Some years ago..

Love is a funny thing. It makes people laugh, cry, happy, hurt. When two people share and love each other, they hope to die loving. In that, love can be dangerous.

My maternal grandfather passed away when I was preparing for my North Pole expedition back in 1998. My grandmother was totally devastated. Imagine spending the last three decades alone together, with the kids all away, building their own families. She was healthy. Then three months after the former’s passing, my grandmother fell ill and was diagnosed with colon cancer. I saw her…wasting away. The night before she passed, I held her hand. She smiled and told me that she could see my grandfather standing in front of her, smiling at her.

How she must have pined for him.

Then five years ago, my late friend, Siva, and I were with a recently-qualified freefall student, in a Cessna 172K, 8,000 feet above sea level at Mersing. Earlier that day, this former student from Australia had done something weird..out of the normal, like asking the drop zone manager to keep his belongings under lock etc., etc. So above the drop zone, he jumped, followed by late Siva, then I. This former student was supposed to deploy his main chute at 4,000 feet. He did not. Siva and I continued to watch him as we had 20 seconds before impacting the ground if we did not open our chutes. At 3,000 feet (15 seconds to impact), Siva hurriedly deployed his chute. This former student and I were still freefalling. I signaled for him to open his chute. He nodded but remained still. At 1,500 feet (7 seconds to impact), I opened my chute, and saw this former student zoom past me. To my relief, the CYPRESS automatic opening device activated and deployed his reseve chute at 700 feet (3 seconds from impact) above sea level. He landed safely at sea.

I learnt later that his wife was terminally ill with cancer in Australia, and he did not wish to live longer than necessary.

Love is beautiful….and dangerous.

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon

Babak A. Tafreshi

I received an SMS from my father at 5.34am today telling me to look at the heavens and see Jupiter and Venus so close together. The last time he told me to look at the stars was 31 years ago as I sat on his lap, just before he became the “property of the Government of Malaysia as the Inspector-General of Police.

I saw this phenomenon last Sunday, and pointed the planets out to my 3 year-old son. I never realised the two heavenly bodies have come closer to each other since then. If you look out there, Venus is the brighter than the other. If you look to the left of Jupiter, you’d be able to see Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. However, it is being outclassed by the two planets for now.

After last night, the two planets are now traveling apart. However, come September 6th, the slender crescent moon will join these two in making your sunset spellbinding.

I hope the new hotspots the Department of Environment spotted both in Malaysia and Indonesia will not spoil this show.

$70 A Barrel

It’s time for the government to review its petrol-subsidy policy. Instead of the government forking out money to help the rakyat, the oil companies should do this out of their fat coffers.

I love you, Malaysia

Hmm…hate to bring your celebration spirits down. Malaysia will only be 42 years old next month. Tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the 48th anniversary of the independence of Malaya.

I’ll spend this day thinking of my friends, my squadmates, who are still patrolling the skies: Gabriel Buja Joel (my squadmate, ex-air force helicopter pilot, rescuer of British SAS at Mt Kinabalu, Hornbill Skyways pilot who died in a crash in Sarawak last year), Lt Hamir Fizar (my squadmate, died in PC-7 crash during a Light Attack Squadron exercise in the east coast in 1990), LtM Thulasiram a/l Subramaniam (my squadmate, very good friend of mine, died in the first fatal PC-7 crash in September 1989), Mohd Jamil Abdul Aziz (my squadmate, ex-air force transport pilot, passed away early this year while in employment with Air Asia), Sjn Ali Ahmad a.k.a Ali Boon (he helped me a lot in my preparation for the North Pole expedition, died in 2000, trying to help his student in distress while freefalling at Terendak/Sg Udang camp), Mej Kamarul (my former instructor who died in an Augusta helicopter crash on 31st December 1993), Mej Kamaruddin (my neighbour at the Officers Quarters in Alor Setar..I rescued him in a plane crash in 1994..he died in another plane crash with his student in 1995), and Mej Tan Boon Eap (cool guy, good pilot, devout Buddhist…died of lung cancer in 1996).

Of course we shouldn’t also forget the 6,000 over policemen, military personnel and civilians murdered by the communists during the first emergency (1948-1960)…and those murdered by them after that right up till 1989.

We shouldn’t also forget the unsung heroes of the Malaysian Security Forces..the ones who died in Somalia, Bosnia Herzegovina; and former members of the Home Guards and the Special Constabulary.

Remember, being free now does not mean being free forever. Always remember history, learn its lessons, and be prepared.

SELAMAT MENGHAYATI ERTI KEMERDEKAAN (Happy digesting the meaning of Independence).

Here at Alamanda

Here I am at the Starbucks Coffee at Alamanda, Putrajaya, just after a meeting at the Ministry. And this is the first time I am using my TMNet Hotspot account (the other being Airzed which I use a lot).

If anyone watched NatGeo last night, I think it was called Primal Fear or something, about these two guys who swam with the Great White Sharks, that was interesting. It shows how such a “beast” can interact well with human beings.

Let it be known that about 100 million sharks end up at the bottom of the sea without fins, to die of drowning, because some people want to make US$240 million a year. Great Hammerheads, Whale Sharks, Great Whites, are among the sharks already on the endangered species list.

Without them, the marine environmental equilibrium will be greatly affected…and when they’re gone, we won’t have any fish left.

Think.

Weekends

This is sooooo boring. Some people are away over on the east coast doing long weekend dives. And I am stuck here in the Klang Valley breathing lead….and Indonesian firewood. 12 days to hit the water.

A very slow day indeed…

About five minutes ago, my colleague, Muaazam, asked me if I would like to have early lunch with him. I said it’s only 11.40am..but if he insists, then we’d go down and come back at 2.00pm. How productive. I’ve been yawning non-stop…my mind working overtime thinking of certain strategies for the company (yeah, right!).

I hope I can get away from going with the Ministry’s Sec Gen to Langkawi on 10th and 11th September. Why?? I wanna go to Tioman for some diving. I feel trapped on dry land, slowly turning into one of Darwin’s apes. I need to breathe compressed air underwater.

October, just before fasting month begins, I hope to dive the Repulse. For you non-history buffs, or for those whom have forgotten history, Repulse was a British battlecruiser that, along with the battleship Prince of Wales, were sunk by Japanese bombers in December of 1941. The Repulse now lies on its portside, 57 meters underwater, 47-48 nautical miles northeast of Tioman.

I’m gonna have to carry twin tanks for this dive.

Don’t stop me!

She’s vegetarian except when it comes to sex..

..and I’m strictly ad lib except when I consult the text.

Now that I have your attention, let me just tell you what a wonderful day it has been so far. I spent one and a quarter bloody hour trying to get to work today. I am so jacked up I cannot even begin to think about starting work. Either it’s time I get a bicycle, or it is time I hit the water again.

Talking about water, I went searching for more equipment yesterday…yes, dive equipment. I even bought the wheel to complement my Recreational Dive Table. A friend SMSed me asking why do I need a “wheel” since I already have a Personal Dive Computer, which I can use to plan my multilevel dives. I don’t know. I believe in traditional old school methods, and I normally use my PDC just to monitor my desaturation time, no-fly time, my tissue loading etc etc, since I love diving deep, and almost always busting my no-decompression dive period. Old habits die hard, I suppose. I used to be reckless skydiving, now I’m reckless scuba diving. Calculated, that is.

Today, an acquaintance at the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission mailed some photos taken during the James Bond-themed farewell dinner for the 11th ASEAN Telecommunication Regulators’ Council Meeting held at the Grand Plaza Park Royal in Batu Ferringhi, Penang last Thursday evening. Since I have some of my own taken that night, I shall post them in the Gallery section. So sorry for the “red eyes.” Forgot to cancel that out using the camera’s features.