We have no time to lose, and having no time we must scramble for our chances. We are too poor to be late - Tagore's gitanjali
TWO days into the new year and Bob is already restless. He had a bad 2006. In fact, that's an understatement, he told me over teh tarik and kueh kodok. The year ended with much anxiety for the father of three.
I asked him what kind of a year is 2007 going to be? Happy and prosperous, as the cliche greetings on cards and text messages? Violent and brutal as in the past few years? Sad and miserable? What is his focus this year?
Bob's comments: "I've come to the stage in my life that only one thing matters - my own survival. That's all there is. I've gone passed the stage believing what the political masters say and promise. I'm my own man now. The system is not helping me, not helping small businessmen like me. From now onwards, I'm going to do what I have to do to keep my family intact and to keep me alive, period."
Bob spent the last two weeks of '06 trying to raise funds to keep his small business afloat. For several years, he tried to raise loans from banks. They all turned him down, saying that he has been blacklisted for loan default in the past.
"Yes, I did defaulted. But wait bro, I paid every single sen I owed to these creditors. I have documents as proof. But alas, the banking system in this country just refused to acknowledge that, refused to help a man with good projects to make good. Once you're blacklisted, that's it.
"Where do I go for funds then, you may ask. Ah Longs lah! If you ask me, it is the banks with their don't-take-risk attitude that help Ah Longs prosper. I know that banks give out loans at preferred rates to people with connections. But me, and others like me, sorry lah..they have no time for the small man.
"And if you ask me, is the Government doing anything? Sorry lah bro! Government is good at offering lip service only. Those lip service is not helping me when I was chased by the Ah Longs! I had to deal with it head on, and I'm very lucky to be around still," Bob poured his heart out.
Bob showed me documents to show that he has paid his debts to creditors who were responsible for him to be blacklisted. Maybe, there were weaknesses in his management team. I know he had some cash flow problems but i didn't realise the extent of his problems until he received threats to his life. He got out in the nick of time, enough for him to spend Hari Raya Haji with his family in peace.
The problem was so bad that he had to hide his family for several days. But friends rallied around him and he survived to tell the story.
Which raise this question - how are we reacting to challenges the new year brings? Will we be indifferent, or will we make a difference? Will be withdraw into our own cocoon or will we be more involved in the nation's growing process?
For instance, news of the worst-ever floods in Johor which saw more than 70,000 evacuated resulted in a rally between Government, corporates and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It is a good feeling to see corporates, politicians and volunteers rallying to help, even though some of them did that more for the television crew and press photographers.
On the international stage, we were "treated" to made-for-tv execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Done on the eve of Hari Raya Haji, it didn't endear the executioners to Muslims all over the world. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have some hard comments on this, if you see today's newspapers.
Some commentators angrily asked when will the perpetrators of the ethnic-cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina be made to go through the same justice system as Saddam. The world was promised much. But nothing much has really been delivered. Sounds familiar, Bob said cynically.
Looking deeper, Bob may be right after all. In the final analysis, it's every man on his own. Bob is going to make his own luck from now onwards..