Sunday, 22 January 2006

The national laureate

For someone who is blessed with the gift to churn words and produce bestsellers, he seemed to be at a loss to describe my first piece for his perusal. “Your Malay is quite, er, quite....,” and I waited for what must have seemed like a few minutes before he found a suitable word to spare my feelings,”....BAD!”.

That must have been about twenty odd years ago and of course I readily agreed with the verdict. Afterall he was the editor and by then author of several books including Salina. So, who was I to argue?

Dato Samad Said or Pak Samad, remained a firm friend and a motivator, never forgetting to ask me “When is that book coming?” every time we meet and sending me his latest books by way of encouraging me to write.

Therefore I was really pleased to read of the launch of his collection of poems by the Prime Minister last week. I had received the book much earlier with his familiar scribble, "Cenderahati untuk Zaharah Othman (& keluarga) yang rajin belajar" a reference to my pursuing an MA in Traditional Malay Literature at a very late stage in my life.
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And it does seem timely that I mentioned in my last entry about the trip on the P&O with a sasterawan negara – for it was with him that we spent seven hours at sea from Harwich to Hook of Holland.

The friendship with the national laureate became even closer when he married a childhood friend of mine – a great friend from those days in Yan but somehow we lost touch for while when we came to London. But during one of my trips home, I met up with Pak Samad again – at Subang Airport. He too was leaving for Europe - the result was the coffee table book Warkah dari Eropah. In that book you can see a very young and slim Kak Teh.

I am truly intrigued by his discipline – writing everything down, his thoughts, his feelings, at the end of the day. He seemed to have such an insatiable appetite for books and interests in authors and places. My husband took him to see several writers including Ishiguro while he was in London.

During our meetings he‘d take me to my favourite place to eat – Little Penang, after which we’d sit and have coffee at Deli France. I was greatly encouraged to see school children approaching him, telling him how much they appreciate his books. I am encouraged because there are children who are reading quality books and apreciating them.
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During my last trip back, I had a lengthy interview with him on his writing. We sat in his lounge surrounded by books, books and more books fighting for space on bookshelves, in boxes and on the floor. And more in the kitchen. Not unlike my own house, actually.

He showed me books for children, teenagers, by authors local and foreign, all the different genres and style.

“Iread everything, even teenage novels and I read five books at a time,” he said, adding that at any one time he has several ideas for several books in his head.

What was very valuable during the interview which I recorded on video, was his scribblings in his notebooks – story plans, profiles of characters, how the stories develop.... everything is then written down by hand. No, no computer for him.

During this meeting, away from the noisy crowd at Little Penang, I had the opportunity to ask him about Salina, a best seller that has been translated into several languages, including French.

It is, I believe the best book ever written in Malay, and a book that has been written very much like a movie. His description of Kampong Kambing in post war Singapore comes to live – you can even smell the stench coming from the communal bathroom and at the same time hear the rendition of Arya Mala from the equally smelly toilet, while Si Bulat, the village imp, runs naked chasing the goats. All the while, the friendly banter between Kurupaya Samy and Salina in the background.

When I did Salina with my student, it was the first time that I had ever read it and cried and never wanted the book to end as it was so beautifully written. I sent Pak Samad an email to tell him so and received this : Saya menulis Salina semasa saya berumur 23 tahun, Zaharah membaca Salina semasa saya berumur 68 tahun.”

Enough said. Ah yes, Pak Samad, I also read Warkah Untuk Salmi Manja some years back and I think it is beautiful. However, I couldn't finish Hujan Pagi.

Pak Samad’s second trip to Europe coincided with our planned visit to Holland. Thus, it turned out to be a very interesting journey, first by train from Liverpool street to Harwich and then on the P& O to Hook of Holland. We had earlier booked a cabin – what with six children (two are friend’s children) with nasi lemak and sandwiches to last the seven hour passage.

Pak Samad was accompanied by the then Prof Latif Bakar who was documenting the author’s visit to Europe. So, all of us were crammed in that one cabin, downing the nasi lemak with sambal ikan bilis. Thankfully, the sea was calm or else....

We entertained the children with songs like Chan Ma li Chan, and Rasa Sayang eh as well as “Why You So Like That ah?” ...It was tedious but at least the songs, the games and quiz kept the children entertained.

It will not be long before I see the national laureate again and most probably at Little Penang eating my favourite prawn noodles. But I really do not know what answer to give him when he asks yet again...."When is THAT book coming?"

47 comments:

LifeBloom said...

KT

Thank you for this piece. I have to 'fess up - I have not read "Salina" or anything by Prof Samad Said......InsyaAllah I will get it this week and read it on my Mount KK trip.

atenah said...

SOON.

K. Light said...

terasanya my written BM is buruk. btw, Cik ayu tu tengah jealous :D

Noni said...

alamak... atenah... u beat me to it. Yes... I'd like to echo Atenah in saying "soon" if I have anything to do with it.

may said...

lovely piece. to echo Pak Samad, when is that book coming? and like the rest, I hope it's soon.. :)

dee3 said...

bestnya kakteh.... :)

narfnarf said...

e'eh. ada ke dia kata saya jealous.

chit!

siap nanti, anuar. tulah makteh, dia ingat dia sorg je diajak makan mee bandung yek. tak special pun!

double chit!

:o)

K. Light said...

Jangan jealous kak. :D

Anonymous said...

i pick up the book at the library, warkah dari eropah some years back. not exactly a reader of malay lit stuffs but was tempted to read that book and didn't regret it. try to find one for my own copy but tak jumpa2 so far.

take care kak z =)

-rafthah-

d'arkampo said...

aahh kak teh...

Pak Samad, seorang pemikir, seorang seniman.

Puisinya yang paling mengesankan :-

Kita Ini Tetamu Senja

Kita datang ini hanya sebagai tetamu senja
Bila tiba detik kembalilah kita kepadaNya
Kita datang ini kosong tangan kosong dada
Bila pulang nanti bawa dosa bawa pahala

Pada tetamu yang datang dan kenal jalan pulang
Bawalah bakti mesra kepada tuhan kepada insan
Pada tetamu yang datang dan lupa jalan pulang
Usahlah derhaka kepada Tuhan kepada insan

Bila kita lihat manusia lupa tempat
Atau segera sesat puja darjat puja pangkat
Segera kita insaf kita ini punya kiblat
Segera kita ingat kita ini punya tekad

Bila kita lihat manusia terbiar larat
Hingga mesti merempat ke biru laut ke kuning darat
Harus kita lekas segera sedar pada tugas

Kita datang ini satu roh satu jasad
Bila pulang nanti bawalah bakti padat berkat

A. Samad Said - 1955

easylady said...

kak teh,

I came from science stream.I rarely read novel.Sometimes I dont understand the literature language they use in their books.

Novel Salina will be like hot cakes after this entry.Definitely I will find one,read and try to digest the story..

meandbaby said...

soon..soon...

tee said...

kak teh,

saya pernah baca buku Salina ni.. masa tu Form 4 coz ada pertandingan minggu membaca anjuran UMNO bahagian.. tapi dah tak ingat jalan ceritanya..we have to read 5 books for this comp., nampak gayenye kena pi cari lepaih ni laa...

anyway, Prof Samad ni memang tak peduli apa orang lain nak cakap, he's just being himself, pernah jugak jumpa Prof kat Uni days, memang sempoi abisss...

oh, by the way Kak Teh, kak salmi (it is the same person that you mentioned?)la ni ada kat subang jaya.. let's just say that i know her thru my mother coz kak sal's daughter (kak senja) teach at the same school as mom (la ni da pencen).. and ada lagi connection tapi it's a lonnng story....

indeed it's a small world...maybe one day bila ktek balik sini, bole jumpa dak ??? :-)

muaaahhhhahaha...

p/s tak sempat lagi nak pi cari choc yang yummy, yummy, yummy tu la... frust ni..

tee71...

Restless said...

When you mention Ishiguro (among many others)living in London, it prompted me for a while. Does a writer need to be away from his home place to write with his emotions better engaged? I noticed that there's many who opt to travel to the West and since A. Samad Said said, I shall echo him as well by saying, could it be that your staying away from home will bloom a figure in malay writing soon?

Kak Teh, you've mail!

sweethuneyz said...

[It will not be long before I see the national laureate again and most probably at Little Penang eating my favourite prawn noodles.]

hhmmm.... from my understanding of this line.... am i rite to say that u'll be heading this way again soon? tell me... tell me....

swan said...

Salam Kak Teh,

First timer in your blog and wont be the last time. You are so lucky to be a friend to this wonderful and gifted man. I envy you for that. Salina is a great novel. Keep on writing Kak Teh...

Swan

Mama Rock said...

Kak Teh - like to stop by your Sentraal Station. To me it's like a hub to other incredible blogs.
I found a copy of Salina in my mom's bookshelf sometime thirty years ago (phew! lama tu :)- read it when I was in Std 5 or so and later I read the English version when I was in Form 2. Yup, liked both versions a lot

Kak Teh said...

lifeboom, If you can't read anything else, make an effort to read Salina. I think I read it at just the right time when I begin to understand and feel for gender issues. Have a good trip.
atenah - Insyaallah - keep bugging me!
anuar - yr written malay? Buruk? the email u sent is not that bad lah!
Cik Ayu narf narf - jangan jeles and jangan kelahi - nanti tarik telinga dua2 orang ni!
noni - Insyaallah as well.
may - I am actually very lazy and not very disciplined - so there u are...
dee3 - thanks for dropping by.
raftah - lamanya tak nampak? pi mana?

Kak Teh said...

Po - Ya - memang seorang pemikir dan orang seni. I do love that puisi too. Po boleh lah tulis macam Pak Samad. Kak Teh harapkan syair sang spammer boleh lah.
easylady, I certainly hope so. It shd be made into a movie - if it hasnt been made into one yet!
meandbaby - hehehe - Insyaallah, amin, again!
Tee - when in school and we are forced to read, we will never enjoy the books. I find that I am enjoying more books, like Hikayat Hang Tuah, Syair Bidasari, Sejarah Melayu - much much more now. Insyaallah when I go back - kita jumpa - Kat Little Penang okay?

Kak Teh said...

Anim, I like the way you put it !! Anyway, i think being away from home gives us a different persepective. You tend to 'see' more from outside than when u are inside. You tend to appreciate more of yr values and culture that way. That is how I see it.
Sweet - I remember my last bowl of prawn noodle at Little Penang with you - makan sampai kena halau keluar! hehehe! Yes, the minute I know that I am going back, book that table and order the noodle - fast!!! and get the same gang around that table.
swan - i do feel previledged to know him and other sastrawan negaras. I am lucky because I am in this field where I meet most of them and even luckier when they become friends. I have benefitted from their knowledge and wisdom and for that I am very thankful.
mama rock, thank you for the visit and I have made a lawatan balas to you. I feel what you feel!.

drbubbles said...

kakteh,

kerana warkah eropah saya kenal kakteh.tak nak tulis panjang-2 pasal "speechless" reading this posting.

MA said...

Aisehmen Kak Teh - I dont think I have ever read Salina, maybe masa kecik-kecik dulu. I pun tak pandai appreciate sastera. Selalu blur with syair, sajak dan prosa.

Kalau I terserempak dengan Pak Samad kat KLCC, I will surely tegur dia and cakap kat dia Kak Teh suruh I pi baca buku Salina :-)

drbubbles said...

kakteh,

sila lawati laman blog saya ya.ada update.heheheh....

RojakBuah said...

rase mcm dh baca Salina...tp lupa lah crite dia mcm mana...nk kena google ni..

tee said...

kak teh,

so sori for the typo error..kteh jadi ktek lak.. hehehe... niway, jangan lupa habag kat kite bila nak mai sini ye..

i've never been to little penang, maybe after chinese new year nak ajak hubby pi sana.. so tak dela menggagau nak cari tempat tu bila nak jumpa kteh nanti... how soon ahhh? eeissh tak sabo nak jumpa the greatest blogger of all time nii....

kay kteh, see u around...

tee71...

Kak Teh said...

Is, yes, I remember u telling me!
MA - Iingat lepaih ni kalau Salina laku and ada oorangs ebut nak beli kerana kak teh sebut - mesti minta commission! hehe
Rojakbuoh, its about post war Singapore, nasib perempuan speerti Salina yang menjadi mangsa keadaan - bacalah balik - seronok.
tee - Little penang is awesome, esp mee udang! Oh - if you have this typo problem - read my blog in the archives - entitled - Dear Blaberella!!

dr in the house said...

KakTeh-

His thirst for books as you said is all displayed in the endless collection that he has.

I for one know that he is a great reader by the dozen of times I get to see him each time I go to Kinokuniya, Times, MPH at KLCC!
This is a pic of my daughter Aliah and Pak Samad==> http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=iFos&nextdate=2%2f23%2f2005+23%3a59%3a59.999

I never had the opportunity to read Salina eventhough I have heard great acclaims about it but KakTeh, you have made me want to get it and read it now and insyallah I will! Pak Samad shouldnt be surprised if he gets more royalty from that book after this!! Thanks to you KT!

Anonymous said...

kakz, ada,ada tak pi memana,in and out of here silently jer usually =)

-rafthah-

~Tis§ot~ said...

Babe to KakTeh:

i had once dreamed of writing a book too. but knowing that my english is not superb, and my malay writing skills also not as power as those infamous writers... terkubur je la impian tu.

well... keep up yr writing kakteh. bila dah siap buku jgn lupa bgtau Babe ok. :)

Kak Teh said...

DITH - I cant view gambar tu? nak buat macam mana?
raftah - kat rantauan pun tak nampak?
Babe- u can still dream abt it and one day it could become a reality! INsyaallah!

Nazrah said...

walaupun pak samad dah jadi saudara( by marriage) kita masih menggigil nak pergi mengadap. setakat tengok dari jauh pun dah seram sejuk.jumpa micheal jackson pun mungkin tak terkesima macam tu.

Manal said...

hmmm...me also in the same group as lifebloom....of course i am quite familiar with most of his works, those book titles, sajak and etc and we did study some of it as part of BM SRP (now PMR) and SPM....except that he and the rest of our national laureates never made it to the nobel prize stage...so far, there are already quite a few asians and arabs (non-white) who've been "fortunate" enuf to receive such global honour. I hope one day our own malaysian literature will get such recognition. Masalahnya, dalam negara pon dah jadi ancient. Org semua sebok discover new e-gadgets and proud to claim that they're hi-tech savvy (both gadgets and the jargons). Rupa2nya ade lagi org mcm kakteh yg cuba "hidupkan" sastera dan kesusasteraan pusaka melayu kita (i'm talking about the demise of DBP's Dewan Sastera). Ape2 pon, Pak Samad Said is definitely one of our own true National Treasure.

bergen said...

I had better not say anything because quite frankly, I don't know how to react to all this conversation about the guy.

Wish I knew something about it.

Good day, Kak Teh.

Jiwa Rasa said...

Being a writer of his stature, he should have been very very rich by now. But that doesn't happen in Malaysia. Malaysians are not willing to spend their money on Malaysia books, what more Malay literatures..

I bought a few of his novels which I completed a few. I got one signed copies of his novel, Adik datang. I bought just to show my support for Malay literature..

Kak Teh said...

nazrah - kalau dah jadi sedara tu, pergilah bertanya khabar - am sure he'd like that. You pun apa kurangnya dengan yr achievements.
manal I share yr sentiments and hope that one day we will achieve that. The reason I am still trying to perhidupkan ksesusateraan melayu as u put it, is because being away from home makes you value all these more and we will not appreciate it untile we've lost it. We dont want that do we. Now that u are back there, you do have the opportunity to read and appreciate the works.
Bergen - its okay Have a nice day to!
Jiwa -yes, that is what I do whenever I go home too. I buy as many home grown products as possible to show my support.

bibliobibuli said...

enjoyed this post very much and wouild love to link to it ...

Anonymous said...

kak z, rantauan pun ada sekali sekala log in. just senyap kot. tak terpost apa2. just read forums.

sis nazrah. i agree with kak teh. dah jadi sedara all the more berkenal mesra hehe. i saw him sometimes at klcc but never dare to approach, as if he's in his own world. i guess thats how he gets his ideas, watching people all around.

-rafthah-

dr in the house said...

Kakteh, just copy and paste this url and you can viw the page
http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=iFos&nextdate=2%2f23%2f2005+23%3a59%3a59.999

Jane Sunshine said...

I was waiting for this post! Thanks for the insight into the mind of a great writer. It's amazing that he lives and breathes books. I didn't know that he wrote Salina at 23! Simply amazing.

Ordinary Superhero said...

A Samad Said must be glad that you have given publicity to his works more than what DBP had done all these years.

It's unfortunate that his 'differences' with DBP has yet to come to an end.

aneeta said...

When he asks, "When is THAT book coming?" perhaps, you can give the standard Malaysian answer - Dalam Proses!

Noni said...

@ Aneeta ...

I was under the impression that the standard Malaysian answer was 'on da way', even when your only just stepping into the shower one would already be 'on da way'...

thewailer said...

most beautiful to make an acquaintance of such stature...

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum wbt,

Saya ingin membeli novel Salina malangnya hingga kini masih belum temui Pengedar/Penjual.

Jika ada sanggup memberi saya maklumat Pengedar/Penjual atau yang sanggup pinjamkan untuk saya fotokopi, saya boleh di hubungi melalui bicara@gmail.com.

Kerjasama saudara/saudari sangat2 saya hargai. Terimakasih.

Arief said...

Dear Kak Teh,
I hope you will Read this comment.My name is Arief(17 years old this Oct.) and I am a student of a boarding school in Kuala Lumpur.I would want to ask your help.Since you are that close with Datuk A. Samad Said,do you have his contacts?
You see, my school is having an English Week and we would be delighted to have him launch the Week whick will be held this August or September(2007).If he can come to my school, I'm sure all the students and the teachers will be so excited!Can you please help me by giving his contacts i.e. his address or phone number ?
If you can help me in any way, please email me at ed.arief@gmail.com.
I would would like to thank you so much if you could help me. I am really begging you.Please?Please reply as soon as you can.Thank you.

kasehsenja said...

kak teh....maap saya baru ni sini...nak tanyer mane nak daptkn lirik kita ini tetamu senja dalam english version.....zul um

Salina Inzaghi said...

kat mana nk carik novel Salina ni?
I've been looking for this novel for AGES! i've even thought about breaking into my high school library n steal the copy they have there *lol*
anyone can help?