Saturday, January 5, 2013

Verily, with the hardship, there is relief

2012 was both a happy and sad year for me.

It started well enough with Arif getting an offer as a pilot in Air Asia, and soon more good news during the year with Akmal getting good results for his SPM. We went to Japan in February for our family holiday, had our thanksgiving feast in June, and then everything fell apart with Mak's illness in July, and subsequent demise in Sept.
Arif looking regal in the cockpit. Now that he has
passed his line check, he can be seen smiling a lot
and is enjoying every minute of his flying hours. Hence
this picture taken in the cockpit.
That part was the horribilis months for me for the simple fact that Mak fell ill through out Ramadhan and passed away on the last day of Syawal (16 Sept 2012). It left a gaping hole in my heart, and mind - and my life, that it took me several more months to come to my senses.

In fact, two of the biggest challenges in my life (burden, if I may use that word) came hot in heels of one another. At that point in time, I simply cannot take it. They were simply too big a challenge and a burden for my shoulder to carry on on my own, that at one stage I simply gave up on one, and thought that she has many more children who can care for her in my absence, while I tried to plug the leaking hole in another.

I spent hours on my working and non-working days at the mosque, reciting the Quran and spending my in prayers and contemplation, seeking divine intervention.

Mak in the end passed away after two months of illness. She was buried near my home - I am glad that part of her wish has been fulfilled. She is now with me, I am now the custodian of her grave and I am responsible to her wellbeing in the afterlife (sort of).

Arif was also hitting a bad patch in his quest to be a 'line' pilot. His development as a pilot was hitting a brickwall. He was not improving - his study techniques were simply wrong (we found out later on). By right, by the 90th sector, one should be ready to be evaluated as a full-fledge co-pilot, but he was nowhere near being a co-pilot.

Fortunately, his training was extended and with the help of his two uncles - First Officer Afzal Asgar of Air Asia and First Officer Aizat Asgar of MAS, he was drilled for two straight nights the all important SOP a couple of days prior to his last training flights. Arif and I are undoubtedly indebted to them for their roles. Not to mention obviously the support from their parents, my uncle Paksu, a Korea Airlines captain, and auntie Maksu, formerly a MAS stewardess, and with the doa of my sister and her husband in Makkah, during Haj. We also enlisted the help of management consultant, my in-law Roslan Ghazali and his future-son-in-law, Isham a simulator pilot and instructor to boost his confidence and time management in aircraft.

And sudden and step improvement was seen by his captains - much better performance on all four sectors was one of the cherished comments of a captain in his report. By then, he was ready to being a pilot.

Arif on the night he passed his line check. he came home with
two bars on his shoulders (he left home at 3 am in the
morning with a single bar). Thanks to all who helped n doa
for Arif on his final line check 
I remember the al-Insyirah. "Verily, with the hardship, there is relief." I saw the posting of this surah on a friend's wall, and was captivated. It was like a sign for me. I keep on reciting this after each Yaasin and kept on believing. Thank Hasnor for the wonderful posting on your wall.

 1. Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad ())?

2. And removed from you your burden,

3. Which weighed down your back?

4. And raised high your fame?

5. So verily, with the hardship, there is relief,

6. Verily, with the hardship, there is relief .

7. So when you have finished (from your occupation), then stand up for Allah's worship.

Masya Allah.

I had never gone through such situation before. Training of a pilot is very regimented and very systematic. You need to be on your toes all the time. You will be watched over by your captain, and your every move will be monitored, recorded and analysed. I am not sure I can withstand the pressure of trying to be one. It is unlike the training to be an engineer. I did not have my boss looking over my shoulder 8 hours a day.

Equally important would be one's confidence. If one has one, one can fly. If your confidence is low, you will have difficulty to fly. If you are nervous, you will make even more mistake and your mistakes will be pounced upon by your instructor.


The young pilot-to-be at LAX enjoying
every plane take off there. He was every excited then
to hear the roar of the engine of plane as they whizzed by high
above us that day in the early 90s.
I think now I can understand why pilots are paid that much. They have to be of certain standard to fly an aircraft. As an engineer, I just need to pass my exams. If I don't know anything, I will just take my time to read and research and ask other. Time is something I can afford - I can take my own sweet time.

Time is a luxury for a pilot. Everything has to be in their finger tips, and solved in seconds.

Honestly, I feel I had aged a decade going through with Arif the last five months of his training. It was a tough moment for us, and I am glad that he had made it at last.


At last, Arif has fulfilled my dream of flying. I remember in 1975 in front of my classmates in std 6 at King Edward VII-1 school in Taiping, I went in front of my class and spoke about my ambition. It was a boys's school, so no problem for me to speak in front of class without being shy of the gals.
Arif in his maiden flight at Subang Aiport on July 9, 2012 at 5.30 am,
a week short of his 21st birthday. He then can't vote yet, but
he can fly this 42 MT aircraft.
"MY AMBITION. My ambition is to be a pilot. I...."

I had just started when the Indian teacher (sorry, forgot her name, but I can certainly remember her face and her sari) interjected, "What? You wore a spec. You can't be a pilot."

I was stunned by that information. I was not sure what else to say then. All my years in primary school, I had been eyeing and setting my goal of being a pilot. "That's where the money is," according to Mak, "they are paid handsomely."

So my dream shattered that day in 1975 and instead I became an engineer. Sure I was a jet-setting engineer during my days with a petroleum company, so I got to fly a lot, in front of the plane mind you.

But not in-front enough as I had envisioned in my childhood.

Mak had seen Arif got a job with Air Asia. She knew she had a pilot grandson in Arif - she had confided in me that she had been wishing for one, after Arif had gone to flying school. She had seen Arif going in and out of the house flying for Air Asia (with one bar), but Arif's second bar came in 3 months too late for her.

Akmal on TV9, the first pianist from the Hariri family
to appear on the telly on Nov 16, 2012.
Obviously, Mak also did not get to see her other grandson performing on TV9 on the piano.

But I am sure she was watching the two of them from high above.

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