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.