When he is in Singapore, family time is precious for Mr Mohammad Yusof Suleiman (36), his wife Mdm Norinda Bachok (34), and their six children: Muhammad Asnawi (13), Nur Insyirah (12), 9-year-old twins Nur Huda and Nur Husna, and 3-year-old twins Nur Syakirah and Nur Syabirah.
A Service Technician in the oil and gas industry for five years, Yusof’s work takes place mostly overseas. He has to be ready to fly off to any country at short notice. Multiple factors such as weather conditions and airline schedules make it tough to ascertain when he returns.
Aware that Asnawi was keen to participate in Bapa Sepanjang Hayat’s inaugural Jamming with Dad (JWD) competition on 8 January 2017, Yusof wanted to register for it. But, he was concerned if he would be in the country.
Nonetheless, Asnawi’s maturity and polite demeanour convinced Yusof to sign up. “If you can come back to Singapore in time, can we participate in it?” asked Asnawi. Only 12 years old then, he understood that Yusof could not fly home on demand.
“I took it as a challenge to do my best to make it home,” says Yusof. “I told Asnawi that, in life, we just have to do our best and learn to be adaptable.”
“I Will Stand By Him”
“My son loves performing at school and was interested to do so in public. I wanted him to know I will stand by him, though I cannot be with him all the time. I said, ‘We’ll do it as a team. Choose a song and I’ll find a way to learn it!’ ” adds Yusof.
“I chose Sudah Ku Tahu by Projector Band, a popular song in 2017,” chirps Asnawi. “Because I like the high notes and I can hit them.”
Selecting the song was one thing. Finding opportunities to practise was another. Yusof needed to fly off to Dubai and time was limited. “We only got some practice in the car while driving and squeezed in two practices with the band,” explains Yusof.
He made it back to Singapore for the competition and they enjoyed themselves tremendously. Everyone in the family turned up in full force to cheer the father-son team on.
“I appreciate that even though my dad works overseas, he tried his best to practise and spend time with me. It was fun singing together,” Asnawi shares.
“I wanted to build memories with my son. Now, when we go past OneKM Mall, he points out that we performed there together. Most of our activities are done as a family. This was a special activity that I shared with Asnawi,” says Yusof.
2017 was a challenging year for father and son. Yusof had to juggle work priorities with being there for Asnawi who was taking his PSLE. The memories and photographs of time spent with his dad at JDW at the start of the year, gave Asnawi hope and strength to persevere and ace his exams with flying colours.
Jamming with Dad Season 2
In 2018, Yusof and Asnawi signed up for JWD Season 2 on 25 February. The odds against them were greater this year –leading up to the competition, Yusof was in India. “After 10 days on an offshore rig, I took the helicopter to town where I connected to the Internet with only 30 minutes’ worth of data for a video call. In all, we practised about twice over the handphone during that period –without any music.”
Nevertheless, the entire family took the opportunity to bond. “His younger sisters projected lyrics on the TV screen. They chipped in on which part each of us should sing,” Yusof recalls fondly. They were elated that Yusof touched down on Singapore soil a day before the competition.
“For me, the most memorable part about JWD 2018 has been practising online with my father,” chimes Asnawi. “I love my dad!”
“We Will Be Strong”
Whenever Yusof is in Singapore, the family does everything together –swimming, makan (sharing meals), and celebrating birthdays. “I make sure that we have a ‘no handphone’ time,” says Yusof who also puts away his mobile device so that everyone learns to communicate face-to-face. “That is important to me.”
At home, Yusof trains Asnawi to take on responsibility by keeping a lookout for his siblings. “He is the eldest child and only boy in the family. He ensures that his sisters go straight home after school. If anything happens at school, they will inform him and he will update me.”
“If we work together as a family, we will be strong,” adds Yusof.
“In order to give them a better life, I decided to take on this job,” says Yusof. “I miss them when I am away and try to give them video call every day. When the time difference is too much, we leave each other text messages or voice recordings. If I have to work in the desert, I prepare them that there will be no network on the phone.”
Yusof knows that the children are in the good hands of his wife, Norinda, a Senior Shipping Coordinator, together with their domestic helper. Nonetheless, he is concerned about their health, “It can be very worrying when young children have a high fever. I ensure that Norinda has the card from my insurance company for the children to see a doctor.”
He brings the family for overseas holidays two to three times a year. To set aside time for Norinda, he alternates each family trip with a trip as a couple. Whether in Singapore or abroad, this family enjoys harmony as a team.
Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.
Michael J. Fox