I’m very lucky that my book “Kampung Memories, A Life’s Journey Revisited” has been able to “travel” and present itself on both sides of the Pacific; and more importantly, has enabled me to share memories and insights with diverse people and readers.
“Kampung” means village in Malay, and the book revolves around the urban villages in Singapore before they were demolished for redevelopment. I grow up in such a kampung, and in the book, I weaved my memories with that of the people who used to live there.
I launched my book in Singapore in June this year, and recently, the first book launch/event in the United States was held in Santa Clara, northern California, at the Kababs and Curry’s Restaurant.
It was the brainchild of my friend Khir Johari, who is considered by his many friends as a Renaissance man. He and members of the Singapore and Malay communities in the San Francisco Bay Area took care of all the details of the event: everything was done elegantly, and all I needed to do was to show up.
There was batik to decorate the tables, a spread of Malay dishes prepared by the talented ladies from the community, and wonderful chai from the restaurant. One of the highlights was a chocolate cake, made to replicate my kampung house that was on the cover of the book.
Faridah, who made this amazing cake, said she took a few days to complete it. She decorated it with coconut trees and little pots of flowering plants made with brightly colored fondant. There was even a tiny replica of a sepak raga (a traditional Malay ball made of bamboo and rattan).
So on that Sunday afternoon in fall, we sat down in that cosy room, sharing and listening to stories that follow a path to our heritage and roots. There were also other Americans of different ancestry in that room. I hope, and I suppose I imagine this, that the book brings to their minds a dusty road where their fathers or grandfathers used to cycle, or all the strong women of their childhood, the ones who nurtured and held the families in their seemingly simple, humble ways.
Thank you to everyone who helped organized and showed up for the launch.