SOME are born with talents. With these divine gifts, they soar to greater heights in life.
They become assets to the community and devote their services, with dedication and commitment to the nation.
Those who are God-fearing are not blinded by their high status and high-paying jobs. They remain on track.
They know too well materialistic gains are just deceptive baits that will sink to the bottom of the ocean.
This minority is fully aware that crime does not pay, and the price of felony comes on the day of reckoning in the hereafter.
But there are those in the fast lane who are always prepared to take the short cut.
The higher their positions, the bigger their greed, while small fry with special talents are satisfied with just scooping ikan bilis (anchovies) for survival.
I still remember a ventriloquist in the early 1980s who earned his living by hoodwinking the public.
He usually performed his acts at the open space in front of the then Capitol cinema at the junction of Penang Road and Maxwell Road.
He had a small basket where a live cobra was kept, a flute, tiger claws and teeth, and dried animal organs for sale.
The man also sold oils for enhancing the male libido and talismans to protect the wearers, all wrapped in a bundle with a red cloth.
His accomplice was a small boy, around nine years old. He would lie down and his face would be covered with a black cloth.
The ventriloquist used his “super power” to convince the audience.
With his flute, the cobra would obey his command to perform acts. He could even ask the cobra to “speak”. This was his ventriloquist trick.
Some from the audience were taken with this shrewd guru.
A few times, I saw him at the Batu Ferringhi tourism belt where he would cari makan (fleece) off the crowd.
Even foreigners joined in the fun to watch his “magic power”. They bought those dried animal organs.
To the amusement of the crowd, this ‘actor’ went up to one of the bystanders.
He asked aloud: “What colour is his shirt?”
“White”, came the reply from the boy, lying down with his face covered and unable to see.
“What’s on his head?”
“Turban,” was the reply.
“What’s his race?”
“Punjabi,” replied the boy without any hesitation.
The crowd burst into laughter and applauded.
Then this ventriloquist fleeced the spectators with his sweet talk about the effectiveness of his products.
Some were overwhelmed by his superior skills and fell into his trap.
It takes a crook to catch a crook. But I am not a crook. Yet, I could still see through his act.
Some do not know that a ventriloquist can “throw” his voice to another direction, even without moving his lips or opening his mouth.
I was lucky to learn this from a book I read.
He ‘threw’ his voice so that it seemed as if the boy was answering when it was really him.
They were easy prey. The talismans they bought were worthless ornaments.
As for the aphrodisiacs, this roadside quack risked endangering the lives of his innocent victims, not that he cared, obviously.
Such is life. The good takes the straight path. The crooked prefers the crooked trail.
They take the fast lane to quickly enhance their financial standing, consequences ignored.
But the long arm of the law will pounce on them sooner or later.
As the Malay proverb goes: “Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh ke tanah juga.”
Literal translation: No matter how skilfully a squirrel jumps, it will fall in the end.
So, does the end justify the means?
Be contented. Life will be more meaningful, more harmonious and more blessed.
> A.R. Amiruddin is a former journalist with The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.