Friday, 1 August 2014

Precious pals: A writer pays tribute to two good friends

Best of buddies: Pola Singh (centre) with Si Chay Beng (right) and Kam Teik Beng.

Best of buddies: Pola Singh (centre) with Si Chay Beng (right) and Kam Teik Beng.

When Pola Singh flips through his photo album, two faces stand out: Si Chay Beng and Kam Teik Beng.

When I flip through my photo album of people that I have met over the years, two faces stand out: Si Chay Beng and Kam Teik Beng. Two regular guys to the world, but to me – besides my family – they are my world.

We first met way back in 1974, having left our kampung to study in the Klang Valley. When we converged to live in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, and found each other, we clicked instantly!

It is not difficult to understand why we bonded so well. All three of us came from humble beginnings. My father was a cowherd in Kampung Air Leleh, Malacca. Kam’s father was a postman in Penang, while Si’s parents operated a sundry shop in Bukit Gambir, Muar. Our parents had banked their hopes on us and failure was not an option. We had to make it good in the big city!

I recall how our friendship was forged at the cheapest economy rice shop in Section 17, over a 60-sen plate of rice with an extra bowl of rice thrown in for 10 sen. We mostly talked about how to stretch the dollar (the term “ringgit” came in later), how to cut each other’s hair or have our lunch and dinner at one go in the all-you-can-eat banana leaf restaurant.

Also, how to beat exam blues; and occasionally how to tackle the hot chick who innocently strayed onto our paths! And if one of us caught the other oogling a sweet young thing, we would cry out in unison, “What are eyes for!” We enjoyed countless private jokes with a knowing nod and a wink!

Then we went our separate ways. Si went to UK to complete his professional accountancy qualifications. I worked for a few years and then went to United States to do my post graduate degrees, while Kam completed his degree at University Malaya and joined the civil service. In due course, each of us got hitched and settled down to start a family.

We led separate lives, caught up in our own little world for many years. Yet, we did not grow apart. We kept in touch at get-togethers during Chinese New Year, with our families in tow. We reminisced about our tough beginnings, laughed at our foibles, and celebrated our accomplishments.

These days, the three of us meet up on public holidays, too. We take turns to play host and our favourite vote is to hit the best banana leaf restaurant in KL, followed by high tea elsewhere. What a blissful time we have! We share experiences and insights. 

For example, your money in the bank is not truly yours till you have spent it! Invest in things that last; better to spend your money on enjoying your children’s company and building memories now than leaving them a big fat cheque upon your death. We learn to complain less and help more, and do our bit to make a difference.

Time flies when we are having a good time together, and often the wives have to phone to remind us to go home. So don’t you believe John Gray’s (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus) theory that men have a lower daily quota of words than women.

Kam entertains us endlessly with his witty remarks. Si is the travel expert, a walking Lonely Planet guide. His mantra is “travel now, not later”. My speciality? Storytelling of course! I enjoy collating all kinds of strange and fascinating stories from newspapers, magazines and the Internet, and recounting them for a hearty laugh. After all, laughter is good medicine for the heart.

Of course, we don’t always agree, especially when politics is discussed. In such instances, we agree to disagree and move on to another topic. But we totally agree that we can live life to the fullest with the right attitude and much gratitude. 

To Si and Kam, a big thank you for perking up my life with fun and laughter.

Tags / Keywords: pola singh , friends


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