Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ibu Melayu Mengelilingi Dunia - A Journey in Search of Her First Love


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It was done on impulse, a visit long overdue. As soon as I stepped foot on the third floor of the building, I felt a strange but familiar feeling, a familiarity that guided me to the place where I used to treasure the feeling of solitude while being at one with the surroundings. It was a feeling akin to visiting the place you used to haunt with a loved one.

I walked along the rows and rows of books, running my hand across the neatly stacked books between lane 92 and 94. There were loads of books from our literary greats, but my eyes were scanning and searching for one particular book.

And then I found it. I first set eyes on this book while doing some work at the British Library in the early nineties and I must say I was blown away by the courage of the writer, by her sentiments and vision.

A poem that she wrote in the book, and I reproduce a few stanzas here, will be etched in my memory forever.

Sekarang tibalah saat-nya kita berpisah,
Ku tinggalkan di-kau dengan penoh air mata,

Jiwaku dan jiwamu akan menangis meratap sendu,
Hanyut dalam kenangan yang tiada bertepi.


Tahukah kau, oh, sayang,
Sebelom kau dan aku berkenalan,
Aku telah menchintai sesuatu,
Kuanggap ia sebagai kekasehku pula
Tapi keadaan tak meizinkan kami bertemu,
Kerana kekurangan sharat pada diriku.
……..
Sayang:
Izinkan aku pergi menemui kekasihku,
Dan aku akan kembali kepadamu,
Setelah kami puas berchumbu, berchengkerama,
Di-pantai chita-chita.”

It was in aisle 92I that I found this book again “Ibu Melayu Mengelilingi Dunia 1 – Dari Rumah ke London by Aishah Aziz, a second edition published in 1956 – the journey of a wife, a mother of three young children then, the youngest only 20 months, in pursuit of her first love. Thus the heart-wrenching poem above, which she wrote before she left her loved ones.

The poem and her vivid description of the moment the ship Canton, pulled away from the Tanjong Pagar harbour, tugged at my heart strings and brought tears to my eyes. After a tearful goodbye and kisses for her children and husband, she watched them disappear from her sight. All she remembered and what became the strength that saw her through their years of separation, she wrote, was the loving look of the husband she left behind to look after their young children.

That was 10th April 1955. Such was the resolute and strong conviction of a young woman, in search of education, to further her studies and widen her knowledge. That was her first love.

Reading through the thin, fragile pages of the 83-page book, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of this woman who must have wrestled with her conscience and struggled with her sense of responsibilities, to give priorities to an ambition she had nurtured even before her marriage. Along the way, I suspected that, her determination would take her a long way and I wasn’t far wrong.

Aishah wrote about her voyage on Canton, which started on 10th April 1955 from Tanjong Pagar, Singapore, a voyage sometimes on rough open seas that ended at the Tilbury Docks, London on 9th May of the same year. She chronicles life on the ship, in her cabin for four, her friendship with people from different backgrounds, the dancing, activities and entertainment on board as well as the meals served, which left her Malay palate yearning for home cooked food.

It was her account of the various stops in Colombo, Bombay, Aden, and the cruise along the Nile, Port Said, the turbulent waters and her reflections on events that made it compulsive reading. It is a travelogue that takes a reader on a journey of her mind and body.

What is profound about Aishah’s writing is her nationalistic feeling, her yearning for the country to be independent and progressive. She had visions and great ambitions for her country and the people she left behind. Her accounts of her stint in London, her visits to other places like Liverpool and Kirkby, resonate with reflections and comments on current affairs and social developments during that time. While she enthuses on the women’s rights and the British love for arts, she laments on moral decadence, on infidelity and free sex. And that was in the fifties. I wonder what her take would be on the latest story of a 13-year old father, with at least two other boys claiming to be sexual partners of the 15-year old mother.

What heightened my interest in this very thin book, written in old Malay, are several episodes of her life here which touched based, so to speak with some events in my life. She visited the colony of Malay sailors in Liverpool, a subject after my own heart. I visited them 40 years after her. She met Pak Cik Sailors who had been there for thirty or forty years before. And then her visits to Kirkby and Brinsford where Malaya then had Teacher training colleges. She has given us peeks and glimpses into the past. I had met some of the teachers who were trained in those colleges and heard their interesting stories. I had visited Brinsford and saw what remained of the college, and stood at the spot where my brother-in-law said he had his ballroom dancing lessons. I spoke to a local cycling past, who remembered the Malays who played football in the snow.

Another area of interest was her role as an extra in a movie “A Town Like Alice”. I know for a fact that many Pak Cik Sailors, like Pak Cik Ngah Musa and Pak Man Tokyo who made a lot of money in between sailing, working as extras. Aishah was an extra in A Town Like Alice. When I interviewed Pak Man in late 80’s just before he died, Pak Man told me he too acted in that movie, as a Japanese soldier. In 1990’s I was to take on the role of Fatimah in a BBC radio production of A Town Like Alice.

Since reading the book, I harboured a secret wish to meet Aishah. And I did some years ago at a wedding in Malaysia. She promised to give me the second part of the book.


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I knew she’d climb to great heights. She, Tan Sri Aishah Ghani, was Malaysia’s Minister of Welfare Services in the 70’s and one of the pioneers of Wanita Umno.




Picture from Wikipedia Bahasa Melayu.





Terima kasih reader Lanangkota for this information and link.
A copy of this book is available here:
Perpustakaan Peringatan Zaaba, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.
http://www.pendeta.um.edu.my

71 comments:

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Kak Teh
Tan Sri Aishah Ghani wrote that book? Any idea where I can get a copy?

Kak Teh said...

Wowo, that' fast Fauziah. I think it must be out of print. There's one at the SOAS Library and one at the British Library. Why dont you ask her? She said there is a second book and said she'd give it to me tapi belum dapat apa-apa berita lagi.

Kak Teh said...

Oh Fauziah, she used the name Aishah Aziz and that confused me a bit initially. And then I realised that Aziz is the husband's name.

Naz said...

Wow! What a treasure!
We often see people and know that they've done good to the nation and all but often we don't realise what they had to go through to get to where they are. This is one fantastic example.

Queen Of The House said...

I guess almost all who set sail to British shores in those days turned out to be someone notable in their own right.

I just feel sad, though, imagining how she, and the family, had felt when that ship sailed off. Oh sayunya .....

Those who get to fulfill their ambition to further their studies nowadays are luckier ... most of them have the choice of bringing the whole family along.

Kak Teh said...

Naz, for someone, a woman, a malay woman at that time, to leave husband and two young children, it must have been something. A kudos to the husband who must have given her the encouragement and support cos I know without his blessings, she wouldnt have been able to make it.

Kak Teh said...

QOTH, how times have changed, eh? Dulu untuk sorang nak datang pun dah teruk sangat. I remember my brither came in the seventies pun dapat telefon setahun sekali. Tambahlah pulak in the fifties. Surat mesti melalui kapal laut juga.

Now, students bawa family and dapat allowance banyak juga. And skype lagi murah kan?

Hazia said...

Thıs ıs a touchıng entry Kak Teh

Kak Teh said...

Thanks Hazia. I find it so inspiring. Yes, and touching too. You are blogging from Turkey? Have a nice time there.

madam gold said...

We normally hear behind any successful man ,there is always a woman.But this story is the other way round.My admiration goes to the husband for letting the wife go and agreeing to handle the kids ..I am sure that was not an easy task to do in those days..
I still remember in the early eighties, i had to wait at least two weeks to get at least one love letter from Malaysia.Those were the days..

[danial][ma] said...

hej! Kak Teh...i wonder if National Library has a copy of her book(s)...maybe can be one of national treasures...and young generation should read her book(s) too...;-)

Kak Elle said...

oh wow I didn't know she writes...hmm..maybe I should read it too..thanks for the info KT.

D.N.A.S said...

Wow, very inspiring entry! Any idea how to get it published in Malaysia? I think ada banyak Malay literature in British libraries and orang Malaysia sendiri tak ramai yang berpeluang nak baca.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

wow, that blew me away...
How I wished I had her strength when I was faced with the same dilemma 25 years ago..I put marriage and children first (against my better judgement for sure).. in the end, it all came to naught..:(

MrsNordin said...

Oh.. that's lovely. As I read through, I was wondering who this Aishah is. Now I know...

Very brave, indeed!

mahadzir abdul manaf said...

Dear Kak Teh,

Tan Sri Aishah is a great lady who has played a major role in securing the independence of Malaya.I happened to meet his son Dato Bustaman (if I get the name right)through his former college mate in RMC at Malaysia Hall in 1974 together with his wife.That was the 1st and the last.

Det.

Pi Bani said...

Oh, I can imagine zaman tu, kalau hantar orang pergi overseas, it would be as though that person pergi tak balik dah. La ni orang hantar anak pi overseas, kadang-kadang tak sampai setahun kawan tu dah balik cuti...

Pak Tuo said...

Yes,Kak Teh,arwah Pak Chik Aziz was Tan Sri late husband.
The three young child is Abang Az,Kak Tati,Bang Long.Astaman,
Zarin was later coz'we,we in the same batch.

She was award a scholarship by our late Tengku to persued journalism in the UK then.Attach with NST/Berita Harian together with Mak Chik Azah Aziz upon returning home
The facts could be read in her autobio recently published by DBP.

She is in deed a strong lady in person but age is catching her.
A loving grandmum.

Sedap Mak Ckik mengaji kalau you dengar dia mengaji.Bertajwid dan berlagu.

Wish I could re-publish it.Am able Kak Teh too.

che-mie said...

aiseh

tak paham la..

masa saya kecik dulu tak ada PPSMI

rugi

isabelle said...

waa... sayunye! :'(

sometimes, i wished i were born earlier, bcoz i believed the opportunity to succeed is higher... compared to nowadays.

but if that were to happen, i don't think i'd be strong enough emotionally to part with my dear ones.

i think i did the right thing returning to Msia (after my Master) to settle down, so I can share my success/headache/happiness when I start my PhD soon :P

Bustaman said...

I used to see Tan Sri Aishah having meals with her cucus in various malls.
Both she and her husband are RTM Veterans. Her husband, Aziz Abu Hassan once heade the Malay Service.

Kak Teh said...

Madam Gold, I do share your sentiments - the husband must have been so supportive and understanding.
In this modern times, we are spoilt by technology. Everything is instant - in those days, after getting one or two letters a month, we appreciate them more. And what went into the writing too must have take a lot of thoughts and feelings. These days, semuanya ringkas.

Kak Teh said...

Danial, I certainly hope that the National Library has a copy, if not it is time they republish the book and have another foreward by Tan Sri. Certainly, this book must be read.

Kak Elle, she was a writer, she came here to do Journalism and went she went back she was subbing for Berita Harian. Throughout the book, she revealed herself as the journlist, interviewing people as she went along. That makes it interesting.

Kak Teh said...

D.N.A.S. There are certainly many, many old Malay books in the libraries here in UK that must have been forgotten by our people. And that is sad. I love looking and reading the old books. It transports you into a different time zone.

Puteri, but then, had things turned out differently then, where do you think you will be now, and with whom. So, I suppose sometimes, things do happen for a reason. For one, it is supposed to make us wiser, no?

Kak Teh said...

Mrs N, I didnt know her identity too until much later. She had used Aishah Aziz as author of book - Aziz being her husband - I think that must be some kind of recognition for his sacrifice too.

Mahadzir (Det), she certainly is a great lady. I dont think I would have the courage to do what she did at that time.

Kak Ezza said...

sedap nya sajak dia...hmmm erbuai seketika...masa baca tu saya tak sangka pulak ini Tan sri Aisyah Ghani

Thanks Kak Teh...

Kak Teh said...

Pi Bani, in those days, orang buat rombongan nak hantar seorang pi mana-mana pun. Tan Sri narrates a very touching moment - they spent a few days together in Singapore before she left. I cant imagine the feeling of sorrow and emptiness of the spouse leaving for home with his two small children. On the other hand, he must have been so proud of her.

NanaDJ said...

Kak Teh,
What an interesting information. I did not know that she has written books about her experiences in England. To think that I sat with her on one of the Boards for fourteen years and we used to chat about a lot of things before the meeting. Not once did she ever mention it. Must ask her or her son about it, should I meet them. I seldom see her at functions these days.

Kak Teh said...

Pak Tuo, thanks for the extra information. I am sure she recites the Quran well too as she did her earlier studies in Indonesia. Indeed , she was well travelled, for a malay woman at that time. And her nationalistic sentiments shone through in her writing. That's just so amazing.
And she wrote in a way, as if she was talking to you, the reader.

yes, I hope someone publishes the book again.

Kak Teh said...

Che Mie, apa yang tak faham? Actually, yang kak teh tak faham - what is PPSMI? Boleh terangkan sikit tak? Terima kasih.

Kak Teh said...

Isabelle, I think different people do things better differently. and because of the challenges and the hardships in those days, people tend to persevere and thus they excelled.
Things are too easy these days and people tend to take things, everything, from scholarships to favours, for granted.
I am sure you will do well with your loved one by your side to give encouragement.

Kak Teh said...

Pok Ku, so they were both journalists? That's very interesting. I am sure I have her book - her memoir somewhere. Must start reading that again. And I would really like to meet up with her when I go back.

Kak Teh said...

Ezza, Sajak tu panjang lagi, and kak teh dah pilih beberapa stanza saja. memang sayu membacanya.

NanaDJ, I last met her at my nephew's wedding some years ago and I would really like to meet up with her again. And if you ever meet any of her children, can you please enquire about the second part of her book? She told me about it but I dont know how to get it.

simah said...

she had guts...and that made all the difference...

diaorang tak teringin nak republish ker buku tu akak?

aofuad said...

Kak Ah,
I just spoke to her son Dato Astaman just now and told him about what you wrote. He is aware about the book, buku putih kata nya.
In fact there was three of them at that time, because he was the baby being born in 1953.
If you need anything from his mother just tell me so that i can convey to him
Din

Kak Teh said...

Din, Oh, yes, he must be the 20 month old baby then. Well, I met Tan Sri masa wedding Adi, anak Abang Mat. She was the guest of honour and is quite close to Abang. And I told her that I have read her book and she said - oh have you read the second book? I said I couldnt find it. She said she'll give me one. And of course masa tu Kak Teh dah nak balik mai. Kalau dia ada lagi buku tu, I dont mind buying , with her signature of course. and If there is another copy of the first book too. Do remind her that I am adik Dato Sulaiman, she will know.
Tell Dato Astaman that the book needs to be republished. Am sure the NAtional Library will do that. If not I can talk to Dato Shafie Apdal when he comes here next week. It is valuable in terms of content.

ray said...

Komen Pak Malim kucing ray yg alim.

Tan Sri adalah seorang yg amat berbakat, kata Pak Malim sambil meminum susu pekat.

Kak Teh said...

Pak Malim, memang kak teh pun setuju, kata kak teh sambil makan roti tapa keju. Semasa Pak Malim merayau sana sini, agaknya pernah tak bertemu Tan Sri, tanya kak teh muka berseri-seri.

ray said...

Lagi Komen Pak Malim kucing ray yg alim.

Kak Teh,

Kita selalu on-line pada waktu yg sama, kata Pak Malim sambil memegang ayam serama. Saya pernah bertemu Tan Sri, kata Pak Malim sambil memakai sari. Tetapi beliau tidak tahu bahawa saya adalah Pak Malim, kucing ray yg alim. Takut beliau terperanjat kalau saya hulurkan tangan saya yg berbulu, kata Pak Malim sambil mengunyah kuih bahulu.

Kak Teh said...

PAk Malim, betul tu, kita selalu online pada masa yang sama, kata kak teh sambil menyanyi lagu saloma. Kalau Pak Malim cuba bersalam dengan Tan Sri, mesti Tan Sri terkejut, ataupun bagi satu tin sardin, kata kak teh sambil pakai kasut aladin.

mamasita said...

Hai KT.
She is a very admirable lady.Given the choice pun, I can never leave my husband and chidren behind for whatever glory.
Biarlah tak sekaya or terkenal pun! She chased her dreams well!A living legend!
I didn't achieve that much but I have no regrets either.Alhamdullillah ok lah jugak.

Kak Teh said...

Mamasita, we all have our own dreams and we chase our dreams accordingly. I dont think it was glory of recognition that she was after. But, that was the inevitable end result, which she deserves of course. It is the quality of leadership that was already in her.

She is indeed someone to be admired.

tireless mom said...

Dear Kak Teh

Aishah is such a strong willed woman. Berapa jam naik kapal ek? Twice I scrolled to see who Aishah Aziz and Aishah Ghani is. Hope can look out for the book, curious to know further.

Kak Teh said...

TM, naik kapal bukannya berjam - berminggu-minggu. She left on 10th April and arrived 9th May 1955. Bayangkan saja lamanya. But it is good experience. Macam orang pergi haji dulu. Tan Sri was our first few women ministers in the seventies.
I dont think you can get the book now.

Ida Hariati Hashim said...

Salam Kak Teh,

I wonder how pak halim ray kucing yang alim boleh respon mcm tu, macam pantun seloka la..

I had the pleasure meeting the great tan sri aishah, she shared her stories of pre-independant Malaya. I could see that the lady still has the charisma of a leader.Her memory is still intact even though physically she is frail, but semangat dia tu..dasyat..boleh rasa aura tu.

Kak Teh said...

ida, how lucky you are to have that moment with her. my meeting with her was so brief and as it was a kenduri, and jumpa sekejap saja masa dia dah nak balik. i love to hear these stories.

Mama Rock said...

wow! i had goose bumps reading this entry. i dont think i can stomach leaving behind my kids and hubby. hats off to tan sri!

Kak Teh said...

Mama Rock, I had that feelingtoo when I first read it. I read it the second time two days ago when I found it again at my uni library. Ya hats off to her.

kay_leeda said...

Kak Teh,

So touching is the poem. Luahan dari hati nurani Tan Sri.

Would you talk to Tan Sri Shafie on these precious khazanah, Kak Teh? We are so lacking beautiful works like this one of Tan Sri Aishah to share with our young ones. We complain of the younger generation not knowing how difficult the struggle was. Perhaps pieces like these will help be the eye opener.

Andrea Wh@tever said...

Kak Teh, this post left me speechless. It takes a truly amazing woman to do what she did; and an equally amazing man to support her in her decision all the way. Can imagine what this book would be like as an audiobook?

Lyana Mauseth said...

kak teh,

it is very difficult nak cari buku2 mcm ni kat library di malaysia...i wish i could write mcm tu....

About Blogreader said...

Interesting. Thank you for this.

I think journeying to a far-off place meant something else in those days. It was almost as dangerous as falling in love. Today we travel to the other side of the world, only to discover it's the same planet!

Lanangkota said...

Salam Kak Teh, sekadar berkongsi informasi, yang berminat utk membaca buku ini, naskhahnya ada tersimpan di Perpustakaan Peringatan Zaaba, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Layari http://www.pendeta.um.edu.my utk mendapatkan maklumat ttg buku ini. Sekian wasalam

NanaDJ said...

Salam Kak Teh,
The Dato Sulaiman who is your brother, was he the one who was the ex DG of Kraftangan Malaysia? If so, I know him quite well.Coincidentally, one of my brothers is also Dato Sulaiman.Another thing we have in common?

Kak Teh said...

Kay, the poem is indeed touching, especially when it is dedicated to the one left behind, letting her go with his blessings. I find that it tuggs at my heartstrings all the time.
Oh, apparently there is a copy at the UM library and I feel that this shd see a reprint - perhaps some updates.

Andrea, funny that you should mention that this book as an audiobook because reading her, you feel that she is talking to you. Oh, how i'd love to do the audio for this book. When I read her, it was like her talking to me in this old Malay language of old Malay movies.

Kak Teh said...

Lyana, ada dah link kepada buku ni di MU library. Bila you balik nanti pi tengok.

Diz/blogreader,. how true. Those days, it was dangerous, super exciting for those who left and those left behind. I remember my cousin leaving in the sixties, that's the earliest and first in the family that I can remember and of course, she stayed back until now after meeting and married a local.

Kak Teh said...

Salam Lanangkota dan terima kasih banyak-banyak kerana berkongsi maklumat ini. Kak Teh harap, buku ini dapat diterbitkan semula.

NanaDJ, yes, he is one and the same. Google Abang, in this blog and you'll find more about him. hehe!

Oh so you have a sulaiman as well in the family? Yes, certainly banyak persamaan.

umar_skyscooter said...

Aslkm,salam ziarah.erm nice blog.erm nak jmput tuan rumah atau sesape je ke blog sye ni di http://chipmunk18.blogspot.com ,,,jgn lupe linkkan blog ni yer,ok thanks n bye

DrSam said...

WOW Kak Teh...I was almost speechless reading this beautiful piece. I wish you could narrate more on this epic journey of Tan Sri. We are sure lacking a strong and great persona like Tan Sri. She brings proud to our nation.

Thanks to the link and info about the book and the whereabout. I will get my hand on the copy fast (before the other reader get it first :)

masterwordsmith said...

Kak Teh,

Thanks for the great effort to share that book and your musings with us.

Is it possible to scan the book if and when you are free and then upload it at Scribd.com for us to read it? I doubt it would be easy for us to get our hands on a copy...

Just a suggestion.

Thanks again.

Salam

Kak Teh said...

umar_skyscooter, terima kasih kerana sudi melawat.

Dr Sam, People of that generation were made of sterner stuff. Look at the politics now and the politics then. How are we going to see history written about what is happening now?

Kak Teh said...

Paula, I dont know whether doing that will infringe the copyright. and to start with, I dont know how to do it. thanks for the suggestion.

MakNenek said...

mashaallah. im in awe. great story as usual kak teh. and wow, to Tan Sri, who went against all odds for her dreams. I love inspirational stories!

Kak Teh said...

Maknenek, I knew you like stories like this. very inspirational. and what you are doing is wonderful too. Keep up the good work.

zubin said...

Wow, interesting Kak Jarhoh, I wish I could read that book too. Someone should re-publish that again in Malaysia, or why don't you translate that. I was also reading the first Malay novel published " Melati sarawak", thinking of turning it to a play, but sadly not enough body, if I am still interested to do it, I might have to just adapted it or may be inspired by Melati Sarawak.

So you are teaching at SOAS now? Mengajar apa? I meet up with Aida Bahar last week in UPM, good to see her. Salam

Baharudin said...

Salam Kak Teh,
Wow! Very inspiring... I was about to ask the question why Aishah AZIZ and not Ghani, but you've just answered it. I wonder whether there is a biography of our TS? If not yet, I think its worth writing one, esp. while she's still around?

Kak Teh said...

zubin, ya I have spoken to Dato seri Shafie about it and even showed him the book. He wants to do something about it...we'll that's what he told me. I think it should be edited/translated or even made into an e-book. Oh, the aseasuk this year will be in Swansea. Nak datang tak? Last year was Liverpool - and you were not there. I hope to be there, but perhaps not to present as I am too busy and tak tahu apa nak present. They have already asked for abstracts.

Kak Teh said...

Baharudin, yes very inspiring indeed. I think there is a book called Memoir seorang Patriot, kalau tak salah. I will have to check again. Indeed, i think for every surviving veteran politician , we should document their stories now.

captainlukman said...

im touched with this book...hope i find it somewhere or in london library

Kak Teh said...

Capt.Lukman, thanks for the visit. There is one availabe at the British Library, two at SOAS Library. I think you have register as Reader there.

Aida said...

Thank you very much for highlighting this for the public.. I know my grandmother wrote her autobiography "memoir Seorang Pejuang" ..never knew that she wrote those three books.. will definitely get it from her later.. :) thanks!!