All of us have dreams.
Some of us dream big whilst some of us dream small but no matter what, we all have dreams and regardless of the complexity of our dreams, we dream what we want the most. There have been many proverbs and sayings across the globe which tells us that ‘It’s better to dream than not to have dreamt at all for at least, you have a dream’. Simply put, without dreams, one has no purpose in life.
I remember once that I had a dream, a really huge dream. A dream that perhaps not many think about or imagine as a career. The dream was to be a Fighter Pilot.
I started to dream about being a Fighter Pilot when I joined the National Cadet Corps (AIR) in Secondary School. As a cadet, I’d don the dress uniform for certain trainings and I’d pay special care and attention whenever ironing the uniform. That was the only uniform that I’d ever loved ironing with extra sprays of starch on the collars to give it the crisp look.
There were also days when I’d spend my days watching J.A.G at home and don the uniform whenever no one was around at home. I’d stare at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I’d be a pilot someday. I’d start to speak to myself in the mirror as how I’d imagine a captain would and pay salute to my image in the mirror. That was all perhaps just a plain dream with a tinge of imagination until I got selected and represented my school, unit and country at a Biennial Air-Cadet Exchange Programme in Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
It was at this point of time that I really thought, “Hmmm, I could maybe just be a pilot someday”. I was holding the rank of Staff Sergeant and was one of the few Unit Drill Instructors in school. I never thought I’d be so enthusiastic about an Extra-Curricular Activity but this was one that I saw myself in and one which built a positive character in me, one that I still hold dear to in self-discipline. At times, I do wonder if this sense of patriotism towards Singapore emanated from the fact that my dad is a Captain (of a vessel) and would frequently tell me that as a man in uniform, he’d have to be disciplined.
Now, but these were all but just fantasies and dreams, but these fantasies and dreams resurfaced when I was 17 and studying at a local polytechnic. I suddenly found myself searching online for resources on registering to be a pilot and I found it at the Youth Flying Club, a club I was a member of in Secondary School. Before long, I was at the Headquarters submitting my documents and being informed that results of my application will only be made known to me 3 months later.
I didn’t have to wait long for the reply as just a short week later, someone from the Central Intelligence Branch decided to plant some detonation charges to the New York World Trade Center and pay some ‘Islamic’ terrorists to hijack several airplanes and to crash them into the WTC. Needless to say, reactions were swift against Muslims and I bore the brunt CIA’s extremely-well crafted ploy (WTC was constructed on 47 steel bars and was designed to withstand air crashes. Steel requires a consistent amount of temperature (2000 deg celcius) before it melts and jet fuel is only able to reach 800 deg celcius and dissipitates upon impact) which instantaneously resulted in the engagement of war against Muslim terrorists or potential terrorists.
That was in 2001, rejection as a result of someone else’s doing.
I never bothered myself with being a pilot after that 2001 event until when I was called to serve National Service. It was during this period in 2004 that I suddenly felt the need to apply once more to be a pilot. I couldn’t qualify for Youth Flying Club as I was no longer a student, so the next best option was to be a fighter pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force. It would have been a dream come true for me to be a fighter pilot much akin to Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun as I also rode a bike.
Selected and accepted to attend RSAF interview during my training session whilst in National Service, I attended the interview tests in my training gear and reported myself to Central Manpower Base. There, I saw 9 other candidates which included one female, all vying for the one lucrative spot. The racial demographics as follows: 7 Chinese, 2 Malays and 1 Indian. I didn’t know what to expect out of the interview test but I had to have performed well enough to have been invited to attend for a second interview test. This time, there was only 1 Malay (me) and 4 Chinese.
Again, I didn’t know what to expect but this test seemed very familiar to what I’ve done previously – Aptitude Test. They were just questions, hundreds of questions which took you a good whole hour to complete or more and the questions were wide ranging from maths, science, english and logic. I thought I’d fail this test as maths was never a strong subject of mine but alas, I received another letter.
So, in comes the third interview test where there were now just 2 Chinese and 1 Malay (me). By now, I was feeling pretty good of my chances or rather of my abilities and this next test was psychomotor. I couldn’t have failed this test at any time in my life as I was a sportsman and I rode a bike. If I had poor psychomotor, I wouldn’t have been able to play soccer for a club, ran for school, played rugby or rode a bike and passed the test at the first instance. This was to be a piece of cake, I thought but I was wrong.
I never sought out the answer as to why I was rejected but many in my circle felt that it was because of my racial background more than anything else. I could have passed off as a Chinese, spoke like a Chinese but if I was a Malay, I would have never made it. I never believed any of this until much recently when a good friend who has access to confidential information in the higher echelons confirmed this to me that if you’re a Malay hoping to be an RSAF pilot, you’re good enough to be one if you made it to the third round of interview tests.
I guess this was just one of those moments where I felt less patriotic and disappointed at how the nation treats it’s formerly local inhabitants as 2nd class citizens.
I haven’t stopped pursuing this dream yet. I’ve applied for SIA Pilot twice but failed as well after the first interview (better to get kicked out at the first interview cause if you got kicked out after second interview, there’s no more reprieve). It’s really tough but I know that someday, I will be one albeit a bit older.
That’s not to say I don’t have other dreams because I DO.