Guiding Light of The Month

Grant, O Divine Teacher, that we may know and accomplish our mission upon earth better and better, more and more, that we may make full use of all the energies that are in us, and Thy sovereign Presence become manifest ever more perfectly in the silent depths of our soul, in all our thoughts, all our feelings, all our actions. - The Mother

Along the Way… August Walk Review (walk no 396)

There is an old Hindi saying, “if you want to find a person who has not taken bath in the Holy Ganges, you do not have to go far, they will be among the residents of Varanasi (Benares)”. So who does not know the significance of Fort Canning Hill in Singapore’s history? Well, many residents of Singapore, that’s who. Many of us often work near the hill (yours truly included), some go for walks on its manicured lawns with their partners, while some often shop near the place, some others even stay in its vicinity. The hill in the heart of the city looks over us like a guardian angel, like it has always done for hundreds of years, while we simply ignore it and rush to earn a living, marry someone dear, or offer a prayer at a church, mosque or temple at its foothills.

It probably also gave refuge to a fleeing Srivijayan prince, Parameswara who arrived in Singapura, hundreds of years ago, probably one of his descendants, Sultan Iskandar Shah, the fifth and last ruler of pre-colonial Singapore, even lays buried there. But what we learnt for sure was it was the last hiding spot for Lieutenant-General Percival and his core team of commanders. Lt-General Percival was General Officer Commanding Malaya in World War Two when the Japanese invaded Malaya. While he is remembered often as the man who surrendered the island and over 130,000 men when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese, we learnt that he did not have the resources to defend Singapore. With HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse destroyed 3 days after the attack on Pearl Harbour, with not enough tanks, nor enough planes to defend the island, and finally blindsided by an attack on the western front, there was not much his British army could do.

Thanks to Jeya Ayadurai, Savita Kashyap, and their colleague Joanne, we had a refreshing multimedia history lesson at The Battlebox on Fort Canning, just four days before Singapore’s national day which falls on 9th August. The ‘walk’ itself was much shorter than usual as we only had a short walk from the meeting point to The Battlebox via the Spice Garden and passing by the tomb of Sultan Iskandar Shah. Certainly Fort Canning is worth a visit again for one and all, both for its greenery as well as its historical significance.

The uniqueness of this walk did not end there, it was one of the rare walks where the brunch was held at the Sri Aurobindo Society’s (SAS) room inside SIFAS. While the walk started with a small group in the morning, by the time we were at The Battlebox, the group had become larger and it included Mr and Mrs Yash Mehta who both grew up in Pondicherry Ashram and their daughter Mili. When we reached the SAS room, a larger group of devotees were waiting, including Prof Vladimir Yatsenko and the host Arjun Madan. The sublimity of the meditation at the centre had its own uniqueness and that spread to the prayers that followed. While most of us left after partaking the brunch, a dedicated group of youngsters went back to rehearse for the programme on 15th August.

- S N Venkat

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