FML!

Don’t mind me whine about my life.

It’s been a crazy week, in fact. I have been so busy at work lately, and this is made worse because some people are so indecisive – therefore, I cannot move forward until they do. On top of that, I lost a cousin who was very dear to me last weekend due to complications that arose from breast cancer.

It will be the month of May soon. Initially, I thought of making a dive trip somewhere; but looking at my schedule, I shouldn’t even be thinking about going on one. I know some time next week I may have to make a trip to Kemaman, to go back on one of our vessels for an inspection. The last time I was on board this particular vessel was when I was offshore Sarawak back in 2009, starting my hitch in Miri and ending it in Bintulu.

Me watching the sunset as the KPV Kapas passes 4N 113E
Me watching the sunset as the KPV Kapas passed 4N 113E sailing on the “Miri Roads” towards Bintulu

The following weekend I will be involved in the Group’s bowling tournament. Not that I am a good bowler, but almost everyone else on the management level will be competing. So I was asked to form a team.

I will have to complete another audit report by the end of next week; sit down with people from the Dulang and Angsi fields to complete a bridging and Specific Instructions for Simultaeneous Operations (SISO) documents for each of the field because by mid-June, our rig will leave offshore Sabah and head towards Terengganu’s Angsi Field for two months before doing a 3-year stint at the Dulang Field, also offshore Terengganu, come August.

The good thing is: I won’t be traveling by crew boat to the rig anymore after this. The bad news is, it would also be by helicopter during the monsoon season.

I have also been programmed to go to Pasir Gudang to undergo the Lifeboat Coxswain Training, a 4-day course to qualify me as a lifeboat pilot onboard the rig. Although we use the twin-fall lifeboat onboard, I would also have to learn to pilot a freefall lifeboat.

One of four twin-fall lifeboats on our rig
One of four twin-fall lifeboats on our rig

The good thing is, I will be spending the long weekend in Genting Highlands with my parents and my family (seven kids and all), and I am so looking forward to this good break. I just hope the kids won’t stress the wife and I out.

Well, that’s it. I’ve spilled it out…it’s off my chest now. I guess I will have to plan for a dive trip in June or July now. Luckily I’ve already booked a flight out to Tawau for my next trip to Sipadan in November. Let’s just hope I am able to maintain my level of sanity until then,

Beyond the Colour

I was supposed to write about something else but I guess this time I shall write about something that has become a plethora of jeremiad, tirade if you must, against the norm of these days. I have written about this several times before but I guess there is a need to write about it again.

The recent Sarawak state elections have proven yet again how diverse the Malaysians are, both in terms of the colour of skin and religious-belief. It is what that makes Malaysia unique; much akin to the USA which is a melting pot by definition itself. And the USA is 200 years ahead as a nation than Malaysia is; but using that as an excuse to not try and tone down the racial and religious sentiments just because the USA has yet to achieve that, is so wrong.

And here I go again lamenting over what it used to be like back then, four decades ago. This blog readers would remember how my father put me in a Chinese kindergarten, not two years after the race riots of May 1969. My aunt is married to a Chinese while my sister married an Indian. My wife is half-Iban. We’re a pretty mixed family. My parents speak in English to me, but it doesn’t make me any lesser a Malay. I know more Malay words, original Malay words, than the newsreaders of RTM, BERNAMA, RTM put together can come up with. I don’t use bastardised words like “OBJEKTIF” in any of my Malay writings because I would rather use the word “Matalamat” that is derived from two root words: MATA (eye) and ALAMAT (address) – the object that the eye sees.

I have a friend whose late father adopted an Indian girl and brought her up as if she was his own. I was there when this girl arrived with her biological father. She had just lost her mother to some illness, and her father had to travel in search of work. This friend is now a special officer to the current Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Seriously, playing with religious and racial sentiments is, to say the least, archaic. I cannot understand people who go around and find it fun to promote racial and religious schism among the people through their incessant nonsense-filled philippic. In the end, a political chasm is created between two groups. In the end, it is the nation that suffers ignominy in the eyes of the international audience.

I would commend the Prime Minister’s 1Malaysia initiative, but if we look at the reality, racial polarisation is more apparent in urban areas such as in KL, Penang and Ipoh, while in Johor Bahru, most smaller towns and in the rural areas, the only identifier of one’s race is his/her name. They eat together, go out together – we hardly see that happening, except amongst more educated people of my generation. If you see the cartoons by the cartoonist, Datuk Lat, we often see multi-racial characters mingle together. If you ask Datuk Lat if this is muhibbah he would tell you that there is no point in calling it muhibbah because people will just gel with one another. True, but this may be a bit difficult to see nowadays.

Among the non-malay names I can remember who were in the same class I was when we were in Standard 6 are Chow Kah Sung, Jeffrey Cheah, Michael Leong, Yong Choon Wah, Amrit Singh. There were more in our class of 30 but I have forgotten most. Definitely more than one-third non-malays in a class of 30 in a national-type school. The school my daughter has less than 20 non-malays in a total student population of 1,900. The various Ministers of Education have failed to identify the root cause for this glaring problem. Why do non-Malay students prefer vernacular schools? My take on that would be the obvious Islamisation of schools by the schools’ authorities. Second, the right to protect your mother-tongue, which to me, has gone overboard.

I would rather have every single student in a single school where everyone learns each other’s language and culture, with Bahasa Malaysia as the common identifier. They would also have good command of the English language and good comprehension of Mathematics and Science. The more children are separated, the more trouble this nation will be in when these kids grow up. What about religious classes? What about them? My only formal class on Islam was for 40 minutes per day, 3 days a week, taught by an ustaz in a Christian missionary school. I did not have to know Arabic, so on and so forth, yet I have been to Mecca four times. I know of some people who can recite the Quran yet have never set foot in Jeddah, let alone Mecca; and their view of Islam is so myopic you have no idea why are they so hostile for most of the time.

It is with the children that we must concentrate the most effort in ensuring unity as one people is achieved, but parents should also be supportive of this effort. Politicians advocating racial segregation should be shunned. There is no point having the people fight each other when politicians actually sit, eat, drink and joke together at the Parliament when they’re not at each other’s throat.

It is time we see beyond colour.

Jamaica Weeps

“Bro, who you calling an Indian? I’m a Jamaican la!”

That’s my brother, DJ Cva Quma a.k.a Blackbear’s trademark reply to anyone associating him with being an Indian. Don’t get me wrong, he was proud to be Indian, but was first and foremost proud being a Malaysian.

Cva and us on Sipadan Island, November 2007
Cva, Iszarizal, Zaide, Ajisan, self and Amin on Sipadan Island, November 2007

My first encounter with Cva was back in November 2007 when we attended the Celebes Safari 2007 at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort. He never spoke to me on the first day he was there and seemed apprehensive. He later wrote in the divers’ forum:

“I meet the legendary Sea Demon and tell myself “Buddha himself is here” Sorry SD couldn’t resist”

He had just return from Vietnam and had to quickly grab his stuff, party CD collection, catch the flight out to Tawau because he was required to DJ at the Celebes Safari. I could still remember the look of horror on his face when he realised much later that he had grabbed his entire collection of Siti Nurhaliza CDs. He frantically downloaded club songs and mixed them. Later that night, Cva burnt the house down with his music, and for those who don’t believe it, we saw the other side of Clement Lee, co-owner of Borneo Divers.

Cva Deejaying at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
Cva deejaying at Borneo Divers, Mabul Resort

Soon after coming back to KL, we met up quite often. He bought a red Ferrari underwater camera and brought it to Kanna Curry House at Section 19 in Petaling Jaya, and asked me to teach him how to use it. Soon, we realised we had something in common: we were both divorced, and soon the friendship developed into more than just dive buddies. We would chat on Yahoo! Messenger exchanging notes, confiding in each other, and became brothers. One thing about him though, he would always see the lighter side of things, and made sure nothing would drag him down.

Cva enjoyed life
Cva enjoyed life (taken from Ravi Ravi Ravi’s FB album)

I got married, while he was still searching for the right person. I know that he fancied an Instructor whom I shall not identify here. He would make trips to where she was just to try and win her, but in the end failed. As he put it,

“Don’t worry, Bang. Bunga bukan sekuntum, and we Jamaicans are not losers.”

Then, one day, he met Helen who worked at a dive shop of a friend of mine. There was not a hint of attraction between them, not that I noticed, but a few months down the road, he called me up,

“Bro, I just want to let you know, I’ve finally found the person who loves me for who I am.”

I was elated, so very happy for him, and I went,

“You lucky Indian boy!”

To which he retorted,

“Hey, what Indian la bro? You think Helen would go out with an Indian? Jamaican la!”

Self, Nizar and Cva at a MIDE party in KL
Self, Nizar and Cva at a MIDE party in KL

Then one day, he asked me for advice, on wanting to open a dive shop. He said he had quit deejaying and wanted to become a full-time diver. I gave him the pros and cons of having a dive shop and so on, but he decided to carry on with the idea; and with some friends, he opened up Gila Divers located on the 2nd floor of the Endah Parade near Seri Petaling. Once in a while, he would lament to me about how slow business is, so on and so forth, and I would tell him the same situation cuts across the board, but he would have to hang in there. And he would say,

“Bro, when are you and Kakak (my wife) going to come to my shop?”

And I’d tell him once I was free I’d do so. But work and personal stuff would always get the best of me; I never got to see him alive in his shop…ever.

My last meet with him was when we went to Tioman in July 2010. I needed a break so I went diving. He, upon hearing that I was going there, quickly organised a trip to the same place. We never got to dive together much during that trip because he was always doing shore dives, but I remember during the last shore dive, I saw him going around the jetty collecting rubbish…and snapped a photo of him.

Cva collecting rubbish near Salang jetty
Cva collecting rubbish near Salang jetty – July 2010

After that trip, I became too busy and never saw him again.

He would YM me from time to time, and whenever possible, I would chat with him. He would tell me of his trips to Anilao in the Philippines, and of his other dive trips. His last YM to me was about a month ago, sent to me when I was in a meeting. It just went:

“Bro”

By the time I saw the message, he had gone offline.

During my previous trip to Sipadan, I thought of the good times he and I and the others had had there, and I thought to myself, I should call him up to see how’s he doing once I get back from offshore.

I never did.

Then this morning, I saw a Facebook message from Clement Lee asking me if it was true what he had heard: THAT CVA BLACKBEAR HAD PASSED AWAY LAST NIGHT.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then my phone rang. It was Amin. And soon it dawned upon me that Cva is truly gone, passed away in the ambulance on the way to the Serdang Hospital, accompanied by the love of his life, Helen.

For one whole day today, I felt devastated, wrecked. And after lunch today while lying down in bed, I finally cried when the fact finally sank in.

Gone is my brother Cva. No more Jamaican jokes, no more banters, no more taking the mickey out of each other.

And no more brotherly hugs.

I am going to miss you, my brother Cva Quma. You were among the kindest and honest people I have ever known. Rest in peace and enjoy diving in God’s beautiful ocean. God bless you for accepting me as your brother.

Rest In Peace - Cva Quma aka Blackbear
Jamaica will never be the same again – from Andrew Arokiaraj’s FB album
Cva Quma 22 May 1968 – 7 April 2011

I found this chat with him on Facebook two years ago:

#
Cva Quma dei bro!!! forgot all about this !!
30 April 2009 at 11:47 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon I never forget bro…had all my good brothers to dive with me. Good fun, good tanni, good pomble…eh, pomble irruka illaiya? Wah, I can speak Jamaican now!
30 April 2009 at 12:03 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma oonahku pomble irruku maan!! bro dates for december dive?
30 April 2009 at 19:35 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon December 16th we depart for TWU/Semporna…come back 20th December…venumma vendama?
30 April 2009 at 19:47 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma on bro!!! damage? flight schedule to book?
30 April 2009 at 19:49 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon
RM1070 if room (twin sharing), RM1030 if dorm. All with air-con, free wifi, English breakfast (goes well with Jamaicans)…but staying in Semporna la bro. 9 dives in total, with 3 dives at Sipadan. Sipadan permit fees included. Excluding fl…ight and meals only.

I haven’t booked any flight yet. I’ll let you know once booking has been done.See more
30 April 2009 at 19:53 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma AA 340.00 / Mas 336.00… yethu?
30 April 2009 at 19:56 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma bro it aint about where we staying…. its about diving with u… cheers
30 April 2009 at 19:59 · Like

The Alpha and The Omega

Pada suatu hari, ada seorang pakcik. Pakcik ni kerja berkebun. Tiap-tiap pagi, dia dengan anak dara dia akan bawak sayur-sayur ke pasar tani dan jual. Duit yang diorang dapat, diorang beli bahan untuk dapur, macam beras, kentang, bawang dan sebagainya. Duit baki pakcik ni akan serahkan kepada anak dara dia untuk disimpan.

Satu hari, lepas dah beli barang dapur, diorang pun berjalanlah balik ke rumah. Tak semena-mena ada 4 orang perompak yang bersenjatakan sepucuk shotgun dan kapak telah merompak mereka. Habis semua benda diorang ambik. Pakcik tu teramatlah sedih, lalu sambil menangis beliau berkata kepada anak dara beliau:

“Apalah nasib kita ni? Kenapa orang nak rompak orang miskin macam kita? Habis barang-barang dapur untuk mak kau masak dah tak ada. Duit kita pun tak ada.”

Anak dara pakcik ni pun pujuklah pakcik ni:

“Jangan risau, Pak. Duit kita ada lagi.”

Terkejut beruk pakcik tu, lantas bertanya:

“Kau simpan kat mana duit baki tadi?”

Anak dara pakcik tu pun membesarkan kangkangnya dan menyelukkan tangannya ke dalam cipapnya lalu mengeluarkan segenggam duit:

“Ni dia, Pak. Duit baki kita!”

Bila terlihat kesemua duit baki tadi terselamat, lagi kuatlah meraung pakcik kita ni tadi. Hairan anak dara pakcik tu melihat bapanya.

“Duit ada, Pak! Duit tak hilang! Kenapa bapak menangis lagi kuat?”

Sambil menghempas-hempaskan badannya ke atas tanah dan menumbuk-numbuk tanah sambil meraung, pakcik menjawab:

“Kalau aku tau aku bawak mak engkau! Boleh simpan guni beras sekali!”

And that makes me wonder where can that goddamned Omega wristwatch be…