by Noor Amirah Asraf
I was recently asked about what it feels like to be the third generation member from my family working at the New Straits Times (NST). I have never really thought about this before. Why? Maybe… I needed a job and had seen an NST ad for sub-editors, I applied, went for the interview and got the job.
But this question made me recall the times when my father, Asraf Dahari, who was an NST photographer for 15 years, used to tell us, his children, about the joy he had working here. For as long as I can remember, my father has always described the years he spent at NST as the best time of his life. Even to this day, whenever we talk about NST or when people ask him about his experience working here, he would have nothing but good things to say.
When I told him that I wanted to apply to be a sub-editor at NST, he immediately supported my decision. He even went the extra mile in making sure that I prepared all the documents needed to apply for the position.
When I told him that I got the job that I wanted, he was overjoyed. He kept telling me how he was happy that his daughter chose to continue the family tradition of working here. He was beaming with pride when he sent me off on my first day of work. He told me how he wished my late grandfather, or Tok Ayah, was around to see his granddaughter serve the same English daily they once worked for.
My Tok Ayah, Dahari Ali, first joined NST as a reporter before he was appointed as chief reporter. The last post he held before he retired in 1982 was assistant group editor. My dad idolised his father. I remember well how he used to tell me great stories about Tok Ayah.
Tok Ayah was one of the very few people who supported my father’s decision to become a photographer instead of the engineer that his family wanted him to be. It was him who inspired my father to take pride in what he did for a living. It was him who taught my father to appreciate the hard work put in publishing newspapers — from writing, finding pictures that fit the stories to editing — Tok Ayah taught him not to take even the smallest details for granted. It was Tok Ayah who taught my father that working for a newspaper is a job that comes with great responsibilities –we are responsible for informing people about the things that are happening around us.
Amid mounting excitement to embark on a new adventure in my first real, serious job, I suddenly felt like I had a huge burden to bear.
My father’s and Tok Ayah’s stories that I’ve kept close to my heart all these years, somehow, made me doubt myself when I first started working here.
On my first day of work, I couldn’t help but feel scared. Truth be told, as I was nervously walking to my desk for the first time, I could feel a tight knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I had so many thoughts running through my head. I remember asking myself whether I made the right decision to work here. What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t live up to my Tok Ayah’s or my father’s good name and reputation? What if people expect me to be as good or even better than them?
As I did not know much about the roles of a sub-editor (except for the basic information about the job that I found on the Internet), I spent the first few weeks trying to adapt and learn as much as I could. I would get anxious whenever some of my father’s colleagues and senior employees who once worked with my Tok Ayah came up to me and greeted me (all thanks to my father who excitedly told his friends on Facebook about his daughter joining NST).
The fact that some people knew my father and Tok Ayah made me feel like I had to prove that I deserve to be here because of my skills, and not because I was someone’s daughter or granddaughter.
The first few months were tough. The nature of my work, which requires me to stay cool, calm and collected, however, left me little time for self-doubt.
My colleagues, too, have been helpful in guiding me as I learn the fundamentals of my job. I slowly learnt to stop comparing myself with my father and Tok Ayah, but instead, make them as my inspiration to keep on improving myself as a sub-editor. I’ve learnt to find joy in completing my tasks the way my father always did when he was working here and emulate my Tok Ayah’s passion and dedication to his job. I’ve discovered that by doing so, I no longer feel the need to prove myself to anyone. The only thing that I should be doing is to have faith in myself and trust my capabilities.
Working here for the past three and a half years has taught me a lot about life and myself. I’ve learnt to appreciate the beauty of language, get out of my comfort zone and be more open to learning new things, and along the way, I’ve not only made new friends but also found a new family. Working here means I get to learn new things every day. Being the third generation working here has only given me the privilege to know why this place holds a special place in my father’s heart. And for that, I will forever feel grateful and lucky to be part of the big NST family.