
first mixed party that I was ever allowed to attend. I lashed out and had an
outfit made for the occasion. The most eligible bachelor, a young architect
J.H. wanted me to be his partner for the night. An attractive stenographer from
the typing pool had set her cap on him and somehow J. was conned into giving
her a ride home after the party but flatly refused to drop me off first. The
following Monday, she refused to talk to me and told her friends that I had
“stolen” J. from her. Upon hearing the gossip, J. solved the problem by making
his preference clear to everyone concerned – he invited me out to lunch!

I was happy in my job but at the same time, was looking for ways to further
improve my future prospects. With my new-found independence, limited though it
was, I decided to enrol in evening classes, choosing to learn French and
Japanese languages, two evenings a week at the Adult Education Board. While
attending the Japanese language class, I met a gorgeous young man of mixed
parentage (Indian dad and a Chinese mum). What a hunk! He was tall, dark and
handsome. We were mutually attracted to each other and he bravely met and asked
Mother for permission to date me. Mother was charmed by him and was delighted
to learn that he was of the same Muslim faith AND earning good money working
for MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airlines)! Not only that, he was also an ambitious
young man, as apart from studying the Japanese language, he was also studying
Business Administration. What a catch, thought Mother while I was just greatly
relieved that the first meeting went so well.

However, within a few weeks of our meeting, his true colours began to show…
He tried his darnedness to “get into my knickers”, using every line he knew.
About a month or so later, my respect for him plummeted down to zero when he
said that if I could prove I was a virgin, he would do the honourable thing and
get his parents to officially ask Mother for my hand in marriage. What a

I was furious at him and planned my “revenge” very carefully. I wanted to prove
my virtue so he would know what he had lost and then I would dump him! I took a
few hours off work on 6th June and went to the Kandang Kerbau (Malay word
meaning “Buffaloes Barn”) Maternity Hospital to have myself medically examined
and certified a virgin. When he called me at work, I proposed a date for that
evening. He was waiting in his Morris 1100 near Raffles Girls’ Primary School
where our Japanese class was being held. I got into the car and calmly told him
tonight would be “THE NIGHT”. He literally quivered with anticipation and
suggested that we skip class that evening and go to a quiet romantic spot
somewhere… That was when I handed him my “virginity certificate”. He seemed
to know instantly what it was and after reading it, promised that his parents
would be paying my mother a visit that coming weekend. I scornfully laughed at
him, snatched my all-important proof from his shaking hand and said, “Thanks,
but no thanks – I have nothing else to prove to you or anybody, so I’ll say
adios, amigo!”. I got out of his car, slammed the door shut, ignored his
“crawling” and went home.

I explained to Mother what had transpired and she was obviously pleased by my
action. She then grabbed a hold of my “virginity certificate” and proudly
showed it around to my relatives as official proof of my virtue! That piece of
paper sure did the rounds… I felt a mixture of embarrassment and personal
pride and knew I had done the right thing. I stopped attending my language
classes to avoid “What’s-his-face” while he kept trying to phone me at work but
I flatly refused to talk to him. I was so pleased to not have been blinded by
my infatuation…

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