Wednesday, 10 April 2013
78th anniversary of a non-existent organisation
Would you believe it? Last Saturday, about 230 people came back to Penang just to celebrate what I coined initially as the 78th anniversary of an organisation that no longer existed. Many travelled from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru for this occasion but there were also a few who had returned from as far away as Canada.
Would you believe it too that we may be building up enough momentum for an 80th anniversary (Octogintennary) in two years' time? I did make a suggestion that future gatherings should be held on a weekend as close as possible to the 17th of September, the actual date of incorporation of the Ban Hin Lee Bank in 1935. That should give the gathering more significance.
The hawk-eyed will notice the presence of Dato Seri Goh Eng Toon in this group photograph. I wouldn't say where: he could be on the stage, he could be at the edge of the picture, he could be in the centre, he could even be one of the guys sprawled in front, just go look for him carefully in the picture.
The important thing was, for a brief few hours he was one equal with us. He was the last chairman before BHLBank was swallowed up by Southern Bank in 2001. He was game enough to come and he expressed great happiness and surprise to see the huge camaraderie among the people who once called Ban Hin Lee Bank their second home. A deep revelation to him.
But the bank never really disappeared from the minds and hearts of many of us who once worked there. Maybe not everybody shared the same sentiment but for us who did, gatherings such as this one could only reinforce the friendship that had been built up through the decades: a friendship that cannot be forgotten easily just because the organisation exists no longer.
For most people, the friendship that matters the most in one's lives are the friendships that were nurtured during schooldays. Today, my old schoolmates - some going back to kindergarten days - count as among my good buddies.
However, it is something else to find friendship on a large scale among former colleagues from your working lives. Unless someone can prove me wrong, the former staff of the Ban Hin Lee Bank could be the only example where ties have remained steadfast despite the years.
Of course, it helped that everyone had been affected together when the organisation ceased functioning in 2001. Simply put, it was an event that was beyond our control. Everyone was caught in the same turmoil and when the boat sank figuratively, everyone was thrown into the same deep end of the sea. For everyone of us who were affected, we now shared the same affinity for one another.
Needless to say, we survived. One way or another, we survived. And so it is very natural that almost 12 years later, we remain thankful for the experience that had hardened us. Maybe somewhere along the way, there was after all something of real value and meaning in the bank's corporate culture because today, we are still able to come together, look each other deep in the eyes and greet one another as old friends. Battle-hardened old friends.