Four 8s — my retirement date: Saha Group chairman’s story (30)

Boonsithi Chokwatana is chairman of Saha Group, Thailand’s leading consumer products conglomerate. This is part 30 of a 30-part series.

I turned 84 on July 25. All my life, I have always tried to eat and dress as simply as possible.

I have followed my morning routine for decades: I wake up at 4 o’clock, check what is going on in the world by watching the news on TV and, more recently, by scrolling through the Line app on my smartphone. Then I take a walk around the neighborhood, about 5,000 steps a day.

I only eat in the morning, and not because my doctor told me to. I started the diet four or five years ago. As I have high blood pressure and prediabetes, my blood sugar won’t go down if I eat three meals a day. I was able to reduce my medications once I adopted the habit of eating one meal a day. I felt starved at first but got used to it. Now I eat to keep my weight.

When I have meetings or visitors, I go to an office at I.C.C. International headquarters, which is near my home. Other employees spend an hour or two commuting. I have always thought that I should work more than other people because I live within walking distance of my office.

Once or twice a week, I stop by the headquarters of Saha Pathanapibul about a 30-minute drive away, or the factories in Sriracha.

My days off usually start out with nine holes of golf with close friends. Then, in the afternoon, I spend time with my family.

My wife, Patcharin, and I got married on Nov. 11, 1968, or 2511 in the Buddhist era. We were blessed with two sons and two daughters. Now nothing gives me more pleasure than watching my 12 grandchildren grow up.

I have never told my children what to do. Going for a higher degree or going abroad, I let them decide for themselves.

The only thing I watched was for them to lead as normal lives as possible. I had them make balance sheets for their monthly allowances using the format I made on my PC until they graduated from university. I made a decent fortune, but by not letting them live lavishly, I think my children know how to spend money wisely.

“8888” — these are the last four digits of my cellphone number. I chose the suffix when I first started using a cellphone because it was easy to remember.

I wrote in the last story that I started preparing for retirement when I turned 80. When I made up my mind, there was one other thing I decided related to my cellphone number — I had decided Aug. 8 of the year when I will turn 88 as the “time limit” for my life.

Each month, I write down a number on calendars in the office or at home. The number was “49” last month, then “48” this month.

This countdown began with 100 months left till the limit of my life, so it means that I’m halfway there. I want to successfully conclude the handover to the next generation over the next 48 months and live out the days peacefully. Life after that will all be extra.

My grandfather, who migrated from China, died when he was 62, and my father, who founded Saha Group, died when he was 75. I passed these ages years ago.

When I was little, I wanted to be No. 1 in whatever profession I would take up. I joined Saha Group, which my father founded, and worked feverishly for nearly seven decades. In terms of being satisfied with my job and life, I think I did ascend to No. 1.

I have a special attachment to Japan, among other countries. Before writing this series, I contacted my old Japanese friends to refresh my memories. I was moved by how much they are looking forward to reading the story of my life.

My story of Saha is the story I have woven together with them. When the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, I look forward to visiting my beloved Japan again and catching up with my Japanese friends over the stories of this personal history.

This column is part of The Nikkei’s “My Personal History” (“Watashi no Rirekisho”) series of autobiographies. The series first appeared in The Nikkei in 1956. Since then, a wide variety of world-changing individuals have written or dictated their life stories for publication.


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