Ahmad was a weakling. He was all skin and bones. To add to his woes, he had a
severe acne problem on his face. It was no surprise that he was not a hit with
the girls in class. Added to his problems was the fact that he stuttered
when he was shy or nervous.
There was one advantage Ahmad had however. He had
a beautiful voice. It was a clear, high and steady tenor. However, none of his
friends knew about it as he practiced singing only in the bathroom. Once, he was
caught unawares singing in the corridor by his classmates. The moment he saw
them, he denied that the beautiful song they had heard was sung by him. They
were convinced when his voice went to a characteristic stutter. "I ...I...real-lly
did-didn't s-sing.... "
One day, the class of Secondary 4B, which Ahmad was in, heard about a singing
competition that was to be held in the nearby community centre. A prize would be
awarded for the best student singer. It was a well-known yearly competition and
many students support All, their classmate. He had a nice
baritone voice and good showmanship. So it was really a surprise
for the students to see Ahmad's name besides Ali's on the notice board, which
announced the auditions on 15 May.
"You can sing, Ahmad? Get real! Don't make me laugh !" was the essence of the
unkind remarks directed at him when they saw Ahmad before he entered the
audition room. Ahmad felt awkward and sad. It was enough that they did not
support him but ridiculing him was too much.
When the results were announced, class 4B could not believe their ears. Ali
had of course qualified but so did Ahmad for the finals. How on earth did the
stutterer do it, they wondered.
A few of All's friends accosted Ahmad in
the toilet. They forced him to sing a favorite song. Of course, under such
disbelieving eyes and prejudice from his classmates, poor Ahmad could not sing.
He could only stutter!"I will show them like I did at the audition," Ahmad vowed
to himself. In the week before the finals, he was fortunate to have the services
of his father's friend, a former singing instructor who polished up his delivery
and improved on his showmanship.
The finals of the singing competition finally arrived. Ali's supporters were
out in full force. Mr Mok, the principal, and some teachers caused quite a stir
among the students when they turned up to support the two finalists from their
Ali sang to the crowd's delight. It looked like he was the clear favorite.
His resonant and modulated voice, together with his good showmanship, endeared
him to the audience.
Ahmad was next. There was a hushed silence before he began. The claps were
few, coming from the principal, teachers and his only friend. Some subdued boos
came from a few disbelieving schoolmates of his who felt that he was not fit to
be a finalist. Quite a number of the audience had heard of his stuttering defect
and came to see for themselves whether the judges had made a wrong decision to
admit Ahmad in the finals.
When Ahmad mounted the stairs to get on the stage, he was determined to prove
them wrong. Mr Chan, his singing instructor, had told him to focus on himself
and the song. To the encouraging smile of his instructor, he sang his heart out.
His song was 'Climb Every Mountain'. He adapted his tone and expression to the
lyrics, and his voice hit the right notes and pitch. His delivery was clear and
his voice never wavered. "Where was the stutter?" his detractors wondered. But
what amazed everyone, including the principal and teachers, was Ahmad's delivery
and showmanship. He executed the song well and his movements were appropriate
and well coordinated.
When he finished singing, there were very few dry eyes. Then there was tense
anticipation from the audience as the judges decided on the winner. In spite of
Ahmad's outstanding performance, almost everyone felt that All would be the
winner. They were wrong. When Mr Tan, the chief judge announced Ahmad as the
winner by a narrow margin, the audience sat in stunned silence. Suddenly,
everyone cheered and rose to give him a standing
ovation. The winner had finally dared to 'climb his own mountain' and
in the end tasted the sweet spoils of victory.