So many people said great things about Tun S. Samy Vellu after he died yesterday.
Even Pakatan leaders who used to whack him upside down over the decades said he was a great man.
Good lah like that.
In Malaysia we said good things about a person who just died.
That's the way we are.
Hopefully Pakatan leaders and their followers will also remember the good things about their "enemies" even when those people are still alive instead of being so spiteful and relentlessly wanting them to die in prison.
Anyway, it's actually true that Samy Vellu was a good guy.
And I'm not saying this just to be politically correct when talking about someone who just died.
His contributions to the country as a long serving minister are well known, so I don't think I have to list them down here.
Instead I want to tell you all the human side of Samy Vellu as observed by others.
A semi-retired journalist friend once told me that Samy Vellu was perhaps the best minister due to his deep knowledge of his works.
He said the guy knows everything about the Works Ministry from top to bottom during his time there and was also all ever ready to share what he could to make it more efficient for the good of the country.
My friend recalled an incident in 1997 when he was a rookie reporter and was told by his editors to check on certain important things related to a story about the Works Ministry, which was to be published the next day.
The order was given half hour before midnight and the only person who could clarify the matter was Samy Vellu himself.
My friend frantically tried to get in touch with Samy Vellu but it was not easy because not many people carry mobile phones those days.
They didn't even dream there will be smart phones in the future.
In the end, my friend managed to get the number of a phone in the minister's car. Yup, those days, important people have their cars installed with a phone.
He called and was so relieved that Samy Vellu was the one who actually picked up the phone.
'Apa? You from NST? You reporter baru ke? Sorry, saya tak berapa dengar. Ini phone line tak bagus. Nanti saya call you balik," said Samy Vellu before hanging up.
My friend was devastated. He didn't expect Samy Vellu to call back as the guy didn't even ask for the news desk's hotline number that he used.
As it was, the editors scolded my friend for not trying hard enough when he told them about what happened.
Just at that moment, the news desk's phone rang and there it was Samy Vellu on the line. Apparently the guy knew the hotline number.
"Sorry, saya baru sampai rumah. Itu phone kereta memang useless. Awak reporter baru tadi ke? So, you mau tanya saya apa?" he said.
And with that Samy Vellu gave all the necessary info to enable the story to be published.
The story made it to the print just minutes before the editors closed the pages for printing.
My friend, who years later became an editor himself always remember that incident because Samy Vellu made the effort to call him back despite him being just a rookie reporter at that time.
He has several other personal stories about how good Samy Vellu was but that one was my favourite.
How good Samy Vellu was as a minister? Particularly as Works Minister?
For that, let me tell you about an incident during my trip to India in 2011.
I went to Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai during that trip.
I have to confess that I was not impressed with what I saw in India.
The huge gap between the rich and poor in that country was so great that it depressed me during the trip.
I found Mumbai and Delhi to be chaotic and didn't feel safe there.
Chennai was however better.
The people were much nicer and things appeared to be in better order.
The thing that I first noted about the difference between Chennai and the other two cities was that the roads were in better condition and they even have dividing lines in the middle, which was probably why the traffic was more in order as people observed the traffic rules better.
Try go around in a taxi in down town Mumbai and you will know what I mean. Delhi was slightly better but not by much.
Anyway, I asked the Malaysian embassy guy who was with me during the trip about why there were dividing road lines in Chennai and not in the other cities.
'Oh, itu sebab jalan kat sini Samy Vellu yang buat. Dia orang suka dia kat sini," he said.
I honestly thought he was just joking until what happened at the Chennai airport when I was about to depart for home at the end of the trip.
As I was passing through the immigration counter, the officer who was checking my passport suddenly smiled and said to me;
"Ah, you are going home to Malaysia. How is Datuk Seri Samy Vellu doing?"
I was a bit shocked as the guy even used Samy Vellu's title at that time when he said that.
I replied that as far as I know at that time, Samy Vellu was okay.
I asked the immigration officer back how he knew Samy Vellu.
The guy smiled again and said;
"I don't know him personally, but Datuk Seri Samy Vellu did many good things here. He is a good man."
Again, the guy didn't drop the "Datuk Seri" title from Samy Vellu's name, which I think was his way of honouring him.
I wished I had asked him how he learnt to use the "Datuk Seri" for Samy Vellu but I didn't have the time as there were others waiting to get their passports cleared.
Well, if someone in Chennai can appreciate Samy Vellu like that for his contributions there, I'm quite sure Malaysians could do the same for him as he did much more for this country during his life time.