Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We all deserve a second chance, don't we? ...

I have taken the liberty to reproduce the book review on my ex-boss Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, by Fauziah Ismail (Jie) of NST, from her blog:

BOOK REVIEW: SECOND CHANCE The Life and Mission of Arshad Ayub

“You’re the editor, you tell me,” he said, across the dinner table from where he was sitting.“Mereka di bawa dengan kereta kuda. How do you translate that?”“This is a trick question,” I told myself. “I’m being asked to translate from Malay to English?”“They were taken on a horse-drawn carriage, Tan Sri?” I mustered an answer.All eyes were on Tan Sri Arshad Ayub.I was already squirming in my seat.The few seconds of anxiety felt like a lifetime.“There you are. She’s got it right. You couldn’t imagine the answers I get these days,” he said.Phew! If I had held my breath a minute longer, I would have killed more brain cells.He gave an example that made us burst out laughing. “Someone said a carriage driven by horses. Logically, how can horses drive?” he said.I remembered meeting him for the first time at a dinner hosted by the company of which he was the chairman. This was quite sometime back when KL Hilton was still at Jalan Sultan Ismail. He moved from table to table to get acquainted with the guests. He just so happened plunk himself at our table longer than expected.Since then, I had met him on several occasions but never really got to talk to him.The mere mention of his name can make some people squirm. People around him tell me that had been occasions where some had actually pee-ed in their pants when they had to face him.This is a man who suffers no fools.Arshad came from a poor family – his father was a rubber tapper and his mother a housewife. The most painful memories growing up concerned his mother who had to sell her only piece of land during the Japanese occupation to buy food for the family.“That day we had a feast at the mamak restaurant in Muar for the first time in our lives,” he said.And his regret to this day was that his mother died before he could give her his salary of RM130 as a temporary teacher. “How can I ever balas (repay) her?”To him being born into poverty need not be the death knell of one’s future. It should be a motivator to seek ways for getting out of such a predicament. “Without the desire to change, innovate and be resilient, nothing much happens, plain and simple,” he said.He believes in education, where with successful education, “doors will open, offering opportunities for you to secure your place in the sun.”Arshad is determined to get himself out of poverty. He started his education at a Malay school in Parit Keruma, Muar; followed by the government English preparatory school and English school. His education was interrupted by the outbreak of the World War II. He managed to stay in school for six months before dropping out to seek ways of helping his family survive. His father had died of dysentery.He was only able to get odd jobs include peddling a three-wheeled trishaw, selling coconuts, carrying and selling firewood and later working as a labourer with the Forestry Department.After the war, he resumed school.He was determined to replace the loss of his mother’s land. Upon returning from England, he bought a piece of land near Muar for RM2,000. This was the money he had saved out of his scholarship during his student stay in Wales. He managed to save 100 pounds every year despite sending home RM70 to his siblings at the end of the month.The purchase of the land in Muar was the beginning of Arshad’s foray into land investment in several states, some of which brought him handsome profits, thus allowing him to provide for his family.He also believed in repaying the favour extended to him.“When you can, you must repay this favour extended to you, and help others in turn who may be struggling for a second chance to find their places.”Arshad has had held various posts including Secretary-General of three ministries and Deputy Governor of Bank Negara, but it was as the first Director of Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM), now renamed Universiti Teknologi Mara, for 10 years from 1967 that he endears himself most to Malaysians.He had been called a tyrant, building his own little empire when he was there.I read reports that he was running the place like his own home and the students like his children. He thought nothing of grabbing them by the collar and giving them a tight slap when he caught them smoking or sleeping in the library.He would hound those with long hair and march them to the barber. He would make surprise checks in the dorms to weed out the slackers. He made students eat bread for lunch instead of rice so that they could hurry back in time for their afternoon lectures without feeling lethargic.He expected kampung students to speak English well.His own personal English language handicap when he was a student taught him never to underestimate the importance of English as the language of commerce, trade and all manner of interpersonal relationships.It may or may not be timely to read this book, which also traces the early developments of ITM until what is now, what with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s suggestion of opening up the university to the non-Malays.The book SECOND CHANCE The Life and Mission of Arshad Ayub is now available at MPH bookstores at RM80 a copy. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Yayasan Arshad Ayub which was set up at UiTM for research and selected chairs for different areas of study.
After 30 years of association with him, his family, friends and associates who then became my friends too, perhaps I too should write another book about him. My own version. Just like the the guy who wrote about Jack Welch after having been with him for 22 years. Its a pity, when they wrote the book above, they didn't ask for my anecdotes about him..haha. But I tell you, that man, played a major role in transforming both my personal and professional lives. To say that I owe a debt of gratitude to him, would be a gross understatement...

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