Monday, March 26, 2007


Took a long hard look at myself in the mirror after shaving yesterday morning. I very rarely do this nowadays unless I cut myself or something, and I could see that I am beginning to look more and more like my late father. The only problem is that I am only going to hit sixty and he was more than a couple of decades older. I could also see now why I have such a good relationship with my nephews and nieces, who were very attached to their late grandfather.

I also find it amusing that people who blog, who open up their hearts and bare their souls, warts and all in cyberspace often are a bit coy about how they look. If pseudonyms are not enough, they post graphics, cartoons or baby pictures or something. Sheeesh. Talk about being transparent and all.


*What you see is what you get.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I am pushing sixty this year (although I don't quite feel sixty) and just as I thought I can begin to enjoy my semi retirement, I have been asked by a prominent government think-tank to embark on a study project for them, possibly also as a start of several more to follow. Although the promised remuneration is nothing to shout about, I am honoured that I have not been forgotten after all this time. This should at least give me some considerable personal gratification of having contributed and giving back to society and the industry which has enriched me, not financially, and gave some meaning to my life thus far.

Having been involved in similar projects in the past, I do feel quite apprehensive in the sense that the product of the last undertaking, a major joint effort in association with several local and international consultants, probably suffered as a result of bureaucratic Malays, or rather, malaise. The report is probably now lying forgotten and collecting dust in some senior civil servant's filing cabinet.

I do hope that it is going to be different this time. There are also other projects in the pipeline so I reckon I am going to be pretty busy in my second half century.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Raging Bulls

After more than forty years, my friend Nigel* who was my batch mate aboard the cadet training ship "Dufferin" in Bombay, e-mailed me the above photo of the both of us kids slugging it out during the ship's boxing finals in '64.

I didn't know of the existence of this photograph, nor did I know what hit me then. Nigel (on the right) was simply too fast for me and the referee (not in photo), who was also our physical training instructor (PTI) mercifully stopped the bout well into the second round. He awarded a technical knock-out (TKO) in Nigel's favour to prevent any serious damage and perhaps also to avoid creating an international incident or something.

Our burly PTI, an ex Indian Navy man, was also quite a character himself. I have always suspected that he had a soft spot for me for he was always on the lookout for yours truly. Whenever he catches me goofing off during our early morning mass physical exercises (PE) on the quarter deck, he would scream,"You Malayan mungoo! Go run 10 times around the main deck. On the double!"

Which should explain my odd penchant for running around in circles for the rest of my life.

* Capt Nigel Chaves now lives in Melbourne, Australia with his lovely wife Patricia and their three daughters. We are still keeping in touch regularly via our alumni website: , which we started some years ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Pilgrim

I had lunch with my old friend Ruslan Zainal in Port Klang yesterday. We have not met for quite some time and he has recently returned home from a Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ruslan is one of the colourful and interesting characters one can meet in a port. A lowly technician who can barely speak English, he was a fearless yet humble trade unionist who was for a long time the president of the port's powerful staff union and at the same time chairman of the national joint council of unions in the government statutory bodies. The funny thing about him is that he stutters or stammers badly and it is sometimes difficult to carry on a normal conversation with him, but the amazing part is that when you put him in front of a microphone before a large audience, his painful stutters will magically disappear!

As president of the port's senior officers' union, I had the good fortune of attending many international conferences, ITF congresses* etc., with Ruslan and the leaders of other unions in the local transport sector. Together we had fought the good fight to make sure our members did not lose anything during the many intense joint tripartite meetings and negotiations with the port management and the government leading to the privatization of the port in 1992.

Ruslan, well, Haji Ruslan has asked me to join him on a two-week umrah and ziarah package tour of the Holy Land with a 3-day stopover in Istanbul some time in May. I have been postponing my Haj pilgrimage for no valid reason all this while, so I may just join him this time.

* Above photo taken at the 1983 International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) Congress in Madrid, Spain. Ruslan is on my left while on my right is the late YB Dr. V. David of the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

(Ahem, nampak eden masih jambu lagi, kan kan kan ?)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Google Earth

Amazing thing this, technology.

Above satellite* photo downloaded from Google Earth shows the condominium where I live (blue roofed buildings with swimming pool on the left). The Kelana Jaya Park with the lakes in the foreground is where I go for my early morning chukker every day, except when it rains.

At the bottom is the Petaling Jaya Stadium, home of the Cobra** 10's - the world's premier International 10-a-side rugby football tournament. I saw the NZ All Blacks' legendary Jonah Lomu play here in the '98 Commonwealth Games.

* Which also means that Uncle Sam or anybody else with an ICBM has got me by the globules ...

** Combined Old Boys Rugby Association

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Politics, anyone?

This morning, as usual while out during my early morning brisk walk around the lakes of Kelana Jaya Park, I bumped into my fellow early bird the venerable Member of Parliament for Kepong who shared with me his definitions on what makes a good politician. We chatted while he religiously picks up and disposes the trash carelessly thrown around but not in the trash bins by children and fish poachers the day before.

I had asked him about his party's newest recruit, an active blogger and an Oxford graduate who was also the youngest CEO of a public listed company in Singapore. As a much respected politician and playing the quintessential diplomat, the Yang Berhormat spoke generally about the idealism of youth and also about doers and talkers. I had to agree with him since having been an ops man myself, I have always insisted on wanting to know more about solutions and not just problems, much to the chagrin of a lot of people at my workplace.

I have only contempt for politicians who will not practice what they preach and will only crawl out of the woodwork just before the general elections but will disappear soon after. Pseudo politicians who point fingers and hide behind pseudonyms while writing their blogs and the very idealistic young who seem to have all the answers to our problems. Who needs 'em?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Emma Maersk

My old friend and former Dufferin batchmate 'Fred' Kelkar* e-mailed me some photographs of the Emma Maersk recently. This 11000 TEU vessel, currently the largest container ship in the world, is a regular caller at our Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) in Johore where her owners have a minority stake.

I remember when third generation container vessels first made their appearance in Port Klang in the mid 70's, we pilots then still have to make do with whistles (yep, the same type used by football referees) to signal our orders and intentions to tug boats and wharfingers, using single letter Morse code. This was often followed by some frantic hand waving, jumping up and down and a lot of yelling and screaming. It took us some time to finally convince a very conservative management to buy us portable hand held radio transceivers or walkie talkies. These items are very common and much taken for granted these days that I believe even illegal pirated DVD peddlers in Petaling Street also now use them to warn each other of impending raids by the police!

I cannot imagine if pilots were still to use whistles when trying to berth or unberth vessels of above size.

* Capt. Subhash Kelkar is now an independent nautical surveyor in San Francisco, serving the Bay area.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able,
And on the seventh—holystone the decks and scrape the cable
- Richard Henry Dana

Do you still remember
Holystoning ancient decks and chipping away never ending rust
- Capt. Yusof Ahmad

Recently my friend Capt. Noor Apandi posted some photos of boats in his blog "Tampin Linggi "and remarked how he loved the wooden deck of one of the boats. The first thought that came to my mind was, well, perhaps not if you were the one who have to 'holystone' the damn thing every morning.

A holystone is a brick or a porous slab of sandstone used as an abrasive for keeping wooden decks snow-white. Every morning on board my pre-sea training ship Dufferin in Bombay many years ago, we junior cadets were made to go down on our knees in rows and scrub the wooden decks with holystones in a to and fro motion while the seniors (read: slave drivers) hose down with sea water and throw fistfuls of coarse sand on the deck and often into our eyes. We had to scrub until the sand become fine dust which is later hosed down again with fresh water. The decks are thereafter wiped, mopped and squeegeed until they shone. This really torturous and back breaking job was a real pain and became the bane of our existence throughout the entire junior year.