Thursday 9 July 2015

Mamat Karim : 1963 -1967

Department of Technology
Ministry of Agriculture, Kuala Lumpur

1963 – 1967

Working in the Department of Food Technology opened up a whole new experience for me. Instead of analysis in the laboratory, the emphasis was on food processing. We conducted classes and seminars for canning and bottling of fruit juices, jams and jellies, canned fruits, kaya processing, chilli sauces, you name it. The classes were for Farmer’s Associations, Persatuan Wanita in the rural areas, a precursor to the cottage and small industry concept mushrooming today.

After my father’s demise, I spent a lot of time in Pak Ngah’s (Ismail Latiff) house at 22 Kia Peng Road. I would be there during weekends. And I used to follow them during their trips to visit Mak Ngah’s father in Katong, Singapore. The old gentleman would line us up and give each one ‘ang pows’. With that in hand, we would do our shopping in downtown, Singapore.

One fine day, I was on my kapcai when I was stopped by the police near Pak Ngah’s house. As usual, my driving licence had expired and I did not hang the “Learner” plate. To this day I did not pass my motor cycle test. I was on the bike, followed by the police car when we drove into Pak Ngah’s house. Soon, all of them came out. Somebody said, “Eeh, Mamat dengan police escort lah”.

On seeing Encik Ismail, the police man stepped out and saluted. “Tuan”, he said at attention. “Betul ke, dia kata dia nak ke rumah Tuan”.

“Anak buah saya, mengapa”? Pak Ngah replied.

“Takde apa Tuan, saya minta diri dulu”, and they left.

My uncle looked at me and said, “Apa hal kau ni.”

“Lesen mati,” I replied sheepishly.

“Patut I suruh dia orang masuk kau dalam lockup”, he muttered.

I had a rollicking from my cousins. They still remembered the episode to this day.

Pak Ngah became the surrogate father for me. I truly respect the man. His parting words to me, whenever I salam him to take my leave was “God Bless You”. His kindness was just….I cannot put down in words. It is moments like this, when I look back, that tugs at my soul.
And it was during these times too that my friendship with Salleh began and stayed true to this day. We go back a long ways, Lay, and of course, Azu.

In 1967, my colleague, Vivekananda and I were selected to attend a course at the Central Food Research Institute (CFTRI) in Bangalore, India, for 2 months. The course was for “Analysis, Standardization, and Quality Control in Food Processing Industries”. That was the first time I stepped out of Malaysia and also the first I ever boarded a plane. The airport was still in Sungai Besi. I still remember Pak Ngah and family sending me off.

We spent one and half months at the Institute and the final half month study tour to food industries in Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi. In the late 60’s, India was still very much British orientated. In the lodgings where we stayed, called Ridge House, it was typical ‘Mat Salleh’ scenario. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner served at the main table by uniformed valets. You will not get that kind of treatment if you are a student these days. Even the laboratory assistants at the Centre held Masters Degree.

A few months after I returned, I was promoted to the position of Experimental Officer. That was a Division 2 post in the civil service. Promotion comes with added responsibilities. I was posted to take charge of the Food Technology Station in Tampoi, Johor. The station was situated in front of the Pineapple Board.

I was lucky because Pak Yong was attached to the Police Headquarters in Johor Baru. His family was staying in Bukit Serene so that was where I set up shop. Pak Yong and Yong were noted for having a number of family members staying with them. An extra loader to feed was normal. Thanks, Aziah, you were a kid then. But it was not for long. Pak Yong was transferred out of Johor soon and I started my bachelor life.

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