Last week I had dinner with two friends whom I have not met in years. Both of them are architects and both previously studied at MRSM Seremban. But I first met them separately at different times during my student years in UK. The first friend, who is now based in KL, was my college-mate during A-levels at Wrexham while the second one, who in now in JB, I met while at Sheffield.
We had dinner at the mee rebus tulang restaurant at Damansara Aliff in Tampoi. The dinner was actually the secondary event... we spent most of the evening catching up on news and developments of each other. Both of my architect friends are going through a rough patch in their professional careers and sharing of stories sort of help lift some of the gloom and perhaps spread some moral support, however little that may be.
Slightly more than a year ago, I read the story about a multi-storey carpark built by the Penang Development Corporation that had to be demolished because of so-called improper design. The news article mentioned that PDC would take civil action against the building's original architect, including reporting him to the Board of Architects. That particular architect is the friend from Wrexham days.
When I first read the newspaper report, I did not believe my friend could have made such a basic mistake as under-designing the space requirement for each parking lot. There must be more to it. Indeed there was... and during dinner that night, I got to hear his side of the story.
My friend told me that he had been made a scapegoat by certain people in power. The incident was one of the lowest points in his life. It wasn't enough that they fired him. They even wanted to ask the Board to withdraw his license to practice. But my friend wasn't going down without a fight. He had kept all the necessary documents to prove his innocence. To date, his case is still under negotiations, so I am not able to share more of what was told to me. My friend would just like to see a quick settlement because he wishes to move on.
The sad part of the whole episode, my friend said, was that during the most critical of situations, the friends whom he had previously helped out, turned their backs on him. You learn who your true friends are when you are in deep trouble.
As for my second architect friend, he told us the story of how he was doing quite well a few years ago. His firm had a few reasonably-sized projects in hand and had minimal debts. The situation made a u-turn when, unknown to him, his partner spent the firm's profits on personal interests. Since the expenses were made under the firm's name, my friend became jointly responsible. To avoid being declared a bankrupt, my friend has been scraping funds for the last few years to make monthly payments to creditors.
Listening to the stories of both these friends had me count my own blessings. I have been through tough financial situations myself but they are nowhere near the emotional stress that my friends are facing now. I may not be able to offer any monetary help but I hope the time spent in re-living our friendships would somewhat help ease some of the pain...