3 Malaysians who march to their own beat

  • People
  • Monday, 22 Feb 2016

Abdullah, in the comforts of his office. Photo: Ernie Xavier

It is not often we encounter inspiring people who have taken a courageous leap into pursuing what they are passionate about.

Uniqlo Malaysia recently launched its AIRism For Malaysians campaign to celebrate three ordinary beings leading an extraordinary life. Through this campaign, Uniqlo also showcased how its AIRism innerwear can complement their lifestyles.

From a director determined to give back to society to a radio DJ who became synonymous with the industry and a suit-and-tie executive turned extreme sports photographer – each of these individuals are a personification of passion in their pursuit to achieve something meaningful in what they do.

Acts of kindness

When it comes to Munirah Abdul Hamid, I am reminded of a quote from the diary of Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Well known for her tenacity both in and out of board meetings, Munirah, 65, is founder and executive director of Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre Berhad. At nights, she, along with her team of equally dedicated volunteers, make a familiar and very welcomed sight to the homeless living on the inner-city streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Pertiwi Soup Kitchen, the community project Munirah founded, has been feeding the hungry and providing basic medical relief to displaced Malaysians of all ilk since 2010. Operating four nights a week, the project has since grown from simply distributing packets of food and drinks into an organised community involvement with teams of volunteers from all walks of life. These include working professionals, students and retirees who are eager to contribute, may it be through money, kindness or time.

As a child, Munirah – who was born and raised in Alor Setar, Kedah – used to help cut banana leaves and make little patterns on them as her mother prepared rice pudding, also known as bubur susu. They were then distributed to the underprivileged sleeping in the compound of a mosque in Alor Setar.

“In the mid-1960s, my sisters were among the 10 founders of Pertiwi (Pertubuhan Tindakan Wanita Islam Malaysia), an NGO focusing on outreach, social work and the education of women, teens and children,” said Munirah, a mother of two.

“Today, we have the soup kitchen. We have been very fortunate to receive the commitment and support from our fellow Malaysians and I really do hope to inspire young Malaysians to carry on with what we’re doing,” added Munirah.

She never expected her endeavour to grow into such a huge project. “It gives me the balance in life, it earths me, it makes me thankful for what I have.”

On most days, when Munirah is out distributing food along with her team of volunteers, the weather is humid.

“Being drenched in sweat, it’s common,” explained Munirah, adding that she is the one who sweats the most on those nights.

The AIRism innerwear presented to Munirah and the team has done wonders in keeping sweat minimal and made them feel more comfortable.

Gig of a lifetime

Jake Abdullah’s story is one of rags to riches.

Jake, 50, was born into a financially challenged family of seven in Johor Bahru. He has worked his way to the top to become the CEO of Astro Radio Malaysia and firmly hold on to the lessons he learnt on his way up.

Abdullah, in the comforts of his office. Photo: Ernie Xavier
Abdullah, in the comforts of his office. Photo: Ernie Xavier

This introduction sparked off what would become a life-long obsession. The first gig he appeared in was for a hair salon launch in Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur.

With his family’s blessing, he went on to win the Malaysian DeeJay contest in Caesar’s Club in 1988. In the same year, he teamed up with fellow DJs Gabriel Chong and Mega to form Krash Kozz, a rap band.

Then in 1996, he joined Astro where he swiftly climbed the ranks and refined his artistry; culminating in the creation of Jakeman, widely credited as the first deejay in Malaysia to mix beats live on air.

“If you had asked me back then whether I thought I would be where I am today, I would probably tell you that I was going to give it a shot,” said Jake. “My mother once said, ‘Go and do anything you want to do but be great at it’ and this has become the mantra of my life.”

Today, Jake the CEO marches to a completely different beat – leading a team of over 400 staff, mixing traditional radio media with the many digital platforms available today and visualising exciting new sounds for Astro Radio’s Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil listeners.

His schedule requires him to leave the comfort of his office quite a lot, to engage with his team or to meet clients. All this activity, of course, gets him sweating.

“What I like about AIRism is that you don’t know it is there but it’s doing its work. I wear it all the time,” enthused Jake. “It’s very light and keeps my body temperature a bit lower. Otherwise, you’ll be damp and there is the issue of body odour and stuff.”

The father of three has just started his MBA at University of Liverpool and wants to run a marathon and climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.

Amateur to auteur

As far as self-discovery goes, Geh Chee Minh checks all the right boxes.

As a mass communications graduate, Petaling Jaya-born Geh began his career in public relations. After working there for two years, he decided that it was not to his liking; the life of a 9-to-5er was not his cup of tea.

Geh (left) holding his DSLR camera.
Geh (left) holding his DSLR camera. Photo: Uniqlo

Then he got a call from a photographer friend in Singapore, advising him to quit his job and branch out into photography on his own. This was a push in the right direction he needed.

“I believe that good things come to people who work hard. You have to put your back into it,” said Geh, 32. “I took the plunge by leaving my job and springing for a professional DSLR camera from my savings.

“Then I bit the bullet, taking on unpaid assignments for a local news portal in spite of warnings from my friends that I shouldn’t work for free.”

Today, Geh has gone from a self-taught amateur to one of the Top 76 Red Bull Photographers in the world and one of the top nine, outside Europe and the United States.

With a growing portfolio of work including brands such as Nike and Montblanc and concerts headlined by Paramore, Chris Daughtry and Girls Generation, Geh has successfully built a career marrying his various interests in music, sports and photography.

Geh’s move into sports photography has brought many challenges, mostly in the form of locations; shooting on muddy ground or from a rooftop can get tricky.

“I get sweat stains and it’s very uncomfortable,” moaned Geh. Therefore, AIRism innerwear has been quite the problem solver. “I wear it every day and I hardly feel that it’s there.”

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