Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm a Scholar...

Get Me Out of Here!

Scholarships. Where one applies for financial support for one’s education and which usually comes with some sort of a compulsory service bond after successful completion of studies. Once the scholarship is granted, you spend the next 3 to 5 years studying (mostly) ((alrite, when you have the time)).


I once had the privilege of being in the company of some brilliant scholars from various organisations who wanted my legal advice on a matter very dear to (their) heart. The idea was to present to the powers that be that brilliant scholars should not be bound by compulsory service bonds, because the organisations that gave them the scholarships are not in a position to give them jobs that make the best use of their intelligence and capabilities.

Nicely put, but…

“Wasn’t it clear when we signed the scholarship agreement that we would have to serve a bond?”

“Well, we were young then, not yet even 18, and didn’t know that we were signing our lives away.”


“If you want to leave, just repay the amount spent on you, it’s quite easy really.”

“It’s a lot of money; they should let us go and consider it national service.”

Haha! Of course! Getting much sought after scholarships then being let off from the service bond so that one can make much more money elsewhere is national service.

Admittedly, there is a lot left to be desired on how the various organisations make use of these bright talents. But this is certainly not the solution - seeking to run away playing victim is quite pathetic actually. Quite likely they will continue to use the same solution for the rest of their lives when faced with similar situations.


Many high school graduates are now going through some form of scholarship application process, with assessments and interviews to face. At the end of it all, and I’m talking about 4 to 5 years down the road, remember your obligations. If for any reason you don’t want to serve your compulsory service bond, make sure you pay back the scholarship amount. There’s no shame in breaking your bond if you intend to pay it off. If you don’t want to be tied down to any organisation and don’t see yourself paying back the amount spent on you, then don’t take that scholarship which comes with a bond, please.

On the other hand, not getting a scholarship is difficult to accept especially when you feel you fully deserve it. It’s tough, and it takes a big person to accept it, and move on. But there seems to be a certain trend emerging, going somewhat like this:

You feel you deserve a scholarship and you get it – therefore the system works and you laud it.

You feel you deserve a scholarship and you don’t get it – therefore the system doesn’t work and you attack it.

I know I am generalising, but it is a dangerous mindset. I’ll tell you why, using a different setting but conveying the message nevertheless.

I came across once in a business context someone who said that I should do all I can to help his company secure a contract to “help the community”.

Most organisations are in business to make money. If I were to have my own business, that would be my aim as well. I was piqued to ask how is it that helping his company secure that contract translated to helping the community, as the profits would only accrue to his company and eventually line his pockets. The community may need ‘help’, but you are certainly not the conduit. I got an earful from the titled gentleman when I told him I couldn’t do anything to help his outfit.

I have seen many who did not get the scholarship they feel they deserved, or were not successful in getting contracts that some would argue they should get to ‘help’, eventually thrive in whatever it is they do. They are able to go beyond the entitlement mentality – because whether it’s securing a scholarship or making profits, how we go about doing it is a measure of the people we are.

Friday, April 22, 2011


About a year ago, I heard some screaming and shouting from outside my office window. Being on the 17th floor… it got me to look down.

All the way down, I could see it – it was sports day at the school across the road, and the kids were doing the tug-of-war. It seemed like an entire class was battling another…


When it comes to sports where I work, there are numerous games that pit the different business units against each other. Last year, I thought I’d do the easiest event, so that I can finally say I did a sport in the years here. I picked the tug-of-war – well known to be a 'sukan rakyat' or community sport.

The first day of training was intriguing. I was one of the first on the field, and there were four other unfamiliar guys there. They turned out to be military personnel who were to be our trainers, with the sergeant sporting the thick moustache being the head coach.

Training by the military...?

Day two, we had six men, and we had to pull against a tree. We lasted approximately 20 seconds against the tree before we ‘lost’ – one by one we started falling because we couldn’t keep up with a freaking tree that didn’t move! Possibly we were spent because we had to carry the tug-of-war rope that in itself was so heavy it needed three of us to carry it. Sergeant said we needed to move the tree to have any hope of winning...

We had many challenges. It was difficult to get 10 people who actually wanted to be part of the team. It was difficult to get all down to train and it’s no wonder when one drop of rain hitting our window at the office would set off a train of “It’s raining, no training today!”

Because we were quite hopeless at getting together to train, we decided that we’ll work on technique. We were told by sergeant that if we got our technique, and tactics, rights, it don’t matter how big our opponents were – we’d rumble them.

Come competition day, we definitely stood out. We had no uniform, no waist support belts… and we actually looked puny compared to some of the other teams…

Nevertheless, we heaved to wins in our group fixtures, and qualified for the semis. Here our opponents had necks the size of our thighs, and had the looks (think Kamawas in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa). They were heavier, and so we could only win if we applied our tactics better than them.

Evenly matched, it was a long bout (we had come a long way from the day we lasted 20 seconds against the tree) but we eventually won 2-0 to qualify for the final.

At the final, we were up against the biggest guys. Since we had cut down a team bigger than us already, we were quietly confident that we could cause an upset. Physically they win hands down; but this was going to be about technique and tactic and we were going to use our brains. We’ll need to bring them to a third pull and therefore we needed to tire them out in the first two pulls.

In the best of three bout, the first tug was surprisingly not too exerting for us. We held on staunchly for a bit, before they pulled us over once they got some momentum going.

Never mind. They surely won’t be able to last. We need to stick to our tactics. Hold like crazy, and then hit them on the counter.

At the second pull, our tactics worked – for about 20 seconds before they annihilated us…


Last year, in that school across the road, the class with the bulkier kids prevailed in the end…

The lesson?

Size does matter…!

This weekend is the tournament for 2011. We have been training, sort of. The tree won within 30 seconds of our first battle against it, and training over the past three days was cancelled because of the rain.

However, we’ve learnt our lessons. The boys are bulkier this time. Let’s see if those strategic calories we collectively gathered can be put to some good use... :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

There is no love sincerer…

than the love of food ~ George Bernard Shaw

If there’s one thing I love about my job, is that it’s capable of throwing up stuff that’s totally unexpected. At times, I have to do things I never imagined I would be paid to do. The adventure, the uncertainty, the adrenaline rush – you simply can’t make it up.

Therefore, when the invite came:

“Can you join the food tasting next Monday?”

My answer was, “Of course!”

You see, we needed a panel of experts to, well, taste the food that was proposed to be served at an event. A table of 10, and I was roped in.

On said day, I was delayed to arrive and the appetizer and soup had been served and the food tasting panel was into the main course.

As I quickly sampled through the appetizer and soup, I didn’t pay attention to the conversation swirling around at that moment.

After I finished the main course of fish and chicken and having caught up with the rest course-wise, I was asked how it was.

“The fish was ok, the chicken was… how shall I say it… leathery.”

There was a stunned silence around the table.

“You probably meant the chicken was gamey?” offered a colleague.

Gamey? Is that a proper adjective for food?

“Yea, gamey…”

“And the fish was bad! All of us, all of us, thought so!”

I looked at the plates around the table. Everyone had fish leftover, a couple had it nearly untouched. I looked at my plate. It was wiped clean.

“Oh… yea, it tasted a bit funny I thought…”

I looked at the form we had to fill up. For each dish we had to comment on taste, texture, look, amongst others. This was more difficult than my corporate finance paper darn it!

Needless to say, I was sacked from the food-tasting committee soon thereafter, having represented my dorm house on the food committee in my college days notwithstanding :-(


A number of months later, when a few people unavoidably dropped out of a food-tasting panel for another function, I was hesitantly roped in to make up the numbers.

The pressure to perform was immense.

Butterflies in my stomach did not help, but a good start always does: “The wantan’s too big; I think it would perhaps be more appropriate for it to be smaller in order for the diner to be able to put the whole piece into the mouth without having to bite a chunk of it and thereafter let the remainder fall into bowl or be engaged in the cutting of the wantan in the bowl of soup”.

Then came the moment of truth, the main course and they looked at me for comment.

“The vegetables look… tired.”

A brief moment of silence.

“Yes I agree! Chef, boiling them doesn’t work, sauté them perhaps,” chirps in a colleague.

In the annals of my comebacks, this ranks at the top of my list, baby!

I sincerely love food, George.


I was told by a food connoisseur that when it comes to food, smell and colour come first before taste. Yes, even with food, love at first sight applies. The first two can and usually do determine your appetite. Good taste may not matter if the smell and colour let the dish down.

Wait, that applies to humans too!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh God let me win…

but if I don’t win, let me make the other guy break the Olympic record.

I have a little book in which I write down intriguing quotes I come across. I read something today that I knew instantly should go into that little book.

I’ve been filling up the book for 12 years now, and I have a good collection of quotes in there. Many of the more inspiring and amusing ones come from the world of or related to sports.

I’m sure you’ll agree from the following…


“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
Mohammad Ali

“I was full of expectations for every single member of the team. Some of them lived up to those expectations, and the others exceeded them.”
Sam Torrence on winning the Golf Writers Trophy for 2002 for Europe’s 15 ½ - 12 ½ triumph over America in the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in September

“To use the old adage, the 31 year old looked capable of starting a fight in an empty room.”
A comment on Roy Keane

“What you achieve in life, echoes in eternity.”
Liverpool banner at the Cardiff Stadium during the Worthington Cup Final on 2 March 2003 where Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0

“The difference between dreams and accomplishments is purely desire.”
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)

“Twenty years ago or so, I was walking through Harvard Square in Cambridge Massachusetts, and I walked past a huge poster in a window. The poster looked like a scene from Chariots of Fire, there was a chap in a 20s or 30s running costume, breasting a tape and across the top it had a very American motto. It said ‘Oh God let me win.’ I sympathise. And across the bottom, it said ‘but if I don’t win, let me make the other guy break the Olympic record’.

He did that, didn’t he?”
David Davis, in his speech after losing the election to be Conservative Party leader to David Cameron, December 2005

“I never predict anything, and I never will.”
Paul Gascoigne

“A man who someday no doubt will orchestrate a hostile takeover of hell once he gets there.”
Jim Ross, WWE Announcer, on Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman, at Summer Slam 2006

“That day in March 1996 when you married her in this church, you won the greatest trophy of your life.”
Rev. Jim Frazer to Darren Clarke, European Ryder Cup player, who lost his wife to cancer in August 2006

“If I wanted to have an easy job I would have stayed at FC Porto – beautiful blue chair, the UEFA Champions League trophy, God, and after God, me.”
Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager

“There’s never been a guy who has more fight in his heart and grit in his soul, he wears scars like badges of honour, he smells like smoke ‘cause he’s been through fire and dammit this is where he’s home and that’s in battle.”
John Bradshaw Layfield on the Undertaker (before his match against Batista) at Wrestlemania 23

“Any Champions League semi-final defeat is a killer but to lose in a penalty shootout is death by a thousand cuts.”
The Sun, after Liverpool beat Chelsea 4-1 on penalties on 1 May 2007 (the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate)

“I want to at least be in a position where I’m able to win.”
Michael Schumacher

“We used to try and prove people wrong – but now we’re proving them right.”
Alex McLeish, Scotland coach, after Scotland beat Ukraine 3-1 at Hampden Park in a Euro 2008 qualifier on 13 October 2007

“I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business but I was in the top one.”
Brian Clough, Football Manager (1935-2004) – my personal favourite!

“Occasionally, the train goes past and you must catch it because it will never come back, and that’s true even when it is passing at an inopportune moment.”
Juande Ramos, quoting an old saying, on the night he quit as Sevilla manager for Tottenham Hotspur

“I’m the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.”
Bret Hart of the WWE

“I was the equivalent of the first man on the Moon. He’s the equivalent of the first on Mars.”
Mark Spitz, winner of 7 gold medals at the 1992 Munich Olympics, on Michael Phelps’ 8 gold medals at Beijing 2008

"He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years so it's time we carried him on our shoulders."
India batsman Virat Kohli summing up the feelings of a grateful nation, when they hoisted Sachin Tendulkar on to their shoulders and carried him around for a lap of honour at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai after India beat Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final