Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Be Grateful

I can't remember how many times i whine to anyone that cares to listen about how short of money i have.

It is only human to be blind about what happens around your own self and just focus on yourself.


So, today, when the paper states there is a few people that has to go hungry and one surviving on RM1 a day just to make ends meet, i know better than i'm in at least 10 times better position than they are everyday.

“I have to budget my money so I usually have plain rice with a bit of curry or maybe a roti canai,” said the student who left his family two months ago to join the E-Access Engineering Training Centre in Kulai.

His friend, M. Manivannan, 15, faces similar financial difficulties. He said he once starved for two days surviving on just sips of coffee because he did not want to ask anyone for money.

So, most of us here, including you that is reading this on my blog, are in a better position than they are many times over.

Brought up in a working class family, i hardly could say when i growing up, that i was considered to be in the middle class status. Perhaps the lower bracket of the middle class, most definately.

So, this is the story of my dad.

My dad was the sole breadwinner. He works as an account clerk all his life, loyal to one company since he graduated with a diploma in accounting from TAR College. To supplement his income, he works at the Race Course (Selangor Turf Club) during weekend. He has been working in the same company for 30 years, the company wrapped up without paying his last 3 months of salary.

Me and my siblings were brought up to work for what we want. We need to get the certain grades to get certain things, and when that happens, Mum brought the standard up higher.

"You must be first in class if you want to get that bike", i recall her saying.

Obviously saving up on my then allowances of RM5 a month given by my mum and anohter RM5 given to me by my granma was a much easier option. Back then 30 sens a day would be more than sufficient for any of us borned in the 1970's to eat during recess time in primary school. So, RM10 a month goes a long long way.

Me and Surin never cease to wonder how our dad could afford to bring up the family. His dad was an army officer, earning a small paltry sum as well. But with those amount, both father could bring up a family of 3 children, while taking care of the wife, a car, a house mortgage and even with spares to give their parents and for a short local holiday once a year.

I recalled seeing my dad's last J form. It was a low RM3.5k after working in the company for 30 years.

And he was still shortchanged of 3 months of salary.

To think that the company was strongly linked (political wise) and the son of the owner would know better than to bust his fortune in buying a Ferrari for his daughter on her 17th Birthday (The boss' daughter is my age), apart from sending her to Germany so she could learn to drive the car on the Autobahn, one would not even think that it would be closed down.

Furthermore, there were amongst the first fibreoptic company in Malaysia and one of their largest contract was to lay those phone cables along the whole North South Highway. Yes, those Emergency Phone Booth were the company's doing, back then.

I remember going with my dad to Maxwell hill, armed with a distance reader, walking to audit how much cables are needed to be laid.

Things changed since then. Out of job. He ventured into business with a friend we don't even know he has, dealing with autogates and because he bought a piece of land and a house right before the company were in trouble, the urge to make ends meet were never greater.

So, he opened a massage spa. Which has created more problem for him and my family than anything else. As we all know, be any spa be legal or not, Local Council will swarm the place like bees to honey. License, eventhough gotten through the legal and proper way, were often not used as reference when the raids happen. I of course, was not supportive with his business.

For a while, the business of both autogate and spas were going well. Until he had a stroke.

Both business partner took this opportunity to scam him. Money were all withdrawn, payment to suppliers and workers were all withheld and channelled to my dad.


I remember it like yesterday, that hordes and hordes of people coming to our home in Permata to harrass us for payment. Some even brought some bouncers to scare us. They perhaps forgot, i was WASN'T afraid. I made police reports, both the partners were called by the Investigation Officer. I swear both their voices tremble over the speaker phone.

Me and my sis has to take out all our savings, mine from my short work stint in Namibia, which earns me a handsome amount enough for my wedding.

We had to pay off everything. Every single thing. I recalled going to the Wangsa Maju LRT station, armed with a pair of walkie talkie, to give them an illusion that i wasn't alone. Or perhaps i was hoping that they would think i am as "samseng" as they are.

I recalled tearing a RM10 note given back to me as a change from one of the guys. Matter of principle i did that. I do not want to owe them a thing. I just want my family back.

That was also the time i knew i did not make the wrong choice deciding that i wanted my then girlfriend to be my wife. That was also when i really know who my friends are.

Iqbal offered some British pounds to be TT to me. Surin, June, Norman, Mano, Deva all wants to give me something to help lessen the burden. Even Doc offered to pay for my races! How can i not be grateful???

It was also then that we realised that my dad had mortgaged the very house we stayed in, the only home we had. Bad enough that the land and house he bought was abandon by a so called reliable company, we had to service the bank interest of RM1.6k every month. That is collectively half a month pay of both me and my sis combined back then.

On top of that, we need to pay the mortgage of RM500 for the home that we stayed for the past 28 years. Apart from paying the car he was driving, a Perdana for RM1.6k every month.

We sold the car at a loss, i had to top up anohter RM5k to settle the bank loan.

There were also the medical fee that we had to bear, sending my dad to the traditional medicine place where each treatment for stroke cost us RM200 every other day, for a full month. With follow up every other 2 weeks. Glad to say that was money well spent as he recovered almost to 80% after the 1 month treatment; that is as skeptical as i was.

Broke. In debt. We had no choice but to sell off the Permata house which me and my sis grew up. That broke the loan even. Till today, i feel sad passing by that house. So much memories.

Till today, the piece of land and house is still not in a liveable condition, the interest are still paid, nontheless. Dad needs to get his confidence back. He is now dabbling in Real Estate, after realising that the arab he was working for was a conman.

We thought dad would learnt better, but he didn't. He was working in a company that was set up by this arab chap. Claiming to be a millionaire and even persuaded my dad to get a car, but to be paid by the company. Dad called a few friends of mine, with promises that a huge PC order will be made via LC (Letter of Credit). Friends knows better and called me up to verify instead. Slowly, he realise that that arab was a scam. He cancelled his name from the car owner list, made a police report (yet again) and now, comes to us for advises over things he is not sure about.

That is the story of my dad.

Today, more than 2 years later. We are all picking up the pieces slowly. Sis has changed job for the 3rd time, each with a good reasonable jump in pay. She helps manages the family now. Me, till today, has never felt more insecured; having my pay coming in late and at times almost never for the past 6 months, i'm divided should i change job, or not. But like my dad, i want to be loyal to the company. My boss has given me loads, Those that know me knows that this is a 2-Men office. He plan, i execute. I'm the GM - General Monkey cum office boy. On the plus side, i get all the free time i need to be with Ryan, to do the things i want.

I shouldn't be complaining. I know.

Thank goodness wifey is earning and bringing in good income. I wouldn't had managed without her. I though, still feel small. I felt i fail in a way that i couldn't provide all there is needed in the family. Cutting down on races is one way to do that. So is adventure trips.

But i shouldn't be complaining. There are some surviving on RM1 a day!

There is one Ah Neh at my apartment, that clocks in to work at 4pm, and will wash cars in the car park until 2am, skipping dinner, forsaking water and sometimes drinking from the tap.

I've been down in the dump before, i know how that felt that even wanting to buy a loaf of bread, i had to think a few times and that would be my lunch for the next 3 days; it pains me to see this Ah Neh, working so hard and so sincerely, not having his dinner.

So, me and wifey agrees, that we must do more to help. It's Karma. What comes around, goes around.

We get him bread whenever we can. We get him drinks he wouldn't even spend buying with his money. We give him double the amount he charges for washing car when he washes Wifey's car.

Just the other day, he came to me, complaining of backache. Who wouldn't if all you did is washing car everyday from 4pm till 2am? He asked me to help him buy Panadol. He is not local. He speaks good english and no Malay. He went to see doctor, must had cost him at least RM35.

I got him some the next day and he offered to pay back. How could i even take the RM2 for the Panadol when i know that it could get him a meal???

Whenever i feel down with my predictament, i think of my dad. I think of Ah Neh (his name is Sunda), i think of the less fortunate. And now, i'll think about those that only has RM1 a day for meals.

And i never felt more grateful.

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