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I was a supervisor in the aerospace workshop when a tough ex-con, who worked in the hanger, approached me for help. Having straightened himself out, he was afraid for his kid brother, Somu, who was hanging out with street gangs. It was the 1970s and the police were waging an all-out campaign to rid the country of gangs. There was every risk that Somu might be arrested.

Would I be willing to employ Somu as a labourer in my workshop?

I had two conditions: Don’t interfere with my training regime and if Somu did not work out, I’ll fire him and this should not affect our friendship. Somu’s brother agreed.

I spoke to my boss, an old world gentleman from New Zealand, and Somu started work as a labourer – sweeping, cleaning and helping the mechanics. He was heavily tattooed and had ear piercings long before it became a fashion statement.

I did not make it easy for him and gave him plenty of overtime, which effectively curtailed his leisure hours.

In the 1980’s when I made workshop manager, I packed him off for specialist training in the UK. Back then, such overseas travel was a rare and sought-after privilege. While in the UK, I suggested he take a week off on vacation “to visit the excellent museums.” Somu did take that week off but I don’t think the museums formed part of his itinerary.

When I left the MNC in the 1990s, Somu was already a highly qualified technician and a certified NDT inspector. He married a beautiful woman and they have a lovely family.

Somu made it to workshop supervisor and remains gainfully employed in the aerospace industry.

He still wears silver earrings.

(Somu was one of four young school dropouts whom my supervisors and I nurtured over the years and sent for training in the UK and USA. Subsequently, the company put in place a formal apprenticeship program)

********** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2012 **********