Monday, 29 October 2007

When Awang Meets The Pengembara at the Royal Asiatic Society

Thanks to:
Since the birth of GUIT, life has somewhat changed, not least because my bag weighs a few tons more, causing a strain on my shoulders while walking and pretending to AG that I wasn’t carrying any copies of GUIT. The unsuspecting writer/husband would only be aware of my marketing ploy when I fish out a copy to flash it in front of unsuspecting and vulnerable buyers.

Soon, he will be writing on Why You Must Never Allow Spouse to be Marketing Manager/Agent!

Take a simple outing to the bank in Oxford Street for instance. After a very tedious transaction, I spotted a familiar face at the bureau de change. It was none other than a former Finance Minister (FFM). I knew instantly what I had to do, much to the horror of hubby and son who were prepared to make a dash out of the bank, but decided against it in case people thought they were running out with bags of money. So they waited while I waited for the opportune moment to flash GUIT before FFM. Admittedly, FFM hails not from Trengganu but a neighbouring state. But what is a few miles between states, eh? Aaaah, he said, you’ve not been home since those days? Yes, we admitted, recalling his visits to the London head office when we were minding the shop in Fleet Street. Needless to say, he walked away with a copy of GUIT in his hand.

Then of course it was the Conference to celebrate 50 years of Britain/Malaysia relationship and an interview with our Foreign Minister ended with, Er, can I be so bold as to give you something?
“Ah, he is a good writer – I must read this,” he said and walked away for all to see with a copy of GUIT. I then waylaid Datuk Dr Munir Majid at the same event, and whetted the appetite of our Minister for Domestic Trade all the way from Southampton to Dublin recently. He too left with a copy of GUIT.

My husband suspects people will soon be crossing the road when they see me!

Well after all the trouble I took to get friends, (including Dato Shoe) to bring over the books, you can’t blame me for finding ways and means to publicise it. After all I have publicised other people’s books so why shouldn’t I do the same for my own husband?

That is easier said than done. My dear friend Dr Annabel Gallop had the same apprehensive feelings about telling people about her father’s second book – Wanderer in Malaysian Borneo. Both Awang and Pengembara (Christopher Gallop) are painfully shy and bashful about their books, so it left us wife and daughter to do the publicity campaign. Annabel decided on an evening to celebrate the two authors at the Royal Asiatic Society – a better place we couldn’t find for our celebrated authors! It is home to some very precious Malay manuscripts, such as hikayats that Raffles brought back with him.

Dr Ben Murtagh from SOAS (my former lecturer) did a good job introducing the two authors, drawing parallels between their reminisecne and travels with his own and Annabel pointed to the similarities between the two - both using pseudonyms and both kampung boys – one from Kuala Trengganu writing in London and the other from Wimbledon writing in Penang.

This is not Chris Gallop’s first book – he had written Wanderer in Brunei Darussalam some years back and both books are based on his weekly contributions to the Borneo Bulletin. A man I truly admire, one for having such an intelligent and wonderful daughter who is an authority in Malay manuscripts, and secondly for his perseverance and tireless effort to study. He did his MA in Malay literature in 2001 at the USM at the age of 70. That spurred me on to do mine in the same area three years ago and he kindly gave me a copy of Winsted’s English Malay dictionary to get me going.

The man who claimed to be Awang Goneng spoke at length about why he wrote the book – remembering the sounds and tunes of yesteryears and watching the stars from the plastic sheet in the roof of their house. He managed to tug at the heartstrings of a few unsuspecting friends who then parted with some money to buy the book.

Tash Aw took a break from his writing and we appreciate that very much.

All in all, a wonderful evening with close friends and family. In a sense the journeys of the authors which started from two different places miles away brought the two families of the Wans and the Gallops even closer together at the RAS.

Ton Din’s kuayteow and Pn Jamilah’s curripuffs were the talk of the evening and beyond. We came home and looked at the photographs taken by another dear friend Azman. What a wonderful evening.

Thanks to

So, thank you all.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Driving tension

Every bit of my muscle screams with pain. Every bone in my body is aching. I feel as if I had had three days and nights of stirring dodol over a hot stove. Truth of the matter is, I was nowhere near dodol, never mind stirring it. And truth of the matter is, I had been doing the raya rounds, being driven by my daughter who had just passed her driving test.

Thus the tension from the toes to the roots of my hair, which I believe must have turned grey all at once. Even in my sleep I keep applying the brakes. My knuckles go white as I grip the seat every time she approaches the traffic lights, but the last few days, I must admit that I was more relaxed and was able to drink coffee and at the same time give her directions. One positive outcome is that, my knowledge of left and right has improved. I cannot afford to get my left and right wrong. And I am also surprised at my ability to be patient.

As someone who failed not once but three times, I am really proud that she had actually passed after just one test. But what good is a license without a car? As a blogger friend was leaving for home, I decided to buy the car for her and that was when the worry and the tension started. It reminded me of the time Mak bought me my first mini bike. She’d sit on the swing daily waiting for my return from school. When Nona bought her first bike, her father followed her in the car till she got safely to school.

The new driver in the family is ever so willing to run errands; go to the shops, fetch us from the station and go anywhere to get herself familiar with the roads and the traffic.

I was working late one evening and after iftar, she offered to take me to my studio. That was fine because I was there to show her the way. But when I finished at 11pm, she and her sister were still circling Camden Town trying to get to me. It took them one hour.

The next day, she volunteered to fetch me again from the studio and this time guided by the over anxious father and over enthusiastic siblings in the car. The journey home, needless to say, took us all around north London, on a detour to west London.

It is very expensive to have a car in London. There’s the congestion fee to be paid - £8 – as soon as you enter a congestion fee area. Failure to pay that, the fine will double and multiply. Then there’s the petrol which the new driver still doesn’t pay for as she is still a student. Oh, did I mention the steep insurance for a young driver? All in all, what I have paid for over the past month since we got the car, is more than the cost of the car.

And yes, we had the most expensive raya this year when she lost the car keys just as we were about to leave for prayers. So, we left her at home to look for it. After prayers I left immediately to help her locate the keys but to no avail. We had to call the locksmith, who duly came and changed the lock, gave us another set of keys and I had to tearfully part with £170!!

Nowadays, I sit around waiting for the familiar sound of her car engine in the drive way. And most nights I wonder whether I did right by buying her the car. She had always been the most determined one. She washed dishes and cleared tables at the Malaysia Hall canteen to get her first scooter bike. She used her uni loan to pay for her driving lessons. And now that I had bought her the car, I sit and wait and pray for her safety.


The eager new driver just drove us to have nachos and ice cream and cheesecake when we all felt our tummy rumbling at 11 pm. I could really get used to this.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Growing Up and Growing Old with Awang Goneng


An update:
A special Hari Raya indeed! We have all received our presents. They came through the post from the publishers. Six copies of Growing Up in Trengganu!!!
All the sayang mamas got one each and are reading about their grandma, whom they had never met , about their grandfather they met very briefly and most important of course about the experiences and the environment that had helped shaped their father. What a wonderful present!

Congratulations my Awang Goneng from Mrs Awang Goneng.

I will never forget the morning I woke up as Mrs Awang Goneng. I was checking my emails when I read one that addressed me as Mrs Awang Goneng as opposed to the usual Mrs Wan, telling me to forward the email to Mr Awang Goneng as the sender had not been able to reach him.

The sender was indeed someone from the publisher of the book, Growing Up in Trengganu and since the AG in question was busy typing on his PC behind me, I just forwarded the email to him. Life during the last few months had been like that – we sat back to back, each facing our own PC, forwarding and replying each other’s mails.

When AG (as he is now known among blogger friends) said GUIT was very much a top secret project, I can assure you that he was telling the truth. I was literally in the dark until only quite recently. I’d wake up to find him sitting in semi darkness typing away. Writing comes to him quite effortlessly whereas for me, I’d toss and turn a few times before I could produce an intro.

GUIT has indeed given me a peek into the world that my husband lived in, a world I never knew existed before this. There is a good reason for this. Two weeks after getting hitched to this Awang from Trengganu, we left for this foreign shores. That was almost 28 years ago and by then I had only visited Trengganu twice; once as a cadet in Kesatria (those good old ITM days) and the second one as a young bride being introduced to hordes of relative-in-laws who spoke a strange kind of language to me, calling me names such as Mek Jarroh!

In fact, the week in Trengganu was almost like a crash course in Trengganuspeak that didn’t quite work. Before becoming his Mrs, I had never once heard him speak in his Trengganu dialect. In fact I had never heard him speak Malay! Our courtship was conducted in English entirely and it was such a cultural shock to the system when the morning of the night before, sitting at the breakfast table with my new in laws, I heard strange words coming out of this man who had become my husband.

I learned and remember a few such as bekeng, songo and se’eh. And now with the guide to Trengganu speak in GUIT, I hope to understand him more.

It was under the tree right in front of the big newspaper office in Jalan Riong that the question was asked.The question that was to change and map our life for this past 28 years. We were sitting in his old battered VW when he said, Do you want to go to
London or stay here? I didn't think twice and for selfish reasons, I said London. I wanted to smell the fresh spring flowers and experience the first drop of snow and various things that he talked about in his lovely long letters to me when he was the London correspondent. I wanted him to take me by the hand, like the words he sang to me from the song by Ralph MacTell, and lead me through the streets of London that I had become familiar with from days spent playing Monopoly. Yes, I wanted to come to London.

And London did something to him and to me. He yearned and talked about his Trengganu a lot. It takes being away for so long for someone to remember clearly how things were in those days.

For me, the words he paints of Trengganu make me want to go back and see it again, the stories that he tells of his Cik (mother) make me wish I had known her and had tasted the delicious food she used to prepare for him when he was small. She could have taught me a thing or two. I had seen her photographs, but I never knew her. It makes me wonder whether she would be proud to have me as a daughter in law. I guess I would never know.

Anyway, before I get too sentimental, I believe the book will hit the bookshops in Malaysia and Singapore soon. I think the publisher has also taken it to the Frankfurt Book Fair. So, to quote
AG in his entry here, “ go out and buy a copy or three, and recommend it to your teh tarik man, workmates, mother-in-law and the man/woman you exchange glances with at the traffic light. It will, if anything, keep an impoverished author in work.”

And if I may add, that will indeed help to buy an extra can of cat food for his loyal friends who kept him company when he was doing the book.

Please look at the write up by blooker central here.

Researcher at work

Proofreader sleeping on the job

Snowbell giving a helping hand

Researcher at work

Pix 4: Photo editor


Praying together for GUIT to be a bestseller

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Still with Nurin on my mind

It is not going away – this feeling of helplessness. My fingers automatically click to Nurin’s blog everytime I am surfing. I scan the news online for developments, for any latest stories. My heart soared at any positive developments and sank again when I read they were leading to nowhere near a solution; an arrest or anything that would put a face to this mindless crime. Cases such as this has always affected me badly. James Bulger, Sarah Payne, ...and Maddie McCanne who is still missing.

The release of the four initial suspects means that the culprit is still out there. This is no ordinary criminal, no ordinary human being who takes pleasure from seeing someone in pain, who challenges authority by openly placing his victim in a public place. He/she needs to be found.

The police are doing all they can in the face of public glare and pressure.

But there’s something more that can be done to prevent this, this terrible crime being repeated. A lot has been said of Amber Alert, here, here and here. Once a child is missing, no time should be wasted in alerting the police, neighbourhood watch, any agencies at all who could help in the search. I believe Minister Sharizat has proposed something, though not to the effect of a Nurin Alert yet. Read about it here. Let us hope she does something.

I was appalled when I read that the police had advised that parents only report a missing child after 12 hours. 12 hours? Imagine what can happen in one hour, let alone 12 hours. One hour to a parent waiting at home or walking the streets scanning for that familiar face is one hell of a long time.

It must have been three Ramadhans ago when I had four hours of hell waiting for my son to come home. He wanted nasi tomato for iftar and I made his favourite lamb in kicap to go with it. Four thirty, when he was due home, came and went. And yet no sight of him. Within half an hour, I had called all his friends. No one had seen him walking home. We called the school. They could only confirm that he was in school that day. By then, it was already two hours when he should have been home. Neighbours suggested we called the hospital, the police. My husband had by then walked the area several times and had stood on the bridge over the motorway and called his name out loud. He came home and calmly asked me to pray and pray for the safe return of our son. By then a crowd of concerned neighbours had arrived. It was six and it was dark. A neighbour drove me to the school and still no luck. I was already in tears by seven o’clock. It was so uncharacteristic of him not to call and not to come home on time.

The words from the teacher rang clear to this day when I told her that my son would not do anything stupid such as not coming home without telling me. She said, Mrs Wan, if I get a pound everytime a parent tells me that, I’d be very rich today. I could have given her a &^^%$!!

Anyway, I came home to find a very sympathetic policewoman sitting in my front room. How do you describe what he was wearing? What jacket was he wearing over his school uniform? How was his haircut? Was he wearing his favourite cap? And his rucksack?What brand was it? I couldnt remember. I couldn’t remember anything. Well, just as well because at that moment, a sheepish looking lad walked in. If not for the presence of the policewoman, I could have strangled him. His teacher was proven right after all. He had gone with his friends to break his fast as it was the last day of school and couldn’t call me because his battery was flat.

The policewoman, doing her duty, had to interview him of course for his reasons for staying out so late. And gave him a piece of advise, pointing to my wretched tear stained face, she said, Look at your mum. Look at how worried she was.

Yes, Alhamdulillah, everything turned out well. But it was a nightmare. A nightmare because I have read too many cases of missing children who never returned, not because they didn't want to return but because some sicko had taken them away.

A few days ago, I met up with our Prime Minister who dropped by for a function, after his address at the UN. I asked, or rather, I blurted out to him about whether we should compile a register of sex offenders, of paedophiles. At least, with a register, we would know who these people are, where they live. So, when a child is missing, the first reference would be the register of offenders in your area. When Sarah Payne was brutally murdered, there was a campaign for Sarah’s Law to name and shame sex offenders. You’d want to know if a child sex offender is living near you, wouldn't you? You’d want to know that the person employed at a nursery of your child’s school isn’t a pervert. Whatever it is, as a parent, you’d want to know.

Yes, said the Prime Minister, a register would be useful. But I agree with him when he said, it has got to be dealt with carefully. In the UK when the name and shame campaign took off, some people decided to take the law into their own hands. At least one sex offender committed suicide, fearing even to go out of his front door.

Judging from the comments I read at the Nurinjazlin’s website, especially after the arrest of the four suspects and now the detention of a female foreigner who swallowed her SIM card, I think we still have a long way to go. Commenters are already spelling out what they’d do to these four even though they have yet to be charged. And some of the suggestions are quite horrific. When the matter is already in the hands of the police, it is best that the public allows the police to do their job. We can help by keeping vigilant. When a child is struggling and crying while being dragged away, as was the case of James Bulger, we can show our concern. Had that someone who assumed the two boys who dragged the two year old away were his brothers bothered to stop them and ask, Jamie wouldn't have been left to die at the railway tracks. When a child is screaming, tak nak , tak nak while being dragged into a van, surely there was something wrong.

These are some of the things that kept playing over and over again in my mind. When do we stop to ask and help? When does concern become over reacting and a nuisance?

Let us continue and pray for Nurin, her parents and for the safety of all our children. God bless.

Read the story here and I am pleased that the Star has done a follow up here on Support for Paedophile list.
The NST has also done a follow-up on the registering of sex offenders here.