Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Foundation for all the Karims

Cure some time, relief often, comfort always - medical mantra

KARIM Sulaiman is one person who have friends and colleagues who rallied around him. Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad led the on-going efforts to seek relief and possibly a cure for Karim's ailment. Now on a six-months medical leave with full pay courtesy of his employer, Berita Harian, Karim is at home as he grapples with his sickness.

Today, Dec 21, an ambulance arranged by Dr Latif took Karim from his house in Sri Gombak to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for an appointment to meet the hospital's top dermatologist, Puan Sri Dr Soraya Tun Hussein. Karim, who had all this while been treated as a patient at a private hospital, will now receive further attention from a Government hospital.

I spoke to Hawa, his wife, and was told that HKL took note of Karim's medical history and ran a series of tests. Hawa, in thanking Dr Latif, Dr Soraya and HKL, said the whole family is grateful for all the help extended to Karim in his time of need.

In fact, Dr Latif is also arranging a medical bed to be sent to Karim's house to help him sleep and rest comfortably. At the moment, Hawa and/or the children will have to carry Karim each time he wants to sit up in bed. With a medical bed, this can be made easier as the bed is electrically-controlled.

News of Karim in the mainstream media has attracted considerable attention with several friends and VIPs visiting him at home. But door-to-door salesmen have also made a beeline to his house as they try to sell cure-alls to Karim. Hawa is not taken in by them this far.

Karim's plight is also a challenge to the country's medical fraternity. If a cure is to be found for Karim, then the medical brotherhood must get together and pool their resources to help the one-time Malaysia's best journalist of the year. It's the least the medical people can do, and I'm very sure that many of them are scouring the medical journals, surfing the Net, making phone calls and sending e mails to their counterparts all over the world to seek help.

Karim, ever the obliging and friendly person that he is, said he is offering himself as a test case for all the doctors. "Use me for your research," he said in a low voice.

Well, that's Karim for you. But what about the many others out there who are probably suffering and in pain as they try to cope with their ailments. For one Karim, there are perhaps tens, or even hundred others who are bed-ridden withering away without help or support for their plight.

Karim is a lucky person in a sense that he has friends who rally behind him. It's because he's a known person, and people take notice. He was an award winner, helped many people in the past, friends to plenty. While he did his job without hoping for any form of gratification, the least we can do for him is to ease his pain. Berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul (no matter how much we see him in pain, only he knows the agony he's going through).

But, as I said, what about the many other Karims in some nook and corner of the country? They are unknowns, have not won awards, and have no friends in high places. They could very well be suffering too, in silence and may have even abandoned any hope of relief and recovery.

We should form a Foundation for them, where we can pool all our resources and use them to alleviate their pain and sufferings. The Government is doing what it can, but we as citizens can also form an action group to provide the extra care and really lend a helping hand. Very often we react quickly but in an ad hoc manner to reports of individuals suffering from some serious illness or other.

We need to organise. When we do so, we can be more effective. We may not be able to search for cures all the time; but we certainly can help provide some relief and offer some comforts to our fellow Man as they lay hapless, alone and in despair.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let's lend Karim a helping hand Part 3

I'VE received the first donation of RM5,000 for ailing editor Karim Sulaiman. The donation came from Berita Publishing, the publisher for women's magazine JELITA.

Jelita, on the occassion of its 30th anniversary, held a dinner to mark the occasion at the Istana Hotel on Saturday night. The glittering function was graced by YBhg To' Puan Seri Wan Hibatul Hidayah Wan Ismail, who is the wife of YTM Yg DiPertua Majlis Penasihat Pemangku Raja Terengganu.

Many top models and personalities who had graced the magazine's cover over the last 30 years were also present and took part in a fashion show which added more glamour to the night. I was asked to pick up the mock cheque from YBhg To' Puan and will soon pass the actual cheque to Karim at his home in Seri Gombak.

The Senior General Manager of Berita Publishing, Puan Zaini Zainudin, said the magazine was touched when they read about Karim's predicament. Hence, the donation. She herself visited Karim on Sunday Dec 17.

I hope to receive more contributions from friends and help alleviate Karim's suffering. Fellow blogger Ahirudin Attan has also been highlighting Karim's plight and that's really good.

This morning, Karim and wife, Hawa, received yet another form of support. This time from the Deputy Minister of Health, Dato Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad. He dropped by Karim's house and spent an hour chatting with him and the family. Himself a medical doctor, the deputy minister wasted no time and contacted Hospital Kuala Lumpur for advice.

The Editor in Chief of Bernama, an old friend, Datuk Azman Ujang, was also present, along with a group of fellow journalists and photographers.

Dr Latif is now making arrangements for Karim to obtain second and/or third opinion regarding his ailment. He said that Karim is suffering from an extremely rare skin disease. In fact, several doctors whom Karim consulted in the past shook their head wondering what really ails him.

Could it be scleromyxoedema? Well, Dr Latif said it's better for the doctors who specialises in skin ailments to do a thorough investigation on Karim and let them do all the necessary tests rather than making a guess.

Karim, a winner of the country's top journalism award in 2000 when he served the Berita Harian, is also doing his own research on his sickness. Helped by his wife and children, Karim has been surfing the Net looking for any clue that could alleviate his suffering. In one instance, he found out that the health authorities in America has promised a reward for anyone who could find a cure to the disease.

Karim is on six-months leave with full pay till May next year, after which he will be on half month for six months. Thereafter, he will be receive Socso benefits only.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Let's lend Karim a helping hand Part 2

If you have the time, especially colleagues of ill and bed-ridden Karim Sulaiman, do drop in and and see what we can collectively do for him. Karim, one of the senior editors of Berita Harian, lies in bed at his home in Gombak trying to figure out what ails him.

Responding to my last posting on the lad, Dr Alias Mohamad, president of the Persatuan Bekas Wartawan Berita Harian, will be visiting Karim at 11am tomorrow (Dec 14, '06). Alias will be accompanied by several other friends who has come to know of Karim's plight.

Former Deputy Group Editor of Berita Harian, Mior Kamarul Baid, alerted me of this visit via SMS a short while ago. For those who wish to see how Karim is faring, his address is: No 18, Jalan SG6/6, Taman Sri Gombak 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor.

Karim have many friends when he was working for Berita Harian. In the course of his work as a journalist, he must have helped many people too. I'm sure those whom he has helped would like to know his current plight. I hope his friends who know of his ailment would spread the word to others who may not. Who knows, some good may come of it.

If all of us can rally round Karim, I'm sure we can ease his hardship. More than that, we can try to demystify his ailment. Karim's family and friends said medical doctors who treated him have been baffled by the ailment. Surely we can do better than that.

First, let's try to visit him. Let's rally around him and then pool our resources. As a servant of journalism, Karim deserves better treatment than just be allowed to while away his time in bed not knowing what ails him, not knowing why his weight has dropped from 60kg plus to only half of that.

To that end, I'm pledging a modest personal donation for Karim to help tide things over. I'll alert everyone of what is the next step in this direction. Salams!

Monday, December 11, 2006

let's lend Karim a helping hand

I'm calling friends and acquaintances to spare a few moments to think about a former colleagues, Karim Sulaiman, the Special Project Editor of the Berita Harian. Karim, a qualified Town Planner, but who became a joirnalist instead, is ill with a debilitating ailment.

He is at home and bed-ridden. He has seen the doctors several times but his condition has not improved. He has been ill for several years already.

He is, as I understand it, on a six-month medical leave. I'm not sure what will happen to him after the six month leave is over though it is not unusual for employees on such long ailments be medocally b oarded out.

He is so frail now. His weight has gone down from 68kg at one point to a mere 35kg now. Careerwise, he was once the Berita Harian's Bureau Chief in Johor before being posted to London as the newspaper's Correspondent there.

He is having trouble eating and he's also uinable to open his mouth wide to speak as well. I'm appealing for some help from friends, ex-colleagues and those who know Karim. I believe the National Press Club president, Ahirudin Attan, may be able to lend a hand.

Brother Rocky, any ideas? Salams

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Let's reach out to humanity

Sufi master and poet Jalaludin Rumihave these words as his epitaph: "When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men."

Perhaps, this should also be the epitaph for other good men. One of them could be Thomas, a friend and former collague, who came down from his high office in the vicinity of the Twin Towers to Brickfields for a bit of excitement and to help promote a worthy cause.

Thomas, assisted by members of his volunteer brigade and colleagues, were active supporters of a singing competition among visually-impaired participants. Titled juara Lagu 2006, a total of 12 singers representing seven states last Sunday belted songs made famous by local singers as far back as the '60s.

It doesn't take much to keep our fellow citizens happy. If there are more individuals like Thomas, the world will indeed be a happier place. The competition was held at the hall of the building where the Malaysian Association of the Blind have its headquarters. The hall was packed with spectators, some of whom had come to cheer and support their friends.

The singers were accompanied by a live band, also made up of visually-impaired musicians. I sneaked in, enticed by the sound of the lively beat from the group. The enthusiasm shown by the musicians and the singers was enough to keep everyone rocking.

DJ Dave and Freddie Fernandez, two well-known performers in their own right, were the senior judges in the competition. It is a credit to their good name for taking time off from their Sunday afternoon to join the small group of talented performers. Dave and Freddie proved that they were equally at home in a small hall as in a big studio full of flashing lights and television cameras.

The important thing to note is that one doesn't need big bucks to make people happy and feel wanted. What Thomas and his team did was to support the MAB in their ongoing effort to help the blind lead a meaningful life.

Let us not be oblivious to the sufferings of our fellow Man. Corporates have a role to play. With healthy bottom lines and rich bonuses for themselves, Chief Executive Officers, Chairman of the Board and senior members of the management team should take a leaf from Thomas, DJ Dave and Freddie by sacrificing a little of their precious time to be with the under-privileged.

It's not just enough to allocate budgets for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Many companies, to their credit, are doing that now. Besides spending the money, corporates must be seen to be delighted in spending these funds. When corporates are judged on their CSR, they better have programmes which are of real value to the target groups.

The success of such programmes also depend on who's running them. If the implementors
are slow, have small minds, lazy, not sincere, and do not have the passion, the CSR will be doomed. Only genuine people can run a CSR programme properly, and Thomas certainly gave me the impression that he really cares.

Let's give thomas, Dave and Freddie a big round of applause. Welldone lads!! I hope this Juara Lagu will be sustained for many more years to come.

PS Footnote: Anuar Ngatnan from KL won the first prize and walked away with a trophy, certificate and RM500 cash followed by Rosmaria Ahmad (trophy, cert and RM300) and
Ahmad bin Awang (tropjhy, cert and RM200).

Friday, December 1, 2006

Are we losing out to India?

I'M WRITING this from New Delhi, a city bustling with life. The streets are choked with three-wheelers and motorbikes competing with the ever-reliable Ambassador and Japanese models such as the Hondas and Toyotas. New Delhi is undergoing a transformation - in five or 10 years time, visitors will see yet another new city.

It is exciting and lively, full of history and tradition, existing side by side with an economy striving to feeds the country's millions. Today, a new economic landscape is fast emerging, one that is vibrant and thriving.

Perhaps, the best evidence of the transformation is the marked reduction of pollution. The three-wheelers, the autos as they are referred here, are the common man's cheapest and perhaps fastest form of city transportation. Running on two-stroke engines, they were easily the single biggest contribution to city smog.

But today, the two-wheelers are running on CNG! The Supreme Court ruled about two years ago that every autos must convert to CNG. And convert they did! Overnight, the pollution in the city was reduced. With several million autos now running on CNG, you can imagine how much impact this would have on the environment.

It was on my first night in New Delhi that I met a young Indian man, Manik, a deal-maker-entrepreneur who took some time to have coffee with me and my associate before he flies to London taking the 2am flight.

Manik perhaps typifies today's India's enterprising spirit. This young man, in his late 20s or early 30s, makes a quick flight to London and then catches another flight to cross the Atlantic to the United States. His core business is IT, and he has clients in many places.

He came to Malaysia about two years ago, but that experience wasn't a happy one. He entered into several agreements with Malaysian partners, left for home confident that the seed he sowed would grow into a big tree of abundant profits and a bright future.

Alas, it wasn't to be. His Malaysian partners went through a series of bad luck - one went bankrupt, one couldn't be traced, one owed him money but doesn't look like going to pay him back. Manik shrugged his shoulders and refused to allow that setback to slow him down.

Hence, Europe and the USA. He says the world is his profit centre; he wants and is already positioning himself as a world entrepreneur, operating in a seamless world pursuing opportunities and meeting new challenges. He insists he's on several learning curves simultaneously.

I met a few other ladies and gentlemen, each eager to venture into the big world and chart a new future elsewhere. Uprooting themselves and their families doesn't seem to bother them; adjusting to a foreign culture is considered a challenge that comes with new opportunities; and going global is a mantra they fully subscribe to.

I was compelled to compare them with Malaysians back home. Have we gone soft? Are we ill-equipped to go beyond our shores and look for fame and fortune? Are we too far deep in our comfort zone to rise to new challenges? Are we afraid? Or contented?

I looked at Manik. Puthu and Avy and can imagine their future. They are risk takers, but they are suitably armed as knowledge workers and entrepreneurs who dare to fail to succeed. Some years from now, the whole of India will be connected with super highways and it would be to everyone's peril if they do not cultivate this new, emerging economic power house.

My simple questions are - are we losing out to India? Are we ignoring India's potential as an important and strategic business partner? Have we lost it...?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Have we lost our edge?

LET me tell you a story about the Malaysian service industry. With the Visit Malaysia Year around the corner, and with business more competitive than ever, one would expect the operators of the industry to be more prepared than ever.

Alas, this is not so. At least not at the two outlets I visited recently.

One is a photo studio, quite well known and has been around for many years. It has branches all over the city and one can notice them quite clearly as one zooms past. I went there to ask for my photograph to be taken. I wanted them fast, real fast.

The counter girl said it takes 30 minutes for eight passport size prints, and cost RM15. I wasn't happy because it takes so long. I walked down the block of shops and spotted another photo studio. I asked for the same thing. I got what I wanted - 4 prints within five minutes at RM12.

After five minutes and after taking the prints, I went back to the first studio and told the counter girl that I got better service from the other shop. "Sorry lah, our policy on developing prints is 30 minutes. Our Boss won't allow us to print pictures for less than half an hour."

What kind of crap is that? I argued with her for a while. But it was getting nowhere and I could feel my BP going up. I left and made a mental note of not going back to that shop ever.

I then stopped at a car wash for just that purpose. I left the car and came back after about an hour. It happened again. The car was washed but some parts of the interior weren't properly vacuumed. I asked why and the attendant said: Sorry lah bang, lupa (Sorry Bro, I forgot).."

I murmured something about being unhappy with the service, The young man shot back: "Tak apa bang, kalau you tak suka tak payah bayar. Dan lain kali, tak payah datang sini lagi" Ayoyo, what an attitude! I took his advice and never sent my car to be washed there ever again.

At one international hotel in the city, the waiter have trouble smiling. He must have some personal problems, I thought. No doubt he brings the tea, take away your plates, bring a glass of water - but he left his smile at home.

My point is simple - some people will remain small, not improve and forever stay at the lower end of the food chain. These kind of people are everywhere. They don't care, have no passion for whatever they are doing, and is an embarassment to all of us.

There are exceptions of course. Plenty actually.

You must have come across similar situations, I'm sure. Do share them with me. As we go through everyday life, such unacceptable behaviour and service surface from time to time to provide us with a reality check on how much we're lagging behind other economies in the region.

Are we really losing the edge - that's all I'm asking!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Real people and real problems

With words of encouragement from seasoned bloggers and friends, I'm quite ready to continue my small mission. I want to thank everyone for their kind words, advice and suggestions.

Pahit Manis will be different from other bloggers. They are well ahead in the game and have amassed considerable following. Some might even point out that they've gained a degree of notoriety in the process!

I'm taking a different route. Pahit Manis is about the small man and woman, who goes through life seeking comforts while trying to make ends meet. It's about everyday life. About everyday struggle. About daily survival.

And about their hopes, that somewhere out there is a silver lining. We all know that many real people have neither the connections nor the power to change their situation at the press of a button or over teh tarik chats. Many of them are so distant from the power centres. Yet they plod on and on...

The Hassans, the Mohamads, the Tonys, the Oois and many others go through their daily routine deep in debts; pursued by their Ah Longs and other creditors. While they insist that their businesses are doing well, they struggle to pay salaries of their staff, maintain their lifestyle. They try to keep a cheery outlook, which is easier said than done.

Recently, over sliced roti bakar at Kluang Station at the Ikano shopping complex in Damansara, one of the strugglers, Bob, took one long sigh and narrated his predicament - no money to pay staff wages, none of his cars are on the road since there's no road tax and insurance, no bank want to extend any loan, and no friend who's prepared to offer a shoulder to lean on.

Another sruggler is ML, who's putting all his energy into agriculture. ML was an aviator who went through some bad times. But he's a survivor. ML sincerely believes that his future is in cattle rearing, fishing and some downstream agro-based ventures. He visited the big agriculture show (MAHA) in Serdang everyday since it opened, drawing inspiration and getting new ideas.

Bob and ML are just two of the supporting casts on the country's business stage. They are resilient chaps. They don't give up. While Bob may have to sell his company soon if no help is forthcoming, ML seems sure that he's going to hit the big time soon. Both pride themselves as being street-wise, but confessed that it takes more than this to survive in today's business environment.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you real stories about real people trying to deal with real problems. If we can all rub shoulders with some of these strugglers, I bet you that you'll encounter gems whose hearts are in the right place.

They are your everyday champions - dads who brave the morning rain on their kapcai (two-stroke motorbikes) to go to work; and mums who open their living rooms as day care centres to help dads keep food on the table, pay the house rent and give their children a monthly satay treat from the nearby pasar malam.

Depressing you say? Not meant to be actually. "Nations are born out of travail and suffering," said Gandhi. In the same context, the Bobs, the MLs, the Tonys and every other strugglers will see the light at the end of the tunnel, God willing. Their silver lining can't that be elusive..

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Salam Perkenalan..

Assalamualaikum and Salam Sejahtera! I'm starting my own blog, having seen how others have theirs. Mine won't be as exciting. I just want to record my thoughts, float some ideas and hope to do some learning in the process.

I'm reminded of Nelson Mandela's words when he wrote to his daughter, Zindzi, in September 1977: "Writing is a prestigious profession which puts one right into the centre of the world and, to remain on top, one has to work really hard, the aim being a good and original theme, simplicity in expression and the use of the irreplaeable word."

From Jalaludin Rumi, I found this: "You have a duty to perform. Do anything else, do any number of things, occupy your time fully, and yet, if you do not do this task, all your time will have been wasted."

But it is from our own Usman Awang (may Abang Usman rest in peace - Al-Fatihah) that I decided to return to writing, to add colour to an already vibrant landscape of web journalism. From his speech when receiving the South East Asia Write Award in Bangkok, 1982, Usman said:

"Maka itulah perlu para penulis memihak
kepada golongan serta gerakan yang ingin mengukuhkan
nilai-nilai kemanusiaan,
menegakkan perdamaian yang sejati,
dan memperjuangkan pembebasan serta keadilan
bagi bangsa dan negara yang tertindas..

tanpa visa
kemanusiaan rakyat
seluruh benua."

I pray I have the stamina, creativity, discipline and resourcefulness to maintain my blog! Thank you.

2340 hours
November 22, 2006.