Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham is a figure that almost every Malaysian instantly recognises because of the role he played and is still playing in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Always a voice of calm amidst the flurry, Dr Noor Hisham has been hailed as a hero by many, among them is his 22-year-old son, Muhammad Khair Noor Hisham.
Can't help but gush when speaking of his father, Khair, who is a currently pursuing Business Economics at Sheffield Hallam University was thrust into the spotlight recently when news broke that he had been awarded the Perdana Fellowship and was serving under the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
"It’s been so productive for me! I've got lots of good exposure and it’s a great experience," said a nervous but excited Khair when speaking to Rojak Daily
during a special interview held at Astro.
At first glance, the lanky youth may seem reserved, but his fellow fellows Chow Shenn Kuan from Sunway University and Am Abdul Aziz from University of Nottingham Malaysia had nothing but kind words to say about him.
"I have been working alongside Khair for 2 months now, and his assiduity and devotion to our collective work at the Ministry is truly inspiring!" she said before the interview began.
As this writer "set things up", the three went on chatting away and cheering each other on as they prepped for a video interview happening right after.
Following in great footsteps
Speaking about his road to becoming a Perdana Fellow, Khair said that it was a path inspired by his seniors.
"I’m really keen when it comes to leadership matters. When completing my diploma at UiTM Raub, Pahang, I got involved in the student representative council where I engaged with youth leaders who inspired me to be more purposeful," he said.
He eventually applied to be a Perdana Fellow and finally got the opportunity to work with the Minister of Finance, Tengku Zafrul Aziz.
For those of you yang tak tahu
, the Perdana Fellowship is a programme established by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2013.
According to its website
, the programme aims to provide young Malaysians with first-hand experience when it comes to governing the country.
Fellows are placed under the wings of ministers from various ministries, and they are tasked to assist within the ministry itself.
Getting chosen as a fellow is no easy task, and only the highest achievers are eventually roped in.
"At MOF, we conduct a lot of research, and we also work on supporting documents for Budget 2021," he said casually.
All about his father
Being the son of such a prominent Malaysian figure, Khair admitted that a large number of conversations often ended up being about his father.
"We (the family) are very, very close. My dad is also very supportive of whatever I choose to do. He encourages me to do what I love and what I'm interested in," he said.
And what exactly is Khair's interest?
The Merdeka Day baby hopes to be a businessman one day.
"In fact, currently, I already started a business...a facemask business. It’s a revolutionary business whereby you can hang your facemask like a lanyard, and you can just pakai
when you want."
Khair said that the business was a partnership between his fashion designer sister and him.
"We started it out on Instagram and it's called Airen. Dad gave us the name. It means "lover" in Mandarin. The name really inspired me, and we just went with it. It's a small SME lah
," he said with a wide grin.
"Speaking of your father, how is he like at home? Is he quiet, is he strict?" questioned this curious writer.
"He's very observant. He allows us to explore, to do what we are passionate about. Basically, I’m inspired by him through observing what he does," said Khair, who has five other siblings, the youngest aged 11 and the eldest 27.
Khair said that since the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 has always been THE topic around the dinner table.
"I think that’s what makes our conversation “happening”."
"Now, that I'm with the Ministry of Finance, we also talk about financial matters and how the ministries can work together to tackle current concerns," he said.
Not a square at all!
Just as this writer thought that Khair was a textbook straight-A student, he throws a curveball and reveals that he's also into pantun
on the side.
Winning multiple competitions and even representing the country overseas, Khair is quite the pantun
"Eventhough I'm really into academics and business, I'm also passionate about pantun
. During highschool, I joined pantun
competitions and represented Putrajaya at the national level twice."
"After completing school, I also represented Malaysia in Singapore and won. I still write pantun
for my Dad and even for Tengku Zafrul," he said.
Of course, we immediately asked him to share a pantun with us and he said, "ok, maybe an economic one".
"Diutus bingkisan kurniaan istana,
Buat bentara selembar mastuli,
Di fasa pemulihan wujud PENJANA,
Industri Negara terbela kembali."
Digging further, we also found out that Khair is not the only one with hidden talents.
Other than a passion for medicine, Khair said that his father is quite the singer.
He loves singing. His favourite is Hindustan songs. When we travel, he will put on a tune in the car and start singing along," he said.
"Be honest, does he have a nice voice?" this writer teased.
"YES! He can sing! I can't!" exclaimed Khair.
When speaking of his hopes for the youth of the country, Khair said that opportunity was the key.
"Youths are more educated these days and have fresh ideas. I think the youth and current leaders need more engagement opportunities. We need to respect one another and work together to come up with better approaches."
So far, we can see that youths are already involved, but there should be more opportunities - a lot more. Youths need an avenue to improve their skills and knowledge as well as to become leaders," he said.
But, he said, waiting for an opportunity to come falling onto your lap is also not the way to go.
"Youths need to find opportunities and create opportunities for themselves. Do what you're passionate about and don't give up," he advised.
Pressured to live up to expectations
While Khair seems to be on the right track, the ever-smiling youth explained that it is not always easy as people often compared him to his father.
"I think people set high expectations for me, but I take it as a challenge to be better." he said.
"Do you feel that sometimes people favour you because of who your father is?" asked this writer.
"Perhaps so. But in the end, it all comes down to my capabilities. Am I worth it? And can I actually contribute? " he replied.
As for how he feels having a hero as a father, Khair said that it was quite peculiar.
"It’s very strange. We never expected him to become a hero because he is just a civil servant. But I do know that he appreciates all the support and most importantly, he is doing his best to contribute to the nation," he said.
Such wise answers from such a young, courteous man.
We bet that Khair is one to look out for and we wish him and his family all the best!