“Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men…” For countless young, aspiring lawyers who have experienced bloody, barren years of culinary catastrophe, the curmudgeon-cry of the NUS Law populace has centered primarily on the all-important commodity of… Brace yourselves — this will be momentous… The —all important commodity of. Food.
“There’s a life about to start when tomorrow comes…” The anticipation of each academic year has almost always been seared with the glorious hope of a brighter tomorrow, marinated with a bursting overflow of tantalizing new bites. Cheaper meals. Caterpillar-free food. Greater variety. Real noodles in place of strings. Anything would be an improvement, so it seemed.
“Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?” In our noble campaign for a new world order at the Summit, in our valiant surge for *change*, I wonder if we’ve desensitized ourselves with our unrelenting expectations and self-entitlement. Continual complaints, after all, cultivate coldness, somewhat.
Last we checked, there were people behind the cash counter taking our orders, chefs in the kitchen making our meals and uncles/aunties preparing our caffeine-fixes. Today, let’s be thankful for what we’re blessed with, or even if we don’t quite fancy our Summit meals, to be thankful for the familiar faces of our Summit staff. They too fight a hard battle – arguably harder than Equity or Evidence – time and again to face the music of the people who will not be slaves (to bad food) again. I’m not too sure how “thankfulness” or “gratitude” can be cultivated or nurtured, so here goes.. We introduce a friend, a brilliant cook, a happy servant with an endless smile.
*As you read this interview, Suresh would have had his last day at the Summit on Wednesday, 5th February 2014… So this somewhat a tribute/farewell for the man behind the mutton, the boy behind the Briyani. Introducing: Suresh Krishnan!
Danny: Hi Suresh! Why don’t you start off by telling us.. Hmm how did you end up here in Singapore?
When I was 18 years old I went to New Zealand to work, I was working there for 6 years as a prata chef. After that, in 2002 I came back to Singapore. Then I decided to stay here, the environment is better than there (NZ), the people are friendly too. I continued my life here, I found myself a stall… First I was working under somebody then I found a prata stall to start a business. Then in 2006, I was doing a small business, after that I wanted to take a big restaurant. From 2006, I worked at – I think you guys remember – uh Mr. Prata, they have a franchise and they have an outlet in Clementi, so I ran the outlet for 6 years. A big restaurant: about 72-seater.. I was doing well. After that the contract finished, so I couldn’t continue. You know, the franchise is like a sleeping partner [who] just comes to collect the money about $10, 000 month. After that 2011, I think, I came here to work for Mr. Teo the Summit boss. He offered me the job. I gave my resume and he was very happy with that and he offered me lah – that’s when they first opened, I think that was in 2011? Or 2012…
Danny: Oh yeah remember last time we were talking, you mentioned that you were taking a culinary degree?
Yes I just finished a 6-month course! The timing here is good – after 5pm I am very free I can go for my course. The school is called ICASTEC. The office is in Clark Quay but the school is in Redhill. I did well over there – I achieved merit so I am more confident now with a diploma… You know that in Singapore you need a diploma cert, education is very important, if not you cannot get a PR and your family cannot come over. I have twins and my wife is back home and it’s very difficult they cannot come over, very hard to travel around, all the time I’m missing them…
Michael: How often do you go back to Malaysia?
Once every two months? Because I’m very far up north about 9-10 hour journey if I’m taking a bus, in Perak. One to two days off is not enough, I need about four days or three days. That’s why I am planning to bring my children here. That’s why I planned to take the course which is a further step I need to take. I’m waiting for Mr. Teo (Summit boss) to give me the employment pass – they’re trying to help me get that..
Danny: You mentioned your children, how old are they?
My children are two and a half years old! Both are boys. Sahen and Sachiv. Their names mean – the first one means our God Krishna, one of his names, “eagle”. The second one means “friend” or “friendly”. A lot of pictures in here *points at iPhone and scrolls* They are identical twins… A lot of photos here, which one you want, I can show you – see how friendly they are, they’re really cute! But I see them once a month only, back home during Deepavali time. I have one full family photo, let me find it… I take photos using this phone and sometimes my wife will send it to me. Also, I have 9 siblings I don’t have any pictures of them to show you – 9 of them too many.
Michael: Oh yah, how often does your family come and visit you?
Because it’s very hard to come over here – because I have twins, my wife is alone taking care of them. My mother-in-law passed away and my father-in-law is working alone over there. My wife is there with another sister in law so its very difficult to come over here to visit. So I’m the one going over. It’s been about 2 years… When my children was born, I kept them here for 6 months, after that the government said you cannot do that so no choice I had to send them back. Actually my wife was working under the hotel line in the F&B side, for about 12 years! More than me, more experience than me in Singapore. She has been here since 2000-2012, she had a good record but unfortunately we cannot continue to do that because once children come [our] lives change man. *laughs*
Danny: So for the future, what are your plans bro?
Planning lah bro, planning. Actually I might, if possible, get a Permanent Resident [status] or what then I bring my children together with me here. Then see lah.. My planning is I want to do this course (culinary). Right now everything is very tough especially the manpower system and all very tough. It’s not very easy to hire the people from overseas. Also our F&B line ah, Singaporeans are not really good in that – the prata man – very hard to find, if we find also they need big salary. So we need to give so many flexibility. I don’t mind that I have been running a restaurant for 6 years and under me I have 15 workers they are Singaporean, Malaysian and Indian. But I’m flexible with the foreign workers, so I’m waiting for the right time to come, the Ministry of Manpower, nowadays the quota system is very difficult to get, myself is also very difficult to get the employment pass. Hopefully they change, every 6 months hopefully… Easier with the diploma but they only offer you an S pass, if you get a degree then the EP, because I have a lot of experience. But we need a strong letter from the company, so the recommendation letter needs to be good. If they (Summit employers) push then definitely can lah.
Michael: So do you want to do business in Singapore or Malaysia?
I have business set up in Malaysia also. But I see both sides, I’m very comfortable with Singapore and business here. Either I go back to NZ, its a very flexible country also, they have good responses towards indian food esp. towards Malaysian food. So I can cook North Indian food or South Indian food or Malaysian also. Now I’m learning a lot other kinds of foods also, everything is in my hands, mix around can start a fusion restaurant. *laughs*
Danny: Eh do you know your stall is the best stall in the summit, a lot of people say the food is the best!
*Laughs* Wow thanks, yeah definitely our cooking is good! Actually I can do much better but I have very short timing to prepare the food. By 11 o’ clock, after coming to work at 630am, I have to come up with every food, so I have very little time. Each day I’m cooking about 40 varieties. So within the 4 hours you have to rush, you have to concentrate on the dishes. If you have more time you have 6/7 hours then you can do 1 by 1. But the boss can’t do anything, this business here is like that, before lunch time you must prepare. If you prepare it too early there’s no one to come and eat so there’s no point, the place is like that the timing… But I can manage lah already one and a half years!
Danny: Okay eh anyway in your free time what do you do? Do you watch football?
Most of the time, Man U fan! *Looks at Mike the Liverpool fan* Oh yah but I swim and go to the gym also. But last 6 months I was studying so I concentrate on that. Usually I go swimming, its one of my favorite sports. Another one of course is badminton, I don’t play soccer but I’m a fan of soccer, other than that yes I do some activities yeah. Before I had the children, [I did] a lot of activities but now not so many.
Michael: So what’s a day in your life like?
5 days a week of work… Of course its tough. Saturday we do preparation for the week ahead. Sunday is off but nothing is too hard. But everything is flexible, after 5pm (on weekdays) I can do anything, watching movie or going out everything is flexible. That’s why whatever my boss says I say “yes, no problem!” Because it’s very flexible. I know… Because I have been boss before so I know how hard it is. I have worked 17 hours per day, 16 hours per day, 12 hours per day, so this is easier 10 hours a day. Once you’re done you’re done, you don’t have to worry about your costs (as a boss). If you have your own business you have to think about tomorrow you can’t sleep. But of course the earnings wise… It’s different, but the mental torture ah, need to sacrifice…
Danny: You mentioned you’re going on a holiday to Australia?
Oh yah correct.. I get quite a good salary here… It’s quite good money for me but of course I have a lot of commitments also, a car and house and shop loan in Malaysia. I don’t think I have settled down in Malaysia so I need to settle all these things, and my children, I need to take care of them. For me I need to take about 3 months to save some money to go for a holiday, cause my course also costs me about $8000, but I manage *laughs*. Actually I don’t often go out so I don’t spend a lot of money. For myself I don’t spend a lot so whatI choose to spend on is very important, I try to save a lot. 2 weeks once I will go to JB (Johor Bahru), if I need anything I will shop there because the money is much different (i.e. things are cheaper), if I want anything or movie I will go there with my friends to spend time and buy stuff. Every 2 weeks once, on Sunday, my off day, [in the] morning we will take the motor bike and go.
Danny: Okay we don’t want to hold you back, if you have any life advice for the students here, what would you tell them?
Uh wow you guys got a good career man, there’s nothing to tell you guys… *laughs* For you guys ah. Telling you guys some motivation ah. Love is very important, love changes everything in my life. When I was in New Zealand, actually I didn’t know how to save money, how to run the show… But when I met my wife, there I learned. Love makes you everything. I mean honestly, from my experience. Get the right person, go for her (and him). I mean talking about life, education-wise I think you guys know better than me. I first fell in love when I was 20 years old — first and last that’s it, until now it has already been 17 years and we’ve been married 9 years, it’s been a good life, everything has gone smoothly, everything we need we have, I’m very happy. Love can bring you so far. I think that’s very important for life, everybody’s looking for life. Money you can earn, if you have talent. But the life partner, that’s very important. Wrong person that’s it…
A huge “THANK YOU” to Suresh for the amazing Indian food, his friendly service and friendship. God bless you on your new journey, and much grace ahead for living among the AC boys 🙂
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Dont settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. (Steve Jobs)