Luk Yuntong

Luk Yuntong

“Back in the 1960s, Mr. Tim Light struck me as a young American teacher with a lot of poise. Unlike my general impression of fast-talking, aggressive and over-confident Americans that I saw in the movies, Tim was soft-spoken but firm, a true gentleman and scholar

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New Asia College, '69

The Garden of Finzi-Continis on No. 6 Farm Road

I came from a litter of piglets nurtured on No.6 Farm Road in the late 1960s. “Pig” was then a term of endearment as well as self-deprecation. It connoted a range of meanings from innocence and simplicity, to elitism, etc. Our Farm Road campus was small in size yet cozy and centrally located, encircled by government buildings, middle schools, and most scenically, a green belt of trees.

New Asia College back then had only about six hundred students. Everybody seemed to know each other, if not on first name basis, then at least by face. Of the entire student body, English majors were probably the most endangered species. There were only thirty students in the entire department, spreading over the four-year curriculum. Understandably, the student-teacher ratio was rather wide. There was a genuine rapport between the students and teachers. Now, when I look back on those years, I cannot help but feel that it was not just the size that contributed to the good feelings, but also the delicacy of the era which has since vanished. If I sound nostalgic for those years and what might have been, I remain unabashed. I remember, the president of the college said many times how a university was not grounded on majestic buildings and sophisticated laboratories but on a certain ideal or spirit. I regret, however, not understanding what this esoteric message meant then as I understand it now.

My “best years” on the farm were, to say the least, lackluster. I was one of the piglets, not more brilliant, but more assiduous in my duties. My biggest reward was playing basketball at the only court in the heart of the campus, to the applause of my fans. Years later, I still occasionally received compliments from some reminiscing New Asians about the way I played. My other pastime was sneaking down the dark stairway of the Men’s dormitory at night, when I felt like taking a break from my study, to satisfy my voyeuristic curiosity by looking clandestinely at lovers outside the dimly lit porch, canonizing or rather ‘carnalizing’ their vows. During a good night, there would have gathered these ‘pilgrims,’ standing or lying on the floor, holding their breath for fear of being discovered, avidly taking in the lessons of love, not without feeling some unspeakable guilt. Farm Road was then the Mecca where lovers went by night to have good times. Well, it all sounded so easy and carefree for us living on the farm, oblivious to a war that was raging in Vietnam. The more obvious sign of the war that caught our attention was the frequent presence of U. S. servicemen on their R & R (Rest and Recreation) visits. We enjoyed listening to the melody of “San Francisco” without catching the pathos behind its lyrics. A little later on, while we were still rollicking to the beat of The Beatles, The Animals, cataclysmic shock-waves from the Mainland shook us, as we saw bound and gagged bodies floating in our waters and civic riots on our streets. Alas, our Garden began to collapse around us, and a new era, like Yeats’ “rough beast,” slouched in to be born.

During the span of four idyllic years, I came to form impressions of my teachers and schoolmates. Mr. Timothy Light was among them. Back in the 1960s, Mr. Tim Light struck me as a young American teacher with a lot of poise. Unlike my general impression of fast-talking, aggressive and over-confident Americans that I saw in the movies, Tim was soft-spoken but firm, a true gentleman and scholar. I had not been in Tim’s classes during my four years at New Asia, but Tim seemed to take notice of me and occasionally showed an interest in the reference books I was carried with me at the college canteen. My last year at New Asia was a perplexing time for me, as far as planning my future was concerned. As the real world outside pressed in on me, I felt the disintegration of the garden that had sheltered me. Accolades from teachers and classmates sounded somewhat hollow in face of the uncertain future. While seeing some of my schoolmates in science being offered scholarships before graduation, and others pairing off with their girlfriends, I was full of envy and very much saddened by the Platters’ lyrics, “while you’re on the ship and I ‘m on the shore” from ‘Harbor Lights.’ I was sickened by a self-imagined, unrequited love, waiting meanwhile for some of my applications to graduate school to come through. Just then, Tim asked me if I would be interested in a studentship to stay on as a tutor for a year. I was gratified to hear that and felt re-assured as to what to do with my life. A studentship of this kind was unprecedented in the English Department of New Asia College in those days and carried with it an honor to the recipient. I wanted very much to stay at New Asia longer, hoping my secret admiration might come to something. Alas! It never did and I was not meant to take this offer after all, as news of my graduate assistantship from Canada came through and subsequently mapped the rest of my life.


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