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AN UNSUNG HERO: In their own meticulous way, individuals like Apau keep the engines going, come rain or shine
THE world is full of unsung heroes. They work tirelessly behind the scenes, holding the team together with hard work and dedication. Way down the food chain, some of these unsung heroes devote their lives to help keep their families above water and their clients satisfied.
In their own quiet way, these heroes keep the nation together. They are not tied to desks or office hours. When we are asleep, they are toiling to keep our homes safe, our houses lighted and our children educated.
One such hero is Apau aka Jaffer, a staff of Tenaga Nasional Berhad. He joined the utility company when it was a statutory board and it was then called the National Electricity Board or Lembaga Letrik Negara (LLN).
He was recruited in 1976, just after turning 19. His father was also an LLN employee who started work with a RM80 monthly wage. His father started work in Bangsar and was later transferred to Ampang, Batang Berjuntai, Sungai Buloh and finally Segambut.
Through his father’s good friends, Apau landed the job, one that he took to with ease and willingness. It was his first and last job. His only job actually.
Last month, Apau’s dedication and long service was recognised when his bosses gave him a certificate for 35 years of excellent service. His friends told me no one in his department deserved it more than Apau.
Just one month after that, Apau died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday. It knocked him out instantly. Apau was 54 when he breathed his last. Four medical doctors, including two cardiologists, tried to save him but it was in vain.
This simple man had heeded his father’s advice to the letter.
“Be friendly with everyone, stay focused, work hard and keep an honest temperament always. Be serious about your work and be the best in whatever you do,” his dad told him.
I was there when Apau got the job. The father was more excited than him. With six children to feed and a few additional dependents to care for, his father was understandably relieved that another one of his children got a job to supplement the family income.
Apau’s eldest brother had just got married. It was a modest wedding. Monetary contributions from guests helped pay for the wedding and there was RM200 extra after all the bills were paid. With that money, his father bought Apau an old motorcycle to travel to work.
It wasn’t an easy job. But he made friends easily. A couple of years into the job, Apau was able to also communicate in excellent Tamil, thus earning him the nickname Apu.
His colleagues found him obliging, and he found them helpful. Each time they couldn’t do “overtime”, they would pass it to Apau.
In helping his friends with their overtime, Apau had a hidden agenda — he wanted a new motorcycle. The RM200 old Yamaha wasn’t capable of going beyond 60 kph. Over the years, he did acquire more than a motorcycle.
He married Ina, a Malacca maiden. They have three boys, all still school-going. Apau followed his father’s advice all the way. He spent his money carefully, saved and bought a decent house for his family.
He has passed his father’s values to his children — they are all independent and obedient. He learned about the Internet, played golf for a while and enjoyed a bit of fishing in his younger days.
Work had kept him away from his hobbies. Family first was his motto. For a while, he even funded his neighbourhood’s children’s football team. Not much, but just enough to help keep the youngsters away from unproductive activities.
On the day he died, the friends, colleagues and youngsters who came for the funeral were a clear testimony of the friendship and camaraderie he had nurtured over the years.
He went for his umrah with his wife and siblings last year. It was a revelation, he told me. I had a small hand in that spiritual and religious journey, one that he kept telling anyone who cared to listen.
In today’s world, especially in big corporations, these unsung heroes are worth more than their weight in gold. In their own meticulous way, they keep the engines going, chugging along come rain or shine.
They leave a legacy of their own as we strive to elevate ourselves as a high-income nation in the years to come. Apau may not have enjoyed high-income status, but his children will, God willing.
Farewell my beloved brother, may you rest in peace. You will be forever missed. Al-Fatehah.