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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Strange Coincidence

It is not often that strange coincidences occur in one’s life. Just as we were preparing to offer our annual prayers for my brother who demised 35 years ago on 23rd September, my Dad breathed his last on the same day last week.

I had just returned to work after the Hari Raya holidays when the dreaded call came in via my mobile. He had passed away at 8.15 that morning! My wife who got the message first had left her office immediately and was on her way to break the news to me in person as she wasn’t sure as to how I would react. Unfortunately, one of my nephews had called me by then and beat her to it. Although naturally I was a bit startled initially, I kept my composure intact and together with my wife, left on the arduous journey back to Kulim with 52 years of sporadic memories of my Dad flashing past.

I learnt that he had been quite normal that morning when he awoke. After a bath and a shave, he had gone into his room to lie down for a while. And never woke up again. My mum had been beside him when he passed away. I guess that he must have remembered that it was my brother's death anniversary and was probably overwhelmed with grief as I know that both my Mum and Dad never really recovered from the shock of having lost him in spite of the passage of time. In this instance alone I can say with certainty that time failed to heal their wound or lessen their pain.

The pragmatist in me however allowed me to accept the fact that we are mere mortals. And being mortals, we are all destined to meet fate in the end. The solace in this episode is that there was nothing tragic about it. He lived a contended and complete life, blessed with children, grandchildren as well as great grandchildren. Although of late senility reared its head off and on, he was quite independent until his last day, needing only his walking stick to move about. He tended to all his needs himself. Unfortunately time ran out on him. He was 98.

We kept vigil the whole night as relatives and friends arrived. And come they surely did… droves at that. Dad had been a very lovable person and they had all come to pay their last respects. The funeral was held on 24-09-09 and his ashes released into the sea off Bagan Ajam on the morning of 25th September 2009.

With that, ends the travails of a great man, one who hailed from Kerala at the tender age of 18 in search of a livelihood in this country that would eventually become his home and where he raised a family of six in the process (now 5) who would forever mourn his loss. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Name : Prabakaran a/l Velayuthum
Relationship : Brother
Date of Birth : 11-02-1949
Marital Status : Single
Date of Demise : 23-09-1974
Leaving behind, among others
Parents : Velayuthum & Leela
Sisters : Susi, Sumathi & Vanaja
Brothers : Ashok & Aravind

When you were here
Loneliness was just a fairytale to me
And how I laughed when people
Tell me they are lonely
Because I never thought
Loneliness was something
A human heart could feel…….

……..but loneliness
Was what you left me when you were gone
And loneliness turned out to be
A thing too real and hard to believe
And every dream I dream of you
Tells me……
Loneliness is the hardest thing to go through…….
……what more without you.

(He is the object of my article titled "The Turning Point" published on 30-7-09)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rice Bowl

It has been a while since I posted anything and my friends are curious to know why. There is no particular reason actually except that this is the festive season with Hari Raya this week and Diwali just around the corner. During this period, I usually spend a lot of time with the employees at all the company’s branches located in every State in the country to hype them up with a pep talk to keep them motivated as their workload would be especially high with increased product demand. So I really couldn’t find time to put my thoughts into paper. The rate of shelf off-take is amazing during this season. People buy up our muruku mix and cake flour like there is no tomorrow. It is a story worth telling……the story of Babas, the curry king where I head the human resource division.

The art of good eating is seldom perfected without the right use of curry powder. Baba Products shows how curry is king when it comes to breaking gastronomic frontiers.

Success may not have a surefire recipe but some of its ingredients would no doubt include copious amounts of hard-work, patience and a high premium on value. The last one is defining. Successful men know it. After all not for nothing did Albert Einstein famously say that it was prudent to try and not become a man of success. Instead it was worth becoming a man of value. What the great man meant was probably that success would follow.

In their own recipe for success, the owner of Baba Products has put a high priority on value. Some 32 years ago when the company started to manufacture a variety of curry powder, the owner had to go door to door to sell and popularize his stuff. It wouldn’t have been easy especially since he came from humble beginnings. The fear of mediocrity remained a constant companion which is the reason why through all these years of initial struggle and hardship, the quality of the end-product has never been compromised. That one value more than anything else helped build his customer base, brick by brick, and shaped the reputation of the company. It also helped position Babas as a top product in the spice genre in Malaysia.

Established in 1976, Baba Products currently successfully markets 33 different products to most parts of the world. I am proud to be a part of this home grown brand that in many ways is still in its infancy and is slated for even greater growth…….so long as people don’t stop eating!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life's Virtues

First Story
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer named “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good. In fact Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Capone out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocities that went around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot however. He had a son whom he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had everything that he wanted…..clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was held back. Price was not an issue. And despite Eddie’s involvement with organized crime, he taught his son right from wrong. He wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie made a difficult decision. He wanted to make amends and rectify the wrongs that he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he had to testify against Capone and The Mob, and he knew the cost would be great. But he testified!

Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes he had given his son the greatest gift he could offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. From the dead man’s pocket, police removed a rosary, crucifix, a religious medallion and a poem clipped from a magazine.

Second Story
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to fill up his fuel tank. With not enough fuel, he knew he would not be able to get back to his ship after completing his mission.

When his flight leader heard this piece of news, he immediately ordered him to return. Reluctantly, O’Hare dropped out of formation and headed back to the carrier. As he was returning to the mother-ship, he saw something that made his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way through the clouds towards the American Fleet!

He couldn’t reach his squadron in time or bring them back to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do; he must somehow divert the Japanese aircrafts from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove directly into the formation of the Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50-calibres blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane after the other. O’Hare wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until he ran out of all his ammunition! Undaunted, he continued his assault, diving at the planes, hoping to clip a wing or a tail to cause as much damage as possible, and render them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron retreated and took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, O’Hare and his battled scarred aircraft flew back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the drama surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of O’Hare’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed 5 enemy aircrafts.

This incident took place on 20th February 1942. For his bravery, Butch O’Hare was recognized as the American Navy’s first Ace Pilot of World War II. He was also the first Naval Aviator to earn the Congressional Medal of Honour.

A year later at the age of 29, O’Hare was killed in an aerial combat. His hometown would not allow the memory of the World War II hero to simply fade away. Today, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

In case you are wondering what these 2 stories have to do with each other………… Butch O’Hare was ‘Easy’ Eddie’s son.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

.....nothing happens by chance.

It was supposed to be the mother of all reunions, so to speak. Having my sisters, brother, brother-in-law, cousins, my parents and nephew in the same platform is no easy feat. Work commitments had kept us from fulfilling this wish many a time….’political’ connotations played a part too. We are all different in many ways; the only similarity is perhaps the size of our shadows. So it was a happy setting at my eldest sister's house in Kulim where we met last weekend and engaged in merriment in the evening with my Klang sister’s chicken briyani that superbly complemented the scotch that I had taken along to celebrate the occasion. My ever so curious Dad would peek out from his room to see the goings-on in the dining every few minutes. We had been conditioned from a young age that drinking or smoking in front of parents was disrespectful. So to keep him happy as well as to safeguard the principle of respect that we had been indoctrined with, we served him a couple of 'fixes', thereby removing his 'intrusions' from then on.

Conversation with my cousin Suba picked up momentum after we started on the scotch, peg by peg. We were the only 2 active participators, the others preferring to just listen. We go back a long long way. We virtually grew up together during our formative years. We reminisced of our past and the various stages of life that we had spent together. He lived close to 'civilization' in Perai while I grew up in the estates. He would spend every school holiday with us and I used to look forward to it. He was the only cousin who was in my age group. Only 26 days separated us in age, he being the elder. I recalled all those moments that we spent together…….. helping him ride the bicycle the first time…..waking up early each morning to pick a type of large white roses from a tree in our compound that we tied together to kick-about sepak raga style…..played with home made kites that somehow never got off the ground however hard we tried……..played with Tops and found immense pleasure in destroying each other’s when one lost……….played for hours with rubber-bands with one person throwing and the other trying to overlap the distant band with another. And when you manage to do it, you get to keep both. Otherwise you restart the throw to a distance again, repeating the process until one runs out of rubber-bands. We played with marbles, coming up with all kinds of games. We collected rubber seeds to play with, climbed hills and trees. All these and more……….. just between the two of us. Once in a while Ashok and Vanaja (my brother and sister) would join in. Otherwise we were left to our own until it was time for lunch or dinner, depending on the time of the day. We never had any other friends to play with. The boys from the estate seldom joined us. And Dad made sure that we too didn’t join them. I suppose he considered them too rough to play with and was perhaps concerned that we might get hurt. I’m not suggesting that we were timid in any way; we had our own robust moments too when we would engage in wrestling with each other, usually at the conniving urgings of my brothers. But it was all in good fun. Of course at the end of the wrestling matches, regardless of who won or lost, we still would not talk to each other for a few hours or even a few days but we got back together somehow. There was no malice, no grievance, no grudge…nothing! It was all part of growing up.

He was known as a quiet guy among my family members. But tonight, he was monopolizing the conversation. He had so much of stories to tell; each with its own punch-line. And I could see that the rest were all laughing away at his recollections and ideology. He kept insisting that “nothing happens by chance. Every occurrence has a specific purpose in life”. When you reflect on that statement, you tend to agree.

On the whole I felt happy for being able to bring the family together again…...if not all, at least part of the family…….. and hope that it stays that way. Whatever differences we had were swept aside on this occasion for goodwill to prevail. There were no issues to contend with tonight like there were none to contend with during our growing up process. The drift-apart probably happened without anyone realizing it especially after our perspectives in life changed…..after we had families of our own and our focus in life narrowed. It appears to have been some sort of a ‘trade-off’ when it should have been the last thing on anyone’s mind. I personally believe that relationships formed during your youth should be maintained at any cost….nurtured even. To conveniently disregard it and moving on with new found pleasures and priorities is indeed a compromise. I’m not too sure of how the others handle such emotional issues but I for one have difficulties digesting such truths and realities. Once the bondage has been established, it should stay that way, regardless of our commitments.

After a wonderful evening, the party finally came to an end close to midnight with renewed plans made, albeit in the brink of inebriation, to hold another in the not too distant future.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Birthday

4th September had always been a special day for me ....a day that I have everything to thank for. Its my wife's birthday. In more ways than one, it may not be far fetched to state that she is the reason why I'm still around and kicking. She is probably the only correct decision that I had made independently in my life.
Thank you Darling & Happy Birthday!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little Things That Matter

As you might remember, the head of a company survived 9/11
because he had to send his son to kindergarten that he just started.

Another fellow was alive because it was
His turn to buy doughnuts for his colleagues.

One woman was late because her
Alarm clock didn't go off on time.

Another one was late because of being stuck
On the Highway because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take
Time to change.

One person's car wouldn't start.

One more couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man
Who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
Took the various means to get to work
But before he got there, he developed
A blister on his foot.
He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
That is why he is alive today..

Now when I am stuck in traffic,
Miss an elevator,or
Turn back to answer a ringing telephone ...

All the little things that annoy me.
I think to myself,
This is exactly where
God wants me to be
At this very moment..

Next time your morning seems to be
Going wrong,
The children are slow getting dressed,
You can't seem to find the car keys,
You hit every traffic light.......,
Don't get mad or frustrated;
It may just be that
God is at work
........watching over you.

May God continue to bless you
With all those annoying little things
And may you remember their possible purpose.

Pass this on to someone else, if you like.
There is NO LUCK attached.
If you delete this, it's okay:
God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Management Lesson

I read this somewhere so I thought it might be of interest to you too......

A lesson on how consultants can make a difference in an organization.
Last week, we took some friends to a new restaurant, 'Steve's Place,' and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.

It seemed a little strange.

When the busboy brought our water and utensils, I observed that he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket.

Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.

When the waiter came back to serve our soup I inquired, 'Why the spoon?'

'Well', he explained, 'the restaurant's owner hired Andersen Consulting to revamp all of our processes.

After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour.

If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.'

As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he immediately replaced it with his spare.

'I'll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.'

I was impressed.

I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter's fly.

Looking around, I saw that all of the waiters had a similar string hanging from their flies.
So, before he walked off, I asked the waiter, 'Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?'

'Oh, certainly!' he said.

Then he lowered his voice.
'Not everyone is so observant.
That consulting firm I mentioned also recommended how we can save time in the restroom.

By tying this string to the tip of our you-know-what, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39%.'

I asked quietly, 'After you get it out, how do you put it back?'

'Well,' he whispered, 'I don't know about the others, but I use the spoon.'