“I would sit all alone in a cold, miserable 6,000 square foot room. The only company I had was a sea of giant computers, and my job was to ‘talk’ to them!”
58-year old retiree Jude remembers a time when you needed dozens of refrigerator-sized computers to do the work of a single smartphone. In the 1980s, he wrote computer code and oversaw the operation of IBM mainframes. It was soul-sapping work. “I’m glad I was able to change careers!”
Jude was born in Perlis, but wouldn’t call the state his kampung. “My father worked on the railways as a technician, so home was wherever the job demanded he be.”
As such, he spent his childhood bouncing between towns in Perlis, Perak, Penang, Pahang and Kedah. Socially, the constant moving did him little good. “I’d spend 6 months getting to know people well enough to become friends, only to be told it was time to pack up and move again.”
At the age of 19, Jude’s family finally settled down in Kuala Lumpur. The newfound stability worked wonders, allowing him to earn a degree in engineering and meet his future wife.
“We were both in the church choir,” he recalls fondly.
Church represents the anchor in Jude’s life. When Team Ceritalah met him at a Brickfields food stall, he was chatting and joking with 84-year old Arumugam, a fellow churchgoer who has become increasingly deaf over the years.
Does Jude think today’s youths still value religion?
“They are still religious, but sometimes in the wrong way.”
Jude feels that youths place too much emphasis on their individual relationship with God. “They forget that religion is also supposed to be about the community, not just the self.”
He gives us an example. Why spend money on religious items when you can buy a meal for the needy? Doing the former may prove one’s faithfulness to God, but does nothing to alleviate the suffering of others.
“Religion should be about helping others find salvation,” he reminds us.
Jude also regrets the slow but steady neglect of ethnic culture by Malaysian youngsters. To illustrate his point, the old choir boy uses the example of music.
“Music used to be closely related to culture. You knew a Chinese song when you heard one because of the unique strings, or a Malay ‘Dondang Sayang’ (love ballad) because of the melodic structure. But these days, musical culture is no longer in demand. All you get are western-style pop songs.”
His comments however were less complaints, and more rueful observations.
“Tastes change,” he sombrely notes.
We concluded by bringing the conversation back to family. Despite his age, Jude has 5 children between the ages of 10 and 22. We asked if he was committed to making sure they grew up with the values he holds so dearly.
“No. I don’t force them to attend church or listen to the Beatles,” he laughs.
“People have to do things out of passion, not fear. That’s the only thing I expect from them: to derive happiness through the things they love.”