Monday, October 27, 2008

Around the house

We live on a quiet street, a cul de sac. Just eight houses, fronting a little hill. Most of the homes here are bare and cemented. Electric gates stand guard against trespassers. Then there is our house. So different from the barren rest.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A visit from an old friend

Since we started living in this house, which we call The Art Room, and established it as our home, studio and gallery, my wife and I feel happy to have received many guests over.

Some come for our intimate dinners, some to feast on our kampung cooking (gulai tempoyak, ulam-ulam and rendang Perak), some to chow down on some seriously delicious barbecues, and some, to view the paintings. We've had neighbours, families, friends, artists and collectors over for Hari Raya, for weekends, for no reason! On special occasions, we bring out the acoustic guitar and sing some songs off-key (no karaoke, please)!

It's always nice to have people over, and we've had an interesting assortment of guests...but last week's visit from an old friend was particularly nostalgic.

Ucop, as I call him, used to work for me some twenty years ago. As a boss, those days, I was a very no-nonsense guy who worked 24/7 and was always on the go...Yes, very different from the "Zainal" now!

Ucop came to my office to apply for his first job in client servicing. During that first meeting, I made him wait for several hours as a preview of what he would be facing on the job. He patiently waited for me to see him and my first impression of Ucop was that here was a guy who was smart and willing to learn. But he was also soft-spoken and thought little of what he could achieve. In client servicing, you had to be tough around the edges, I thought.

Anyway, I gave him the job. Taking him under my wing, I taught him everything he needed to know. From the basics of a good handshake to the details of charming a client. I told him that in my book, impossible is nothing, and challenged him to break the ceiling of his pre-conceived abilities.

In the process, we learned that we both liked jazz (I, Michael Franks, he, Sheila Majid), bonded well, and became good friends.

When he left the company to pursue his studies in the UK, I was upset. Some weeks later, I received a long letter from him. He wrote to thank me for all the things I taught him to change and better himself, for being his mentor. I was very touched...the letter is still in my keeping.

When he came to visit me last week, it was a nice surprise. We had not been in touch for many years. He had read about me and my paintings in a local daily and finally came up for a visit to catch up on news and look at my paintings.

Though he is now the president of a big company, I still recall him as that young chap whom I kept waiting for that job interview! He has definitely become his own man and I am happy for him and the success he has found today.