Sheih on Sheih: Tales of A Househusband
Posted on April 23, 2008
“Life is like the flag of India”. A friend pronounced to me in early 2000 when I get him a job at a television station. Many years prior to that moment, he was the one who committed himself in promoting my artistic talent so I can cater to my family needs.
Indeed, life replicates those wheels and it keep on rotating. Sometimes we were up and the next second, down we go. I started to believe that everymen would have to face this at least once in their lifetime. Some men will be fortunate or unfortunate to have their wheels revolving faster than any other men. So they will face more ups and downs.
When you are up, you convince yourself to do lots of stupid things on the premise that you deserve it, and when you are down, life force you to be stupid in order to justify the hardship you are facing.
Every dog has his day. I began mine in 1997. I left my permanent position in an established production house as Senior Director and Chief Script Editor at the age of 27 to dive into the life as a freelancer. Leaving behind a good salary, a beautiful apartment and whole lots of other perks because I wanted to be free. The decision was made a month into my marriage.
I justified my move as passion. I want to do what I want to do and nobody, not even the TV station can dictate terms on me. I earn the respect from peers and producers look up at me as the raw species that are not into money.
But it is all lies. I earned three times more as a freelancer and I can afford to reject 5 to 10 offers a week just to focus on 1 or 2 works a month. In August 1997, my bank statement showed that for the month alone, I have collected RM50k. It was the time of year that I wrote “Perempuan Melayu Terakhir”.
It was also the day when my wife came back and told me that the TV3’s Director of Operation has called her and asked about me. Yunus Said, whom until today I earned my utmost respect, asked my wife to persuade me to pay him a visit and I did.
I can still remember the moment well. It was at the Penthouse floor of Sri Pentas. The security officer escorted me into his huge office where he was seated watching the 8pm news.
As he turned down the volume of the TV set, Yunus break the ice by asking about the tie that I wore. We have few good jabs at each other before he asked me what would it take to bring me to join TV3 and to be specified, to be part of Grand Brilliance. I am not shock but reluctant.
Yunus dug deeper into me and asked me about all the books that I read when I wrote the screenplay. Asking about the car that I drove, about the loans that I have committed myself into and what I wanted to do in future.
I told him, I wanted to further my study and he immediately agreed to finance my study once I earn my confirmation if I join them. He gave me three days to think about the offer.
Two days later, I received a call for another appointment with him.
We met again and the first thing he told me was this, “I have the HR people waiting to prepare your appointment letter, so how much do you want?”. I looked at my wristwatch and it is 6.30pm. I knew I couldn’t keep the people waiting any longer. We went straight to business. An hour later, it was decided that they couldn’t afford my asking price, as I walked towards the exit, he stopped me and said this, “RM5k, that’s the highest we could offer you”. “I am sorry sir”.
I left the room not knowing that that will be the best deal I can get in years to come.
Few days later, the stock market tumbles, the devaluation of ringgit started. Producers stopped returning my call and all agreed future projects gone down the drain. The Malaysian film and video industry collapsed.
Panic stricken, I called Yunus only to get the chance of leaving the message with his assistant. My message was, “Please let Mr. Yunus know that I agreed with his last offer”. They never call me back.
Few days later, my wife told me that there are huge turmoil and power struggle in TV3. The PM has asked Yunus to leave. The purging of all Anwar’s men was in process.
We ended living on our saving which last us almost six months. No more offers and no more friends. Every one I knew has either lost their jobs or deep in debt and facing marital problems. Some has return to their kampongs.
Coming April 1998, it was decided that we could no more afford to pay for our house rental. I tried to persuade my wife to let me surrender our car because we already began to default our loan. She disagreed and it cost a lot of strain. I knew that only pride is what we have left. We sent our maid back to Indonesia on a one-way trip holiday but I guess she knew the problem we are facing. Who wouldn’t? I have been staying at home for almost 6 months now.
Came May Day 1998, we packed our things and moved into my father-in-law’s place. As I stood in the empty hall, I told myself, my Camelot has crumbled and I am left with nothing but tears. While the nation put the blame on Georger Soros’s shoulders, I have only mine to weigh the burden.
I tried to take pride in my new position as househusband, but it is not easy at all. Everyday, having to watch your wife and your father-in-law went to work while you were there, holding the hand of your child while the kid waved goodbye to them diminished me to the lowest point in my life. I am at the most bottom of the revolving wheel and all the sudden, it seems like the wheel has now stop spinning. I’m doomed.