Posts Tagged ‘good health’

Last night, I was at a departmental store to buy some bath towels for my family when someone quietly walked up from behind and gave me a gentle tap on the shoulder. Startled, I turned around and saw a face I have not seen for ages.

“Hi Miss Liao, it’s nice to see you again!” I exclaimed happily.

“Wow, your memory’s good, you could still recognized my face and remembered my name!” she smiled back.

“Of course, who could forget the secretary of Mr. Ruthless?” I teased her. “Yeah,” she nodded and laughed.

“So, are you still working for that awful man?” I asked her.

“No, I left the company early this year. He was fired shortly before I left,” she replied.

“Oh, was he? But he was very powerful in the office, always acting like he was the Chairman’s godson!” I laughed in disbelief.

Mr. Ruthless was a village boy who made good in the big city. He came from Batu Gajah in Perak. It was the same village where my grandpa lived and made bean curd for sale. His grandpa and mine were “mahjong” buddies. Their “kedai runcit” or provision shop was just opposite my grandpa’s house. It was a small world indeed.

He studied in a very prestigious mission school in Ipoh and then worked as an audit clerk in an accounting firm. There, he met his future wife, Miss Bitchy, an accounts clerk from Taiping. After their marriage, they moved to Kuala Lumpur and pursued their accountancy courses at night while working during the day. It took them many years of hard work before they became qualified chartered accountants and clinched top managerial posts.

Mr Ruthless worked in a property investment division of a large organization. He was the Group Financial Controller and Miss Liao was his secretary. His wife was a Branch Manager of a bank within the same organization.

Me? I was a junior secretary to another manager in the same company, just a small little fly.

As a top executive, Mr. Ruthless and those of the same level were entitled to pick the best units whenever our company launches new projects. After they had picked their choices, the remaining ones were opened to the public. Between him and his wife, they bought about 20 pieces of properties ranging from luxury condominiums to shop-lots at prime locations for investment purposes. They can easily secured loans due to their positions in their respective companies.

On top of this, Mr. Ruthless and his wife also dabbled heavily in shares. He was always on the phone most of the day, following the day’s trend. They each drove a brand new Mercedes-Benz to work and travelled to Europe annually for holidays. Their two young sons went to private schools in Melbourne. Life was very good for them.

Everything went smoothly until 1997 when the economic crisis hit the country hard. Mr. Ruthless was instructed by HR to draft a list of employees to be retrenched. Those who did not perform so well, those who were too well-paid, those who have little to do or those who had just taken maternity leaves were the first to be told to pack up and leave immediately with only a month’s salary as compensation.

You can imagine how unpleasant this exercise was – plenty of tears, begging from those affected and bitterness upon realizing their rice bowls were broken. But Mr. Ruthless stood firm on his decision. He would not yield an inch; all that he cared for was to save as much money as possible for the company so that the managers could continue to receive their year-end bonuses – at the expenses of non-executives. He became the most hated man in the office and was called Mr. Ruthless, the one good at “chopping heads.”

For those who were not affected of which I was one, it was not a blessing either. From a company with over a hundred staff, it was reduced to a skeleton. I was now a secretary serving three or four bosses instead of one and my salary was frozen infinitely. “Where is your group spirit?” he demanded whenever he sensed unhappiness in the office. At times he would just retort bluntly, “Take it or leave it!” Miss Liao stayed on because she needed the job real bad but I just tossed it back to him. I decided to stay home and do something I am happier with.

A few years after I had left the office, something tragic happened to him and his wife. It became a common occurrence for his nose to bleed. His white shirt was often tainted with blood stains, so too were his papers on his working desk. In the end he went to an ENT specialist and after some tests, found that he was having cancer of the nose; in fact he was in Stage 4. When the big “C” attacks, it means big medical bills. It got to the point where he was forced to dispose many of his properties to foot the bills. As if this is not bad enough, even his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer although both were not smokers. Before this, they lived healthy lifestyles, ate organics only, were regular joggers and often went to the gym.

“Miss Bitchy died last year, on the first day of Chinese New Year, at the age of 52, and nobody came for her wake or funeral,” Miss Liao concluded on this couple’s misfortune.

“Oh, how sad to die so young, how about the big bad wolf, did he survive?”  I asked her.

“Yes, but he was hairless now and without a nose; it was gone completely, like Michael Jackson’s,” she laughed wickedly.

“Wow, he managed to survive, that is good enough!” I said.

“But he looked like a zombie now; his cancer kept coming back despite repeated surgeries,” my friend said.

“How’s he to work in that condition?” I asked.

“He ran out of medical leaves and had incurred a lot of expenses for the company, in the end the management fired him and now he was jobless,” she said.

“Oh, what a tragic ending for a once mighty fellow who goes around throwing his weight!” I answered and she agreed.

“Seems like you can bully the poor and the weak, but you cannot bully the big C!” his former secretary said.

“And the doctor will have the last laugh; he will be laughing his way to the bank!” I said as a matter of fact.

“You know, some people who saw him recently said he was now a bitter and lonely man, staying at home with an Indonesian maid to take care of him,” and she continued, “and he was only 54 years old!”

“I think it’s his Karma,” I said. I could not think of any other reason to explain his sudden misfortune.

“Perhaps it’s,” Miss Liao said, “Look, I’ll have to go now or else I’ll be late for work. I’m now with a 5 star hotel, working as a counter supervisor, come see me when you’re free!” she said before hurrying off.

As I walked home with the towels, I thought to myself, “What’s the purpose of having this great wealth when you do not have the health to enjoy it?” Do you have the answer?

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