Selling Hashish in VIETNAM. Chapter 12 - End game

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I spent another two weeks at my sister’s place in Kota Bharu. I liked this country and decided to see if I could land a job in Malaysia or Singapore. 

I had not received any phone call from Janet and Janice who were supposed to be in Penang. There was no way I could contact them. 

During my stay in Kota Bharu, through my doctor sister and her doctor husband I picked up a few contacts. Most were in Singapore, some in Kuala Lumpur but none in Penang. 

My sister knew of a place I could stay in KL. I could stay with Mr. Pradhan, an old widower staying in a small flat on Jalan Bangsar. I took a train to KL and landed at Mr. Pradhan’s place. He was quite welcoming, and in fact, was more than happy to see me. His lonely existence would get some company for some time. 

Mr. Pradhan hardly ever cooked at home and mostly at in cheap coffee shops. Not far from his place was an eating joint named “Kashi Brahmin Restaurant”. This was something I could relate with. Brahmins are high caste Hindus and vegetarian. This restaurant served exactly the kind of food I was used to back home. But they did not serve beer or hard drinks. 

Never mind. I sometimes ate at Kashi Brahmin restaurant and sometimes at Chinese coffee shops or Malay restaurants. 

I checked out the contacts I had got from my sister. Almost everyone said they would love to employ me but getting a “Work-Permit” would be a problem. I stayed in KL for a week but nothing concrete materialized. 

I decided to try my luck in Singapore. I took a train to Singapore. I was back in Singapore with which I was familiar. From Singapore railway station I went to Serangoon road, to the same place where I had earlier stayed at 80 cents per night. I checked in there and started checking out contacts. 

People were very welcoming and talked very friendly. But nothing concrete was coming out. In addition to checking out contacts I was also doing tourism, mostly by bus. I had sufficient munny to last a month in Singapore. The thousand dollars which Jim had given me helped tremendously. 

In one of my rambles, I came to Chai Chee. There was a large factory in Chai Chee named Rollei Singapore Pvt. Ltd. Rolleiflex was the world’s leading camera maker at that time and employed close to 4000 people. Outside the shipyards, it was the largest private employer in Singapore at that time. The factory consisted of an open paved space in the middle and two longish buildings on both sides. 

As I walked past the gate, I saw a signboard on the gate: HELP WANTED. 

I walked to the guardhouse. 

I am looking for a job” I said. 

“Wait”, the guard said, and dialed a number on the intercom. 

After the phone talk, he pointed at an entrance to the building on the left. “Go there. There will be a girl sitting at a reception desk. Speak to her.” He gave me a visitor’s badge which I pinned on my pocket and went in. 

The Chinese girl at the reception was expecting me. She had just spoken to the guardhouse. She motioned me to sit on a sofa and dialed her intercom. After a short conversation on phone she looked at me, “Take these stairs to the first floor, Second door on your left, Mr. Fritsch.” 

I went up. The name plate on the door had just one word written on it: FRiTSCH. Mr. Fritsch himself could not have been more than forty, six-footer, slim, and very handsome. 

We talked for some time. He asked me some social questions and some technical questions. 

“What kind of salary do you expect?” he finally said. 

I was making about 1200 Rupees a month at Kirloskar before I quit the job to join XLRI, I told Mr. Fritsch. 

Using that as a base I said, “A rupee in India gets you as far as a dollar in Singapore. I think S$1200/- should be fair enough.” 

“I will pay you S$1000/-. Is that OK?” 

I paused for a long moment and nodded. 

Then bringing the interview to an end he said, “When would you like to join?” 

I said, “Sir, you have not seen my certificates and not checked my references. I suppose it would take some time to do that, how about Monday?” Today was Wednesday. 

“Why Monday, are you busy? Why not join today? I will even pay you full salary for today”, he said. 

That was it. I joined Rollei. The girl sitting on the ground floor below Mr. Fritsch’s office led me to the opposite building and up two flights of stairs to the second floor. This was department T-31, headed by Mr. Jurgen Shilde. She showed me to Shilde’s office and left. Apparently Fritsch and Schilde had spoken on the intercom. 

Mr. Schilde explained my work to me. He detailed what Rollei was all about, what they were doing / making, my role in it and what exactly I was to do. Then we both walked one floor down to the first floor. 

A workplace was set up for me on the first floor, one floor below Mr. Schilde. He formally introduced me to the department and left. 

I introduced myself to the people around: All Chinese youngsters, males and females, early twenties, younger than me. The rest of the day went in generally getting to know each other. 

16:30 was knock0ff time. Everybody left for home. I made my way to the 80 cent Serangoon dorm. 

Next day they installed a phone on my desk. It was working from the moment it was installed. I was impressed. 

In India in those days, even after an instrument was installed (after much bribery and corruption), you still had to suck at least three ministers balls before the phone started actually working. 

I picked up the receiver. There was a dial tone. I dialed my sister in Kota Bharu with the required code which I knew. 

When she heard my voice, she started ranting. My father was calling from India asking when I was returning. The training session at the IAS Academy in Mussorie was to start on 1st October. It was about time I got back. 

I told my sister that I had got a thousand dollar job in Singapore. At the current rate of exchange (S$1=Indian Rs.4.25), I was getting the equivalent of Rs.4250/-, which was ten times the starting salary of Rs.450/- of a fresh IAS. So I was not going back. 

I told her to tell Dad that I was fine, doing very well and not coming back soon. 

I worked for Rollei Singapore for more than three years.


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