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Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

tanjomg pagar railway station designMural at Tanjong Pagar Station

The motif, and the mural of people planting rice are details from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in Singapore. The station was completed in 1932, and for a long time it was the main transportation for people travelling between Singapore and Malaysia.

My father and I were frequent passengers on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route, thus the station held lots of memories for me.

The building ceased operating as a train station in 2011, and was gazetted as a national monument.

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Muhammad Ali

(Pic: rollingstone.com)

Muhammad Ali was a global figure, even before the word was widely used.

He was loved by people of almost every nation. Remember, he came onto the scene at a time when there was hardly any larger than life non-Caucasian or Muslim role model on the word stage. With his skills, confidence, fine looks and, and most of all, his insistence that he was accepted for who he was, Ali ignited and inspired the imagination of millions.

I would also argue that many countries at that time were still in the post-colonial, newly independent years, and Ali’s unvarnished bravery and success subconsciously represented the possibilities that black and brown people could aspire to.

The name Muhammad Ali become the most well-known name in the world.

Like everywhere else, he was very well-loved in Singapore and Malaysia. Because of the time difference between the region and the United States, Ali’s boxing matches would be telecast live in this part of the world during the day.

People skipped school and work whenever his matches would be telecast live. Members of our family too skipped school so that we could huddle in front of the TV to see Ali defeat his opponent.

I remember this episode clearly. At that time, our neighborhood had a provision shop/small grocery shop that made home deliveries. We would telephone the owner with our order. The shop assistant would then cycle to our house with the groceries.

About a week or so before one of Ali’s matches, the shop assistant came to our house to make a delivery. He lingered, made small talk, then he whispered to us that he needed a favour. He wanted us, on the day of the match, to call the shop about 10 minutes before the live telecast would start, and to make an order for a delivery. In that way, he could come and watch the match with us.

After he left, we laughed at his cunning. But we did it. We called the shop at the requested time, and he joined our family as we all sat enthralled watching and cheering Muhammad Ali with the rest of the world.

Exceptional; with a charisma that would be hard to duplicate. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

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malaysian resort

Charming spot at Sunway Resort, Malaysia.

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petronas towers

Standing at the patio of a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, I saw this view of the Petronas Towers. I like the detail, and the contrast, made by the row of palms.

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book Hamzah Hussin

My father’s passion was reading. Our favorite weekend activity as a family was to visit the newsstand to buy magazines.

 

hamzah hussin book

My father’s short stories will be republished soon by Fixi Retro.

I’m lucky to come from a family that loved books and writing.

My grandfather loved poetry and owned a small second hand bookshop in Singapore. My late father Hamzah Hussin, helped him in the shop as a young boy, and he grew up to become a figure in the Malay literary world.

My father became a journalist and writer, penning and publishing short stories and novels.  He then joined Cathay Keris Organisation, one of the pioneer studios that produced Malay films, as a scriptwriter/ public relations officer. He later went to live in Malaysia to continue to contribute to the film industry and also to teach at FINAS Film Academy.

He was always generous with his knowledge, and I knew that he cherished the opportunity to teach, and the interaction with the students and their ideas.

Most of the Malay films of his era are still widely viewed, and thus my father’s screenplays are still intact. However, some of his literary works are not so readily available.

The good news is that Amir Muhammad, Malaysia’s well-known author, filmmaker and publisher, has located three of my father’s published short stories and has compiled them into a book. Amir and his company Fixi Retro will launch the book on November 21 at Ilham’s Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

I feel very grateful and pleased to share my father’s work with more people, and I’m sure he would be too.

If you’re in Malaysia or Singapore, I would like to invite you to the launch. Amir will also talk about Malay movies in the 60s at the event. More details on the event and the venue are at this page.

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sheila majid songs

The month of May began with a unique musical note.

Sheila Majid, Malaysia’s jazz diva was in Los Angeles last weekend to give a concert celebrating her 30-year mark in the music scene. Sheila is very popular in many countries in South East Asia, and some of her hits are considered modern classics of Malay music.

I’ve always liked her songs, especially her hits in the 1990s. So I made it a point to be at her performance. She gave a great show, singing her greatest numbers that the audience came to hear, plus segments paying tribute to musicians who have inspired her including Michael Jackson.

Sitting in the theater, listening to her belting out her hits, while the chandelier lights on the stage threw prisms of pink and purple rays, at times I felt that I was in an emotional-dreamy space or some kind of a time tunnel.

You see, In the 1990s, I was living and working in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. And her songs brought me back there.

I was very fortunate to get a career as a feature writer for a daily newspaper in Kuala Lumpur, and those years were among the best working years of my life. To me, there’s nothing like the energy and atmosphere of a newsroom. We always get the news first. I met people from all walks of life, seen many places, while on assignments.

I was in charge of a number of columns including art and women’s issues, and I had great bosses who gave me the independence and trust to manage the columns with minimal interference. I worked with a group of interesting colleagues, and out of this, several life-long friendships have developed.

At that time, my father was still alive and living in Kuala Lumpur as well. He was also a journalist, (he preferred the word ‘newspaperman’) in his younger days. Now that we shared the same profession, we had a lot more to share, discuss, even argue. And I learnt a lot from him.

One of her songs that Sheila sang that night was Aku Cinta Padamu which means “I love you”. It’s a beautiful ballad about a woman who wonders how many times or ways she has to convince a man that she loves him while he remains unsure. It brought a crystal clear memory of a morning ride on the bus, on my way to the newspaper office.

(At the time when I was riding the Metro buses in the city, the driver often had piped in music throughout the bus. Usually it would be from a radio station, the medley of songs entertaining him as well as the passengers on the commute.)

That morning, Aku Cinta Padamu was played by the radio DJ. I was going through the break-up of a long term relationship. And hearing that song, the tears just flowed down. I was both sad and embarassed, quickly trying to wipe the tears, hoping that the passengers who were standing in the bus would not see my meltdown.

But on the whole, the 90s were good years. I actually had seen Sheila performed in Malaysia when she had been invited to sing at a product launch event that I had to cover. In that time between her performance in Kuala Lumpur and this one in Los Angeles, some threads of my life have changed, and some have not. I guess that’s life.

Ah,….songs. They do have their special way of transporting you back to the past.

And so, to everyone who have been a part of the journey, of my years in Kuala Lumpur, thank you for the life experiences and the memories.

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childhood treats

Good memories, good taste – never out of style.

One of the best simple pleasures of life is to come across a treat from one’s childhood.

That was how I felt when I came across these little icing biscuits in a shop in Johor, Malaysia.

When I was growing up, we would walk to the neighborhood provision shop to get them. They were displayed in big clear jars, with a few other different types of biscuits. You can buy, like, 20 cents worth of biscuits. The shopkeeper would scoop about a handful and wrapped them in a piece of newspaper.

(My aunt remembers that when she was a child, you could get quite a good-sized serving for just 10 cents.)

Certainly, the colorful icing was a big attraction for kids. And also the combination of the icing and the slightly creamy taste of the base was enjoyable. Often, we would unwrap the newspaper package and start eating as we were walking on our way home.

Time doesn’t stand still. Back to the present, when I bought some from the shop in Johor, they were wrapped in a more sophisticated manner, in a clear plastic sleeve and tied on top with a bright string. But the best thing was that, after so many years down the road, the taste was still the same. I kept popping them into my mouth and savored the cool, sweet effect as the icing melts – great fun.

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