Tag Archives: education

Not the Parable (Part 5) – The (Mis)Fortune of Fragrance

Soon after Mercy gained total control, following her murder of Ipo, she spent most of her time overseeing the family business. She needed someone she could trust to watch over the daily activities of Wāc. She ordered her maidservant, Suth, to be Wāc’s concubine. A year later, Suth was pregnant. Fragrance was born slightly premature. A concubine’s children belonged to the official wife of the husband, so Mercy became the mother of Fragrance. She could not foresee how a premature girl would achieve much in her life. Her egocentric personality was vividly shown as she did not care about the lives of Fragrance and Suth. When her plan to stop the papaver trade failed, Mercy signed Fragrance, who was only a few days old, over to the Rice clan as part of the debt payment to them.

Suth was not a direct descendent of the Dragon family. Her great-grandparents were sold to them as slaves more than a century prior. Some descendants were freed by escaping to another land and others were redeemed by their merciful owners. However, Suth was redeemed by the Rice cousins to care for her infant. She was glad to leave the Dragon household to raise her little baby girl.

After Mercy paid the compensation, the Rice family promised her they would let Fragrance go home when she grew up. Mercy did not care at the time whether the girl ever came back. She just wanted to put the incident behind her so she could continue on with her life.

Suth and Fragrance moved into the Rice household and joined those who shared the same fate as trophies of the Rice conquest. They had to learn how to serve their masters. Servants like them were known as colonias. They would never be members of the family. They were not allowed to have ownership of anything. All they possessed were leased to them by the grace of their masters. They were regarded as less then complete human beings. They were beaten, yelled at, and abused by most of the Rice household. Colonias were only allowed to stay at their own tiny quarters with simple beds, a shared cooking area, and washrooms. They were not permitted to use any facilities at their master’s mansion. A sign posted at the entry gate of the botanic garden read, “Colonias and dogs not allowed”.

Fragrance was trained from a young age in the household customs of the Rice clan. She learned science, mathematics, language, and other subjects taught by the teachers sent by the Rice masters. The Rice family gave good education and welfare to the colonias but not because of their benevolence. Rather, they needed well educated colonias to manage the rapid expansion of their business.

Fragrance was intelligent, perceptive, and hard working. She always finished first in her class. Suth always encouraged Fragrance to succeed because she knew her child had an exceptional ability. She just hoped that someday Fragrance would surpass the children of the Rice clan.

Even though both of them were treated as less than human beings, they were glad that they still had the bare minimum to eat and a small shack for rest. They heard that the estate of the Dragon was under siege from their unruly neighbours.

To be continue…

© Ngok Yeung Lai. All rights reserved.

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Nothing but smoke and smoldering ruins…

I did not write this article. A good friend of mine wrote this many years ago (probably in 1999). He is no longer writing now. I am posting this because he can convey a message in such a way that I can never do. It was a parable of the time and it is especially pertinent now. Since this is a parable, you get out what you read into it. Please tell me your opinion in the comment section.

Nothing but smoke and smoldering ruins…nothing. So muttered the president of the once proud Pennacus College as he tramped circles in what once was his office, now reduced to ashes and soot. His faithful office manager sat outside in a kitchen chair screening all visitors just as in the old glory days.

Ring! Ring! She shook the handbell and called through the air “Reporters from Newsweek to see you Doctor Rivaney!”

“Bother, just when I was getting somewhere” he said under his breath, then more loudly “Send them in and hold all calls!”

“Yes Sir” she replied looking sadly at the charred ends of the telephone lines on the floor.

“Doctor, so good of you to see us” said the first reporter extending her hand. “ I was a graduate here 15 years ago and coming to Pennacus was the best thing I ever did. I was crushed when I heard. What happened?”

“Yeah Doc” panted the second reporter as he struggled with lights, cameras and recording equipment, “I studied Engineering technology for two years here under crusty Charlie Crabbe in the days before computers and now I do work that I love. Pennacus turned my life around too. I cried for three days. What happened?”

“Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle,” muttered the good doctor absently as he continued pacing.

The reporters exchanged embarrassed glances, wondering if that was their answer. They waited patiently.

“It did us in.” he continued “It did us in. We had good students, we had good programs, we had good staff but we thought good wasn’t good enough and we tried to change things that didn’t need changing.

We played with the stuff that didn’t matter without putting anything of substance into our programs. We set up training programs for our faculty so they could mark our students in a more enlightened fashion. We were the first to use an evaluation system based on the square root of Pi, and were using happy faces and lightning bolt stamps when it happened.”

“When WHAT happened?” the reporters burst in together.

“We imploded.” the president replied with a dejected sigh. “So much energy went into changing systems that there was none left to go into the places it should have gone. In the end the changes accomplished nothing positive. They were transparent to the students who just wanted feedback as to where they stood in the class and in the end to receive their piece of paper. They never did understand what all the fuss was about. Our faculty, students and programs all dried up.”

“What will you do now doctor?” the reporter asked with tears and soot flowing freely down her rather messy face.”

“Ah!” He brightened and replied, “That is the one good thing that came out of all this… you see ashes… I see a mahogany desk. I am learning to live in denial.”