Doctor of Philosophy
My interest to pursue for Ph.D. in Process Control at Lehigh University in Pittsburgh was canceled after considering the number of graduate courses that are required since my Masters degree qualification was from the UK. As a diversion, I applied to three universities in UK and managed to secure admissions to all the three. The UTM’s Deputy Vice Chanselor suggested that I should take the offer from Cambridge since the university had a long tradition and will provide a good experience for me. However, my judgment was biased to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne because it has a large Malaysian community compared to Cambridge. I was giving serious consideration about the livelihood of my family. After all, both universities had a good research program on process control and in fact, Newcastle was better. So, I convinced the panel of interviewers that Newcastle would be better for my research. A few days later, I received their approval.
That was the second time I jumped the queue for scholarships, and the trick was the same. I got myself on standby with admissions secured even though it was not my turn to go for study leave. When everything had settled down and all the intended people had left, I went to see the dean inquiring whether or not there was an extra scholarship for me to use. The result was again positive. As Covey correctly said, “be proactive”.
So, I filled up all the necessary documentations immediately and not long after that, I was called for the interview that I’ve just mentioned. Following the approval, I quickly made all the arrangements as the peak of winter was approaching in UK.
At that time the dean was Abu Azam (now Datuk) and he was very helpful indeed. Although we had lots of differences and I had argued a lot against him in meetings, few days before my departure, Abu Azam offered a farewell dinner to me and wished me luck. The dinner that was held in his home at Kg Datuk Keramat was also attended by few other faculty members and friends.
In Memory of Ishar Saad
I was asked to contact Ishar Saad, a government officer who was then on-leave to accompany his wife reading her PhD in Islamic Economics at Durham University. All prior contacts were arranged by Abu Azam.
Ishar was a very nice, brotherly person indeed. When I heard about his death in June 2, 2008, I was both shocked and very sad as I had not been in contact with him for quite sometime. It was months prior since I last met him during the wedding of his eldest daughter Nawwar Husna at his home in Gombak. He was very dear to me. Upon hearing the news, I made quick family arrangement and drove to Kuala Lumpur immediately. I was fortunate to be able to offer my last friendship gesture to him by attending the funeral and offered condolences to his family.
Ishar was a man of principle. He adhered to his believe strongly and would persevere all the negative consequences if any. Though he might sound idealistic at times, he was more a realist who would focus on making things happen.For that reason, he could be critical to opinions but nevertheless abide by all that had been decided.
Both of us enjoyed DIY tools and gadgets that we collected through second hand purchase at various car boot sales. We discussed a lot about DIY projects to the extent that if everybody were to be like us, all the handy men would be out of job. When I last visited him, he showed me the pergola project that he was working on. The work was yet to complete and I criticized the design. That wasn’t very friendly, was it? But we had a habit of being very open to each other. At that time he had lost some weights and was not very healthy.
He was more than a friend to me and would fit more as a brother. We spent a lot of time together in family outings, and many other activities. I remember him offering to take care of my children when I mentioned my intention to go for hajj pilgrimage in 1991. The plan was nevertheless canceled as Hana was confirmed pregnant and had a number of complications related to pregnancy.
We were glad to see him and his family in Subang Airport to greet our arrival from UK in the late 1994. Not only that, he really caught me by surprise when he told me that they came to the airport in two separate cars with clear intention of lending one to me immediately, thus giving me no other option but to take the red Mercedes home. As my sister and family were also there, we said farewell at the airport. I used the car for more than a month while waiting for my car to arrive from UK. That was Ishar, a rare and special person that once in a while, one might stumble upon. May Allah showers him with his mercy and kindness and put him among those who are eternally blessed.
Arrival at Newcastle
We landed in Newcastle airport in November 1990 and were warmly greeted by Ishar . He then took us to his home in Durham, about thirty to forty minutes south of Newcastle.
Newcastle is one of the larger city in the UK especially when the adjoining city of Gateshead and the nearby towns of North Shield and South Shield are combined. If you had come across the saying “bringing coal to newcastle”, it meant something to the effect of “mengajar itik berenang”. Newcastle was a town evolved from coal mining and steel industries. It used to have a busy shipyard building and fixing marine vessels of various sizes. So, the community was dominated by the working class and when the industrial activities slowed down, unemployment increased and hence giving pressure to social conditions especially to the cheaper west-end of the city. Coincidentally, since our scholarships were insufficient, we were also forced to live in the same neighborhood.
Few days after arrival, we were busy looking for accommodation in Newcastle and a car for my family. I purchased a red Ford Escort and secured a rented accommodation on Stanton Street in Fenham, West end of Newcastle, a few blocks away from Akbar’s home. Akbar was from Sarawak and PhD candidate in Education. His wife cooked a very tasty lamb curry that I enjoyed immensely.
Burglaries and car thefts were common in the west end and we had to take all safety precautions. I was told that the conditions were slightly better in Fenham as compared to Benwell where many Malaysians were living and thus felt more secure. Fortunately, we didn’t have any incidence during our stay there.