Saturday, 31 March 2007

A KLILF Experience

These days, my usual companions in bed are Adibah Amin and Tunku Halim but last night we were joined by Camilla Gibb. It is no wonder that in my dreams Camilla’s experience in Ethiopia with the Muslim community has a strong Malaysian flavour and some strange characters with horns. At the breakfast table Lydia Teh keeps me company, and on the commuter or in the car to Bangsar Village from Bangi, I am accompanied by The Reluctant Politician but yesterday on the way back, I had to alternate my attention between The Reluctant Politician and the young lady who wants to know whether her head looks big in a hijab.

A Nyonya in Texas and Tan Kwan Eng will certainly keep me occupied during the flight home and I am counting on Xeus to keep me company when I am suffering from jetlagged in the wee hours if the morning in London.

So, you see, I am not lacking in company these days. It is just dividing time to be with them and do justice to what they have to offer. In fact, I think I have to concentrate on one at a time to fully appreciate them. These are books that I have bought from MPH and book talks during the Malaysian Literary Festival. And I have not even ventured into Kinokuniya yet!

The KL International Literary Festival 2007 ended yesterday. I had extended my trip home so that I could attend the book talks, the launches and the workshops. The only regret I have is that I couldn’t attend all.

Well, KLILF for me started with Tash Aw. I was fashionably late as I couldn’t find the place, and by the time I got there, the first floor of Alexis Bistro was already full of people. I had missed the readings and Tash was already into the workshop – The Beginnings. I had to scan through Hemmingway’s first four pages of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ before attempting the task for the day; i.e. to write the first para of a novel. Tash was asking for ideas – a name, a Malaysian name – a CEO of a big company, shouted one. Razak, shouted another. He is unhappy doing what he is doing and on top of that he has a beautiful but rather ambitious wife, offered Tash. *&^%#! shouted someone behind me offering a name followed by some nervous laughs and we wisely opted for Amy. They both plotted and murdered a partner in the firm by the name of Tony. Judging by the show of hands and suggestions, there was no lacking of ways to creatively murder someone. We have indeed become very creative in a rather morbid way.

I managed a few lines; nothing that met Tash’s brief of a good opening of a novel. You have to capture the attention of the readers, with enough hints of what’s in store. Have enough to take them by the hand to the last page of your novel. I was more interested in the crowd. I bet 90 percent of those present have a novel in them; a sentence, a para, a paragraph or maybe some are already ready for that final full stop. There were many around my age, perhaps crafting their words on their laptops on the kitchen table, in the garden, summoning life’s experience to incorporate into their stories. Many young ones too, still in college with that burning desire to get one published! I saw Lydia penning her first para but she didn’t put her hand up when asked to volunteer to read. There were indeed some very good ones, enough to make me want to listen to some more.

The morning with Tash ended with some photo sessions and we promised to meet up in London over a cup of coffee some where. So I skipped lunch with the author and joined Sharon, Sharanya and Lakshmi Pamunjak and many others at Delicious. Lydia had to rush home to fetch her kids from school. This Desperate Housewife and dedicated mother fits in her literary activities around her children’s school schedules.

Salleh ben Joned cancelled his session and I was quite disappointed because I was looking forward to meeting him again. But never mind, the afternoon was more than compensated when Shidah phoned up to say she was coming to meet me with Pak Samad Said. More books from the Sastrawan Negara. As he signed a copy, I said to the one who keeps asking when my book will be out, “One day I hope to sign my book for you,”

“You hope to…?” he asked peering from his glasses.

“Insyaallah” was all I could afford to say. For now.

With that we went to KLCC where I thought I could get a decent dress for the opening of the MLIF by the DPM. From there we went on to Ampang where I bought not one but two! Anedra collected me and we headed for The Seafood Garden. The launch of MLIF 2007 was indeed a grand affair. I was greeted by a familiar face – and this I must mention as it is most important at this stage in my life. While I am being greeted and recognized as Kak Teh, I realized that those who do recognize me as Kak Teh are mostly the young ones. But those who still remember me as the writer from the NST days, are those from my age group. They remember my columns, my features, my rantings. But at that evening, this lady came and said; “We met a few times, I read your column and now I read your blog!” Hooray, I am now reaching both worlds. Thank you.

That put me in a rather cheeky mood. Ruby Ahmad can testify to that. While we were talking to Minister Shahrizat Jalil, guess who walked in? I went up to introduce myself and said, “I am a woman blogger.”

It was a lovely evening. I was at table 18 with Ruby, Anedra, Ood the anak ikan, Eric and Zul from MPH. The speeches were too long, and by the time the food came, it was time to go home. I managed to hear only two songs by Dayang NurFaezah.

I was early for Tash’s second session on 28th March. Such a popular session – and this time Alexis Bistro was packed with many college students and some old timers with a novel or two up their sleeves. Again, after some readings, we were told to write an ending to our previous beginning. I tell you, there were some good ones but I was again somewhat distracted by a young boy in front of me trying to nibble his girlfriend’s ear. I should start my novel with that, I think.

On the way for Randa Abdel-Fattah’s session, I saw Dina Zaman coming up the escalator, clutching her stomach. She was famished and visibly tired after several talks and book signing. I am glad I didn’t miss this. Randa, a twenty six year old Palestinian Muslim living in Australia, talked about her first book – ‘Does My Head Look Big In This?’ It is a very funny, easy to read book about a Muslim teenager, Amal, who decided to wear the hijab. Get it! It is hilarious. She asked the same questions I asked myself when I started to become a ‘full timer’, donning the hijab – she went through the familiar stages of first covering up with a little fringe peeking from under the scraf to being fully covered up.

I could only manage half an hour of Conor O’Clery on writing biographies. By then I felt like one of those Dervish dancers at Dina’s launch of I am Muslim. I was spinning everywhere, from Bangsar to KLCC and Bangi and then back to Bangsar.

On the last day, had I missed Camilla Gibb as I had intended to, I would never have forgiven myself. The author of ‘Mouthing the Words’, ‘The Petty Details of So and So’s Life’ and now ‘Sweetness in The Belly’ spoke about her life with the Muslim community in Ethiopia. A student of Anthropology, Camilla felt that her thesis didn’t do justice to the people she lived with, the religion she became very close to, and the community which adopted her. So, she wrote this compelling novel. Somewhere in Camilla’s talk, she touched a nerve, a raw nerve. And the words she scribbled in her book to me have gone some way to help me heal. Thanks Camilla.

It was at this session that I met an old friend, poet/lawyer Cecil Rajendra who shared with me poems he had written for the session in the evening. It brought back memories of sharing his poetries under the big tree in front of Ho Peng Café in Light Street, Penang. How long ago was that? 30 years ago?

This is not quite the end of my book trip home. Today, 31st March, I am supposed to fly home. But MPH is having a press launch of Adibah Amin’s ‘As I was Passing’ on 3rd April. Somewhere in those fantabulous collections of the great writer, is a mention of Kak Teh, though my name was not there in print. As a cub reporter and a great admirer of Kak Adib, I remember feeling so thrilled when she interviewed Fatimah Abu Bakar and I for a column she was writing. When the column appeared in print, we were in cloud nine. That same feeling of excitement is now many times magnified as the day approaches when I will meet up with her again. And this time, I have been asked to say a few words. What a wonderful end to a wonderful book trip home.


NJ said...

Dear Kak Teh,

I confessed reading and writing (not that I am very good at writing btw) are my main hobbies. But after trailing your every movement, excitement, etc virtually for quite sometimes now, I think I am becoming more addicted to blogging/writing nowadays. Your are an inspiration to me Kak Teh.

P/s: Am I the 1st commenter for this entry… Wohooo!

ety said...

Salam KT, bz betul KT ...ME n Taggers di blog Joe, sumer tau KT blk Mesia, AM bgtau...tapi kami pun tau KT bz....take care...


Lydia Teh said...

KT, wah so fast you've already blogged at this. I really enjoyed myself at the the litfest, especially all the networking.

I did pluck up my courage to put up my hand at the end of Tash's beginning workshop. But there were three of us in that corner where he pointed to, so Georgette and I gave way to Zanifa (I think that's her name). I'm glad we did because her beginning was intriguing and different.

And thanks so much for Randa's book. I read the first few pages already and I bet my teenage daughter will love it.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh

I am glad that you have a good time in Malaysia....
Sambung la lagi, and lagi.. cerita you ni, tak nak berhenti la baca. Now I am addicted to your blog and also Jalan Sudin. Tak sabar rasa nak baca yang latest from you two.

Have fun!
Nani-Big Apple

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh,

I respond to certain way of writing, the one that make my eyes glued to the page and continue reading till the end. Yours is one of those. Keep us posted always.

Nazrah said...

won't forget how we re-enacted the snippets from hindi movies at the train station, tarian inang( left-left-traffic light-right and tawaf roundabout...and even charlie's angels posing behind throw pillows, all in under 3 hours.

lovely meeting you again kakteh.thank you for making time to lepak with small bottom-dwelling fish like me.

will do this again at the drop of a hat!

Kak Elle said...

tak tau apa nak komen kak teh and your trip home kali ni betul lah bz sekali....hope to see u in london insya'allah.

Kenny Mah said...

Dear Kak Teh,

Reading your coverage of the KL LitFest made me wish the organisers had thought to hold it over a couple of weekends instead of during weekdays when most of us are working.

Only managed to catch Benjamin Zephaniah's poetry performance at the Central Market Annexe last night with Grace. Saw Sharon there too. Hope to see you at some event soon, ya.

Fauziah Ismail said...

Kak Teh
Dah nak balik dah? A month flew pass so quickly, yes? Seronok baca your activities while here.
After our meeting the other day, I couldn't find time to meet up with anyone since my schedule dah jadi tak tentu arah (macam my writing dalam comment ni juga, kan?)
I hope to meet up with Ruby soon, once things are a little bit more settled.
Have a good trip home. I will call you when I'm in London.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

So soon you will be heading back to London. Can imagine you are torn between 2 worlds.

May your trip be pleasant, safe and comfortable.

Wherever your footprints are, is a trail of happiness. You are a blessing to even people you have not met.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

I had met Puan Adibah Amin briefly. She came across as very confident and humble.

She exudes so much warmth in her "As I was passing".

KerinchiGuy said...

hello there,

MILF? Is that your private joke or the organisers. I know the acronym to mean something else. As I am sure , so does tha Malay Male. And JIt Murad talks of MILF in his last stage show.
Never mind about that.

So you met Tg Adnan and introduced yourself as a woman blogger. What did he say then? Did he guffaw and laugh it off ? Tell lah. I have heard tell that he is quite nice and unassuming in person . Is he?

Atok said...

laaa....padanglah, kiter dok tunggu di hitrow dengang placard, tak dok sapa-sapa. ghupernye dia dok sibok jjuper kawang-kawang, dok abih-abih gi.

ssiang awang dok ccokoh dumoh ssoghang, mek dier tok mboh kelek :D

wonda said...

It's good to meet old friends and new ones too. Guess what, Kak Teh? My sister's friend who would be coming to Japan for a conference, got the two volumes of Adibah Amin's books upon my request. Yippee! I would meet up with her this Tuesday as the hotel she will be staying is not far from my place.

Dina Zaman said...

kak teh

was hoping you'd come to my session. had weirdo there. you're off soon/

wonda said...

Kak Teh,
You are so energetic, running here and there. But, when you get back to U.K, you'll sure feel sleepy for a week. Thanks for keeping us posted and dropping by my blog, despite your busy schedule. I just put up some sakura pictures. When will you be back in U.K?

Xeus said...

Dear Kak Teh, thanks so much for buying my book. No short of ways on how to murder people in there!

ruby ahmad said...

Hi Kak Teh,

Ha ha ha...yeah, that night. You were having fun, weren't ya. After Dato Shahrizat introduced us nice and respectfully to the VIP, Kak Teh had to rub salt..ha ha.

Folks, I enjoyed watching her, being nakal.

Theta said...

Kak Teh,
A trip packed to the brim with activities, surrounded by familiar faces, and new friends made. Sounds wonderful indeed!

nadya said...

seronoknya dapat jumpa makteh, and spending some quality/snapping picture session with you and kak nazrah adalah sgt best.

saat2 teruja tunggu makteh kat station comuter and pusing2 tawaf roundabout bangi while talking to aji kapai n kaknisa pun cam kelakar.. camne la boleh confuse kan.

loking foward for more cerita by you. thank you for your time, hungs n kisses. hope to see you again. :)

Nazrah said...

phewh...i got worried when i saw MILF on your blog...good thing you have changed it before strange google-crazy pervs come in hoards here. God forbids.

phewhh!!thank u kerinchiguy! terbeliak terbelolok my mata when i saw the old title...KLILF may suggest something else just as well no?

*kuningnya kepalaku*

iJun said...

apa MILF tuh Kak Naz?

ruby ahmad said...

Hii Kak Teh,

Thank you so much for the lovely time. I enjoyed it thoroughly despite the heat. I got waylaid on my way out by an RTM officer who wanted to know if I were from the press..ha ha. Ada rupa ke? Then we had a chat of potential TV series..ha ha. Hey who knows kan?

TUmpang lalu Kak Teh....nak tanya Nazrah...

Aduh, KLILF ada hidden meaning ke? Duh! Kami nih dinasaur sangat, I pun tak tahu. Pray tell, me. Kot kot I pun kena tukar tajuk...duh!

D.N.A.S said...

Kak Teh,
you're so energetic. I'm waiting patiently for your book. Heheheh.
Balik UK bawak minyak urut, ok. Gerenti jetlagged and flat abis nanti... :)

tokasid said...

Salam to kak teh.

Sakannya kak teh pi sana pi sini for the litfest.Macam kak teh guna bateri duracell sepanjang hayat. And its good that you really enjoyed everything in such a short period.

(Bila balik London sayang mama dok tunggu nak urut kaki mak dia noo...)

Anonymous said...

a STRONG insyaAllah


fi amanillah


pokmang said...

kak teh,

nadya ajak u p makan kat kedai aji kapai n nisa ke? ayoyo..jauhnya ronda?

Mama Rock said...

kak teh, i was mesmerized listening to your stories! by the way, let me know soon when your book will be out, then I can offer my service of bulk ordering for local bloggers :)

ps - i checked and re-checked for typos before i hit publish :)

- sempat tak another round of coffee before you leave?

Chet said...

Kak Teh - looks like I won't get to see you before you return to London. Maybe my next trip there, I can look you up? Take care, and I'm glad I got to meet you at Dina's book launch.

Nazrah said...

kak ruby: heh heh...apa pun kalau otak kona baring sure ada hidden meaning,the previous title that kakteh used is a frat term, deragotary in most cultures, referring to mothers with whom some men would like to copulate.

*oops bagi kuliah ilmu tak berfaedah pulak*

OOD said...


i tot you look extra berseri-seri, cheeks glowing etc.. honest errr like porcelain!

You must come back more often! It was great meeting u again.

psst nazrah
apo kopulet kopulet ni?

dreamer idiot said...

Dear Kak Teh,

Alamak... kita tak jadi jumpa. So close yet so far. I think we went for some of the same sessions, but somehow didn't how didn't know how we each looked like to meet. Sayang sekali.

i was telling Sharon I wanted to meet you, but somehow got caught up in meeting people I have only known online.

Tak apalah, there's next tim, if i remember.

Have a good trip

dreamer idiot said...

Wait, looking at Lydia Teh's photos. I think we might have met, and exchanged a few words at mmm... Randa Abdul Fatah's session. or maybe I am mistaken.

Has said...

Kak Teh mai Malaysia, dah jumpa ker dengan abang malaya?

Kenny Mah said...

Kak Teh, I know you'll be flying home soon after Adibah's book launch so here's wishing you a safe journey home. Hope to see you again some time in the future! :)


Malaslah cam ni..MERAJUK big konikuya gi KLCC lah gi sana sini tak ajak kiter...Tak nak kawan kakteh dah....


ruby ahmad said...

Hi Kak Teh,

By the time you reach home in UK to your beloveds and after you had your customary hot tea and after you've relaxed and wham bam! you start to feel the sharp involuntary twitches in your fingers to blog, I want you to receive this...*smile*

Thank you for the gift of your 'beautiful friendship'.

It has been such a pleasure for me to have the privilege of getting to know you better through our interactions here in KL. You are soothing company. You are an honest person but in a gentle and pleasant way and that's what makes you all the more beautiful. It has always been stimulating talking to you as you have interesting perspectives and takes.

Thank you for being you. Will miss you.

Aneeta said...

Kak Teh,

So glad to have FINALLY met you!

Athene said...

kakteh, thanks to you & a few other 'untrustable' women blogger, I've taken the leap too. Seronok sangat bila dengar you walked up and introduced yourself to TA. Only a MakCik Blogger can pull that off.

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

So glad you had such a fulfilling time in Malaysia.

Please take a good rest.

wmw said...

Kak Teh, hope you had a good journey back. I'm catching up on my rounds of blog reading since I got back too. Am still having jet lag, it almost 3 am here. Hope you settle in on the time diff quick :o)

FireHorse said...

Hi kak teh, drop by to just say I am thinking of you :o)

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

Fully agree with "athene". Only a MakCik blogger can pull off that stunt.

Your strength lies in your sweet personality.

Ruby Ahmad describes you with a soothing presence.

Of the 5 elements of nature, metal is the hardest and water being soft. Water cannot be destroyed by metal but drips of water can dent a metal.

wonda said...

Saw your pix. on many bloggers' posts. You're no longer "makcik blur blur" but Kak Teh Manis! Hehe!

Kak Teh said...

Dear all, seeing as you all took the trouble to read and leave yr comments, I will also try to reply to each and every one. I have been quite busy in KL and now i do have some time .

NJ, Thank you. If i know i inspire even just one person, i feel very happy . Blog away!

ety, thanks - tak sempat kak teh nak jumpa semua orang.masa tu singkat sangat and macam2 yang nak kena buat.

Lydia, I thank you too for the time you spent with me considering you are such a busy mum and a desperate housewife too!

nani of big apple, kak teh tak terlepas juga minggu ni sebab computer broke down. nampaknya next article will be next week.

anonymous 09:06,
Thanks for such encouraging words!

Kak Teh said...

nazeah, i felt really touched that u came down with nadya to see me. and what fun we had at the runabout! take care...wherever u are.

kak elle, masa dekat-dekat nak datang ke london, let me know again, ya!

kenny, it was great meeting you. and for this i must thank the cyberworld!

fauziah, tahnks for the use of the computer and yr table at work! It really saved a lot of time after that! keep in touch and do keep in touch with ruby too..she 's fun to be with.

hi&lo, it is such an honour to meet someone like kak adib. So clever and witty and yet humble. I was so touched and honoured to be asked to say a few words at the launch of her book.

Kak Teh said...

kerinchiguy...hahaha - my mistake. Of course i didnt know abt the acronym. Well, Tunku adnan was quite sporting and all he said was 'No problem' Kalau dia nak sembang lagi, I could have engaged him in a debate too.

atok, eh baru saja balik ni! kena extend sikit sebab ada kak adib's book launch - tu yang satu2nya tak boleh miss.

wonda, i read about yr friend's visit. it is so good to meet up with fellow countrymen,, ya!

xues, you can be the patricia cornwell of malaysia lah!

Kak Teh said...

ruby, it must be something in the drink laaa! hahaha I would have engaged her in a debate and asked you to join in too!

dina oh dina, a weirdo at yr talk..had i known i would have gone but i had a meeting at KLCC.

theta, by the end of the trip, i was already croaking - tak ada suara lagi.

nadya, thanks to your driving skills we got there. Tapi dizzy juga dok tawaf roundabout!

Kak Teh said...

ijun, you pun tak tau???

dnas, minyak uurut pun tak jalan lagi. kak teh kena duduk on one of those massage machines baru rasa sedap sikit.

tokasid, kak teh pakai bateri solar enegery! hehe!

atenah, yes, Insyaallah.

pokmang, aha - memang jauh dia ronda and nasib baik ada makanan masih menunggu.

mama rock, thank you for spending time with me. i had to go back for another bowl of prawn noodles - sedapnyaaaa. and thanks for the gift.

Kak Teh said...

chet, lovely meeting you too. yes, give me a buzz when u are coming to london!

ood, tak mau kawanlaaah, u left so early that night. and lunch pun kena hurry jugak. tak cukup!

dreamer idiot, so we met?? aiya, must meet up againlah like this. nexttrip, ya?

has, abang malaya kan abang misteri. lebih baik he remains a mystery, kan?

djinsakti, alaaa merajuk pulak adik ku sorang ni. Bila dah tua-tua merajuk buruk sangatlah!

ruby, thank you and thank you. will treasure the times spent with you.

aneet, yes, and i recognised you. Too bad we didnt have enough time - i did want to ask you 'something'!

athene, thanks for dropping by and blog on!

Kak Teh said...

wmw, you were away too? I am still jetlagged!

firehorse, hope u had a lovely party by the beach!

wonda, aiyoooo manis manis macam kut!

Hi&lo, u are too kind.