I have been accused to being a misfit who has the talent to upset people. I remember my Young Politician in his more concerned moments asking me,"Have you ever analysed your relationship with Bijay [My Nepali Naan Maker] and asked yourself why you hang out with him?" In his words, I was wasting my time with a member of the lower orders who had no ability to do anything for my career.
Well, the answer is no. I have not really analysed my relationships very much. I suppose I've done the very UnSingaporean thing and accepted that I will be friends with the people that I like and I won't be friends with the people who don't like me. Vinod, the only person I know on any of Fobes's list, once told me that the people who like you will like you anyway, and the people who dislike you will dislike you no matter what - so it's best to waste energy on trying to convert people away from their natural inclinations. Given Vinod's status as a gossip fodder for the press in Malaysia and beyond, I'm inclined to agree with the man.
Liking and disliking people is a funny thing. There's no logical explination to why we click with certain people and why we don't click with others. Astrology tries to explain allot - As a Sagitarious Tiger, I'm best off dealing with dogs and horses. Yet, until today, I avoid trying to use Zen for business (born in the Year of the dog), though I admit that I have a soft spot for the fact that she looked like a tofu. I'm supposed to be only a "fair-weather" friend with sheep - but my mother's other children (Tara and Christopher) are deeply loyal to me and my favourite litigator has proven to be a better friend to me in the few short months I've known him than quite a few I've known over the years.
So why do we like certain people and we dislike others? There could be a host of reasons why we like and don't like the people that we do? Money, power and status usually play a part in influencing who we hang around. But in the personal quest for money, power and status, we usually find that the people most willing to give it to us, are the people we like.
It's like one would say the problem with the PR is that you have to be careful about what you say to people about your clients. Being a blogger, this is exceedingly hard because the temptation to write what you want regardless of lible is strong. Having said that, if I look through my client list and the people who have supported me through the ages, I've liked everyone of them as people, even if I have had my disagreements with them. It's easy to talk well of people when you have the affection for them and it comes from the heart. People like former Saudi Ambassador to SIngapore, Dr Amin Kurdi or Ed Ng, CEO of GECF SEA, are people that I'd respect whether they were my clients or not.
Dr Kurdi in particular left an impression on me. When you live in the "western" or at least 'western-influenced' world as Singapore is, you don't often hear good things about Saudi Arabia and Arabs other than oil and the prospects of making a fortune. The Arabs, as is often said, can be sharp in their dealings and dealing with the Arab buraucracy can be very furstrating. Yet, at the same time, the Arabs have a culture where personal integrity counts. When a man gives his word, he sticks by it. I don't know about the experiences others have had but because I dealt with Dr Kurdi, my experiences were such that this was true. I remember one of the embassy staff telling me, "If Kurdi says it will happen, it will." When I worked for the Crown Prince's visit there were no contracts signed, no confirmation emails just his assurance that, "You will be compensated," and I was compensated beyond expectation.
Of course, relationships have to work both ways. Although I've yet to work on another major project with Saudi Arabia, I've understood the importance of keeping in touch, even when there's no money involved. I think the very rich often get tiered and cynical with people because - hey everyone wants to be your best friend. It's easier to deal with people who genuinely are your friends than those who only appear when there's something in it for them.
Another character in my life who comes to mind is Vinod Shekar, CEO of the Petra Group. For the past three years, Vinod has been number 16 on Forbes's list of richest Malaysians. Allot is said about Vinod, not all of it appears to be wrong. Yet, despite what is said in the media about the man, I actually like him for his personality.I don't agree with everything the man does but I believe it says it all when a lowly driver sticks with you for two decades and speaks highly of you.
There's something very likeable about people who despite their success, treat those beneth them with dignity and respect. You may not find them agreeable initially but you learn to respect them and appreciate them for being people of character. Then you get people who are nice to you, and they treat you well but then you see them treat people lower than themselves and you get turned off.
The best time for this with local Singaporeans is when you see them with their maids. I don't know what it is but some highly respectable people are simply incapable of treating their maids like people. It's as if they need to extract every penny of the $320 they give their maid in a monthly salary - the usual refrain being, "It's allot of money where she comes from." Yes, there are maids who do abuse the privilleges they are given, but it says allot more about the employers when they try and extract the pennies.
If you want to see a White Man's character, take him to Orchard Towers and watch how he conducts his business with the hookers. Chances are, you'll be well treated because you're a mate. But when you notice the guy gets a girl, let's her fondle him with no intention of hiring her services, and then refuse to offer to compensate her for her time spent (She wanted it mate), it says allot about the guy. Yes, it's fun to have girls fondle you and if you give them half a chance they'll try and extract every penny from you - but you should not denny people from being able to make a living - even if the living they're making is not to your liking.
Character counts and one of the best ways to see a person's true character is by the way he or she treats those smaller than him or herself. If you see someone fawn over one set of people and talk down to another...you know its time to start vomiting on them.