Sunday August 13, 2017.
At 11 a.m. yesterday I left for Hj. Latiff's house at Bukit Rasah. The "tahlil" was supposed to be at 11, but I had to finish 9 holes first at S.I.G.C. As expected there was plenty of time, because after arriving there I had a full 15 minutes before we were invited into the house for the "tahlil" proper. It was for the departure of some members of the family for the haj, which season ends at the end of this month, the 9th. of Zulhijjah 1348 H.
On Friday morning Wahid called, conveying Hj. Latiff's invitation. I'd said why are you calling, not Hj. Latiff himself, and Wahid laughed. I repeated this to Hj. Latiff when I shook hands with him. When I saw Wahid there later, I said I'm only angry because he didn't call me about Baharin Taib's passing that I found out only a week later, but Wahid said in fact he was in Johor at that time.
Hj. Latiff bin Othman was the personnel officer, Felda, Jalan Maktab, KL, who I reported to on March 15, 1969 upon accepting the offer from "Lembaga Kemajuan Tanah Persekutuan" for the post of "Pegawai Pentadbir" in a letter signed by Kamaruzzaman Abd. Halim b.p. Pengerusi, Lembaga Kemajuan Tanah Persekutuan, dated February 8, 1969 ref. (T) 1/A/1AO. The letter said I was to reply before February 15 whether accepting or not. The pay was $850 a month on the salary scale $850 x 50 -$1,000/E.B./$1,050 x 50 - $1,250/E.B./$1,300 x 50 - $1,500. At that time, since October 1, 1968, I was employed as "Penolong Pegawai Daerah, Alor Gajah" on a 3 - year probation with a monthly salary of $430 per month. L.K.T.P.'s offer was 1.98 times more. I couldn't refuse. Today, of course, this is peanuts - a general clerk starts at almost 1,000 now. But for perspective, in 1968 a brand new Volkswagen (beetle) cost $5,300. A bunglow in Ampang Jaya, KL, cost $15,000! I was 24. I had just graduated from U.M. in the middle of 1968, and although I went for an interview at the PSD, Jalan Young, KL, I failed to get a scholarship to read Law in England. So the Alor Gajah stint, when it came, had to be grabbed. The late Mokhtar Selat, our former ambassador to Chile or Peru ( I can't remember which one - you remember the embassy kidnapping case) also attended the same interview, but he succeeded where I failed.
When Noraya Khalidun came to our table yesterday, I told her that Hj. Latiff's father was related to hers, from Tanjung Ipoh. In fact Hj. Latiff had just told me that, when I said I saw Noraya with the women, but she didn't seem to recognize me. Even Noraya didn't know that, saying she thought his father was from Juasseh. Hj. Latiff's mother was from Rembang Panas, which was where I thought both his parents were from. I know exactly where his old house is, because from 1995 to 1999 I was the State Assemblyman for Senaling, and I pass that location more times than I can remember. Noraya was with me in Seremban for a brief period, in one of my two postings there.
Hj. Latiff started with the Police, but couldn't get used to the social life in the force, and resigned and joined Felda. Yesterday, recalling this, Hj. Latiff remarked if he didn't leave he could have been sacked! Like me, he also went through a few transfers between KL and Seremban, but stayed with Felda to the end. He's 81 now, is mostly wheelchair-bound because of his knees. I remember meeting him a few times in the last couple of years with a walking stick, but was still able to walk then. But unlike me, Hj. Latiff always stayed in Seremban, in this very Bukit Rasah house. In fact he also bought the next house, during the real estate downturn in the 70's. When he was first posted to Felda hq, he would rent a room on top of Hameed's restaurant at Jalan Gurney. I would see his old 122 Volvo parked there. Then he bought a diesel-powered Toyota, when diesel cost 50 sen, and travelled every day from Seremban. In fact many Felda officers drove diesel cars because of the amount of travelling involved.
When I reported for duty at Felda, Halim (rock foundation) and A.K. Bear (Lumumba) were already there, but both left for the MCS after about one year. But surprisingly, unlike many of our contemporaries in that service, neither made it to the Chief Secretary of the Ministry. I met Halim recently at the OPA, and A.K.Bear called me about somebody about 2 weeks ago.
I remember Hj. Latiff's father and younger brother. In 1958 I entered the finals of the oratory competition for "Afternoon Religious Schools, N.S.", held in Rembau. His brother entered the Quran reading competition - his father was a Quran teacher, I think. I won my competition, but I can't remember what happened to his brother. Hj. Latiff also remembers about that competition.
Several people at Hj. Latiff's place, I remembered well enough. But all seemed different, with the white hair and the sagging faces. Sometimes I feel lucky to still have decent health and to still play golf almost daily at the club. Hj. Latiff is a case in point. I told him I met Dollah Yusof at Datuk Sulaiman's reception. He's 77 and has glaucoma in the right eye, but is still walking straight, except he can't drive. But I also met Raja Alias at Fadzil's place, and he's still sprightly at 83, although he's also all white now.
One of the reasons why Hj. Latiff arranged for yesterday's khenduri, Wahid said, was to gather old friends. I think it's the nice thing to do. I wouldn't want to miss these if I can. If invited.