Greetings from retired Train Captain Che Mat

Last Sun I published retired “Train Captain Che Mat’s Heart-wrenching Note” Link on my blog with a short write-up. That note could have been his last farewell message to all his family, relatives, friends and colleagues as he was due for a major heart by-pass operation the next day. He was sickly and he knew that his life was hanging precariously on the balance which could tip either way.

Exactly one week later, Che Mat is well and good. He’s going home today! What a relief!

Just like all those who know Che Mat, I was worried and anxious whether he could pull thru that traumatic and life threatening major operation. On the eve of the operation, I text Che Mat to drop me a message after the operation once he’s conscious. I waited anxiously for 3 days before our indefatigable Che Mat messaged on Thur that he’s out of ICU, transferred to a normal ward. Indeed, the operation was a tremendous success. Che Mat will be going home today.

Frankly, when I heard from him that he was about to go for the major heart by-pass operation I was quite worried. I was worried cuz he’s already 70 years. The older you are, the chances of a successful operation are reduced correspondingly. That’s a fact. Like so many of his friends, I cheered him on with words of encouragement assuring him of our first class medical facilities able to perform miracles!

Indeed, the NUS medical team has done a remarkable job saving Che Mat’s life – a 70 year old patient. Notwithstanding the cutting edge medical facilities in NUH, we found our trust in divine providence to be a source of immense comfort and hopes when our prayers were duly answered. That’s the power of combined prayers!

Wonder no more why all our major heads of religion denominations pray at our MRT train network every now and then. For without their combined prayers, more might have been killed on the tracks, more ponding or langgar cases!

I could even say that nearly 14,000 prayers (based on my blog viewership figures) have managed to invoke the pantheon’s compassion and benevolence to grant Che Mat a reprieve. Now that he’s earned it, I’m sure he will live till a ripe old age.

Thus, just yesterday, Che Mat beseeched me to write an after note to thank each and everyone for their prayers and well wishes.

For someone who had the rare opportunity to have turned around at the gate of the netherworld, the perspectives, attitudes, mindset etc in life hitherto will have a complete turnabout! Henceforth, Che Mat is given a fresh leaf to start his life again. I’m sure he’ll treasure every moment of his life!

Nothing better describes Che Mat’s present state of mood than this apt Chinese saying, “真正的鬼门关走了一圈。。。你们有没有过如此惊险的经历?”

Che Mat fought his last life threatening battle and won. I wish him a fulfilling and rewarding journey on the final lap of his life. May all the gods in the firmament grant him that wish! All the best to you Che Mat!

PS: This blog post is published with Che Mat’s permission.

Posted in Langgar

Heart wrenching note from retired Train Captain Che Mat aka Ahmad Awang

To all my friends on Facebook/WhatsApp and other media of communication, I am now lying on a hospital bed celebrating my 70th birthday due to blockages in my three arteries. It’s so sad that I had to reach out to all of you under such unfortunate circumstances. I hope you all lend me your ears and hear me out possibly could be my final message unless inshallah I manage to pull through after tomorrow.

Ballooning is not possible because of the severity of the blockages and a triple bypass is the only best option, as strongly recommended by my heart surgeon.

I was under close medical supervision for the last sixteen years until I got discharged four years ago with a clean bill of health. I don’t know what went wrong now?

l didn’t take a grain of rice for the last 14 years as most of friends are well aware. Ironically, l am strict on my food intake regime and yet, this dreaded ailment could happen to my well being. I am not asking for sympathy but, this is a lesson for everyone to know and share. That no matter how much precaution you undertake, something along the way could possibly go wrong without you even realising it.

Apparently, you could appear healthy leading an active lifestyle in sports or other activities  etc but without you even knowing it, unconsciously right down inside your body blood vessels, plagues start building up slowly until it reaches to a critical level, then suddenly you realise something is wrong with your life hanging precariously. By then it’s already too late.

The damage has been done and it’s irreversible. Blame it on yourself for being complacent or lackadaisical mindset on your food diet. That is what exactly happened to me now. I’ve inadvertently joined more than 20 of my ex-colleagues who also suffered the same fate as me. What a sorrow! At the final lap of my life towards the finishing line, I’ll have to suffer this unfortunate painful traumatic heart bypass operation.

Anyway, l shall take this oppurtunity to inform you all that l will undergo bypass surgery on 20/11/17(Mon) @0800 hrs at Ops Theatre Level 2, NUH by Heart Surgeon Dr Kang and his team of Doctors. Dr Kang is an experienced skilful heart specialist having done bypass surgery for the past 8 years.

Barring any unforeseen circumstance such as complications arising from kidney failure, stroke or diabetic interference which only account between 3% to 5% of past cases, I’m in good hands. Furthermore, heart bypass cost is so much cheaper and reliable than ballooning or stent insertion.

Immediately after the heart bypass surgery, I will be transfered to ICU Ward 20 level 2 to recuperate from this critical devastating operation lasting 4 hours, assuming there’s no complication.

In view of above circumstances, should I not survive this major operation despite all your sincere prayers and well wishes, I take this final opportunity to seek your forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.

To all my buddies / colleagues / friends / brothers in the SAF, JTC, SMRT, Mendaki Sense, Cleaning Express Pte Ltd at Scotts Square and Dulwich College, I seek your forbearance for any misgivings, rudeness in speech, negative in body language or anything that may offend you physically, mentally or spiritually with or without any ill intent. As we’ve known each other since young till now at this senior age, we should clear all our misgivings by now and renew our bonds and friendships on a fresh leaf!

Should I owe you any money, please claim from my children and siblings. But as far as I know I do not owe anybody any single cent till this very moment. Most likely it’s the other way round!

Anyway, I Halalkan Hutang Puitang Itu, but in Allah Swt Mahkamah di Akhirat, l cannot say anything. It’s between you and your Creator.

That’s all I have to say in my this final farewell note. Everyone has to face death in whatever circumstances – be it sickness, accident, disaster or old age etc . For the latter, it’s a bonus and a life well lived.

Your fate or death is already written the day you came to this world. When, where or how are all pre destined by the almighty Allah. I came into this world with nothing and I will return also with nothing.

Good bye my friends. You will remember my name now. But with the passing of time, I’ll just be a passing memory. You will go along with your daily routine as though nothing matters. Sure, my family will miss me for some time and after that, my photo will be archived in the family album.

When there’s life, there will be death! When there’s birth, there will also be rebirth. That’s the story that goes on and on in every endless cycle of life and death!

Last but not least, I sincerely thank you all for taking your precious time to read this short note. I apologise for the bad English. Do pray for me. It costs nothing. Your good deed shall be rewarded!

By God’s Will. I love you all.

Allahuma Sali Ala Mohammed Wa Ali Mohammed.


Throughout my 18 years in SMRT, I’d known Che Mat. Even after I left the company, I still remain in constant touch with my ex-colleagues including Che Mat. He retired at 62 years after 22 years as a Train Captain – the mandatory retirement age then.

Even though we were at different crew stations on different lines, we managed to catch up and berbual-bual whenever we met during breaks at Jurong crew stn. Che Mat reported to Jurong crew stn whilst I to Tanah Merah. He was on the NS line whereas I was on the EW line.

Che Mat may be 15 years my senior but we share a common interest in gadgets. In the late 80s and early 90s especially during the pre Android and IOS days, when Palm OS ruled the earth, Che Mat, late Ahmad Mon Link and myself would discuss about Palm OS software and its latest developments. We were always comparing notes, exchanging information via “beaming” to each other’s Palm the latest software or hacks acquired!

Che Mat is one of the few orang tua in syn with the latest mobile apps and gadgets in the market. Just like us, he also spent a fortune on the latest gadgets. I still remember Che Mat proudly demonstrating to us his latest acquisition, the Nokia Communicator costing a bomb – more than his pay daa! Yet, he still owned another highly prized Handspring Prism (with color which was a novelty then) running on the latest Palm OS. Ah, those were the days lah! Only ancients like us in that age group will understand what I’m taking about.

CCL Train Controller Rahim with Retired Train Captain Che Mat in NUH

☝️CCL Train Controller Norman with Retired Train Captain Che Mat in NUH

Maybe, due to my unexpected visit to Che Mat when he warded in NUH for some intestinal and stomach ailments during the early days when I came to know him that cemented our strong friendship bond. Obviously, he was touched when I visited him unexpectedly by riding my motorcycle all the way from Pasir Ris to NUH to pay him a surprise visit!

My impression of Che Mat is an irascible old man, capable of deep and warm friendship with a down to earth practical attitude. Incidentally, some of my best friends in my previous company are Malays ie Che Mat, late Ahmad Mon, Basri, Norman, Anwarruddin, late Dr Dos  Link etc etc. We got along well as colleagues and friends.

The other special characteristic about Che Mat is that he is a walking Wikipedia of all the past, present Train Captains. He keeps track of their careers (promotions) and also their expiry dates : whether resignation, termination or CFF (Complete For Filing) – euphemism for departure to the netherworld!

Two days ago, Che Mat suddenly messaged me that he is warded in NUH and going for his triple heart bypass. Naturally, I got worried and pray for him. I told him that I will pray to Lord Buddha to bless and protect him ensuring that the major operation will be a success. I also told him that I’ve known at least 4 or 5 of my friends in Elias Mall neighbourhood who have gone thru the same operation with resounding success leading a normal life.

I believe all of us will agree that our medical healthcare is the best in the region albeit costly. But then what is the use of cheap medical facilities if they are not world class able to save lives? In my previous life, I know that lots of rich from neighbouring countries even from as far as Dubai in the Middle East come to our tiny country to seek medical treatment.

That fact clearly highlights our cutting edge in healthcare which I must say have not gone down in the direction of our train network! Hopefully, it shall remain so and not follow the rolling downhill stock making us a laughing stock as butts of joke for the whole world.

I appeal to all the friends of Che Mat to take this opportunity using the power of prayers to wish him a successful operation tomorrow. I have faith in our impeccable medical institutions and I believe Che Mat will survive and pull through with many more rewarding years to live till a ripe old age! All the best to you Che Mat. May all the gods bless and protect him.

Updated on 22/11/17 @2030 hrs. 

Che Mat’s operation is successful! Well done Medical Team of NUH! Thank you all for your prayers.

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

Merits of HDB 2 room flexi scheme

Victor’s cosy living room ☝️

Not long ago, I visited Victor’s 2-room flat opposite Pasir Ris MRT & White Sands next to the MRT viaduct and TPE. He was kind enough to invite me over to his new place even though I’ve barely known him thru Wilson.

Victor aged about 67 yrs, used to work as a Regional Sales Manager. He’s now a semi retired weekend taxi driver. On weekdays, he pursues his own interests with more than an hour of daily morning brisk walking in the early hours at Pasir Ris beach to kick off his day. 

He’s thinking of giving up his weekend job to go on full retirement since he’s getting a decent monthly payout from his CPF. He says it’s enough for him since he doesn’t smoke or drink. He’s a widower with a married daughter giving him monthly allowance for his living expenses. As such, he need not have to work at all.

Victor used to live in a 4-room flat opposite Downtown East. He was living alone in that flat for almost 8 yrs after his daughter got married off. He didn’t like to rent out the spare rooms to live with strangers. So he decided to sell it and opted for the 2-room flexi scheme. This flexi scheme replaces the studio apartment scheme for the elderly. HDB, like all other govt depts will never admit their mistakes. Instead, it says the studio apartment scheme for the elderly was discontinued due to “low take up rate”.

According to Victor, only citizens above 55 yrs qualify for the 2 room flexi scheme. HDB assumes that you will live till 100 yrs. The lease sold is based on your age on blocks of 5 yrs capped at 45 yrs. If you are 65 yrs, the lease shall be 35 yrs and so on. You must pay in full without any loan given. It cannot be sold in the open market. Don’t ever think of making any money out of it.

I asked Victor the same 2 questions he asked HDB regarding this scheme. What if he were to live beyond 100 yrs? Will the HDB take over the flat? What if he were to expire before the end of the lease? Victor told me that HDB assured him he could continue living in the flat for the rest of his life and not be evicted. As for the payment beyond the contractual lease, it shall be worked out by then.

In the event that he departs suddenly for the netherworld and can’t complete the full lease, the balance shall be refunded pro rated to his next of kin.

Victor bought the brand new 2 room flat (45 sq metre) at only $83K on a 35 yr lease. Yup, HDB sold the flat to him for a song if you compare the same on the open market. My colleague recently bought a 2 room resale flat at Buangkok for $243K. Another colleague bought an old 3 room flat which is more than 50 yrs old at Marsiling Drive opposite the Market & Hawker Centre at $245K. That’s how costly our flats have become.

When I sold my new generation 4-room flat in Hougang at $250K 10 yrs ago, I incurred a loss of 16K. It was bought at $266K in the open market. The agent told me it’s no loss considering the fact that I lived in the flat for nearly 10 yrs before selling it off. If we move further back in time, my parents paid only $101K for their 4 room A model flat in 1994 – 23 yrs ago bought directly from HDB.

Maybe, due to the current high housing costs, the govt introduced the studio apartment for the elderly and subsequently the 2-room flexi scheme. This is to help retirees “monetise” their fully paid flats. Retirees like Victor do not need to live in such a big flat once their children got married and set up their own separate homes.

I think the 2 room flexi scheme is an attractive option for citizens above 55 yrs. Victor is so happy staying in his flat with all the convenience of amenities. His block of flats is a mix of other types of flats and families without the unpleasant stigma of living in a block of studio apartments.

One major reason for the failure of studio apartments is they are lump together in a block specially reserved for them which is akin to old folks home. Imagine going back seeing funerals at the void deck every now and then. Who wants to be reminded of one’s impending dateline in this mortal world?

Suffice to say that our friend Victor is happy with an ideal home. With a big 24 hr supermarket and coffeeshop below his flat, 7 mins walking distance to the MRT station and beautiful beach a stone throw away, amongst the many amenities, what more can he ask for?

At the end of my house visit, I wish Victor all the best in his new home. How I wish I could be in his shoes in the near future.

Below are photos taken at HDB Hub sample set up of 2 room flat.

PS: This blog post is published with permission and endorsed by Victor.

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

The beginning of decline in Singapore?

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

In just one night, Tokyu Railways put their proprietary, somewhat clunkily named STRUM (Shifting Track Right Under Method) tech to the test, mobilizing all 1,200 engineers at once to slowly lower the existing tracks along a pre-built incline to connect it with the subway tracks below.

Building the incline required holding the tracks up on temporary scaffolding as the company dug out the earth below, which kind of makes us doubly glad the method held up.

In all, with the Tokyu railway’s last train arriving at the Shibuya Station at 1:00 am, and the first train the following morning departing at around 5:00 am, the army of engineers had a vanishingly short four hours to put everything in place and send a few trains on a test run before morning commuters arrived.

さよなら地上駅舎_東横線渋谷駅-2013_3_15−3_16 相直までの1日を振り返るドキュメント_-_YouTube

It’s almost a miracle that everything went smoothly, as with so many boots on the ground and such a short time to accomplish the task, it must have been a logistical nightmare; each engineer required to know exactly which bolt they were in charge of turning.

Thanks to Tokyu’s incredible organization and the commendable teamwork of the engineers, the new section of track from Shibuya to Daikanyama was ready to roll overnight, giving us a renewed respect for Japanese engineering.


When I forwarded the above news article to my friends, they were impressed with a chorus of “incredible”, “fantastic” etc.. Click the above link to watch the video.

My friend “Ape” had this to say “I’m always amazed by the engineers of Japan. Such feat demands more than just workers’ commitment. It requires management commitment and direct involvement in what’s going on on the ground… sorely lacking here in SG. I’ve seen lots of paper pushers, the likes of “staffers” and “eunuchs” suggested by Philip Yeo. We’ll never get anywhere near the Japanese until management roll up their sleeves and sweat it out with their workers.”

Like I said before on my blog, Japan being a developed country is always No:1. We may console ourselves that there is nothing to be ashamed about if we can’t match them. Link

Let’s look at another video clip below. This time it’s from China which is a 3rd world developing country.

Not too long ago, China’s paramount leader visited Singapore to learn from us. In the early 1980s, they were so poor and backwards then. Our own paramount leader told Deng that the Singapore Chinese were descendants of illiterate landless peasants from Guangdong and Fujian, whereas the scholars, mandarins and literati had stayed and left their progeny in China.

“There was nothing that Singapore had done which China could not do, and do better,” Lee wrote. “He stayed silent then. When I read that he had told the Chinese people to do better than Singapore, I knew he had taken up the challenge I quietly tossed to him that night 14 years earlier.”

Fast forward, the predication came through within one generation.

Let us hear what our potential PM had to say.

“Whole-of-government efforts mean every agency chipping in to make the impossible possible. It is not every agency having its own vested interest and a veto to make the possible impossible,” he said.

Public servants can get in the way of innovation, by coming up with new rules to regulate activities instead of looking for ways to cut red tape and enable new activities, he noted. Common reasons given are a lack of time and resources, and unsupportive bosses, said Mr Ong, who was a senior public servant before he joined politics. But public servants must set aside the time, he said, adding that the best ideas are always born out of a desperate need.

Why take the risk when you are drawing big paycheck you being a maverick? Why go against your bosses by going against the flow and kena marked? I’ve lived long enough to know what I’m talking here. Duduk diam diam dapat duit. Jangan cari penyakit!

My brother, a school teacher for more than 25 yrs migrated to Vancouver to do menial work working as plumber starting from scratch yet he’s still surviving bringing home the bacon.

Just like other European countries, Japan or Korean, they do not have cheap foreign workers in the construction and maintenance industries churning defective or lousy products resulting in so much complaints.

Instead of looking into the root causes of locals not willing to take up jobs in the construction and maintenance industries, they blame our young not able to take hardship. Frankly, with that kind of pay who wants to work in that industry. With so much available cheap foreign workers, it makes much more sense to employ them. With so much revenue generated from foreign worker levy, no one is complaining. Why upset the status quo?

That is the obvious reality of the ground situation in our country. But who cares as long as the trains move?

But then of late, it doesn’t seem to be the case. You have seen and read the news. I’ll just leave it to your imagination and I’ll rest my case.

‘Bad luck’ that DTL disruption happened during open house, says Transport Minister Khaw


MRT tunnel flooding: ‘Commuter safety was never compromised’, says SMRT Trains chief executive

Click here to read Why communism fails?

Posted in Langgar

The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth

I’ve just finished reading Frederick Forsyth’s latest book – The Outsider, My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth. It briefly outlines his life story in his latest book Outsider which is basically an autobiography of himself which read like another one of his many bestseller thrillers.

There are many interesting facets of his life revealed in the book. I was surprised that his father worked as a rubber plantation manager in Johor before WWII. Forsyth describes how his father would often ride his motor bike all the way from Johor to Changi Village (that’s where I’m now writing this!) for his entertainment. Having the night out, his father would ride all the way back to his rubber plantation in Johor!

His father ran back to England after he was warned by a Japanese plantation worker believed to be a Japanese spy. The shrewd Japanese had many spies infiltrated in the coastal region of peninsula Malaysia many years prior to the Japanese Imperial Army invasion during WWII. The operation was carefully planned over many years which led to the successful Japanese invasion via sea along the eastern coast of peninsula Malaysia with the planted spies leading the army inland.

Forsyth’s father had saved the Japanese son who was struck with life threatening acute appendicitis by pillioning that boy on his motorcycle in the middle of the night all the way to the old Changi Hospital. Otherwise, the boy would have died.

The Japanese father was so grateful to him for saving his son’s life that one day the Japanese father begged him to leave Johore and return to England quickly. Few months later the Japanese Imperial Army attacked. If the father did not go back to England, we would not have enjoyed Frederick Forsyth.

I was quite surprise that Forsyth in the book reveals he could speak 4 other languages, namely German, French, Spanish and Russian. Very few Englishmen could speak so many languages. It seems that he didn’t go to university. He studied till A levels then went on to work as a journalist after he was trained and qualified as a Fighter pilot.

I read all his novels and short stories. He’s one of my favourite authors. Naturally, I would like to know how he started his writing career.

In the book, he says that he didn’t choose to be a writer. He did it to pay off his debts when he was dead broke. He had no money, no house and unemployed. Whilst staying in his friend’s flat, he had written his first novel, Day of The Jackal in his old type writer in 35 days! Initially, no publisher wanted his manuscript. He had to beg around until he was so desperate that had to forcefully dash into a famous publisher office to convince him to read his raw manuscript.

Since he was so desperate for money, the first book, The Day of The Jackal and another two books – The Odessa File and The Dogs of War were sold in a 3 book contract together with the film rights at a paltry sum of 20,000 pounds. The spectacular success of the movie and the instant hit of his first novel made hundreds of times more than the amount he sold! He says he has no regrets cuz he was an unknown then struggling to make a living.

Forsyth is a maverick who detests the British Foreign Services ( Min of Foreign Affairs) and the BBC. He calls them High Mandarins who caused lots of damage to the country in terms of their foreign policy in Africa resulting in untold suffering and deaths of so many natives as a consequence of their ill informed, inhumane policy particularly in Nigeria’s civil war.

Another area he has lost faith is the British judicial system. He and many others were clearly cheated of their life savings by the criminal activities of an investment banker. He was prepared to testify in court. After so many years, the culprit got away with only a light sentence.

Forsyth ended up as a bankrupt once again with a debt of a million pounds cuz he just bought a farm thinking of retirement as a farmer. But he had to start writing again to pay off his debts which resulted in him churning out a few more bestsellers giving him the much needed source of income and a comfortable life.

Fact that he was born an Englishman where he could get away even though he openly condemns the “High Mandarins” and the unfair judiciary system in UK. Mavericks like him will not survive here!

It reminds me of Jeffrey Archer’s “As the Crow Flies” when Forsyth ends the book, “The Outsider” by synchronising the first part and last part of his life. In the last chapter of The Outsider, Forsyth’s life comes to a complete cycle when at age 75, he was able to fulfill his life long dream of flying the same WWII fighter relic plane – Spitfire. 70 yrs ago, as a 5 year old child, he sat in the cockpit of the same plane when that plane landed just outside his home during WWII, he swore that he would one day fly it.

Fans of Frederick Forsyth should read this book as he relates his life story along with his adventures and many near death experiences which are also part of the novels written by him. Very few author’s exhilarating life mimics art in such a way as his. Outsider is really a fantastic ride indeed!

Read related article here.

My review on The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth. Link

Posted in Langgar