Coffee Break: In this week’s corporate drama series...

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on September 30, 2019 - October 06, 2019.
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Slap!

Passersby stop and turn towards the noise. A man dressed in grey and blue, with a white hard hat on, is backing away hurriedly from an apparently angry-looking woman in green overalls and a green hard hat.

“For the last time, no!”

Still holding his tender cheek, the hard-hat man pleads, “But why? We’re married now. We can build the right thing and we can build together. We just need to do related-party activities now that we’re related.”

“Well, I never asked you to marry me, did I? It’s bad enough that you want to change my name, but you’ll never have the rest of me!”

“Oh come on, I already paid so much dowry for this union. You’ll enjoy the related-party things we do, I promise you will, darling.”

Green overalls turns and storms away, arms folded. Hard-hat man starts after her, painfully feeling the stares. The crowd, sensing the show is ending, begin reluctantly dispersing, moving slowly in case there is more to see.

As the couple pass by a coffee table outside a nearby Starbucks, the three people sitting there hardly notice them. Anyone would be able to sense an intense discussion taking place judging by the tense atmosphere at the small table.

“So, what do you think, Mr X? I think my daughter is the perfect match for you, isn’t she? I raised her right, I did,” says the older man in a green shirt. “Together, you’ll fly higher and further. I know it.”

“But Mr K, she’s already married! And we’re basically competitors,” exclaims a younger man in a red cap, sitting opposite the older man.

Next to green shirt, a distressed-looking woman in a blue batik kebaya squirms. She furtively steals a glance at Mr X before leaning to whisper in her father’s ear.

Mr K listens and nods. “Alright Mr X, that’s true. But she is willing to leave him if we can come to an arrangement.”

“I also know she has a lot of debt and a lot of junk. A marriage will make them my problem too. No, I’m doing fine on my own, I don’t need that sort of headache,” Mr X says, rising to leave.

Mr K reaches out to touch Mr X’s arm and looks him in the eye. “Please, I haven’t finished. Hear me out.”

Red cap hesitates, then sits down. “All right, I’m listening. And I have a few terms before we start taking this forward...”

The three people lean forward slightly and begin talking more animatedly, oblivious of the gaggle of military-uniformed men holding placards in protest a few hundred metres away.

“We want regularisation! We want sustainability!”

A female passerby stops and approaches one of the protesters. “Hey, sorry, what is this about?”

The soldier, looking irritated, puts down his makeshift placard before approaching the pedestrian. “It’s a long story ma’m, but the short version is after all these years, we just realised our former fund manager has been giving us more returns than we deserve.”

The passerby is trying to grasp what was just said. Then she frowns, and asks: “So, you’re unhappy to have received so much?”

That question stumps the soldier. His face scrunches a little. “Well, it’s not that we’re unhappy...”

The lady asks: “So why are you protesting?”

Soldier looks deep in thought. “Hmm. It’s just not sustainable lah. We don’t want to kill the cow for the milk, do we?”

“Ah, I see,” says pedestrian. “Then I’m sure you can all agree to have no dividends for a few years to even things out, no?”

And above them all, a soft breeze gently blows away the haze to reveal a little bit more of the blue Malaysian sky.

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