Wednesday, April 20, 2005
48 years ago, after finishing Form 5 (or whatever it was called back then), he was only one of two people from that little hick town he came from to be selected to go to Singapore to further his studies under a scholarship. Being young (and possibly big headed) he fooled around a wee bit too much, flunk his exams, and got dumped by those dudes who gave the scholarship in the first place.
He could, of course continue studying, had my grandfather permitted (and paid for it), but in those days (and certainly, still) face was an important thing. My grandfather was so ashamed of the fact that he was boasting about his son getting a scholarship one day and flunking the next day. So ashamed, that he refused to let my dad continue studying (well, he had no objections about the studying part - just that he refused to pay for the studies, even though he could).
And so, my dad returned that little hick town of his, and (possibly) a fallen hero among some of his old teachers, they offered him a job teaching Maths in his former school - my dad's Maths is superb (a trait I picked up from him, *ahem*).
One year later, he decided to move on to the city to make more money. And so, he came to KL with a practically empty wallet. He popped by this small little company on Old Klang Road just to check if they were hiring. The boss, a stout old man who had little respect for stowns, interviewed him and gave him a very weird Math question - just to test how good a teacher he used to be. My dad accepted the challenge with glee.
The old man gave him the question and told him to take as much time as he wanted. My dad took 5 minutes. He went knocking on the old man's door and showed him the calculations and the answer. The old man, thoroughly shocked at the speed at which it had been done, took just a glance at the paper and told my dad that it was wrong. Dad asked him to check the answer. Old man did...and let a puzzled expression escape his face. He meticulously scanned the page over and over again before admitting, "I don't understand the method you used, but its certainly much quicker than my way and definately correct" before adding, "So, when can you start work?"
To which Dad replied, "Its almost 1 now, I can start after lunch."
That story was related to me by Dad many many times when I was a kid - especially the flunking part - sort of as a warning not to play around too much. My mum would convey the more emotional message as Dad was not one to show much emotion (another trait I picked up from him).
Mum tells the story of how the early days of Dad's career was the toughest. The old man, delighted with such an efficient worker, used him in every way possible before deciding that Dad was an excellent door-to-door salesman. Mum also tells the story of how there were days nearing the end of the month where Dad was desperately short on cash and waiting for payday he could not decide whether to spend the money he had left to buy food for dinner or petrol for his car so he could go around and make more sales.
45 years on, and that small little company in Old Klang Road is now a huge multinational company with branches in Europe and all over South East Asia. That young salesman is now one of the Managing Directors of that company. And so, from a salesman with no money for petrol, he now has enough money to give his children what they want (although we never really ask for more than what we need), and send my sister and I overseas to study.
The post was supposed to end there, but I can't sleep, so I decided to extend it.
My sister was never a bright student. She didn't do great in her SPM, switched courses mid-way through uni cause she didn't make the grade, resit one whole year, and didn't graduate with an Honours.
Inspite of that, she had a job with Ford waiting for her even before she graduated, but the Australian government did not want to grant her a work permit, and so she came back to Malaysia. In her first job interview, the only concern the interviewer had about her was her grades, but after chatting with both her references (as she would learn later), she got the job.
9 years on, she now has her own engineering consultancy firm and not far away from her first million.
Now you know why I am so condescending towards straight A students.
I have seen enough to make generalisations - too many top students in school or even in uni end up as nobodys when they get out into the real world. Too many to mention. Those that do succeed turn up as working zombies without any purpose or passion in life.
On the other hand, its those mediocre students (and one case I know - a totally fucked up student) who manage to take themselves furthest in life. Of course.....most of the fucked up students turn out to be VCD sellers.
one of my cousins is a vcd seller. very bright kid, went to a chinese school and his when CNY comes everyone wanted him to do some calligraphy for their homes. for he could do things with a brush.
but what to do, family poor, he's the eldest son, got to earn some quick buck.
the British immigration just turned down my work visa cos they prioritise locals in their film industry.
Every kiasu aunt and uncle assumes that my return from UK meant that I have fucked up my career.
You are so right about the importance of 'face'.
After graduating in a few months I will be home for good.. breaks my heart but I hope I can prove sceptics wrong.
lyn : Same here. Immigration laws tightening up means that I would most probably have to go back after I graduate in the summer.
FA : my sister is married. hahaha.
Well, well, well, the Great Vincent, fallen into his own pit. You might have a point re: your Amelina post: just because a student who gets 17As doesn't mean that he/she is more of a success than someone who gets only 9 or even 1A(s). However, on the flip side of the coin, just because someone is approaching her first million doesn't mean she is any more of a success than someone earning minimum wage.
Just as intellect isn't measured by A's, B's or C's, success isn't always measured in financial terms.
You're a smart guy, Vincent, and I have to say I like reading your blog, but you tend to come off as a little intolerant of those whose opinions you don't agree with. Yes, you may see yourself as that big-titted woman who walks around with her blouse half unbuttoned to reveal Victoria's Secret underneath but its always wise to remember that there is always someone with bigger tits, a more expensive bra and who can turn more heads than yourself.
And in the end when the boobs sag, the face is wrinkled, the back is curved from osteoporosis and she can hardly walk from arthritis, who is the woman going to depend on? Other people, thats who! Don't be too proud and condescending when you're in your prime, you might just live to regret it later...
kimberly : 13As. He started all this nonsense in the first place. Same year as me. What was the question in the SPM paper about?
yuenli : phd - permanent head damage....hahahaahahahahaahaha..
meigie : In the end, I've said it many times - its not just the results that count - thats why I keep telling you to relax and take it easy.
arthur : Hehehe..I was waiting for somebody to talk about the flip side to it. In that sense, you are right - but it opens up a whole new debate topic doesn't it? We then have to question and argue whethe money = success. It certainly is for some people, but not all. So, it all boils down to the individual.
Oh yeah, I am a LITTLE intolerant towards opinions that dont agree with mine. Its not good having such an open mind - your brains might fall out. ;)