December 20, 2010

I remember when: I named the Proton Saga

CONTRARY to popular belief, the word “saga” in Proton Saga, the country’s first national car, was not derived from the hard, tiny red seed of the saga tree. Ismail Jaafar, 63, should know.
He was the one who named the national car. He gained instant fame 25 years ago following his feat.
Ismail says “saga” was actually an acronym for “safety”, “achievement”, “greatness” and “ability”.
Ismail got the idea while playing Scrabble with some friends, all from the Second Army Division in Penang, where he was then a chief clerk.
The pensioner thought long and hard over the word before he decided to submit it for the Name the National Car contest, which was held before the launch of the Proton Saga in September 1985.
Ismail was announced the contest winner on April 18, 1985, the day he turned 38. The prize? A light blue 4-door 1.3 litre Proton Saga.
“It was my 38th birthday and I was at work when I received a call saying that I had won the contest.
“My win was also announced over the radio, but I still couldn’t believe it until I saw the winning prize right before my eyes.
“I had never owned a car before, and that made the win even more meaningful for me.
“It was such a fantastic birthday gift,” says Ismail, who now helps his wife, Sariah Abdul Rahman, 61, sell nasi lemak in front of their house in Taman Nurijaya, Sungai Petani.
Ismail says the media reported that he had named the car after the saga seed, but that’s not accurate.
He clarified: “I did joke about it and likened the engine’s toughness to the hardness of the saga seed, but my ‘saga’ actually stood for ‘safety’, ‘achievement’, ‘greatness’ and ‘ability’. I thought it was a catchy sounding word to describe the car because it had all those qualities.
“I just played along with the media’s version, however, because I thought there’s no harm linking the word to something that is common and well-known to us.”
Thanks to his feat, Ismail became known as “Sarjan Saga” and “Mail Proton” after that.
Ismail says after receiving his Proton Saga from EON Penang manager Morgan Supramaniam, his house in Kampung Permatang Tok Jaya, Butterworth, became almost like a Proton showroom as excited villagers trooped over to take a look at the first Malaysian-made car.
Ismail was, after all, the first owner of the national car in his village.
Ismail used the car for eight years but had to sell it off to pay for his four children’s education.
Now a grandfather of six, he says the day he had to part with the Saga was a sad one indeed.
“That car meant a lot to my family and I. It had significant sentimental value.
“It was our family’s first car. I still remember our first long distance trip from Butterworth to Kuala Kangsar to send my eldest child Mohd Sarissffuddin to study at Malay College Kuala Kangsar in 1985.
“After retiring from the army, I remember how I would travel in the car with my wife to sell meat at night markets in Butterworth and Sungai Petani.
“It was not an easy decision to make, but I had to sell the car because we needed the money to pay for our children’s schooling.”
Sarjan Saga’s sacrifice has, however, been entirely worth it. All his children eventually graduated from local universities.
Sarissffuddin, 38, is a lawyer, while Ismail’s daughters — Siti Sarissmahan, 34, is a teacher; Siti Sarissmahanin, 29, a veterinarian; and Siti Sarissmahaniza, 25, an architect.
Sarissmahanin and Sarissmahaniza drive Proton cars. The latter took over the number plate of her father’s prized Proton Saga.
“Although I had to give up my precious Proton Saga, I know my name will always be remembered as what I did was part of the country’s history. I am proud to be part of our national car’s very own unique saga.”


Anonymous said...

izinkan saya promot untuk sama2 berkongsi gambar dan pendapat… di Blog Prodas.. bagi sesiapa yang mahu perkembangan serta gambar2 Proton dan perodua..

exorian said...

wa caya lu prodas

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