Monday, 1 December 2014

Goodbye, Pak Nadjib, my friend

Fatkhun Nadjib AS 12.03.1964 - 29.11.2014

Update - A timely and well-deserved tribute to Pak Nadjib 04.12.2014

The measure of a friendship is not time. It is not how long you have been acquainted, nor is it how much time you have spent together. It is quality.
I have not known Fatkhun Nadjib for long, nor have we spent that much time together. We first met at the Jeruton Hotel in Brunei around the third week of October, 2012.
I had just driven solo from my hometown of Kuching, Sarawak, on my way to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for the Borneo Safari, and Nadjib was a member of the GT Radial-sponsored team from Jakarta, Indonesia, headed the same way for the same purpose.
There were about a dozen of them, all from a club called, quite appropriately, Everything Four Wheel Drive (EFWD), so I had a tough time remembering their names and faces after the initial round of introductions, what with my failing short-term memory and all that.
The 'Everything Four Wheel Drive'
 decals that I display with pride.
Aside from team leader Susanto Harimuljo, soon to be known by all and sundry as simply "Santo", the other person whom I got to know right away was Pak Nadjib.
As that was the first time I had gotten to know Indonesians up close and personally, I called everyone Pak, realising only later that I was actually older ... errrm, more senior ... than most of them.
Pak Nadjib was instantly memorable not only because of his distinctive long and curly mane of grey hair and unforgettable craggy face, but because of his warmth, his friendly and unassuming personality.
Even though I struggled to understand their Bahasa Indonesia, I felt that he and I became friends right away. Over the next two weeks, under the arduous conditions of the Borneo Safari, I would also establish firm friendships with the rest of the EFWD gang.
I felt ashamed that, after 50 years and having travelled over much of the world, I had not gotten to know my next-door neighbours better. They are the finest bunch of mates a bloke could wish to have alongside when the going got tough, as they did in Borneo Safari 2012 (and indeed, any Borneo Safari in any year).
Among this group of confidence-inspiring bunch of off-roaders, Pak Nadjib stood out as the cool guy, totally unshakeable and imperturbable, always smiling and not only willing but eager to lend a hand to any and all in need.
Nothing seemed to upset or shock him, not mishaps or vehicle breakdowns, or bad weather, or, as is common in 4X4 adventures, when "shit happens".
Part of what defined Nadjib's character that year was his choice of ride, a venerable Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 that dated from the 1970s. "Bangor" had a three-speed gearbox and was powered by the original six-cylinder petrol-fueled F-series engine, unlike many of the ther highly modified vehicles on the start line.
Over the eight days that we tackled the rugged terrain of Sabah's interior, I always felt comforted when Pak Nadjib and Bangor were just in front of me, or in my rear view mirror.
He was the kind of person that exuded a calm confidence that convinced all around him that all was good, "no worries, everything will be just fine", no matter how rough the going was right then.
He had a lot more mechanical issues with his old car than I had with my then-brand new Land Rover Defender. Many a time, I stopped because he pulled over with some issue or other, and just observed as he and his co-driver, his son Ramadhan Dede, just got on with the repairs. In no time, we would be on our way again.
During one stretch when we spent a lot of time waiting in the beautiful meadows of Kota Belud for our turn to make progress, Pak Nadjib seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time talking on a satellite phone.
He looked tired and when I asked if everything was okay, he just smiled and said that his wife had undergone an operation and was recuperating in hospital. He and his son were in Sabah so there was not much they could do, and that was that.
For me, Borneo Safari remains a happy memory not only because of the great 4X4 adventures we encountered along the way, and the awesome scenery, but also the many new friends I made along the way, especially the Indonesians and, in particular, Pak Nadjib, Santo, super mechanic Ero "the Hero" Kebo Ireng, Pak Herman and Pak Budhi.
Our journey together did not end with the closing dinner in Kota Kinabalu, for the Indonesians of EFWD had not only secured the Longest Journey Travelled To Get To The Start award (having set out on a ferry from Jakarta and overland via Pontianak, Tebedu, Serian, Sibu, Bintulu, Brunei, Limbang and Lawas) but also had the longest drive ahead just to get home.
I accompanied them on part of that journey until Kuching, where they spent a night as guests at my home, before we said goodbye and they headed off for the Sarawak-Indonesia border at Tebedu-Entikong.
I never saw Pak Nadjib again. I will never see him again.
The following year, I caught up with several of the EFWD guys at Borneo Safari 2013, including Santo, Ero, Paks Herman and Budhi, but Pak Nadjib was not with them. He had other plans.
This year, again, I journeyed with the regulars through another Borneo Safari and, again, Pak Nadjib was not able to join them.
We did stay in touch through Facebook, and I was able to follow some of his further adventures, as he did mine.
Every now and then, he would ask when I was going to come visit him and the other 4X4 enthusiasts in Jakarta.
"Soon," I'd reply each time.
This year, Santo again invited me to come visit and I resolved to make the trip in early 2015. I looked forward to meeting up with all my friends there, including Pak Nadjib.
That is one resolution I will now not be able to fulfill.
On the night of Nov 29, 2104, Pak Nadjib was killed by a speeding motorist. He was just 50.
This sequence of shots from a video
 show the last moments before
Nadjib was cruelly struck down.
His last moments were spent doing what I will always associate with the kind of man he was - trying to rescue another motorist trapped in his wrecked vehicle after an accident.
According to the facts that have emerged since, Pak Nadjib had been with his family on their way from Bandung heading towards Jakarta when they came across the scene of an accident.
The driver of a minibus that had been involved was still trapped in the mangled cabin.
Pak Nadjib did what I have seen him done many times before, park his car safely in front of the distressed vehicle and set about helping the victim.
A video taken by Ramadhan showed that Pak Nadjib was conscious of the danger he was in, and checked a couple times to ensure that the situation was safe before getting back to the rescue work at hand.
What he could not foresee was that a reckless motorist would drive by so fast and so near the site.
In an instance, a good friend to many, a good man, a good husband and a good father, was lost.
There are no words to describe the loss.
In the grand scheme of things, I have not known Pak Nadjib a long time, nor did I spend a whole lot of time with him. But in those fleeting moments we did share, doing the things we both loved, he and I became friends. Good friends.
On Facebook, there has been an outpouring of grief and tributes from many people who have known Nadjib, who have regarded him as a teacher and mentor in 4X4. They are not only from throughout Indonesia but also from Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak, everywhere he had been and touched those who have known him.
Goodbye and rest in peace, my friend Fatkhun Nadjib.
My heartfelt condolence to his family.


(L to R) Pak Nadjib, Ramadhan and Santo in happier times.