This is a guest-post by Sumi Sam, my lovely wife. She wrote for the first time on my blog, inspired by the lunch meeting with philanthropist tycoon Mr. Koon Yew Yin and Dato’ Yap Lim Sen.
Last Wednesday while I was at work I received a very unusual email from KC. ‘Mr. Koon invited me to lunch!’. A mail with only subject line and no content. I guess he must have been too excited and can’t wait to share this with me thus the empty email.
And I know why he was so excited. A few weeks back he started talking to me about Mr. Koon when we were having dinner at home every night. He told me there is this man, who attempted to donate RM30million to UTAR but was rejected. He told me there is this man, who gives away RM1million scholarship each year to help the poor student going to college/university. He was particularly impressed with how low profile this man is humbly helping the poor, so he googled his story.
As he learnt more about this man, Mr. Koon Yew Yin, he got even more impressed with how low profile he is, with his background and his life journey. He is a co-founder of IJM, a giant company in Malaysia (core businesses are construction, property development, manufacturing and quarrying, oil palm plantations, toll concessions, port operations and international ventures), yet a simple man with his dedication to the nation education and society. I was very touched with the way he managed his scholarship – write him a mail and post it to his house, tell him why you need the scholarship. He will read every one of the application letter and select those that are genuine in need. So ‘back to basic, simple and devoted’.
Last weekend on our journey from Penang to KL, the discussion in the car was all about one of Mr. Koon’s recent article – ‘The Great Malaysian Brain Drain’. We were counting and were amazed with the number of our friends who are residing outside of our beloved country working in the foreign land with their skills and talent.
And then he received an invitation from Mr. Koon for lunch this Saturday. For the first in our life I saw him getting a little nervous about the lunch date. For the first time in our life he asked me what he should be wearing on the day. He was never nervous nor worries at any occasion. From meeting my mom for the very first time to piano performing for the Sultan of Johor to meeting his wealthy clients, he was never, ever worried. Mr. Koon is a very special person to him, I can sense that.
And so we finally met today. KC brought me along to the lunch date he has been looking forward to. I was not going to accompany him when he first asked me to but I am glad that I did. It was a pleasure and life learning. Mr. Koon came along with his best friend, Dato Yap Lim Sen; another founder of IJM, also former Managing Director of IGB, the man who headed the famous restoration of Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.
‘Oh please, don’t call me Dato..’ – Dato Yap smiled as we shake his hand and greeted him as ‘Dato Yap’. All four of us sat down on the lunch table and conversation was first centered around Datuk Yap’s book he authored many years ago ‘The Chinese Dilemma’. It was very interesting seeing how Mr. Koon and Datuk Yap interact with each other, though they have very diverse opinion, but they made really good friends for life, and that was really heart-warming.
Mr. Koon was quiet to begin with, he was most of the time smiling and listening to our conversation. ‘I admire the work you are doing’ – that was the first sentence Mr. Koon said to KC after a while. I was stunned hearing that and have to take a deep breath thinking that I have heard it wrongly. This was supposed to be what we were going to say to Mr. Koon! He became my idol from that moment.
Someone as successful as him being admired by so many others said that to a young man that is nobody and nano tiny comparing to his success and his life passage. I learnt a tip for success on that spot – a real successful man sees everyone as his teacher in life. Mr. Koon spent some of his time investing in the recent years and is being seen as the Malaysia’s Warren Buffet; and yet he is a subscriber to KC’s financial blog. He said he is admiring the work KC is doing on his blog. I truly am inspired by his spirit of learning as he is the real guru for everyone with his experience and his success.
Interesting enough, both Mr. Koon and Dato’ Yap graduated as a Civil Engineer in KL Technical College, which was the former body of UTM where KC and I met each other and are made engineers. In the older days they were sitting for the professional examination conducted by the Institution of Civil Engineers of United Kingdom and Royal Institute of British Architect. I was again struck with the huge differences of generations graduated from the same college/university. Almost everyone of my course mates are salaried employees from day one of graduation. None of us has courage nor dare to take risk to venture into entrepreneurship. We were offered a pretty good pay soon after graduation and we stay in our comfort zone since then. Our super senior Mr. Koon and Dato’ Yap, and most of their school mates, took risk and had their life adventured maximizing their potential. And they have great achievements.
KC was star-struck and enjoying his lunch and conversation sitting next to Mr. Koon. ‘So, what can I do for you?’ KC suddenly asked. And I almost felt off my chair when he said that. That was so hilarious! KC has always been a very simple-minded person and he is never a good socialist. When he said that I am sure he really meant it that he wish he could do something for Mr. Koon. But I was thinking who are we to ask that question? I am sure with Mr. Koon’s status today he won’t need any help from us.
Mr. Koon’s reply amazed me, again. ‘What can I do to help you instead?’, Mr. Koon said. KC of course, was not prepared for this question. All these days he was only thinking about what he could help Mr. Koon with, and we have had some conversation over dinner table. He said he can’t think of anything for someone as successful as Mr. Koon. The only thing he did expressed interest to me was, he said he wish he could help share Mr. Koon’s scholarship news to his readers hopefully more and more people are aware of this and that it reach the ears of those students really in need. But then he soon threw it off his mind, as he thought Mr. Koon won’t need this help. And guess what, when KC remained quiet after his reply on the earlier ‘What can I do for you’ question, Mr. Koon suggested that KC blog about his scholarship so it could reach more in need. What a coincidence! And it worked out really well as that was what KC wished to do as well.
And the lunch went on with lots of inspiration that has triggered us to think about a lot of aspect of life. Our country, our community, our career, our family, ourselves. On the way home after lunch, KC and I had moments of silent in the car, with the bubbles in our brain as a function of the chemical reaction of the food for stomach from the restaurant and the food for life from the conversation.
We felt ourselves so tiny. It was a precious experience with learning for life. I am thinking about what I want to be able to tell my grandchildren when I am old. I can’t be just doing what I am doing now.