Thanks for being my Spock
JUNE 14 — “It’s all Praba’s fault.”
My best friend always says it to me. In my convoluted mind I probably figured that Pit King’s rephrasing Kipling’s poem If's opening lines:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”
In reality, he’s up to something.
He usually uses it to defuse any tricky situation involving friends. It works a charm. I’ve absolutely no worries when he does it because, other than the ruse’s result, it’s hilarious.
Plus I've never been short on confidence when with the lads. For me, it’s quite OK if it’s my fault, as long as there’s a decent outcome.
My take is, friendship, politics and public service are about faith. Without faith, no progress is possible.
And I have oodles and oodles of faith. Some have mistaken it for over-confidence, a certain over-exuberance about life which borders on the delusional.
But my faith keeps me sane regardless. Of course in Malaysia, saying “faith” leads to fidgety readers fearing a theological torrent. No chance here.
I am selling here, my personal faith in myself and the things I envision. That faith. My faith in things unseen.
I’m a big believer that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and a waiting man with braids dressed in drag ready to hand it over to me. And if he doesn’t, get ready to deck him with the pot.
It does take that type of craziness to persist with a possible Malaysia, different from what all your friends and relatives are used to. They find my dreams impossible to fathom.
But my Mojo keeps me going.
Where does such a journey begin?
After all, I work for a political party which has never won federal power. Its predecessors, all the way to the time of the British Military Administration, have had the same fate, forced to see the less gifted and honourable winning and staying in power. Fair never wins here, the refrain goes. And before that, from the infancy of colonial rule to the war, all those aligned to my politics were swatted down and later erased from our history books.
So I picked a hazardous route, with no precedent. With eyes wide open, relying on my unrelenting faith.
I can explain the origin of my faith, but the reason I keep going despite all evidence to the contrary is harder to express.
My government driver dad and housewife mom encouraged me to be. Does not sound all that drastic, but the levels of optimism they possessed rubbed off on me. My dad’s “I can learn anything if I applied myself” with my mom’s “if you build it, they will come” combination was contagious.
While I suspect my siblings probably had the same gumption levels, they did let a larger world around them moderate them. Ease down on the passion, and stream along with the other.
I had a best friend to insulate me from the cynicism draining down my chute daily as a teenager. So while I owe genes for my convictions, it’s Pit King who’s been that pillar of my certainty. He turns 40 today, and I’d like to thank him.
In the living years
Kids are mean, they can’t help it. Living within the parameters of each family, when kids are grouped together the need to set a pecking order becomes paramount. So, feelings are hurt often as everyone seeks elbow room.
While I was in my primary school this was manageable and within my comfort zone.
We were all working-class kids in the ass end of old Cheras, which ends just around the bend from Jusco Maluri. Though faces were wrecked on Fridays in punch-ups on the field, everyone dusted themselves off at the end and went home smiling. (Except that time when 10-year-old twin brothers tag-teamed Mr Guan and almost got dismissed. One of the brothers went on to do more important work like sell me a Boy George poster, and the other did not sell me anything. The poster lasted longer than our friendship.)
But secondary school, by my own bidding and desire, was no walk in the park. (Despite the fact, there was much much more greenery and lawns in a deliciously large campus.)
I enrolled one week late at the Victoria Institution and was 30 minutes away from being stuck in the wrong class, until the “split the races up evenly” policy the school resulted in me getting relocated with an eclectic bunch — my class, 1A1.
I can’t remember my first conversation with Pit King, but we ended up in the Computer Club and Life-Saving Society together.
Being a very loud teenager with jaw-dropping uncouthness, coupled with that many disciplinary infractions, it was hard not to notice me on campus. Which is why I enjoyed school so much — thanks to the happenings between classes and after school.
It’s difficult to relate how Pit King helped me through my adolescence, truth be told, we helped each other. But I can only speak about the view from my side of the canyon.
He never made it awkward for me in social settings. I’ve never been to a country club, hotel or even a McDonald’s up to that point. Knowing all that, he’d never point out any of the faux pas I’d inadvertently commit, over and over.
When we meet girls, he’d play me up, and always give them reasons to want to know me more.
Even with all the good intentions, if in the post-puberty period you are pulverised for social inadequacies, your grip of those intentions start to wilt.
It surprised me then, but not now, that my dad sat me down when I was 15. Seeing I was all so game for this new life I had a temporary licence to and no means to pay for it, he wanted to caution me. He said that though I might be tight with my friend, he was from a wealthy family, and there will come a time when we all have to come back to social realities.
It was solid advice, and he’d be right 99 out of 100 times.
He wasn’t in Pit King’s case.
Keeping the faith
It’s been quite the adventure the last 27 years.
From breaking into a girls' school on National Day to breaking girls out of their homes after midnight on those clubbing nights. Trying to find our way around Singapore using a 10-year-old map and now him being a Singaporean.
Playing chess before his taekwondo bouts and at the steps of Bukit Bintang Mall before they open.
We both stood together as our fathers were cremated eight years apart.
Here in the present, we’ve kept our faith in each other, and not so strangely it helps me understand that everyone’s worth having faith in. It’s only theory until you feel it, but I’ve had little reason to doubt the potential of those I do not know.
That’s what keeps me running, despite all the bad news and track record. Things work out.
No less the plaudits go to my best mate, the one-man dance machine and Trekkie, Chew Pit King. Happy birthday, bro.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.