Till we meet again…….

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Eulogy for Ah Bah by Jason Tai
Growing up in a household like ours was a blessing, to say the least.

We didn’t have to go through the trials and tribulations that many people underwent. We didn’t have to work doing odd jobs to make it through school.

And the reason we didn’t have to, was because father – or Ah Bah, as we called him – had already done that for us in his own youth.

For those who aren’t already aware, Ah Bah had extremely humble beginnings.

His immigrant Foochow parents from China toiled away in rubber plantations. And it was clear they would not have the means to put him through school.

It is said adversity breeds character. And so, for Ah Bah, this wasn’t anything that could stifle his spirit or ambition.

Taking part-time jobs, often several at a time, he put himself through school.

It was during this period that his hallmark traits came to the fore – his dedication, passion, perseverance, strength, tirelessness, and a talent for numbers that came to also manifest in meticulous attention to details.

With these properly honed, he made his maiden entrepreneurial foray in 1961, establishing Pan Sarawak Trading Company, a company that catered to the hardware needs of the timber industry.

This, truly, was the turning point: his drive and foresight took him everywhere he envisioned. And his hands-on involvement helped transform that small hardware company he founded exactly fifty years ago into present-day Pan Sarawak Group, with interests in financial institutions, shipping, construction, a lifestyle retail mall, timber, plantations and hospitality, and which now includes Pansar Berhad, a company listed under the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

This was, of course, the public person he was, to which his staff, associates and business partners can attest. The very same people who will also readily declare that he was strict but always fair, attentive, sharp, quick to grasp matters and gifted with a very good memory, often recalling vivid details decades later to the chagrin of his managers and, we admit, also us, his children.

From the days when he would began his working day travelling from his village in a pair of slippers, putting on the one pair of shoes he owned only when he reached town, his formative years also instilled in him a few other vital qualities that stayed with him all his life.

Ah Bah was a frugal person, someone with simple tastes, and someone blessed with humility and empathy.

This was the environment in which we, his children, were raised. And the values which were instilled in us and to which we became accustomed from young.

Because Ah Bah would have had to drop out of school if not for the encouragement and financial assistance from Miss Yao and Miss Ting, two of his teachers, education was exceedingly important. All of us were therefore given the privilege and benefit of good tertiary education and more.

Though he lavished on all of us his love and care, Ah Bah ingrained in us the value of thrift. So every cent of our allowance while we studied overseas had to be accounted for in full with a monthly statement – with receipts attached – and we were taught to only spend on what we needed, not on what we wanted.

He was strict but fair, objective and always listened before he formed an opinion or made a decision.

This was the reason he was always approached to mediate in disputes or to arbitrate judgements. In fact, his mere presence was often enough to maintain peace, which was also why he was viewed as a capable leader right from 1958 when he was Area Headman to when he was appointed Pemanca and then Temenggong.

Yet in the simple and frugal life that he led, there was one place where he, well, splurged, if that word can ever be used in Ah Bah’s context.

play_golfIt was one occasion where he saw fit to maintain a ‘little black book’, his only other love besides Ah Mah – this was golf, his little vice.

In fact, the story amongst his peers was that if ever a new golf club were available in the market, Tai Sing Chii would already have it.

Yet even here, his passion for self-improvement was visible: he recorded all his strokes in his ‘little black book’, the same one that Ah Mah often saw him painstakingly clean sweat off and blow-dry with her hair-dryer.

Ah Bah was indeed many things to many people, and often different things to different people. But no matter whom it was and what he was to them, the way he touched lives was always special and unique…and all of us will miss him dearly in our own special way.

And for those who made a special mark in his life, we thank you for your endearing friendship to Ah Bah then, and for recalling to us today your heart-warming tales and memories of him.

It is now time for him to take that final well-deserved rest and our prayers will always be with him.

Good bye, Ah Bah, and thank you for everything you have ever done for all of us.

Till we meet again…….

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  2 Timothy 4:7