A twist of fate… Kedah man in Japan

Folks, this is a little story that yours truly penned for an internet newspaper focusing on Malaysian affairs…
The topic is, brain drain, so I thought I could offer my two-cents worth… 
The original article is found in Malaysian Insider… A twist of fate… Kedah man in Japan

MAY 30 — Like AC who penned “First love, long lost”, life just happened and before I knew it, I found myself enjoying life outside of Malaysia.

I am but a padi farmer’s son. I was working in a construction site after obtaining three Ds and one O for my Higher School Certificate in 1979. One day, my older brother handed me an advertisement by Singapore Airlines calling for pilot trainees. Fate had it that it was the last day for the application. It was a Friday and the post offices in Kedah were closed. My nephew drove me all the way from my village to Butterworth on a 100cc motorbike just to post the application letter. I can still recall how my buttocks hurt.

With rather average scores, I was very surprised that Singapore Airlines called me up for an interview. I miraculously got through that and some other medical checks that followed. Soon, along with a bunch of other Malaysians, I found myself on the way to Manila for pilot training. After being certified as a commercial pilot, it was fate again when the oil crisis in the early 1980s put a stop to the expansion plans of the airline.
Subsequently, we could not operate as pilots and were offered jobs as cabin attendants while waiting for the airline to recall us back to the cockpit. However, it was not to be. Singapore Airlines then offered us study loans to further our studies in the universities of our choice.

We were supposed to return to the airline after we graduated. Almost all of us went to US universities. Singapore Airlines did ask us to return to the cockpit after we graduated but only a handful of us did. The rest of us found new avenues. As it is, many of my colleagues from the pilot trainee days stayed back in the US. One went to the UK, another to Australia, and perhaps two or three returned to Malaysia.

I had the opportunity to remain in the US but I decided that I wanted to live in an Asian country, any Asian country. And somehow I had the good fortune of landing myself a scholarship from the Japanese government. To paraphrase AC, life simply occurred. I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate student days in three Japanese universities and made tons of friends, Japanese and otherwise. And as fate would have it, after obtaining my doctorate, one of my alma mater universities offered me a job for six years, after which, I was to return to Malaysia.

One thing led to another, and yes, before I knew it, I was promoted to become a professor and offered tenure. The next thing after obtaining my tenure was my missus and I bought a property and that really opened up another phase of life for us.

All my pals in the US, UK, and Australia (and, most likely, those who returned to Singapore Airlines as pilots) have surrendered their Malaysian passports.

Meanwhile, I choose to remain a Malaysian, heart and soul, and a proud Kedahan at that. I have no intention of giving that up.

Now, with the government touting the so-called Talent Corporation, would I be enticed to return to Malaysia? I shall touch on only the pull factors here in Japan as many other folks previously wrote about the push factors in Malaysia. There are three factors from my point of view.

First… from the professional aspect, there is probably zero chance of me returning. I have a “permanent” job here in a Japanese national university. I take pleasure in working with my Japanese subordinates and colleagues. I get a lot of respect from the Japanese community as a professor in a national university. It would be extremely hard to surrender what I have now in order to look for a job in Malaysia.

Second… socially speaking, I am thoroughly enjoying myself as a foreign resident in Japan. I am a permanent resident and except for the voting rights, I am on par with the locals. The public service is excellent and fair, while the people are extremely courteous and polite, and a joy to live with. To top this up, we are very lucky to find ourselves living among friendly and sociable neighbours. I have absolutely no complaints in this regard and would very much like to continue living under such favourable conditions.

Third… on a private basis, we are blessed with a sizable vegetable and fruit garden in our property. I cherish spending time and energy tilling the soil and cultivating the plants in the garden. To be able to do this in Japan as a Malaysian thrills me to no end and life simply could not be better. These too will be very difficult to give up for now.

Still, I do yearn for Malaysia and return home about twice a year for vacations. On every visit, I have always come away with the feeling that Malaysia is indeed a beautiful country. Perhaps when I retire from my job here in Japan, I might want to return home to further “re-discover” the many splendours of my beloved homeland.

Finally, on my hopes for a better Malaysia, I truly pray for a change in the government. I have faith in the people who have realised the folly of the crop of politicians in the present government. I am rooting for the folks in Pakatan Rakyat, for sure. These are the folks whom I believe can truly bring about a positive turn for my beloved country.

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18 thoughts on “A twist of fate… Kedah man in Japan

  1. Interesting story. I think I understand how you feel (I lived in the US, moved back to France, working at moving to Japan).I especially like your "life just happened" much more positive than "life got in the way" that I hear (and even said) a lot.

  2. David… thank you for dropping by… yeap, life just happened and I am thankful for it… good luck to you with the Japan plan…

  3. I'm getting tired of the shenanigans of the ruling party too. They should have a wake up call. There's reason why Selangor is now controlled by PKR. Because the people wants a change.

  4. I also like the "life just happened" way of looking at things. I think "life just happened" is a very positive way of looking at things that happen. And my personal experience is that these things are overwhelmingly positive.Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  5. lina… it is really a very sad situation in Malaysia… hopeless to some extent even, as BN knows they have the hold on the votes to keep them in power… I really hope that the people hoping for a change will reach the critical numbers so as to tilt the balance… till then, concerned Malaysians continue to weep…Bananazஇ… Yeap, I am a true Keat Tar lang… and will be for as long as I live…George… thank you for your thoughts… somehow, it is less strenous to go against the tide, so I have been sort of riding the waves as they come…

  6. a friend posted yr article in FB,+ i briefly read it…knew its u without second thoughts…lolz. how long hv we read one another already ah???? hehehe…high ^5

  7. Something told me it was you when I read that story in Malaysian Insider. Yep, like a real surfer just ride the waves. It got you places…

  8. what an interesting read. i lived in singapore for 10 years before moving back to KL last year. my wish was to move to another country if not staying put in singapore. but my hubby wants to return home. there are some things i cherish in malaysia, esp family, yet there are many other things i completely dislike here. i guess i will have to make do until perhaps fate takes us abroad again someday. who knows! 🙂

  9. k.t.x… your friend did that? Please say 'thank you' for me! Yeap, probably 5 years by now… :)LC Teh… oops, looks like I can do anything bad now… sure kena find out by Mr. Teh one… petite nyonya… thank you very much for your thoughts… 10 years in S'pore ah… I have fond memories of my life in S'pore… good luck with your plans!

  10. It is indeed an interesting post to read. And it is nice to know more about you too. It's great that you have found a good place to call home and are lucky to be surrounded by good people and a lovely place. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  11. Firstly Kudos on being published Lrong Sinseh. Recently over dinner, a friend who is hired by Khazanah made an interesting comment about Talent Corporation. Money itself may not be enough to temp them back. The quality of life they have to come home to is also an important factor. =)

  12. Dear kyoujyuu(Prof),You are a very lucky man and thank God you are grateful for it.I agree with your points on the `pull factors`.All these are also the reasons why I am still in Japan after 13 years.However you failed to point out a few problems that Japan is facing.Japan has perhaps the highest tax rate in an Asian country,some 40% of my montly income is deducted before it gets into my account.The EPF system is gonna go defunct in no time.The gov. recently announced that the working population has plunged to about 46%of the total population,which means that we will have to shoulder the tax burden more.You are lucky that you have a landed property.In the more urban cities,once you have bought an apartment,unlike Malaysia and other Asian countries,it is bound to depreciate to as much as 50% in only 5 years time.More as your property gets older.In short,the Jap gov really need to overhaul it`s taxation and social security system ,which I think is an arduous task due to it`s aging and shrinking population.For those who are thinking about relocating to Japan,think twice.If you really wanna escape from Malaysia and care about your children`s future,go to US,AUS.If you miss home,go to Singapore.If you want to make quick money ,go to Shanghai.Don`t come to Japan unless you have an expat package that pays you handsomely and don`t forget to ask for tax exemption.Remember,it is 40% here.

  13. Thank you for your comment… there is always the good and the bad mixed up in any country… as you rightly mentioned, we just choose where we want to lead our lives based on our different priorities…

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