Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Hair Story

When I was a young boy, I used to sport a head full of thick hair.  It was so thick and coarse that the Indian barber I used to patronise as a boy had to exert little more pressure to comb my hair.  My late father had thick hair, my late uncle too.  Even on my maternal side, none is bald to the best of my knowledge.  Why am I bald?  Beats me, I have no answer either.  If there is any solace, my two younger brothers have also started to bald albeit at an older age.

I started to notice receding hairline when I was in my mid 20s.  Did I panic?  Of course I was hell panicky.  The first thought that came to mind then was how to get a girlfriend if I am bald.  I was in the customer service industry and impression counts most too.  Svenson was the answer to my plight.  I was recommended a 10-course treatment that cost me a cool 4-figure sum and that did not include the special shampoo and condition which were charged separately.  It was heavy on my pocket as a young wage earner.  I did not see much improvement as my hair continued to make a free fall.  Nearer to the completion, they recommended another 10-course treatment which I readily agreed though it was hurting my pocket badly.  Saving my crowning glory superseded everything or no girlfriend for me.  I pressed on.  Much to my disappointment again, the second treatment did not yield positive result.  Now, my receding hairline was getting more prominent.  I tried another famous hair centre.  If I remember well, it was called Hair Chain.  They were less popular than Svenson but I was eager to try them out.  Same treatment, same damage to my pocket and still no positive outcome.  Mine is a male pattern of hair dropping.  The hair on the front and the top will soon drop and leaving the two sides holding fast.  Some called it the "Mediterranean Sea".

People started to tease me.  The word, "botak" was taboo to me, to the extent that whenever anyone were to call me that, I would snarl back.  I was not even in my 30s and I felt so old.  It was so desperate for me that when I chanced upon an advertisement that showed a complete bald man who then regained his hair after trying out acupuncture treatment. I was fascinated by the pictures and decided to pay a visit to this self-professed acupuncturist who called himself, "Dr Professor Something".  He used electric current to trigger the blood flow in my head.  I think I visited him for a year or more before I completely stopped.  There was no improvement at all.

Regain was just introduced to the market.  It required me to spray and massage gently on my head each time.  The medication needed to be prescribed by doctor and each bottle cost more than S$100.  However, it can work on some but not all and I am among the "not all".

Finally a visit to a dermatologist on one fine day who blatantly told me that mine is the male pattern of hair dropping and nothing can be done to it.  I accepted my fate and decided not to do anything to it.  The fear of not getting a girlfriend was not in my mind by now.  I was already in my 30s and going 40 soon.    

I still saved the remaining hair on two sides whenever I visited the barber.  I was not completely bald.  Some close female friends advised me to shave it bald.  I was hesitant to do so.  One day I visited a barber and it was to be my last visit too.  The barber is bald himself.  He asked me to shave it all bald.  I then sought his advice on how to shave on own.  Thanks to him (though it means no more business for him), I decided to go bald.  I felt good when I shaved bald and it was some five years ago.  Now whenever someone called me "botak", I will return back with a big smile.  There is no looking back now.  Girlfriend or no girlfriend, accept me as what I am - bald is here to stay!  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Not Always A Nasty Customer

As frontliner in the service line, we are likely to encounter nasty customers which is part and parcel of our job - like it or not.  Still on my good old days with KLM in the swinging 80s, such encounter was a norm to us and it remains so till today whoever that duty personnel is.  Suffice to say, our job was quite mundane but the different encounters at the check-in, arrival hall and boarding gate made our job interesting.

During flight preparation for each departure, we used to assign seats requested by our passengers.  Some wanted buck-head seats for more leg space or to install bassinet for their infants, some wanted aisle, some window, some smoking and some non-smoking, so on and so forth.  In a full flight situation, it is definitely not possible to meet all requests and most passengers would understand.  It can't be helped when the first station and in our case, Jakarta took up most of the the popular seats and that left us with limited choices.  We used to be at loggerhead with them.  Buck-head seats are usually reserved for family travelling with infant but if there are few families with infants on that particular flight, it can prove quite a challenge to us - which family deserves more?

During my days with KLM at the airport, I have had handled very very nasty and unreasonable customers when their demands were not met.  More often than not, it was the sticky seating situation.  Excess baggage was another common subject for their complaints too.  However, getting bumped off when the flight was overbooked is another matter altogether.  They banged their fists at the counter, they raised their voice loudly, they threatened to complain to our higher management, just anything to get what they had demanded.  Do we shout back?  No, of course. We would try and try to see if we could find alternatives for them.  They could see with their own eyes that we did try our level best and we may not be successful.  During that period, they started to cool down and reasonable thought then seeped into them.  At the departure gate, when you saw them for the final time, they would usually apologise for their behaviour.  I received such apology one too many times.  Just too bad, it did not dawn on my 'ang moh' Station Manager at that time to accord me a letter of commendation.  Hey, that elusive letter of commendation aside but when we hear the three magic words, "I am sorry", it melts us and this renders our job as service personnel all the more satisfying.  Thank you for flying with KLM, it's a great way to fly!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Multiracialism In Malaysia

Note from me: This article was taken from the blog of the 4th PM of Malaysia (http://chedet.cc/?p=1210) who penned his views on multiracialism in Malaysia.  I wish to state that I am not his supporter as most of his views are draconian to say the least.  


1. Malaysia is a multiracial country. It is multiracial in the true sense of the word. This is because Malaysian nationals retain their identification with their countries of origin or where their forebears came from. In no other country with a large number of citizens of foreign origin do we see this retention of previous identities.
2. Initially, during the time of negotiation between the communities for independence, there was some expectation of assimilation into a single Malayan identity. But the resistance was too strong and the leaders gave in so as to get every race to support the quest for independence. Not only should the original identity be maintained but the language, culture and media of instruction in schools should also be maintained.
3. Faced with this reality the leaders of the different races at that time decided on a formula for sharing political power between the races instead. This was to be done by the formation of a coalition of race-based parties. But these parties should work together as a coalition. And so the Alliance consisting of UMNO, MCA and MIC was formed.
4. It worked for a time. But sharing political power was not enough. What about the economy. Initially the leadership believed that all the Malays wanted was to work as salaried workers in the Government.
5. The Chinese were expected to just do business. In those days business meant being shop-keepers. Big business was in the hands of the Europeans.
6. This picture of the Malays being in the Government and the Chinese continuing to be shop-keepers was quite simplistic but it was believed this would be the permanent feature of Malaysia. Not much thought was given to the increase in the Malay population or the wealth to be gained in the economic sector when the Europeans leave.
7. This sharing only of political power did not last. The Malays wanted the wealth from business and the non-Malays wanted the employment opportunities at the highest level in the Government. And so in the 1969 Elections support for the Alliance coalition was not forthcoming. The Alliance won but despite the lower house having an increase in number of seats from 104 to 144, the Alliance won only 74 seats, the same as when the total number of seats was 104 in 1964.
8. Serious riots took place with damage to property and loss of lives. Apparently the formula of sharing between the races in the political field alone was not enough. But the Malay leaders during the rule by the National Operations Council continued to believe in sharing political power. But they also accepted that there was a need to share economic wealth also.
9. The coalition was accordingly enlarged so as to bring in more non-Malays. The National Front which replaced the Alliance included the Chinese – based Gerakan, the Chinese supported Indian – led PPP of Perak, the Sarawak United Peoples Party (Chinese). PAS and the native-based parties of Sarawak also joined the National Front.
10. Having resolved the problem of political power sharing, attention was turned to the sharing of economic wealth. For this the New Economic Policy was enunciated with the objectives of (a) eradicating poverty irrespective of race and (b) eliminating the identification of race with economic functions.
11. Parliament was reconvened in 1972 and the new Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition adopted the New Economic Policy. The majority of the people endorsed the sharing of political power and economic wealth through giving the BN two-thirds majorities in all the Elections from 1974 to 2004.
12. The DAP refused to join the coalition and for a time made up the sole opposition. Obviously it did not agree to the sharing of political power and economic wealth between the races in Malaysia. But DAP’s refusal failed to destabilise the country. Consequently for 30 years Malaysia enjoyed rapid growth. Although the NEP target was not achieved, no one can deny that the economic disparities between the races had been reduced. As for the sharing of political power, the acceptance of many opposition parties into the Government and their involvement in policy making reflect the reality of the political change between the Alliance Coalition and the National Front Coalition.
13. After winning the biggest majority ever (199 out of 222), the BN Government decided to accede to “popular” demands and adopted a more liberal attitude towards both politics and the economic sector. In other words the idea of fair sharing of political power and economic wealth between the different races should be terminated.
14. It believed that this would make it more popular. The opposition would have no issues with which to attack the BN.
15. But in the 2008 Elections it was manifestly clear that the BN had lost popularity instead.
16. It scored less than two-thirds for the first time since 1969, gaining only 140 of the 222 seats. The pro-sharing Malays were dismayed but despite changing their leader, they found that the trend towards liberalisation remained.
17. The belief of the new leadership was that Chinese support would come back if the sharing policies of the NEP were not implemented.
18. Despite obviously rejecting the sharing principle, support for the BN did not return. Instead the DAP dangled before the Chinese the possibility of having both political and economic dominance. This was deemed possible because the Malays had split into three parties and each one of them needed Chinese support in order to win. The Chinese had the deciding vote and were in a position to give victory only to those who believe in throwing out the sharing concept.
19. The slogan coined “Ini kalilah” (this time we can) was used to indicate that political power could be wrested from the BN and the opposition would form the next Government. This opposition Government would discard the sharing principle.
20. Many non-Malay supporters of the BN component parties were convinced that by withdrawing their support the BN would lose and so would the idea of sharing political and economic power between the races.
21. In the event the BN managed to scrape through with a reduced majority, principally through the support of Malays and other indigenous people.
22. Taking advantage of liberalisation and the weakened BN Government, the conflict between the races heated up. The situation in Malaysia is tense as never before.
23. The people show no respect for the Government.
24. Malaysians by and large are not violent people. But for how long can Malaysia remain stable in the face of persistent violation of the good understanding and the sharing of power between the races.
25. Malaysian, be they Malays, Chinese, Indians or the native of Sabah and Sarawak must banish from their minds the idea of racial dominance. This country must be shared and shared fair by all the races.