Thursday, 12 November 2009

Has it really been thirty years?

Salam all, this piece below appeared in my column here.

ON the greyest of a grey autumn morning, I found myself in what could only be described as a sardine can of a coach, in the underground train making its way to East London.
The tea that I bought earlier in the hope of having a leisurely breakfast during the journey was fast seeping out of its styrofoam container onto the almond croissant, as it was being crushed and squashed by early morning commuters entering and leaving the train.

It was only 7.30am and work was not due to finish until about six in the evening.

Early morning commuters tend to be quite aggressive compared to bedraggled homeward bound ones.

So, after being elbowed and pushed and squashed and left with a soggy almond croissant, you can imagine the speed with which self-pity was rushing in.

I suddenly noticed how young these early morning commuters were — in their twenties and thirties; all fresh and eager to start their day. At 7.30am, I was already about to give up.

I put this feeling of melancholy down to the unusually hectic week. I had been to several cities in the far flung corners of the British Isle, trudging to get to my transport when most people were still in bed and arriving home when most people were already asleep.

I had been covering stories with journalists young enough to be my children; whose energy and enthusiasm knew no bounds. I recognised those enthusiasm and zest for I once had them. And those were the days when the ministers I interviewed were much older than me.

Anyway, when I finally found a seat, and with about 10 more stops to go, and munching on tea-soaked almond croissant, I went on a journey down memory lane.

Just the week before, I was contacted by a youngish journalist who wanted to interview me because, according to her calculation, I could easily be the longest-serving Malaysian female journalist abroad.

Note that I did not use the word “oldest”, although that too could be true.

The reality of that proclamation hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t know whether this is true, but yes, suddenly I felt it had been quite a long time.

Suddenly, all of my almost 30-year career in this industry came rushing in like the early morning commuters.

There was a time when it was I who chased after old Malaysian veterans and old Malay sailors. My husband once joked that a young hack would one day turn up at our doorsteps wanting to interview the makcik who came to London in the late 1970’s. It is a joke no more.

These days, when I casually mention that we came to London in 1979, most of these young hacks would retort; “... but I was only a year old then!”

Next month, it will indeed be 30 years away; and for most part of the three decades, I had been a hack; in radio, in print, TV and even dabbling in online media.

I had started off carrying the German-made Uher reel-to-reel tape recorder on assignments and it weighed a tonne! Now I carry a small digital voice recorder that could easily fit in the palm of my hand.

And remember the days when we had to rush back after assignments to bang on the old Remington? Well, today, fitting snugly into my sling bag is a cool notebook with Internet connection.

I remember the day that the three of us — Ena, Fati and I — walked into the newsroom in Jalan Riong; conscious of the stares and wolf whistles from male reporters from the sports desk. Many contemporaries have moved up, moved away and moved on.

Last week, looking through my collection of paper cuttings and pictures from assignments throughout the years brought back the excitement and joy of being a journalist. I just love meeting interesting people with interesting stories to tell.

I just love how interesting human interest stories found their way to me.

Experiences of people like Datin Peggy Taylor, the Pak Cik Sailors, the British veterans and many more had served to enrich my own life’s experience.

Has it really been 30 years?

The announcement on the train signalled my stop. And joining in the crowd of commuters spilling onto the platform into the cold autumn air, I suddenly felt rejuvenated again.

Starting out...


 Reporting from all over Europe and with conjoined twins just before the operation

These last few weeks.............................

See the fresh faces?


Stanley said...

Kak Teh, never been a commenter here but have always been following your blog.

I have to say that your second newspaper clipping, the one that mentioned about your landing a job with BBC, you looked more like a Charlie's Angel than a reporter. Are you sure you weren't masquerading as a reporter? ;)

Kak Teh said...

hahaha stanley! Yes, Charlie sent me off as a cover to investigate the BBC! Hehe that was the style then.
Those were the days, eh. Full of zest and enthusiasm. I bet I could be as agile and as energetic as the Charlie's Angels then. Now I feel like old Charlie :)

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Kak Teh,
Wow! Cun! 1979? I wasn't even born yet! Bet you get that a lot. Glad you're back a-blogging. purrr....meow!'s Tabby?

mekyam said...

dear kt, for now i just want to say i'm soooooo v v delighted to see you back! :D

here's to a special "hack" who moves ever so gracefully with time:

30 years is a blink in the eye of time, where
every now recedes like fleeting glances
much as we want to stop to think and stare
neither do we want life to halt its dances

isabelle said...

Yes, KakTeh.
u looked so wonder AG fell in love with u.
anyway, u still look great till today. i wanna age gracefully like u do.

mamasita said...

So inspiring, nostalgic and're our Malaysian superstar journalist in London..I am so very proud of you dearest Kak Teh..

Yes..macam Stanley said..what a beauty..still is madam!

Mysunshine cake said...

would like to invite u join Mysunshine Giveaway & RTAR Cloth Diaper Fund, dan maybe u berpeluang memangi salah satu 'Bento Box Set' ^_^. Bekal makanan comel utk anak anda. Utk menyertai Mysunshine giveaway & cloth diaper fund for RTAR, layari

Tujuan giveaway nie adalah utk memperkenalkan Rumah Titian Ashraful Rohaniah kepada masyarakat. Sambil membantu RTAR menjimatkan kos membeli lampin dispo. RTAR mempunyai 3 baby yg masih mengunakan diaper, Ariana 3 bulan, Danial 1 1/2 tahun & Nanda 2 tahun.

Kak Teh said...

Cat-in-Sydney, yes, i do get that a lot! hahaha - that's what you get when you grow old! Wait for your time and the whiskers go grey and the old paws are not that strong anymore...sigh! Oh tabby is fine but i think dia masih merajuk because another cat is squatting in our room - he has been evicted.

Mekyam, i just cannot describe the last few weeks. Hectic tu tak dapat describe everything. Thans for those soothing words...I need a back rub to go with it.

Kak Teh said...

Isabelle, jangan la macam tu.... Jangan tengok dekat-dekat nanti terkejut.

Mamasita,i see you've been busy too! Syabas - if i was there, I'd buy one too. Tengoklah macam mana. May be masa depan yang terdekat ni.

Justiffa said...

Hah're back & well :D was a little worried & missed you la.

Wow KT you're one hot momma (dulu & skrg pun) ;)

Really glad to see u posting again.

Kak Teh said...

justiffa - amb ack pun sebab there@s a ready made story - so just copied and pasted. Been terribly busy and not complaining sebab rezki kan?
But i have been checking sposts jugak - cuma couldnt blog.

Adliff said...


Kak Teh, finally! :) I have been waiting for your entry eagerly. Miss your writing in this blog so much!
1979 - Aliff entah dimana pasai lahir pon tahun 1982.

Wisdom comes with age:)So more colorful writing ye. I'm waiting.

p/s: Tabby merajuk? Ala...kesian dia. Mak dan ayah saya ke Mekah, kucing mereka Abu kami suruh jiran jagakan.

3yearshousewife said...

You're back, been wondering where you went.
Mengancam betul K.Teh masa muda2 dulu.Mcm aktres. Sekarang pun mengancam juge, jgn sedih2.
You can always be young at heart.

Kak Teh said...

aliff, tabby sekarang cepat merajuk. Moaner has taken over his place in the bedroom. Jadi dia tidur di bawah. Harap Emak fan bapa Aliff dapat Haji mabrur!

Kak Teh said...

3yrshousewife, alaaa betul tu sekarang pun kak teh mengancam cuma mengancamnya macam lain pulak. Mengancam macam nak makan orang! hehe!

Madam Tai Tai Again said...

Pheewiiit Kak Teh! Love the flower on your hair and you looked very gorgeous in your kebaya!

Thirty years on...that kebaya may not fit you now but the gorgeousness is everlasting.

Congrats on your 30th year in journalism!

Zendra-Maria said...

Congrats Kak Teh, 30 years and you still rock!

NanaDJ said...

Kak Teh,
At last, rindulah, you have been 'away' for quite a while. Read your article in NST today. I agree with the others, you look so gorgeous then and still do now. I know you have been very busy, hope you can relax a bit now.
Salam sayang to you both.

Chahya said...

KT, you looked like a magazine coverpage girl (majalah Wanita late 70s/early 80s) then.
Stanley is right, mcm Charlie's Angel.

Take care.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Hello Madam! FINALLY! Ya Rabbi Kak Teh, punyalah lama menunggu you. Hope you can breathe a bit easier now..

Al-Manar said...


You have done 30 laps beautifully and still have plenty of drive in your strides. How enviable. Many are enjoying the fruit of your labour and that of Mi's. Look ahead and keep it up. Abang Ngah did my 30 and stopped to find something befitting my aging and aching machine. Wish you and Mi all the best.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Zah, don't lah remind ppl like us that we r nearly over the hill.Still young at heart mah. 30 years ago, I look like Ekin Cheng, today still just as hemsem what...hahaha, like Dorian Gray lah. Trick is let go of Beatamania & move forward to Lily Allen, Katy Perry (with Russell Brand now ka??), Pink, Amy W. Hmmm not very good role model huh!Oh well.

Cheers & well done for a successful 30yrs career,hope u work until as old as Parkie!


wonda4 said...

Love the second black and white picture - macam bintang filem. The wavy hair, the charming smile and the looks had surely swept AG off his feet. No wonder the wolf whistes in the newsroom!
(the sarah you know)

SkyJuice said...

Salam Kak Teh,

You've been missed.

Wow, you were one hot lass! La ni pun masih cun aih. :-)

Congratulations! 30 years and counting. May there be may more to celebrate, insya-Allah.

Unknown said...

agreed with everyone. the 2nd pict really looks like charlies angels :D well, congratulations! ni baru betul Malaysia boleh! hehe

Oldstock said...

Kak Teh,

From a magnetic tape recorder and typewriter to digital voice recorder and wireless internet laptop. Jauh sungguh perjalanan itu.

I wish for you and AG's continued health and more stories to come. Sure after 30 years boleh cakap slang cockney, kan?

Naz in Norway said...

Yay! You're back!
Don't keep us waiting so long next time OK. I missed your writing so much that I dropped by to reread some of your old ones :)

I'm very proud of you and your achievements. 30 years is a long time, indeed.
Take care, Kak Teh.

jaflam said...

All and all it have has been a great and memorable thirty years. Wish you all the best for the coming thirty. Good to see you and Wan writing in NST lately.

[danial][ma] said...

hej! kaka teh...great 30 years and goin strong...;-)

KG said...

woo hoo kak teh!

Baca article in Star you wrote last Tuesday(?) pasai bas atas bawah with Jimmy Choo picture in it...mana you pi lama sunyi sepi?
Anyway, wow kak teh, you are still gping doping some planning so that I can retire in the next 5 years...well from this legal field herelah, join husband in his legal field tu tgh dok pikiarq!
kak teh, you are so prettylah, boleh jadi pelakon drama!Btw spoke about you during sunday lunch at my place last week!

Pi Bani said...

Amboi, amboi, ayu nya posing... :)

30 years and still going strong Kak Teh! Kalau ada peluang you masih akan posing macam Charlie's Angels kan?

Wan Nordin Wan Hussin said...

Kak Teh
And I believe you are you also the voice we used to hear on those MAS flight introducing the singers and composers of the lovely and evergreen Malay songs, like Khairil Johari Johar's Terbang Helang, etc.

Kak Teh said...

mdm ttnm, kebaya nak masuk lengan pun dah tak boleh! that's 30 years of over indulgence...hehe! So be warned and look after yourself. You masih slim melim lagi. Take care.

Zendra, 30 years yes, but i dont know abt being to rock some more! dah penat.

Kak Teh said...

nanaDJ, thanks for kind words. I am emailing you about something - so look out for email, okay?

chahya, majalah mastka tahun lima puluhan kut! hehe!

Kak Teh said...

puteri, masih dok semput lagi - tapi boleh laa sikit-sikit. Take care. nampak you all enjoy sakan dengan mamasita. Jealous lah!

Abang Ngah, You are doing such a wonderful thing. I wish i have such dedication and drive. That's enough to reflect on you years of work. What you are giving back to society is priceless.

Kak Teh said...

Tommy, aiyah, I am feeling over the hill because the trudge uphill is getting more and more difficult. The old joints cant take it no more! Am sure you are still like Ekin Cheng. I still have in my mind that I am Diane Keaton - no matter how insane that sounds. But we keep on dreaming, right?

aw, i didnt realise that picture is good. Rasanya macam tak sikat rambut pun! mana ada makeup artist - it was a publicity pix by the BBC. Hehe - so naive looking.

Kak Teh said...

Skyjuice, 30 years more? cant bear the thought!

Sya annur, terima kasih. Malaysia boleh, kak teh dah tak boleh dah...tak larat!

Kak Teh said...

Old stock, cokney? can now understand them but to speak - ish masih dok loghat kedah ni!

naz, naz, naz, memang tak boleh nak bernapaih punyalah busy. Nanti i email u abt something. Pi check email.

Kak Teh said...

Jafflam, while looking at the old pictures of me interviewing various people, I found one of me interviewing you! nanti I post. That was some years ago, kan? Yes, i am glad Hulaimi is back writing.

danial, dont know abt going strong!how's the weather up north?

Kak Teh said...

KG, its the NST, not the star.
well, its good that you are already planning. Ni yang tak plan sampai terlanjur 30 tahun di sini.

Pi Bani, ada peluang saja mestilah...! mana boleh lepas..once a charlie's angels always a charlie's angels.

Kak Elle said...

its been a long 30 yrs ya?
wow you are so pretty and still is:)

Kak Teh said...

GUiKP, i can only confirm that I have done voice for other airlines, but not MAS. My son was travelling in one airline and was about to go to sleep when he heard my voice. hahaha! that really shook him up. Cant get away from his mama...a nightmare.

Kak elle - thankssss!!

doodlemom said...

kak teh, i've been following yr blog for almost a year now and i find it really interesting. wow! u looked gorgeous in your hey days, and still are. patut la AG berkenan sgt dgn mek jaroh! (i know the slang cos i was born & bred in the east coast..i have few journalist friends back home and i reckon they know u too.. the legendary kak teh?? and one of your friends, nana dj is related by marriage..small world! hope to look u up in london someday, i'm just 2 hours on the train away...

[danial][ma] said...

hej! kak teh...yeah, you can go strong and strong provided that you take some 'jamu'...hehehehe...ahhh...the weather over here is alway wet and cold but still i luv it..;-)

Mat Cendana said...

"Well, today, fitting snugly into my sling bag is a cool notebook with Internet connection."

Two of the most important inventions in our lifetime. If I'm not a Muslim, I'll have two altars in the living room and burn incense twice a day in honour of their creators. They have allowed many of us the choice of not having to step out of the house to go about this pesky thing of making a living.

Plus make viable the choice of not having a car; which comes with the annoying necessity of forking out hard-earned money for something that doesn't contribute towards motoring quality or safety - the hefty road tax.

Thirty years ago, it never entered my mind that computers would be like this. The 8088 PC-XT to my mind was astonishing enough - when compared to the cupboards-in-a-row mainframe as seen in TV series like Time Tunnel.

Forget the Internet - I didn't know about the existence of LANs until the mid-80's. Now, a comnputer that could be connected to others all over the world? Too far-fetched, I had said in the late 80's.

"I remember the day that the three of us — Ena, Fati and I — walked into the newsroom in Jalan Riong; conscious of the stares and wolf whistles from male reporters from the sports desk."

And I'd have been the target of bullying for them had I been there too at that time... Probably the newbie guy they'd pick on to go buy a pack of Benson & Hedges (haven't seen this one anymore nowadays). Plus the one to cover glamorous and much-coveted assignments; like the Selangor Belacan Makers Association AGM and anything that ends no earlier than midnight, which has no music whatsoever.

Pak Zawi said...

Kak Teh,
Worry not. You wont feel old until one day you wake up in the morning only to find your left foot is so painful when you stand on it due to an attack of gout.
Had to abandon the earlier plan to fetch Puteri at the airport and take her for a meeting with PESENI Kelantan for the March 2009 painting exhibition in KL.
Hopefully the trio including Pak Abu and Hisham of Mediabiz Creative will drop by at my home in Pasir Mas for a cuppa later.

Unknown said...

Thirty glorious years of journalism that few can hope to emulate.

Congratulations, Kak Teh.

Btw, you still look very youthful and beautiful :-)...

Take care and salam to you and yours.

sue said...

Salam Kak Teh,
untungnya AG..dapat reporter mcm Charlie's and always look so sweet with that smile..

Kak Teh said...

doodlemom, NanaDJ is your relative? Wow! I hope to meet up with her again. Oh, if you are about two hours away, when you are in London, do give me a call - send me an email and we can certainly meet up. Then you can judge for yourself whether I am still gorgeous...or perhaps change your mind..hahaha! Anyway, deep inside I am still me. So who are your journalists friends? Like I said, they must be so young.

Danial, jamu gives me the runs! I can never take jamu. I am just hoping that gravity does not take its toll on me too much.

Kak Teh said...

Mat Cendana, thirty years ago, when the nst introduced new electric typewriters and we were all given 10 passwords or something like that - i was already in awe. no more typing on those papers that looked like toilet paper. When I was posted to penang, after typing out our stories, we then had to queue up for our teleprinter, cheng kui, to type them out again and then send them off to HQ. We had to be extra nice to him.

On top of that, I had to take down stories via phone from stringers in Alor Setar - the great Chan Beng soon who never wrote hs stories down but dictated them down the phone and changed the sentences every few minutes. But being young and junior, we had to do it.

And remember having to wait for the pictures to be developed and the copies sent to you to be approved and cropped by the sub editor? Now, just a usb and hey presto - you can still have a copy in your camera.

yes, those were the days....

Kak Teh said...

Pak Zawi, you've got gout? wow, that's penyakit orang-orang kaya tu!
Take care and take care of your diet. I am sure Puteri Kama will understand.

MWS @ Paula, yes, I have enjoyed my career in journalism. I dont like politics and cant pretend I understand politics, but i love human interest stories and I tend to still keep in touch with the people i interviewed.

Kak Teh said...

sue, thank you for those kind words. Much flattered. You've made an old woman happy.

ummisara said...

Kak Teh...

hah baru lah betuiiii...tunjuk gambaq-gambaq lama sampai baru...:)
jelitaaaa u... :)

catch up with u sooonnnnnn

tireless mom said...

Wow Kak Teh. Pose maut tu memang mengancam! Giving me the goose bumps as I read this. Congratulations. To another 30years !

Kak Teh said...

edelweiss, kalu tunggu tiga puluh tahun lagi, gambar lagi best! hehe! see ya!

TM, thanks for kind words. Posing maut tu under the direction of the BBC PR!

Mama Huptihup said...

wow congratulations for an inspiring achievements!!!

wonder where will i be and do 30 yrs from now...maybe doing the same thing like now...hohoho hope i wont be grey and grumpy haha

Unknown said...

Salam Aunty Z,

Good that you finally resurface. See how many people miss you! Anyway, I can still remember following you to that big BBC building and watched you in awe while you broadcast in Malay, and in kebaya if I'm not mistaken. Well done!! May you still have the energy to continue.


MrsNordin said...

Hi K.Teh,

Cantiknya k.Teh masa muda2 dulu! No wonder AG bawa lari sampai London! Hee... hee...

Anyway, sekarang pun masih cantik lagi apa? Of course you cannot compare yourself with the young journalists. Rupa depa memang lah muda, tapi in terms of experience, they pale in comparison to what you have, my dear. And that's your greatest asset!

Take care, k.Teh!!

Kak Teh said...

Lyana, you pun dah menjelalajah dunia then balik. I dont think masa dulu2 you kno that was going to happen. I never knew that my thirty years was going to be spent like this. I wanted to do something else, bawah ketiak mak selalu. Kita plan, Tuhan menentukan. Betui tak?

Ainun, hahaha, broadcasting in that big English institution, in Malay and in kebaya some more! Ya, I love my kebaya, even when it was cold, i'd wear my kebaya. The BBC world service was like a mini UN. There were people in Sarees, Lungji(sp) burmese outfits and I felt at home in my kebaya.

Kak Teh said...

Mrs N, thanks for kind words. Bila tengok depa, teringat waktu masa dulu. Penuh bersemangat dan bertenaga. Ya, experience can only be gained with time... I hope I have enough but I want more.

Shahieda said...

Congrats KT, on a job well done!

Are you visiting Malaysia during the december holidays? If you are, please let me know when as I'd like to meet up with you, if possible. Will be there from the 17 Dec till 4 Jan Insha-Allah!

Pak Tuo said...

Old !!! nahe you not old Kak Teh dear,you are Vintage.

Pak Tuo

테하 ♕ said...

cantik and hot lah k.teh muda-muda dulu..
nak ngorat boleh?

take care and stay young at heart always..!!

Kenny Mah said...

That's amazing, Kak Teh. You've inspired me to wonder where I will be in 30 years too. Whose lives would I have touched and made better, if any?

And you really did really look more like a Charlie's Angel back then... maybe one masquerading as a reporter, as Stanley put it? :)

AuntieYan said...

Salam kak Teh,

Dah lama I tak tinggai jejak walau pun dok mai jugak jengok-jengok Kak Teh kat sini.
Amboi!...dok tayang gambaq masa muda noooo...he!...he!..cun habis!! pun dok maintain lagu tu jugak....:-)

All the best to you!

Kak Teh said...

Shahieda, so you are visiting Malaysia? Where will you be? Well, who knows - I dont plan that far ahead - but like I said, who knows. Let me know where you are in Malaysia. Email me, okay?

Adam, nahi, nahi nahi!

Kak Teh said...

fatehah, you made me laugh! Nak ngorat? Take care.

Kenny dear, your thirty years will certainly be full of fun and excitement. and one day I hope to be able to read about it.

Kak Teh said...

Amboi Aunty Yan jenguk-jenguk saja tak tinggalkan komen! Nak tayang gambark masa tua takut orang lari, jadi kita tayanglah yang masa muda, kan?

Shahieda said...

I shall be in KL, meeting up with RG, Ida & Yani during that period. I shall be in touch Insha-Allah!!

Kak Teh said...

Shahieda, I can guarantee that you will have loads of fun! Pls send me an email.

Shahieda said...

I have a confession to make. I don't have your email addy, hehehe! If it's anywhere on your profile, I don't see it. Please email me at

SFGEMS said...

Nice postings! Will add you to my blog roll too, my dear! I'll fill my spare time browsing your space.

There are so many things I want to comment. Aiyohhhhhhhhh, where to start ah? :)

Kak Teh said...

estrelta, thanks for the visit. take your time . i enjoyed reading yours too.

alif said...

oh my god!!!.....i fall in love again....pheww!!

svllee said...

Dear Zaharah, wow, 1979 heh? That's when I arrived too, has it been that quick? You must have met so many interesting people in your 30 years as a journo. Congrats on your 30 Anniversary too, by the way the Kebayas n short bob hairstyle suits you!

Unknown said...

Kak Teh, it's me :)
I agree with everyone here, wow you sure looked hot :D Hmm 1979, I was 6 years old and was in Virginia where my dad had to be for a year. He wrote too but in Sunday Times for 3 years, baru je stop.
Whenever you are in town again and we get to meet again, you can ride home to your sister's with me :)