I, Fisherman

It’s a typical weekday morning. The kids are at school (at least, I hope they are) and wifey is minding her tiny handicraft shop tucked somewhere in a little corner of Bandar Hilir. I’m all alone at home; alone, that is, except for Puteh. She is stretched out, napping on my son’s study table, a little more than contented after half a tin of Whiskas and maybe a centipede or two for dessert.

I can make out strains of Uji Rashid, M Daud Kilau and Sanisah Huri coming from the neighbouring houses. The tunes seem to colour the moment with the sweet sepia tones of an old photograph and I fight the urge to have a flashback moment to the times when I used to wear bell-bottoms and platform shoes. The only reminder that I am in this present decade is the laptop whirring away on my table.

Amazingly I’ve done more work this morning than I would have achieved in a full day when I used to live in the city. My training reports are completed and have been emailed to whoever it is who needs them. On top of this, I’ve also finished two proposals that will not be due till next week. All that’s left to do now is to make cold calls to maybe twenty prospective clients and then hang on the line with a few existing ones. Other than that, I’m as good as done for the day.

Almost like an explosion, I hear the painful sound of a mobile phone ringing. If toothaches had a sound, I am pretty sure this is what they would sound like. Much to my relief I discover it’s not mine; it’s coming from a phone next door. I hear the sound of small feet scampering for the phone. It rings a few more times before a very young voice speaks loudly into it saying, “Hello! Mak kita tengah berak!”

It’s time to take a break.

A brisk walk finds me in a wooden coffee-shop, the one I always pass by but have never had the occasion to visit. But now I’m here. I smile at the proprietor and order a kopi tarik. It arrives even before I can finish my Winston. I take a sip and wonder what the fuss with Starbucks is all about. Serve the very same coffee I am enjoying right now in any Starbucks and give it an Italian sounding name, I am certain that it will be a hit. I light another Winston and ponder the wonders marketing.

Before long, a Pak Cik in his seventies wearing a white skull-cap greets me with an ‘Assalamualaikum’. I reply and invite him to join me. We start talking. When he asks me where I live, I point to the direction of where my house is – the jetty.

“Ah, a fisherman!” he exclaims.

Before I can explain, he continues. “It’s a good job being a fisherman, you know. Good honest work. Going to sea makes a man strong – just look at you”

I figure that explaining to the Pak Cik that I train the corporate and government sector in mind mapping technique, communication skills and management theory is not going to be easy. So I humbly reply, “Fishing has its up and downs, sir… ”

He puta a hand on my shoulder, nods knowingly and offers, “Don’t be discouraged, son. So does every other job.”

He bids farewell and walks away. Before I can stop him, he pays for our kopi tariks and curry puffs. I thank him. Once again he reminds me that there is no shame in being a fisherman. In a way, I guess he is right. I am a not unlike a fisherman. But instead of  fish, I cast my net for training gigs.

I take a leisurely walk home and make all the calls I need to make. For me, now, this is just another day at the office.


25 thoughts on “I, Fisherman

  1. Another idyllic day. How I envy you. Enjoy!


    Do try it out ma’am – for maybe a week or two. You’ll find a way, ma’am.

  2. Laaa i’m so out of it!! you’re in umbai now huh.. good for you 🙂 i’ve always wanted to get out of the city & live some place where the pace is a tad slower, the air fresher but… truth is, i guess i’m just too chicken to face the ‘unknown’.

    Hope it’s going to be one of your best ‘chapters’ yet .. and take care will ya!! 😀


    Thing is, when we grab the unknown by the scuff of the neck, look it in the eye and tell it who’s boss, it becomes less scary.

    I intend to make this a good chapter, ma’am. Thanks.

  3. Mamak, seems like you have gentrified Umbai and you put Umbai in the world’s map.Spot on way to go.
    Sell beb sell.

    Pak Tuo

    Hardly, sir! The last thing we want to do is gentrify Umbai. What will happen to its rustic charm if we did?

    However, I see Umbai doing for professionals nearing burnout what Kuala Kubu did for aspiring writers.

  4. Easy on the Starbucks issue, sir *tapping fingers on the table*


    Sorry, ma’am. I shall, with immediate effect, make amends:

    Starsucks is a good coffee shop!
    Starsucks is a good coffee shop!
    Starsucks is a good coffee shop!

  5. “I light another Winston and ponder the wonders marketing”. (sic)

    Hehehe Matt, how much is R.J Reynolds paying u for this subliminal ad. Ya u can oso add a casual ride on your Camel, in the cool Salem morning breeze of Umbai 🙂

    Seriously Matt, this lifestyle will do u good; live longer with less stress!!!



    You reckon RJ Reynolds will pay me for this? Yippee!

    (Mr Reynolds, if you are listening-in, please makes cheques out to the joint account under the name of ‘Mat Bangkai and Tommy Yewfigure ‘)

  6. am officially jealous of your life!

    p.s. caramel macchiato sedap worrrr!


    And I officially confess I don’t know how to pronounce macchiato 🙂

    This is why I don’t know how good it tastes: never been able to order it and too shy to just point at the pretty picture… 🙂

  7. ..every once awhile we have guys like that..more on presumptions than observations..and sometimes we are just as guilty..so it matters not just the company you keep, but also the locations you are seen at..for no mind mapper should be seen on a jetty..as a fisherman in Starbucks…but as he said, every thing has its ups and downs..and I still think you should go easy on the Winston..were you wearing a sarong when he chatted you up??..cheers..

    Pak Mat

    This time it was a fisherman. The time before that, when I said I lived near the jetty, someone thought I was the new pump-house operator. I am getting to enjoy this. This sure beats the time when I was in KL: people kept reminding me I was a bum.

  8. Well that’s not too bad a fisherman.
    The neighbour’s maid from the house behind thinks I am another maid when I hang out clothes in the backyard to dry.
    She went ” Pssst.. psst.. kamu kapan sampai? Agency mana si?”
    To which I said ” I Filipino.. my MA’RM not at home. Cannot talk to strangers”

    Then turned my ‘jawa tok tok’ face back to the washing machine, stifling a giggle while the poor maid was trying to figure out what I meant.

    So ya, fishermen is good. No agency and you can talk to anyone without going pssst.. psst


    Yes, ma’am. Fisherman is good. I think I’ll suck at it. But fisherman is good – as compared to the other things I’ve been called.

    In my younger days, when I rode the bus, people would give me money thinking I was the conductor. And I am especially cautious at eateries. There will be one or two people who will stop me as I walk by and demand, “Pak Cik! Tolong kasi kira!”

    No ma’am. I am under no delusion that I’ll ever grace the cover of glossy magazines…

  9. Bro

    It’s been a while since I dropped a note. This post of yours was so vivid that I could visualise it. I just wanted to record this emotion *envy*


    Its good to hear from you again, sir. And as always, the pleasure is all mine.

    Heard you’ve been unwell. Hope you’re well back on the road to health. Keep well, my friend

  10. Mat-san,

    Starbucks; Winstons…a crash course in branding 101?He!He!

    But, seriously,the camarederie amongst simple village folks is something we city dwellers will never be able to replicate.Kiasu syndrome creeping in? I honestly don`t know.

    Just yesterday, not too far out of the city, I was a bit early for an appointment to meet up with someone.Spotted a humble pondok nearby which looked unmistakably like a warong teh tarik of sorts.So, I pulled over, brought my newspaper down to read from the car, and ordered a teh-o(gotta avoid that fattening teh tarik at this age, you know).Soon enough, 3-middle aged folks came by, gave me the “Assalamulaikum! ” with a smile, sat beside and in front of me, started a conversation and there I was, chatting away with folks I didn`t know from Adam just moments before that.A simple episode, probably nothing to them, but left me with a big impact.A longing for something sorely missing in my life for such a long time.

    Know what, Mat-san.That`s what we miss over here, in KAYY ELL.Everyone here are jealously guarding their own turf, and there is too much mistrust and suspicion in the air.

    Can`t even smile to that proverbial neighbour`s wife, He!He!

    Well, for everything that is good, there is always a trade-off.And so they say.How true!(Sigh!)



    I guess there are trade-off wherever we are. Its all about deciding which concessions we are prepared to make. Some folks may feel that the trade-offs city life demands may be too high. Likewise some may feel that the concessions they have to make for a country life is simply not worth it.

    My friend, I think in the end its not which lifestyle is better: its about which concessions we are willing to make

  11. do you have 2Mbps connection there? i am seriously thinking of moving to a middle of a rubber estate plantation somewhere.


    In these parts a 2Mbps connection is a wet dream, ma’am.

  12. Salaam Mr MB
    A tiny handicraft shop tucked somewhere in a little corner of Bandar Hilir? Mmm…perhaps i’ll drop by on my next trip there. (where exactly?). Oh ya, don’t you worry about me walking up & saying hello to your wifey, i’ll bring along mine…ha ha

  13. Mat B,

    If you must overhear a child speaking to telephone , you know what people will hear through kampung house bedroom walls in the dead of night!…

    Wouldn’t this crimp your style?..(I mean should I stop snoring in my sleep.)

    Red Alfa

    Hence, ever since the incident, I am very cautious about breaking wind.

  14. mat, i just adore this: “It rings a few more times before a avery young voice speaks loudly into it saying, “Hello! Mak kita tengah berak!”

    that fusion (or should i say collision) of our 21stC sophisticated communication gizmo with melakanese communication at its unadorn rustic best to report an event as ancient as life itself is brilliant. not to mention, hilariously charming! 😀


    Aye, ma’am! The innocence of children catches us off guard sometimes.

  15. “..Going to sea makes a man strong – just look at you”

    Mat, you are not putting words into this guy’s mouth , are you? *ROTFL*


    No, ma’am. I don’t think any body-building magazine will be featuring me any time soon. But I do appear quite fit for someone who looks 65 when he is actually 47 🙂

  16. mak kita tengah berak? HAR HAR HAR….. Ameer recently answered, “sorry she can’t talk now, Ibu Ameer tgh bagi baby minum susu”. Luckily he stopped at just that, no further description. phew….

    p/s 1: When I ‘wander’ around in rawang town, I often get mistaken as a cikgu – especially when I wear baju kurung. I will respond, sikit lebih kurang cikgu la… I take it as a compliment. Sbb typically cikgu kan muka baik2 and ayu2 belaka? HAHAHA…perasan.

    p/s 2: can you email me some of your training programmes pls? Many thanks.

  17. A fisherman. We are that at some point in our life. We fish in pursuit of what is elusive but attainable.
    You are happy (happy wife=happy husband=clearer frame of mind, yes?) and appear to be settling well. Do you have any plans to write a book?
    You have a way with words, Mr B. I like your wit and I think you have that in abundance, engaging too. You are also friendly. I like that you cared enough to respond to comments posted on your blog. Not many guys are like that… (nay, I am not putting you on a pedestal or anything like that)


    Yes, I do plan to write a book. But I can’t seem to get past the starting hurdle i.e. How do I get the thing published?

    Thanks for the nice things you said about my writing.

  18. Seriously…Umbai is not a backwater..not an idyllic wild west outpost ..its almost Craven Cottage actually.

    Its minutes to the nearest 711,a McD is not even thirty minutes away,U get the full load of Astro’s programming (if u so desire) and the broadband is definitely better then in Bangsar.

    But I guess u deserve the poetic licenses..after all ur a mind mapper…

    Can u in ur free time do some mind mapping n get ur neighbours together and develop the Umbai Transformation Plan (UTP) with UKRAs and UKPIs…and might as well get down to Umbai New and Improved High income economic model UNIHEM


    My! That’s a lot of acronyms.You must be a really smart person.

  19. Mamak,
    I think ,what Ismail meant was open an English tution center at Pekan Umbai.The volums looks good.Be with the JKK and get to know yr.ADUN.After the CM do have a FB to acknowledge your appeal.
    It would do the children good .
    After all is part of Coporate responsibility doesn’t it Ismail?

    Pak Tuo

    Like I said, Ismail seems like a smart man. I think he was alluding to bigger things than an English tuition center. He wants me to do something really substantial for Umbai. Alas, I may not have what it takes.

    But English lessons for the local kids can be a good start.

  20. seriously..i think Bangkai(C) is about the smartest guy around (SGA) with the probable exception (PEX) of Pak Tuo. SGA can definitely provide a boost (PABoo) and contribute wherever he may be..if he puts his mind to it (Bdwi).
    So Hope C Bdwi to PABoo to Umbai..
    Frankly,I think Ikan Bakar at THAT other place in Melaka is much nicer then Umbai’s.


    ROTFL. You crack me up, sir

    Yes, yes, I will put my mind to contribute whatever I can to Umbai. And yes, I do agree. THAT other place has nicer ikan bakar (not by much, though)

    But I will have to dispute the SGA thinggy: I never see a smart guy in the mirror.

  21. Let see what smart guys did to Pulau Besar,
    Pdg.Temu,Batu Berendam airport etc,etc.
    Land constraint beb M’ka.Try sub Jonker Street if you can.It is highly densisty there and concentrated.Buisness there so-so. aje beb.
    Know kow tau. beb.

  22. Ur still young enuff to still want to see yourself in the mirror?Still can use brylcreem for its intended purpose?

    try the Serkam Pantai Ikan Bakar…some major renovations but look for the original/pioneer group.The Nasi Lemak is a toe curler (TC) experience.


    Yes, I occasionally look in the mirror when I want to see if I’ve got my dentures on straight. And there are uses for Brylcreem other than for its intended purpose?

    Before the major renovations, I always used to favour Serkam to Umbai. But now its lost its charm. And where the hell did the original people go?

  23. Perhaps both of you better have a quite round table talk with so call ‘Serkam Pantai’ikan bakar God Father.Mat Shah aka John Bulat about it.
    He should be able to sort it out.

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