Monday, 16 September 2013

Wo pu che tau

Wo pu che tau = I don't know.

One of the running jokes that I heard in while working in construction is this stupid racist story.

One day, a foreigner was wandering aimlessly at Bukit Bintang, wanting to go to KLCC.

Not knowing how to get there, he asked a Malay fella nearby.

The Malay fella told him "follow me" and then walk around to a bus stop, took a taxi together with the guy and tadaaaa...they were in the KLCC vicinity.

Somehow the foreigner still couldn't figure out how to walk from Bukit Bintang to KLCC, and so he went back that night to his hotel at Jalan Bukit Bintang by taxi.

The next day, he went and asked an Indian about how to go to KLCC.
The Indian guy told him to walk straight to Jalan Imbi, then walk straight until reaching Jalan Tun Razak.
From Jalan Tun Razak, walk straight until Ampang Park is sighted, go to the road in front of Ampang Park, then walk straight until you see KLCC.

While he was walking, it rained heavily. He took a taxi then found out the route is much more longer than the previous trip.

The foreigner thought he had wisen up a little bit, and so the next day, he asked the local Chinese guy working in the nearby Chinese restaurant. Before asking about the route, he asked about the guy's experience. The Chinese told him that he worked in that restaurant for almost 10 years.

The foreigner then proceed to ask "Could you show me the way from here to KLCC?"

The Chinese guy said "Wo pu che tau".


Previously, my ex-boss had one criticism of me, which is "why the hell you want to be nice to that engineer? I paid him to figure it out, ok? This is not school where you teach others, instead I paid you for your duty to complete my work, you think this office do charity-job?" (He didn't actually said those words, but it carried the same meaning anyway)

At first I didn't heed that advice, but I soon learned the juniors whom I shared my "views" do not really appreciate free things. Don't expect thankfulness if you give free lunches.

I once asked the company to give engineering training on Saturdays, only to find out nobody really wanted to attend it. I was screwed for giving the advice by my boss and even from the juniors. Shit.

Worst, I was labelled as a smart ass.


Engineering is a professional job. To become an engineer, you have to take tertiary education. To register to Board of Engineers Malaysia, you need an engineering degree from certified universities.

And so, when you start working, nobody expected you to fully know engineering because industry knowledge differs so much from what is taught in universities. But everybody expect you to be smart enough to "pick up" the necessary knowledge to carry out your job.

You can ask sometimes, but you are not to depend on questions. Everyone else are engineers, not full time teachers. You learn by yourself from books, guidelines, standards, or you can take courses offered by Institute of Engineers Malaysia or whatever way you can think of.

To me, the most favourite word in construction line in Malaysia is "Wo pu che tau".

It is because everybody's "cari makan" or earning a pay. Sometimes if it's not so difficult, someone will tell you, but be reminded, that guy is also doing his job as well.

It is easier to replace a screwup than to take years teaching that screwup because that screwup might jump to another company with better offers.


I kept a certain collection of guidelines, books, standards, drawings and even brochures of engineering equipment, because I have to do this to stay competitive in this line.

Even though I'm a Mechanical guy, I worked before as a Electrical QC, did Quantity Surveyor jobs on civil and steel structures, and other jobs related to construction but not at all related to Mechanical.

However, I found those experience to be helpful, because it relates to construction practice.

And so, religion-wise, I also bought books on Islamic as well. Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim books, Riyadhus Shalihin, Tanbihul Ghafilin, Ihya' Ulumiddin and up to this day, I still purchase those books related to Islam, not the usual 10 buck books, but  those "serious" books which I think are the academic type.

I did not attend any Islamic classes, but I downloaded a whole bunch of ceramah. I took whatever the best that I felt and deleted those whom I couldn't understand.

It is because for me, the way to learn Islam is the same way you learn engineering. It's a research thing, where you really find the genuine and the most academically renown books, the same way I did in engineering by buying the latest Standards and Guidelines for engineering. Then, you double check. That's the only way to ensure knowledge integrity.

Sometimes, I make a photostat copy of Islamic books that I found and borrowed from Masjid Jamek Kajang.


Recently, I chatted with an ex-Muslim who became an atheist, and also with another Muslim who does not believe in Hadiths, only refer to the Quran books.

And so, they asked me few questions that I couldn't answer.

Regarding that ex-Muslim, I borrowed and read Tahafut Al Filasafah, written by Imam Ghazali, which try to reason with Atheist by using pure semantic logics. Imam Ghazali felt it is needless to argue with them using Al Quran because they never believe it, and so I believe maybe I could share some views there with this fella.

But, what happened in the end, I kept quiet about it. I never told him anything. In fact, we never email each other again. I didn't even start sending him any single email after reading Tahafut Al Filasafah.

I realised, people have an absolute conviction about what they know. Who am I to argue? What benefit can I have by arguing? I felt pointless if I argued about it, it's better if we become friends or whatever.

To the fella who asked me about the Hadith, I also felt the same way. It's much more better to become friends than to argue.

Moreover, it's good to have friends who differ with you, because you can make comparisons. It is much more beneficial, I think.

I brought books of Sahih Bukhari's to my tabledesk beside my notebook, but then when I started to open the pages, I ask myself, "Am I doing this to disprove this fella, or is it truly because of knowledge?"

If it's for knowledge, better keep it to myself what I know and absorb good things from what the other fella said.

In the end, I said, "wo pu che tau".


I learned that, sometimes people say "I don't know", not because that he/she doesn't know.

First, you may end up confusing people if that explaination is incomplete.things might get wrong and you will be blamed.

Second, better listen for others to do it because you might learn more.

Thirdly, there's a duty of care if you say you know, because you have to be responsible for what you say. And the people asking you might ask more and more question than what you can understand.

In corporate life, that job/responsibility might even be transferred to you instead of the person inquiring about it. That's why we have the term "smart ass" in corporate life, ass are mentioned because ass (donkey) is used during the old times, for carrying loads.

Man have round shoulders to carry heavy loads. Then they use their brain to invent wheels and use cart instead.  Afterwards, they used animals to pull the carts. Some engineer figured out it's better to put engines and mechanise the whole thing. No matter what, the heavy loads are no longer carried by the smart humans.

Therefore, smart ass are those who wanting so much to become an ass to carry other people's loads, and they did it by convincing the world that they are smart. It is more efficient to transfer the load using better ass. Nevertheless, an ass is still an ass no matter how smart it is.

Lastly, sometimes, for all the effort put forth, what do you get at the end? Ok you can preach to me about "pahala'/good deeds or being benevolence, but remember, all words spoken/typed will be heavy on your shoulders one day.

The best way to do this then, I think,  is to just say what you know, and of what you don't know, just say"wo pu che tau".

The Chinese guy who said "wo pu che tau" figured that if he explained it wrongly, he might not get a tip. If he discussed with the foreigner about the way, he might be screwed by his boss because he had other jobs to do. And worst, if the foreigner misunderstood him, the foreigner might be lost somewhere at Jalan Tun Razak while hating Malaysians. And so, he better kept quiet and told the best answer. Furthermore, there are maps around, and if the foreigner can get across half the world to come to Malaysia, surely he could get to KLCC without his help.


This is a long bloody post. nevertheless I remembered one story.

At Dubai, I worked in a Mainland Chinese (chung-kuo-ren) construction company. The company is from Mainland China, and most of the staff were from there too.

I have one Malaysian Chinese friend working there as well.

There are 7 Chinese dialects, the official one is Mandarin.

But this Malaysian Chinese friend, spoke none of it, and never spoke Chinese to any of the guys there, even with our Malaysian team.

After we got back, and few years after we last met, I saw him one day with his family.

He spoke perfect Cantonese with his family.

One of the wisdom is in listening and not much talking about it. Practically he listens to all the Chinese conversation while making poker-face, pretending not to understand what they say.

He could figure out what they think in Chinese, what they say to others in Chinese and what they explained to him in English, and from those information, he maintained an advantage.

Whenever they spoke to him in Chinese, he just say, "Pardon me, I don't know Chinese".