17/2015 – Best friends and the bucket list
by Tan Thiam Hock
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Just ticked off a few items on my bucket list after taking a gruelling 26-day trip through two continents. It was a good break from the haze and gloomy politics of this beloved country of ours.
First on the list was accompanying my youngest child to her journey of entering University life in central London.
I must admit that I was a little apprehensive and worried about her safety and her aptitude to cope with the bustling life of London city.
I was however comforted by the presence of her many Malaysian school mates all studying in the same vicinity.
Safety by numbers and knowing you have good friends that you can trust in an unfriendly environment.
While in London, I had the opportunity to visit the Malaysian Food Fair in Trafalgar Square where I was surprised to see so many Malaysian entrepreneurs already settled comfortably in their adopted country peddling Malaysian hawker food.
Different from the maddening crowd of yellows and reds, the scene was all grey and black due to the jackets worn to keep warm from the cool evening autumn breeze. Malaysians of all races were present to enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the various shows and dances presented by our Tourism Ministry whose office was just round the corner of Trafalgar Square.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Fariz, my second son’s good buddy as they share the same journey through secondary school, A Levels and University. Fariz has just started work with Price Waterhouse London and looks like the start of a successful career for him.
I really like Fariz. Humble, polite and unassuming, he will be a lifelong friend to my son as they journey together in their lifetime.
There are two types of best friends in my lifetime. Friendships forged in schools and universities gives me good memories of innocent joy and tantrums, acceptance of individual faults, insults, bad habits, warts and all.
Meanwhile friendships forged during the course of working life takes a longer path, sometimes through a supplier-buyer relationship, many times through group bondings and activities. Many become casual friends and some (count your fingers) become best friends.
If you become a politician, best friends do not exist in your vocabulary. They will be friends of convenience, mutually beneficial friends and forgotten friends. And do remember money can’t buy you love or “best friends”.
To continue with my bucket list, a group of university and business friends joined me on a golf trip to Scotland.
It was nice to see my golf buddies de stressing themselves from work, even though they will check their smart phones for latest emails at every opportunity they can get.
Some get stressful phone calls from their office of an imminent crisis but that was solved by calm decision-making expected of a seasoned businessman.
Except for one, the rest of the gang improved their game as we visited the many famous link courses in Scotland.
I then flew to San Francisco to meet up with Jeya and Kenneth, both childhood friends from my La Salle PJ days who have migrated to the United States more than 30 years ago. We were joined by three other Malaysian classmates, Leo, Jonny and Kong Meng. Together we travelled around north California in a gigantic SUV looking for affordable motels and decent food while reliving our early childhood years. The motels and food were not decent for the price paid but the camaradie was priceless.
It felt like nothing has changed since 40 years ago. Insults and old jokes were flying off the cuff at will and we were acting like kids all over again.
The only difference was the exchange of health problems amongst the group members, some in dire straits and some still able to walk normally.
The immortality of the younger years was present no more.
Somehow it felt like it was a last goodbye when we parted. I shall forever be grateful for the friendship and memories shared with my best friends.
Then I went to New York to meet up with my forwarding agents of more than 15 years.
The Malaysian couple, Leo and Sheryn, migrated to the United States in the eighties and have become family friends through the years of shipping cosmetics for me from US.
I had wanted to thank them for the years of excellent service and friendship. Together with Mun Bing, another school friend formerly of Taman Petaling Girls School, we talked about life in the US, their adopted country, and inevitably talked about the current political turmoil in Malaysia.
They might talk like Americans but they are still very much Malaysians at heart.
My last dinner in New York was with Christophe and his lovely wife, Priscille. Christophe is more Asian than French, and we met some 18 years ago when he was the Area Manager in charge of the French skincare range that we distribute in Malaysia. Despite not having seen him for 15 years, we chatted like old friends, such was the close relationship we had in three years of working closely then.
Despite working with Hollywood stars everyday, Christophe remains down to earth and we talked about family and the high cost of caring for four children in New York. He has had a successful career and is now the CEO of Gucci USA.
Always happy to see friends doing well.
To the young entrepreneurs, being successful in your business will be meaningless if you do not make new friends during your business journey.
If you can pick up some “best friends” along the way, your life will be enriched with good memories and experiences and you will feel that you are not entirely on your own all the time.
Do not neglect your school friends as you go separate ways in life for they will remain your best friends wherever you are and their friendship is forever in time.
I will be in trouble if I do not mention the best of best friend is my wife whom I have known for the last 34 years.
She has shared my entrepreneurial journey from day one so I was never ever really on my own throughout the journey. She shares my success in building my business and our family. And I am forever gratefully thankful for that.
Just scored enough domestic points to plan my next trip.