Folks, this is a little story that yours truly penned for an internet newspaper focusing on Malaysian affairs...
The topic is, brain drain, so I thought I could offer my two-cents worth...
The original article is found in Malaysian Insider... A twist of fate… Kedah man in Japan
MAY 30 — Like AC who penned “First love, long lost”, life just happened and before I knew it, I found myself enjoying life outside of Malaysia.
I am but a padi farmer’s son. I was working in a construction site after obtaining three Ds and one O for my Higher School Certificate in 1979. One day, my older brother handed me an advertisement by Singapore Airlines calling for pilot trainees. Fate had it that it was the last day for the application. It was a Friday and the post offices in Kedah were closed. My nephew drove me all the way from my village to Butterworth on a 100cc motorbike just to post the application letter. I can still recall how my buttocks hurt.
With rather average scores, I was very surprised that Singapore Airlines called me up for an interview. I miraculously got through that and some other medical checks that followed. Soon, along with a bunch of other Malaysians, I found myself on the way to Manila for pilot training. After being certified as a commercial pilot, it was fate again when the oil crisis in the early 1980s put a stop to the expansion plans of the airline.
Subsequently, we could not operate as pilots and were offered jobs as cabin attendants while waiting for the airline to recall us back to the cockpit. However, it was not to be. Singapore Airlines then offered us study loans to further our studies in the universities of our choice.
We were supposed to return to the airline after we graduated. Almost all of us went to US universities. Singapore Airlines did ask us to return to the cockpit after we graduated but only a handful of us did. The rest of us found new avenues. As it is, many of my colleagues from the pilot trainee days stayed back in the US. One went to the UK, another to Australia, and perhaps two or three returned to Malaysia.
I had the opportunity to remain in the US but I decided that I wanted to live in an Asian country, any Asian country. And somehow I had the good fortune of landing myself a scholarship from the Japanese government. To paraphrase AC, life simply occurred. I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate student days in three Japanese universities and made tons of friends, Japanese and otherwise. And as fate would have it, after obtaining my doctorate, one of my alma mater universities offered me a job for six years, after which, I was to return to Malaysia.
One thing led to another, and yes, before I knew it, I was promoted to become a professor and offered tenure. The next thing after obtaining my tenure was my missus and I bought a property and that really opened up another phase of life for us.
All my pals in the US, UK, and Australia (and, most likely, those who returned to Singapore Airlines as pilots) have surrendered their Malaysian passports.
Meanwhile, I choose to remain a Malaysian, heart and soul, and a proud Kedahan at that. I have no intention of giving that up.
Now, with the government touting the so-called Talent Corporation, would I be enticed to return to Malaysia? I shall touch on only the pull factors here in Japan as many other folks previously wrote about the push factors in Malaysia. There are three factors from my point of view.
First… from the professional aspect, there is probably zero chance of me returning. I have a “permanent” job here in a Japanese national university. I take pleasure in working with my Japanese subordinates and colleagues. I get a lot of respect from the Japanese community as a professor in a national university. It would be extremely hard to surrender what I have now in order to look for a job in Malaysia.
Second… socially speaking, I am thoroughly enjoying myself as a foreign resident in Japan. I am a permanent resident and except for the voting rights, I am on par with the locals. The public service is excellent and fair, while the people are extremely courteous and polite, and a joy to live with. To top this up, we are very lucky to find ourselves living among friendly and sociable neighbours. I have absolutely no complaints in this regard and would very much like to continue living under such favourable conditions.
Third… on a private basis, we are blessed with a sizable vegetable and fruit garden in our property. I cherish spending time and energy tilling the soil and cultivating the plants in the garden. To be able to do this in Japan as a Malaysian thrills me to no end and life simply could not be better. These too will be very difficult to give up for now.
Still, I do yearn for Malaysia and return home about twice a year for vacations. On every visit, I have always come away with the feeling that Malaysia is indeed a beautiful country. Perhaps when I retire from my job here in Japan, I might want to return home to further “re-discover” the many splendours of my beloved homeland.
Finally, on my hopes for a better Malaysia, I truly pray for a change in the government. I have faith in the people who have realised the folly of the crop of politicians in the present government. I am rooting for the folks in Pakatan Rakyat, for sure. These are the folks whom I believe can truly bring about a positive turn for my beloved country.