Thursday, 26 February 2009
Anyway, inspite of all the limitations, I joined the radio newsroom of RTM when I was still a student; taking down weather reports (hujan di sana sini) and typing down stories from stringers carrying loads of equipments during assignments.
I met the likes of Yahya Long Chik, Patrick Teoh, Constance Haslam, people whose voices I grew up with. I was then able to put voices to faces, so to speak. And I really admired them.
It wasn’t until London that I went into radio wholeheartedly. And for this, I must thank my friend Aziz Ibrahim who was at the BBC Malay Service in the late 70’s when we arrived. He introduced me to the big man honcho, Mr Colin Wild, a kind genial man who spoke good Indonesian Malay and trained me in the art of broadcasting. To cut the story short, BBC, I think provided the best training for radio broadcasters and for that I am most thankful. Thus my forays into the world of journalism began, speaking to the world, everyday at 1.30 London time from that big building straddling Kingsway and The Strand.
The expected announcement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to close down the Malay section came in 1990. Someone had leaked the story to the Financial Times, and I rushed to the office to be met by seven men in grey suits. They apologised about the leak to the press, expressed concern and more apologies because they couldn’t do more to save the Malay Service which had been around from before the war, if I am not mistaken. Broadcasters then had included people like Tun Suffian.
But BBC had prepared me for life ahead, I picked up the pieces and started life a new, but I still had lingering feelings, wonderful memories of life in radio.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to be a special guest for Sounds of Malaysia, (nusoundradio.com) a community radio service, where one hour every Sunday was given to broadcast for the Malaysian community.
I had butterflies in my stomach through, ……..
(I don’t know how to explain this. My writing was interrupted by a phonecall, that brought me back to those BBC days, a phone call from someone in the Indonesian service, someone I have not heard from since he retired. It was Pak Brahim, who was appointed Senior Producer of the Indonesian Service at the same time I was appointed Senior Producer of the Malay Service. He wanted to know the phone number of Ishak Nengah and Aziz Ibrahim. There must be some thing here at work, I don’t know, and it is quite eerie!)
Yes, back to the interview at the studio in Forest Gate. Like I said, I had butterflies in my stomach but Miriam, who is the DJ, promised that it was going to be very casual. And once we were in the studio, headset in place, I was transported back in time.
We were then joined by DJs from Traxx FM DJ Par and DJ Fad Da Dilly’ O and from then on we were in our own world.
We talked about the Pak Cik sailors and my life as a freelance journalist and before I knew it, Miriam said why not present the programme on 1st March (Sunday 3pm – 4pm London time , Malaysia 11pm – 2 pm ) as she is going to be away.
So, the butterflies are back flying in my stomach. I have lined up a few items, and hey, if you want to request any songs (and if we can find them), please do! You can email me here – email@example.com or leave your requests in my blog.
Please do so before Saturday – we need to see if we can find the songs. And as we have very limited time, one hour – I think we can only play a few songs. The first seven minutes are taken up by news and advertisements.
So, do tune in to www.nusoundradio.com or 92FM this Sunday.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
So, watch this space.
But in the meantime, if things go according to plan, today (22nd February 09) I will be somewhere in a studio in East London, this time, with me sitting on the other side of the table, so to speak, being interviewed by Miriam Watt of Sounds of Malaysia on http://www.nusoundradio.com/ . Then click on Click here to listen Live. This will be at 3 - 4pm London time and I think that is 11pm in Malaysia. So, if you are still awake, and have nothing better to do, listen to Kak Teh being interviewed on this new community radio in London. That will either keep you awake right through the night or send you off to sleep within five minutes.
At a certain point during the programme, nusound will have a live link up with Traxx FM in Malaysia.
So, what will I be talking about? Well, what else, my favourite subject - The Pak Cik Sailors AND...Blogging!!
And guess what, if you want to request songs and send messages to friends and families, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
This is so exciting. I just love radio.
Sorry, I have not been able to put the interview here yet. Perhaps will do so tomorrow.
Thanks to those who listened - I thoroughly enjoyed myself. and it sort of brought back memories of those broadcasting days.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
“Dia tu dok belakang rumah Zaharah, ” Mak said.
“Sapa, Mak?” asked Kak Cik puzzled.
“Dia tu laa, yang dalam TV tu. Masa Mak pi London, dia dok di belakang rumah Zaharah,” she told Kak Cik.
Kak Cik almost dropped a few stitches upon hearing this. The “dia” in question was none other than America’s queen of chatshows, Oprah Winfrey. And how she came to be my neighbour behind the house, was Kak Cik’s mission to find out. Thus the text message that she sent me.
These days, text messages from my siblings about Mak would throw me into a gamut of emotions. This one had me almost rolling on the floor laughing before sadness set in with the realisation that Mak’s memory is getting from bad to worse. What goes on in that mind that used to be so sharp, no one knows.
Over the years Mak visited me three times and she certainly enjoyed her stay, not once complaining about the cold. Abang used to tease her; "Mak pi London berapa kali dah, tak pass, pass pun!"
Before her first trip, Abang had prepared her with a few important English words. He told Mak, “Kalau immigration tanya apa-apa, Mak kata; Yes, No, Alright!”. And she’d just laugh because Abang was forever teasing her. She had missed Abang a lot when Abang was in Belfast but it was impossible to visit him, not when bombs were exploding everywhere. And again it was impossible to visit Kak Cik when she was in Kansas. With me in London, and Tok Su and Mak Cik also in London and Kak Niyah in Kent, she felt it was time to visit.
Mak came in the summer of 1980, bringing with her, her crisp cotton kebayas and kain batiks and high heeled shoes. She was quite stylish. No amount of coaxing would make her wear trainers or walking shoes when we went walking in Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park. She loved the parks as she loved the roses and the summer blooms.
The second time Mak came was after Nona was born. Again it was in summer. I remember how my friends would look forward to dinner at home because it was truly home cooked food. But what I don’t remember is anyone with any remote resemblance to the chat show host and now close friend and supporter of Obama.
But we do have a close friend from Kenya who visited us often when Mak was around. Perhaps it is Jane then that she had mistakenly thought was the great Oprah. But if Mak wants to believe that Oprah was my neighbour, then let it be.
I hear Mak is now chirpy and happy. And without her teeth. She had misplaced her set of teeth that had sent everyone looking under the bed, under the pillow and even in the bin. But it is gone. The last time she misplaced it, it was found in the drawers. This time it is gone forever. But Mak will be flashing her happy smile soon, because a new set is waiting for her at the dentist!
More on Mak:
Saturday, 14 February 2009
Street corner florists were selling their red roses like hot cakes. Business relating to the heart was extra brisk, especially as the day drew to a close. People were extra loving holding hands extra tight. Those saying goodbye by the roadside, by the station, anywhere, took extra lingering moments before the final farewell. Those walking back alone too were clutching tight their red or yellow roses. And I, well, I held on tight to my new book Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters that I just bought at Borders, as I made my way to Selfridges to meet my date.
It was as if the street was painted red – red hearts on balloons, red hearts on lingeries, on bedsheets displayed on beds in shop windows everywhere. And Selfridges is certainly the place you’d want to be if you were searching something for that special someone.
But I wasn’t searching for anything of that kind. I was searching for my date and while waiting by the escalator, I just watched people to see how love that was in the air was affecting them.
The young ones did it everywhere; gazing into each other’s eyes as they sipped their latte, holding hands across the table, over their half eaten muffins. Old couples, with matching silver hair walked contentedly, arms linking, fingers touching. Then my eyes were drawn to one elderly Malay gentleman; a well known face with that unmistakeable mop of grey hair that is somewhat thinning. Two steps ahead of him was a young leggy beauty with long chestnut hair. No, it couldn’t be, I dismissed the thought.
When my date arrived, we sat at the table for two and ordered our lattes and Earl Grey. It was the second day in a row that I sat there in the same café by the escalator at Selfridges sipping Earl Grey, but with a different date. The waiter gave me a smile of recognition as he offered me the menu. And as I had my last sip, the elderly Malay gentleman walked past our café again, but this time with the leggy beauty striding by his side, clutching something in that well known Selfridges’ carrier bag. Just let us say, she must be a niece or a distant relative.
My head was full of these encounters as I made my way past the chocolate bars packed with people buying presents for their sweet tooth lovers. I have lost count the number of times that I spotted familiar faces walking hand in hand with another who is not the one that I am more familiar with. How many times have I had to duck into a corner or cross the road to avoid embarrassing situations and awkward, hesitant introductions.
So why London when London is crawling with people who are bound to know you? And why not some other cities like Milan, New York or even Timbuktoo where no one would know you from Adam. Oh well, I was by then debating with myself and was already attracting curious glances from other shoppers.
It was choc-a-bloc at the florist in Selfridges. People were just grabbing what’s left rather than leave empty handed. The last bunch of red roses that I received was some months ago in Paris, and it is safe for you to assume that it wasn’t from my other half who believes you can’t eat roses. But, yes, Paris is the place to be now – the city where love is forever in the air.
It was there that I was swept off my feet by a Frenchman, in full glare of other tourists and witnessed by the towering Eiffel Tower. And before you let your mind roam, let me explain. I was doing my piece to camera, when my camerawoman said something to my soundman in French. He then came over on the pretext of adjusting my microphone and then, voila, swept me off my feet and the moment was forever captured on tape as evidence of my ‘tryst’ in Paris!
Oh well, I remedied that situation a year later by spending 14th February, with my other half, up the Eiffel Tower, shivering in the cold air. It wasn’t a romantic moment, just a trip up the tower for the sake of taking photographs and telling people yes, we were up there.
So, with such thoughts in my mind, I picked my way to the other side of Selfridges where business was less brisk at that hour. I suddenly knew what I wanted for my other half that would permanently embed me in his heart; two fat mackerels, one fated to be grilled and to be accompanied by air asam, made to his liking.
As if on cue, the song " I know him so well" by Elaine Paige played in my mind.
Kak Teh's other Roseless Moments:
Reminiscence Of An Incurable Old Romantic
Love in the Autumn Years I
Thursday, 12 February 2009
When Nona has a bee in her bonnet, there’s no talking her out of it. I have yet to recover from the whole month of sleepless nights when she backpacked crisscrossing India with her cousin. And now, she is determined to do something else which will bring back that knot in my stomach.
When she was younger, when she wanted something, she’d put her mind to it and do it. Take for instance when she wanted that scooter, which cost something like £100.00. She offered her services at the Malaysia Hall canteen (in Bryanston Square), to wash dishes and mop the floor and serve customers. Once she got the money, off she went to get that scooter.
The same happened when she wanted a guitar. Back she went to the canteen and the mop and the dirty dishes in the sink. And she got her guitar.
Now she takes herself in the mornings to run around the park and parts of London to train for the Paris Marathon on 5th April. During one of these runs, she was lucky enough to find a painting, scattered by street artist Adam Neat. Anyway, now that the weather is somewhat colder, the treadmill in the front room is where she prepares for the marathon. I do the Wii steps to keep her company.
But why, one might ask? Well, I think the heartbreaking pictures and fate of the children of Gaza got to her. She was glued to the TV watching the developments and then she went to the demonstrations in London. Then, she decided she must do something. She is going to run for the children of Gaza. And how can I stop her? I cant. I will just sit in the front room and hope she makes the 26 mile run safely.
And if you want to give Nona a prod on her run and at the same time help the Children of Gaza – please visit Nona’s site HERE.
Nona's other adventures:
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
The din from downstairs woke me up and instantly I knew they were at it again. It was already midnight and I was worried that the yelling and screeching would wake the neighbours up. It wasn’t the first time and sadly it will not be the last.
I flew downstairs only to see the back of the older brother disappearing into the cold night air. I called out his name but to no avail. He’s gone and will not be back until he gathers enough courage to come back again.
He left home some months ago, after what I believe, was one of the most heated of sibling altercations. Jealousy has a lot to do with this. Taking sides. Camps. Whenever there was a quarrel, the sister just sat and watched. The youngest brother pretended not to see.
This problem of sibling rivalry saddens me a great deal for they used to be so close, almost inseparable since birth. Then they began to show their claws and true colours. They all seemed to gang up against him. The fights became more frequent. And one day, he left. The few times that he came back, he was more like a stranger. He’d walk in, look around and walk out again, as if the place, which saw them playfully rolling on the sofa, on the carpet, didn’t mean a thing to him. The others would watch him scornfully; ignoring him completely. Or if they felt generous, they’d give him a contemptuous scowl.
There were times when he’d lurk outside the gate, mustering enough courage to walk in. But the front door was as far as he’d get.
So, the homecoming became less frequent. That is, until recently.
We’ve never shown any favouritism. But they fought for attention and affection.
I sense that he really wants to come home. His wandering days are over and he’d want to make amends with his siblings. But the return of the prodigal son recently was such a sorrowful event.
As soon as he made a cautious entrance through the flap, Tabby who was sprawled on the floor, sprang to his feet with such a meow that caused his brother to make a hasty retreat. The jealous streak in Tabby was so unbecoming but of late he has been so territorial and possessive, especially of his master. Only he has the place on his chest, purring away contentedly. Only he can sit on his lap while he types away at the computer. Only he can laze on the prayer mat while waiting for his master to finish his prayers. His brother’s return would certainly be seen as a threat.
When they were small, we called them the Kray Brothers, after the infamous East end duo. Then when the older one left home, we called the younger one Tabby. Then one day, Mary, our next door neighbour mistook Tabby for Stanley. That was how we knew Tabby’s brother had taken refuge in a neighbour’s house. That’s how we knew he was called Stanley.
Stanley knows that the flap of our backdoor is always open to him. There will always be a bowl of milk and a tray of Whiskers whenever he feels like coming back. We still love you, Stanley Wan.
Pillow Talk and Impossible Dreams in A House Divided
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Everything was still outside, almost lifeless. During the night, there had been visitors to the garden; the footsteps they left behind were those of the usual suspects; hungry foxes and stray cats. Snowbell sat there as if it was her mission to look and stare.
The scenery from the front room window is not one you'd want to write home about. As the sun made a feeble effort to peek through yesterday, the once smooth, white icing like topping over rooftops and cars began to melt leaving patches of ice and slush. Awang Goneng the snowman became the first casualty, losing his head leaving the tie hanging forlornly from where the neck was. By the third day, the sarong came off unceremoniously in a puddle of slush.
I ventured out to work yesterday and saw the aftermath of what has been recorded as the heaviest snow in 18 years. I picked my way very carefully along the icy road to the station, mindful of the incident 18 years ago, when I fell flat on my back after sliding on some ice patch. A fall on my front would have been disastrous as I was then a few months pregnant.
I remember that day well as I had just returned from the personnel office, making an eleventh hour negotiation over redundancy payments, after the much-publicised closure of our department. It was a double fall, if you like, one that I thought I'd never recover. I thought the world had collapsed. Sudah jatuh ditimpa salji.
But as it turned out, I suffered nothing more than a sprained neck, the baby turned out fine and it took one closure, Alhamdulillah, to open more doors. That door that closed on me 18 years ago, opened up more than I could bargain for.
That was what was playing on my mind yesterday, as I walked, skipping icy patches and admiring hedges with ice tops looking like unfinished cupcakes. I shouldn't have despaired as I am wont to, for it is his HE who provides, regardless of who it is who takes away from you. But I did, as I am only human.
Turning around the corner, dodging children playing with whatever snow left on the pavement, I said a silent prayer for I had more than I had bargained for in this adopted country of mine. I had left the comforts of home, with an assured salary and an exciting and fulfilling job, to share my life with my husband in a foreign land. There was no promise of work although I knew I wanted to work. I knew that sooner or later, after the excitement of playing bride and wife had somewhat subsided, I'd want to work again. But what as, I didn't know. I wasn't ambitious; a clerical job would have been fine, but my typing skills, according to Brook Street, the job agency in Queensway, wasn't something to shout about, I typed using two fingers, like all journalists I know. So,with that two finger, I left the small job agency to look elsewhere.
But as luck would have it, I didn't have long to look. In that magnificient building straddling Kingsway and The Strand, there was a Malay section of the BBC, in need of a female voice. And there, I met the kindest man, ever, who trained me in the art of broadcasting to the world. From a small timid voice, I learned to sit up and announced, "Inilah BBC London" in a confident and strong voice that made my mother and grandmother, my most avid fans in those days, tears streaming in their eyes, listening to me delivering to them world developments of the day.
But that was not to realise so soon, as I was initially packed off to Queens House, sorting out letters from Indonesian listeners. There I learned that Indonesians are truly wonderful letter writers. To ask for a programme guide, they could spin a yarn and likened a listener without a programme guide to a boat without a navigator.
Anyway, once I had one foot in that majestic building, I never looked back. Thirteen years I was there working with Chamil Wariya, Ishak Nengah and many more, who came to join us much later.
But all good things had to end; and I found out that spring 18 years ago, I was to say "Selamat Tinggal" to my listeners for the last time, after which I took myself to the toilet and had a good cry. The world had indeed collapsed.
But did it? It could have, if I had allowed it. A book was commissioned soon after that. A few publications I edited in the name of a freelance, working with publishers known in children's publication. I have had a few documentaries to my name and had enjoyed nostalgic and historic moments such as watching Malik Mydin dive into the dark waters of the English Channel, the time when Tun Mahathir announced the end of buy British last, sharing wonderful moments with Malaysia's Siamese twins Ahmad and Muhammad before they went off for their operations, and many, many more. And along the way, I have met many, many people who have added colour to my life.
I was lost in this train of thought and found myself already reaching my destination; the place where I continued my studies and rejoice in my newfound love for Malay Hikayats and syairs. Hey, it has not been so bad. Next week, I am meeting my editor for another edition of that book. So, I must not complain.
To my blogreader who called to ask about job opportunities in this foreign land, do not despair. Insyaallah, the opportunity is there. Just persevere and you'll get it.
When the snow melts and the fog lifts, you will see things more clearly.
Monday, 2 February 2009
Last night, walking along Queensway, after a takeaway from Khan’s Restaurant, snow, big flakes of snow, cascaded from the darkened evening sky, transforming the area into a winter wonderland. This had been expected and I should have known better than to wear my long Cheongsam like dress to the MCA Chinese New Year do in Malaysia Hall, graced by our Minister of Information.
The cab taking us back skidded a few times and certain roads were already blanketed with snow. Cars drove past with icing tops, at slow speed taking heed of the warning by AA.
Children were already throwing snowballs and making snowmen by the roadside.
At home, the cats had already made themselves comfortable in front of the heaters and on carefully laid out duvets.
This morning, there was an air of excitement as we peered outside to see the neighbourhood under a blanket of snow, not seen before since God knows when. At 6 am, I received a text message about the closure of all campuses – so, no work today because of the snow. Children going to work and school checked transport online only to be informed that all bus services are suspended. Only three train lines are running. No minicab service whatsoever as the icy condition is dangerous for diriving.
So, everything stops when the snow drops.
I remember my first experience of snow in the winter of 1981. My sister and niece who were visiting were so excited that they took themselves to Kensington Gardens to take photographs. Coming back to the apartment, they got stuck in the lift and had to be rescued by five hefty men from the fire station.
While waiting for the arrival of the Minister yesterday, someone mentioned that it could have been a white Chinese New Year. It was really freezing the last few days. But of course, it never happened. During all of my 29 years here, I have never once seen a white Christmas, BUT a white hari raya, yes! It was the Hari raya of 1995, if I remember correctly. Malaysian students in their fine Hari Raya clothes, underneath heavy jackets and jumpers, queued up outside Malaysian restaurants offering free food, as heavy snowfall complete the picture of a Hari Raya experience abroad. It was such a wonderful sight, and the cold long wait outside was worth it for the piping hot soto and lodeh in places like Nahar cafeteria in Paddington.
It is certainly not a day to venture out. So, I am crawling back to the warmth and comfort of the duvet. May be later, just may be, we'll go out and throw snowballs at each other, and try to recapture those moments the way we used too. That is, if the old knees permit. We'll see.