It had always been an uphill climb. Pola Singh was the product of an unlikely marriage between a poor Punjabi cowherder, who left India at the age of 12, and his indomitable Chinese wife, having married at 14, to elude the Japanese during World War II. There was never enough money when there were ten mouths to feed. From foraging for dirty newspapers at the fishmongers to be dried and read at night, to helping his mother sell nasi lemak and clean the F & N office toilets, Pola’s grit led him on an arduous path to university, an American MBA, culminating in a coveted PhD. The once shy and lanky kampung boy then took his place amidst the Economic Planning Unit’s “corridors of power”; then moving to an international body – the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta before his eventual ascent as Director General of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia.
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