We were arranged according to index number. I was “E”, so I was register number 10, paired up with this fat ugly girl called Elaine Ma Po Lin who was cross-eyed and had dried dribble down her shirt. I stared at her with disdain. How could someone like her get into the GEP? “Alright class! Welcome to Singapore Primary School! We are the new premier primary school in Singapore, an initiative by the government to groom young talents like you!”
“Is it even ethical, this atrophic phenomenon we have tolerated for so long: elitism?” muttered a small boy with freckles and a thick pair of glasses.
“Yeah! And why should we believe you that this is a premier school just because you said so? Huh? Huh?” It was a fat boy, who was also cross-eyed.
“Well, kids, I AM a teacher of this school after all. I know what’s going on.”
“Sorry, madam. You have just committed a logical fallacy, which is called Appeal To False Authority. For all we know, you may have been hired yesterday, and may know nothing about the school. If that is so, I must call in my father, the Minister of Education, to address this matter.” This was a small perky Indian boy, who had stood up and pointed his index finger at the teacher, who now looked a little lost. It was evidently her first time teaching in the GEP.
“I suggest, madam, that you go out to right your mental stability before you teach us! We will not stand for a compromised education!” I found myself standing up and saying. The teacher burst into tears and ran out. The class broke out in synchronized applause. A few people shouted out my name in appreciation.
Like it or not, I was a class hero, and I was perfectly comfortable with my new class.
Conrad Zhong: that was his name. He was the son of Albunus Zhong, the multi-millionaire oil magnate, founder of Zhong Oil. And he sat next to me.
Albunus Zhong, I learnt from various Straits Times reports, had arrived in Singapore from China with nothing but a tattered briefcase, a ten-yuan note in his pocket and a depressed pregnant wife. Within a month, he had gotten a job in a small office. The next month, the chief executive of that office had resigned under the front of “personal reasons”, and Albunus Zhong thus took over Sing Corporate, renaming it Zhong Oil and marketing it to be a multinational company. Meanwhile, his wife had given birth prematurely, before dying shortly after of labour pains. Her killer, Conrad Zhong grew up, and joined Mensa at six.
The teacher seated me right beside him. Truth was, I was intimidated by the very presence of him, and this was an effect that none of the other GEPpers had on me. I looked around the students seated in the clump of tables I belonged to, but as two of them were Elaine-like girls who were checking out Conrad with lovesick grins, and the other two were simple-looking boys discussing Pokemon (bah!) with animated hand gestures, I held out my hand and said, “Hi, Conrad Zhong Pangzai. My name is Esplanade Chee.”
He sneered, and ignoring me, took out an IQ assessment book from his Prada™ schoolbag with elaborate motions, using his Mont Blanc to attempt Exercise 10.
This would have been perfectly acceptable – I like to ignore people too if they are not talking about anything constructive – if he hadn’t been such a downright cheat.