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
A Nyonya in
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
The morning with Tash ended with some photo sessions and we promised to meet up in
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
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
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
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.