Monday, October 24, 2011

Somebody amongst nobody or nobody amongst somebody?

Which one do you prefer?

After working for nearly two years at Perak Hanjoong Simen, I got an offer to work for a local black gold company.

Yes, that was the break I was hoping for. All my student life I was hoping that some big black gold companies would come a-knocking and hire me. But instead for nearly two years, I was bathing in cement dusts!
Not much different between the two pictures, if
at least in term of uniforms and helmet!

But I was comfortable there. They made me Head of Packing House with view that I will take over the clinker plant once I am ready. For a novice engineer, I was not keen as I knew I was not ready. But there was only five of us local process engineers then and there were three Korean section heads and one Korean Manager. It was too early for me to eye their positions obviously, but I guess we were kinda important in the hierarchy of things in the organization.

Every time we passed by the security, they would salute us as if we were big-shots, never mind that we were only small fries in the ocean. It does not matter to them either that most of the time, I would actually walk pass them since I would take the Taiping-Kuala Kangsar bus to work.

They would salute me nonetheless.

Some other times I would take my father's old Opel to work. 

They would still salute as if I was driving a brand new three-pointed star.

At the office, I can even drive the locomotive if I wanted to, for the locomotive was under my charge.

But in late 1987, I got an offer to work at a much bigger organization, and while I did not hesitate to accept it, I was apprehensive about it. I told me my sis that at PHS I was somebody and now I will be nobody again.

Her remark then would be that currently I was somebody amongst the nobodies, and soon I will be nobody amongst somebody!

She was right of course and then again there was the money factor involved too obviously.

So I went from the cowboy town of Padang Rengas with two rows of shop houses on the both sides of the road to a non-existent town a.k.a. fishing village of Kerteh within two weeks of October twenty five years ago.

What have I gotten myself into?

At least Padang Rengas people made proper curry, while in Kerteh they even put sugar in their curries! 

Oh dear!

Coming to the office, we would normally be checked for stuff we brought in (or out). The securities would not salute you anymore; you would have to salute them if you want them to let you in.

Not quite, but close enough I think.

Once I was caught taking pictures in the office compound - the camera was confiscated and we had to plead to the security to return our camera - we didn't get a permit to take photo in the first place. I thought we only need permit to take photo in the plant, so I didn't realize the office is considered an extended part of the plant.

That show how my importance in the new job.
LIfe as an engineer in late 80's Kerteh. We were not engineers who
sat around in the office writing file memoranda, at least not
while taking pictures! I even had scrapers with me to take
samples of deposits during the turnaround and inspection.
Hard working me! Hahaha.

But I realized the examples above are only artificial way to see thing and it is not the most utmost importance in my life as an engineer. They are only true in a remote and individual office complex as noted above, and is not applicable in a public office towers in a typical setting in Kuala Lumpur. Here in Kuala Lumpur, we are more anonymous, and as long as one has the parking card, you would be let in.

At Dayabumi, no one would know what car I drive, or if I drive one at all!

You can really be anonymous which is why, in many ways, I prefer life in the big city.

Even till today.

But that was more than 25 years ago. In any case, the title is no longer true. It has not withstood the tests of time.

For me now, I am nobody amongst nobody! 


  1. As a Melbournian living in Kerteh, I am fascinated with the history of how it became what it is now. Do you have any old photo's of Kerteh town?

  2. Kerteh was a non-descript fishing village. I doubt it if it had something we can call a town. I used to pass it in the 70s by bus going from Kota Bharu to the west coast, but Kerteh did not exist for me. Honestly I think at certain part of Kerteh, nothing may have changed.

    YOu may want to read this: