Monday, February 9, 2009

When a man thinks he is more than what most people think about him.

Things happening today in this country reminds of somebody who once worked with me more than twenty years ago. This man is dead now so I am not going to reveal his name.

This man was my subordinate but he was older than me and had already been working in my department when I joined it. It is normal for officers to call his subordinates just by name. But my dear mother taught me to respect elders whoever they are so I just called this man 'abang' and sometimes 'Encik' followed by his name.

My department used to have a strong football team and at one time I even managed the team. It was through this sports that I first knew this man. Just like me he used to watch out football team compete in the local league and together we gave our vocal and moral support.

One day our team played against another team. I never knew until then than this man's son was playing for the other team. Somebody told me then during the first half of the match.

The other team scored four goals against nothing in the first half. We knew that unless something divine came we were going to lose the match. Suddenly during half time break I saw this man wearing the track suit of the other team. I already knew that his son was playing for them. So I asked him whether he got other things connected to the team. "Sayalah jurulatih mereka (I am their coach)" he blurted proudly.

We replied with two goals in the second half but still lost 4-2. But somehow towards the end of the season our team became champions in the league so we had our last laugh after all. Beside that I was told this man had nothing to do with the other team. He must had worn his son's tracksuit just to show off.

My mother also taught me not to talk bad about people especially after they are dead. I just like to tell here that this man thought than he was more than what people thought about him. For example he lobbied vehemently for promotions so much so that our superiors just gave in so that he would not make much more noise.

Years went by and suddenly I was forced to take him as my subordinate. He had been working for other sections but somehow he did not get along well with the other workers. He was being transferred from one section to the other. I was told to take him with strict orders to confine him to one place so as to restrict his movements. As a public servant I followed this order to the book.

I could easily protest and rejected him. But I thought what the hell, this was just another challenge for me and I love challenges. Furthemore almost all the other sections had their experiences with him so in a way I did not have much choice.
So he reported to me and I told him about the restrictions imposed by the department. I told him I had no problems with the orders. I heard about his working record but I never brought this matter to him. I also did not bring up the 'tracksuit' issue.

After a few months it was the fasting month of Ramadan. He came to my office one day and just asked one question "Dia orang aniaya saya ke? (Are they victimising me?)". I answered straight away with a big "NO". Then he went further "Yes, I am".

Then he went further telling his experiences working in the sections where he was rejected in each one. According to him he was being 'Aniayaed' or victimised in every section. All the other workers were jealous of him. He was made the scapegoat for every scandal or blunder. Instead there was always someone who was the real culprit.

It is my policy not to eavesdrop on every little thing happening in my office. Sometimes my wife asked me "Have you heard about so and so?" I answered "I don't know". It seemed that one of my superiors' wife had been calling my wife telling gossips about things happening in my office.
So it was not to my surprise I never heard about most of the things my subordinate told me. So I answered "Encik..... I never heard most of the things you just told me. Even the few ones I heard I just knew them in passing. I never knew the details and I never asked".

Then I added further "Okay lah Encik..... Let's just assume that we just knew each other. I take you as you are and you take me as I am. Let us forget the past if ever there was. I promise you that I will never look for your past. Now let us begin a new task here, you and me. At the same time I don't want you to tell me about the past, about your former colleagues and about anybody. I am not going to listen". So he said "Terima kasih lah" and left.

A few days later Hari Raya came. I spent the first Hari Raya at my in-laws' place in Melaka. In the second day I was in my mother's home in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan. I only returned to my house on the third day of Hari Raya.

On the fourth day of Hari Raya I and my family went to my colleague's house situated in the same area as my subordinate's. My friend was not home but his wife and children were. There my friend's wife told me that my subordinate had died in the early morning of the first day of Hari Raya. Knowing that my subordinate did not show any kind of sickness I asked how did he die, suspecting something like a heart attack and the like.

"He hanged himself in his bathroom" was the answer. Then I told my friend's wife that a few weeks ago I had a long talk with him. That he had been telling me about his frustrations and so on.

To my surprise my friend's wife told me "You know what? I was told that he had been telling the same things you told me (his frustrations) to his family the night before the died".

May Allah have mercy on his soul.

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