The excitement and pride at being a Nuri pilot’s wife soon gave way to the stark reality of the true nature of his job. There was a considerable amount of fear and worry but it was not so serious as to render our lives sad and miserable. In fact, our lives were almost as normal as any other civilian couple. Except for the fact that he was always away from home, there was nothing much to complain. His flying schedules were tight and hectic. Apart from the week long monthly detachments to the various operational areas, there were many other tasks. Every time he flew, there was no knowing when he would be back. It was at a time when telephones were scarce and regarded as luxury items, and only senior officers and those holding special appointments were entitled to have them installed in their homes. Except for the detachments that were perfectly scheduled, the rest were highly unpredictable.
I was left to fend for myself during his frequent absence. The driving license that I just got, gave me the independance that was crucial in ensuring that the daily activities were not disrupted by his absence. It also gave me the freedom to explore the whole camp. One particular area which was of great interest to me was the NAAFI (the present equivalent of PERNAMA). The NAAFI of those days were renowned for their imported goods that included chocolates, toiletries AND Elizabeth Arden skincare and cosmetics. I would head straight to the NAAFI every month after getting my meagre teacher’s pay cheque to indulge in the chocolates and Elizabeth Arden cosmetics.
While I got to use the Peugeot 204, my husband had to content himself with the “kapcai”, an old Honda C50, to take him to the squardron and back. The old engine was so irritatingly loud and noisy and distracting that made it the only one of its kind around the officers’ quarters. Ironically,the same irritating sound was also music to my ears, for it would signal the safe return of my husband. Incidentally, the kapcai also clocked hundreds of flying hours because he would take it along with him in the aircraft when he went on detachments. He loved the old bike but after much persuasion from a fellow Nuri pilot who took a fancy to it, he finally sold it for RM200 and bought himself a brand new C70.
After about a year of joining him, he started his conversion course in Nuri captaincy. It was every Nuri copilot’s dream to be a captain of the aircraft and my husband was no exception. I could see the pride and satisfaction AND relief after toiling over the menial tasks of carrying out the extensive pre-flight checks and preparing the tedious flight plans for almost two years. There was one other perk I remember him telling me but he vehemently denied when I checked with him just before writing this. A captain gets to raise his leg and rest it against the the aircraft window. I suppose what he meant was that a captain was entitled to a certain degree of freedom in movement in the small cockpit while a copilot had to sit prim and proper throughout the entire flight.
It was while my husband was undergoing the conversion course that the Gubir tragedy struck.
To be continued………..