KUALA LUMPUR: The MH370 incident has shaken the world, including the daughter of a Malaysia Airlines pilot, Captain Abd Rahim Harun.
In this letter to her father, Dr Nur Nadia Abd Rahim expresses her pride, her regrets for taking her father's work for granted.
THE FLYING DRIVER
This note is long overdue and is something that I should have written a long time ago - to let my dad know of how proud I am of him.
I am proud of what he does, in spite of him not being around for almost half of my life.
I am so sorry for being ashamed to tell my friends that you are indeed a pilot. A good one at that.
I am so sorry for telling my new friends that you are a driver.
I did not want to come across as a privileged kid.
We are after all, living a normal life.
I am part of the extended Malaysia Airlines family.
I have flown with them ever since I was an infant.
My first trip with my dad, my favorite pilot was Kota Kinabalu.
Apparently, I was told that I was less than pleasant and I was being a difficult (but adorable?) kid.
Nevertheless, I grew up loving airports and flying.
My father, just like the missing Captain, has worked for Malaysia Airlines ever since he left school.
Many times we urged him to work with different airlines but he refused because he wanted to be close to his family and be around us as often as possible.
We could have enjoyed the perks that were offered - free education at international schools, all living expenses paid, a chauffeur to drive us around if he had accepted job offers from other airlines.
That's how much MAS pilots are sought after.
Being a pilot's daughter, you are bound to have just your mother flying solo, attending your first day at school, your academic prize giving ceremonies, your sports days, your birthdays and even those Raya celebration.
The worst incident that occurred while Ayah was not around was when our house was robbed by 3 masked robbers.
On top of that, my mother was then 7 months pregnant. My dad was not around and my mother had to handle everything by herself.
She refused to call my dad and worry him as he was to fly back to Kuala Lumpur the following day.
My mother understood the burden that he carries on his shoulders and the importance of having a full, undivided focus while he is flying as he is responsible for hundreds of lives, and not just his own family back home.
I remember being choked with tears when our English teacher in college asked us one by one, 'What do you remember most about your dad?'
I stood up, and answered, "I remember that he wasn't around for half of the time".
He is far from a bad father. He is just working hard to support our family.
We have come to accept that, especially when people asked us, "Ayah mana? (where's your dad)"
I would answer them "Entah, somewhere around the world. Not sure. Have to check his roster."
All his life, his presence has been determined by a single sheet of paper which he would share with us at the beginning of each month. He would sometimes be annoyed when I ask him about his whereabouts because I should have checked his roster first before asking him that.
Before he leaves for work, each one of us would send him off without fail and watch his airport transfer pick him up and drive off.
Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, other times in the middle of the night. We would "salam" him in advance before we go to bed.
And whenever he returns from work, everyone in the house would come to the front door, and greet him.
And I never realised how significant these rituals are until the MH370 incident occurred.
Each time he leaves for work, he will be responsible for hundreds of lives, he will be responsible in connecting families together, he will be responsible in helping businessmen seal the deal, he will be responsible in realising wanderlust dreams of travellers.
I remember once, a very old passenger in a wheelchair, waited for Ayah to meet him personally after a London-KL flight, he gave Ayah a thumbs up said, "Are you the Captain? Very smooth landing just now. Thank you!"
I beamed with pride inside.
But deep inside, our family knew, everytime he leaves for work, there is always a possibility of getting that fateful phone call, the possibility of him never returning home.
We have accepted that as part of our lives, every single day.
He underwent rigorous training to be where he is right now.
He has annual health checkup to ensure if he is fit to fly.
He has exams, just like students.
His flight manuals are as thick as my medical books.
He is as 'OCD' (meticulous as some would say) as you would want in any pilot flying your flight, ensuring everything is in place.
Even when it comes to punctuality, he isn't a minute late nor a minute early if he says he's reaching a particular time. ... 'I'm reaching there in seven minutes. Standby'.
This, is a snippet of a life of a cabin crew's family.
Cabin crew sacrificed a lot just so they could help the world connect from point A to point B.
Let us give the families affected by flight MH370 our support, prayers and some privacy.
Before you pass judgement, point fingers, or even spread theories and speculations, remember that you will not only hurt the missing cabin crew's families, but you will hurt our feelings as an extended MAS family.
Wherever you are, MH370, we pray for your return.