Friday 28 December 2007

GUiT reading at Seksan's - 29th Dec 2007

Apologies to all. I have not been able to update my blog . Suffice to say the launch and booksigning in Kuala Terengganu went very well. Will blog about it soon. But in the meantime, do come to a GUiT reading on 29th December - TOMORROW!!!

This is from Sharon Bakar's blog:

Readings” December: The Christmas and New Year Edition
Catch our next monthly writers event:
Date: 29th December, 2007
Time: 3.30pm
Place: Seksan's, 67, Jalan Tempinis Satu,
Lucky Garden, Bangsar (Map)

The readers for this month are:
Patrick Teoh
Ajay M.K.
Amir Hafizi
Awang Goneng (Wan. A. Hulaimi)
Shinji Moriwaki
Dina Zaman
Admission free, snacky things and drinks provided, and everyone very welcome.Please pass on the invitation to anyone else you think might be interested.

Oh, I have some links here - of reports and blogs and photopages. Thank you to all who posted entries and pictures of GUiT in Terengganu.

An interview with Su Aziz of NST
A review by Datin Norzita Samad
A news item in NST
The Star
Kak E's blog
Mat Redo 1
and Cili

Saturday 22 December 2007

GUiT going to Terengganu

Dear Readers,

Am going to be very, very lazy and just reproduce this press release here. See you there!

Launch of Terengganu book at its ‘spiritual home’

A first for Kuala Terengganu and for the Alam Akademik bookshop (formerly Abdullah Al Yunani) in the heart of the town’s commercial district: the launch on 25th December 2007 of Growing Up in Trengganu (GUiT), a book of recollections, reflection, Trengganuspeak and the history of its sultans and people.

The launch will be attended by the book’s author Awang Goneng (who in real life is Trengganu-born writer Wan Ahmad Hulaimi) who will do a short reading and sign copies of GUiT.

Alam Akademik, the pioneering bookshop that is now put on the literary road map by references to it in GUiT has a special place in writer Awang Goneng’s heart. “I regard this as the spiritual home of GUiT. I bought my first books here, and my father used to take me here to buy his kitabs and newspapers. It is very apt now that I have written my own book, I have chosen to launch it in this shop,” he says.

Growing Up in Trengganu (now widely referred to as GUiT) has been a publishing phenomenon, chalking success soon after its publication by taking a position in MPH’s top ten Non-Fiction list, and rising to its top position by mid December. The book became a much sought after title in bookshops in peninsular Malaysia soon after its debut appearance at the world famous Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Now, barely three months after publication, publisher Monsoon Books is already making preparations for GUiT’s second printing to meet growing demands.

“The success of GUiT has taken me by surprise. I started it as a blog on my growing up days in the small town of Kuala Trengganu to tell my children what it was like growing up in small town Malaysia. They were all born and brought up in London and have no idea what it is like to grow up in KL, never mind Kuala Trengganu,” Awang Goneng says.

“We are happy to host the launch of a successful book by a son of Terengganu, especially one whose reading habit we helped to build,” says Encik A Karim Omar of the Alam Akademik.

The place:

Alam Akademik, No. 12 Jalan Bandar/Kg. Cina, 20100 Kuala Terengganu

Tel: 09-623-1110; website:

The date: 25th December 2007 The time: 11am – 1 pm

For more information, please contact:

Karim Omar 019-3199788

What they say about GUiT

"A beautiful book, very well written and with its vignettes of life it tells so much about the Malays - far more than one can get from academic studies."
— Frederick Lees,
author, Fool's Gold; The Arthuriad; The Rape of Rye; etc.

“Growing Up in Trengganu, a nostalgic journey beautifully written. Monsoon books have also done a wonderful job in its production. The typesetting, quality of paper, design, combined with the old black and white photographs…a real joy.”

- Tunku Halim, author and blogger.

“A modern classic.” – Tengku Ali Bustaman (Pok Ku), Popular Terengganu blogger.

“Awang Goneng does with words what Lat does with pictures,” – Annabel Gallop, Head, South and Southeast Asian Section, British Library

Growing Up in Trengganu

By Awang Goneng

Published by: Monsoon Books Singapore
ISBN: 978-981-05-8692-8

Friday 14 December 2007

Random Sharings Part 2

Anniversaries of sorts

It is December and we found ourselves on the road down memory lane. It must have been the second time in 28 years that we made this journey together to Singapore. The first was when we went there to take the flight to London. I was then a tearful bride leaving for a foreign land with a future firmly placed in the hands of God Almighty. The road that we took by car was a far cry from the modern highway dotted with R & R’s. The 6.45 Aeroline to Singapore was one hour late because of the rain, but I must admit the service was fantastic.

Twenty eight years ago, all manner of thoughts played in my mind but this time, it was filled with excitement and anticipations. Singapore holds memories of school holidays, walks in the Botanical Gardens, visits to Makam Habib Noh, of fresh buah lai and imported apples and gawking at window displays of Robinsons with Pak Lang – his words still ringing clear in my head: “Ni lah tempat orang-orang kaya shopping”, he said, as we walked away.

This time the visit to Singapore was almost like a visit to the official birthplace of GUiT. It was the launch of Growing Up in Trengganu, a meeting with publisher Philip Tatham of Monsoon Books and with friends old and new. GUiT was launched with four other titles. Read more about it here.

It was a very short visit and before we took the Singapore- Malacca Express the next day, we visited Makam Habib Noh once again to offer our respects.

We arrived in Malacca, all sweaty and tired, to be greeted by songs of gazal and gambus at a friend’s wedding. Nurul’s parents had decided to take her back from London to Malaysia for a real kampong style wedding and what a treat it was for us to find a big group of ex Londonders occupying two big tables. This was the first of several weddings that we attended.

Selamat pengantin baru to Leya and Ashraf

The other wedding was of course that of the famous daughter of an equally famous mum. It was held at The Legend and again a reunion of sorts with friends and ex colleagues from Jalan Riong.

Yes, I remember this day in December. “Twenty eight years ago, today”, I told Leya, “your mum was at my wedding, putting my veil in place. Today, I am returning the honours by attending your wedding.”Pengantin lama

When the radiant bride and groom left the stage to meet their guests, cheered on by some friends, we took over the stage, short of sitting on the dias, to take the 28 years later picture.

The GUiT Trip
One of the reasons for our home coming is of course to see how GUiT is doing in the homegrounds. On arrival at KLIA, I was disappointed to see that the bookshop there did not stock GUiT. I made my first visit to MPH Midvalley – again, this confirmed the comments and reports from people in search of GUiT. None- in this case – only one copy lodged in between other books at the Malaysiana section.

My next stop was MPH Alamanda – none at all. And by this time, I was ready to speak to someone to try to understand how the distribution of books works in the absence of the writer himself promoting it. I was lucky that I met a very helpful and kind MPH manager who explained to me how the whole system works. Of course, it is the distributor's job to push the books and to keep on asking if the stores need anymore. And if the copies run out, shops too should contact distributors to ask for more, especially when people are asking for it. In the case of GUiT, I don’t know what went wrong.

Then Kind and Helpful MPH manager took out his phone and made one phone call. The next day – most of MPH stores were stacked with GUiT. And this week – GUiT made it to NUMBER ONE best seller non fiction at MPH from a humble number ten at the beginning. Thank you all for the support. Tabby and his siblings will be mighty pleased with this news.

Indeed, there have been several GUiT meets kindly organized by blogger friends. Thank you again. We are so touched by such wonderful gestures and support from people, some we have never met before. I hope and pray that our friendship goes beyond GUiT.

We will soon be going to Kuala Trengganu for a booksigning session at what AG calls the spiritual birthplace of GUiT. So, do come, one and all. It will not be a grand one, just a modest occasion where we can meet and talk and get to know each other. Thanks to Encik Karim of Alam Akademik (Keda Pok Loh Yunan). For more information, click here.

I guess we will still be doing the rounds now that we are here. Hope to meet up with whoever wish to meet up with us, soon. Insyaallah.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Random thoughts ala JT

JT of Jacqui’s Curve has given me an idea on how to update my blog. She doesn't know what to blog about but has filled an entire blog with all sorts of interesting stories. Now, I will try to do the same.

I don't know what to blog about. Do I write about my trip to Manchester to watch Manchester United play Blackburn Rovers? I can’t write about the game because I just do not understand football. I can’t tell a corner kick from a penalty kick. I am more of a board game person, letting my fingers and mind do the exercise. Games like Scrabble. However, that wasn’t my first time at the famous Old Trafford. The first time was in August to see Manchester United play Inter Milan. And it was with my Taufiq, a diehard Barcelona fan who wouldn't be seen dead at the Old Trafford but for the love of his mama, he accompanied me on what must have been a mission to bond.

The whole stadium was a sea of red. Taufiq had briefed me earlier, “Never,” he warned, “never clap or cheer if Inter Milan scored," he said looking worried. He gave me some tips and grunted a few answers to some silly questions and by half time, I was able to oooh and aaaah at the right moment. But just as Taufiq was gaining confidence in my knowledge of football, I asked, “Isn’t Mark Owen playing today?”

(Oh yes, the day before at the Man Utd training ground, I saw Taufiq talking to someone vaguely familiar – It was Sir Bobby Charlton. Taufiq was worried that I might address him as Fergie. As if!!)

Suffice to say, even though Man Utd lost to a thunderous groan reverberating around the stadium, the fans were well behaved and I was even treated to a streaker running across the field at half time.

But no such luck at the Man Utd vs Blackburn Rovers match. However I had the advantage of sitting in the media box with a radio commentator right behind me and so I knew what was going on.

Fancy a trip on the Eurostar to Paris?

To those contemplating going to Paris on the Eurostar, you’d be glad to know that the Eurostar journey to Paris now starts at St Pancras International and the time taken to get there is now shorter by 20 minutes.

I went to Paris five days after the new spanking station was launched by the Queen and although I wasn’t very impressed by the new station which I thought was cold and unfriendly, with no seats or cash machines, I was quite impressed by the service on the train. Before our tea went cold, we were already at Ashford International. But because of the speed, we walked from the buffet bar back to our seats like sailors on a rough sea.

If my last visit to Paris was in autumn with its fascinating dashes of colour, this time Paris was wet and NOT MOVING!!! Paris was on strike.

Let’s see what else has been happening in my life...

Preeta Samarasan

Oh, I met the delightful Preeta Samarasan whose first novel "Evening is The Whole Day" will come out in the US of A in May!! This is how it has been described, so look out for it when it hits the bookshops.

“A MAGICAL, EXUBERANT tragic-comic vision of postcolonial Malaysia reminiscent of Rushdie and Roy. In prose of acrobatic grace, Samarasan conjures a vibrant portrait, by turns intimate and sweeping, of characters and a country coming of age. The début of a significant, and thrilling, new talent.” Peter Ho Davies, Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Welsh Girl (2007).

Writers, first time or many times over, fascinate me. I love to hear about how they work a certain idea to produce a book, how they find a suitable title. I mean, do you find the title first and work your plots and storyline or do you write first and find a title. You see, silly things like this stops me from producing my opus...if ever there is one.

Preeta now lives in France with her husband Rob. While in America, she gave up pursuing her PhD in Musicology to write. And I’d say its a good career move. Sometimes you just have to be brave and then make the sacrifice to do the things you love.

A bit of a weep

Yesterday, I had a bit of a weep -right there smack in the middle of the Christmas rush in Oxford Street. He hugged me and said goodbye and I walked quickly away not wanting him to see the tears. The rain helped.

I thought when he told me he was leaving, it was another joke. When I realised teh seriousness of it all, I thought I’d throw my tantrums and pray to God like I did the last time, until his plans failed. But this time, I thought it is best to let him go. I didn't cry when he slung his guitar across his shoulders and got into the taxi. I didn’t cry when he told me he needed a kuali. I even gave him my mee bandung recipe. But yesterday, watching him choose his cooking pot at M&S, the dam burst. My first born has flown the nest. See you in Facebook, sayangmama!

Oh dear.

GUiT News

Two days ago, I was woken up by the familiar tone of the sms – the message said: Minister wants to buy 100 copies of GUiT! Couldn’t believe my eyes and quickly guit-up eh, got up and woke the GuiTer to show him the message.

I think we have been selling more here than the bookshops in Malaysia. In the manner of our sastrawan negara , Dato A Samad Said, who carries his books in his rucksack, Awang Goneng has been doing the same, taking them to bookshops across London. And lo and behold, GUiT is now available at two London Bookshops – and I can bet they are not stacked in the lower shelves! They are available in London at Stanfords, the travel bookshop in Long Acre, Covent Garden and from Probsthain's @ Great Russell St., WC1 (opp. the British Museum; and at their branch in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS (London University).

There’s a publishers' launch of GUiT in Singapore next week (Singapore Writer's Festival) on 7th December at Arts House. So, if you are just across the causeway do come and join us. Yes, we are going back. Then we will head back to Kuala Lumpur for I understand Awang Goneng has a few appointments for booktalks at various universities. Otherwise, we will be downing teh tarek somewhere in between prawn noodles at Little Penang.

Latest GUiT news from En Karim of ALAM AKADEMI in Kuala Terengganu:

GUiT is now available at ALAM AKADEMIK (Keda Pok Loh Yunang) Kuala Terengganu - depan Pasar Keda Payang - yes the same old location.

For those in KL, FREE DELIVERY service is provided [will try a next-business-day delivery] C.O.D RM39.90 *LIMITED TIME OFFER* {lepah ni mungking nok kena cah se-riyal dua pulok - kalu nok beli sendiri parking & tol doh berapa!}

sms/call - 019-3199788

Mentions of GUiT at:
* Tunku Halim
* NZ in NZ * MHI
* Pok Ku
* Ubi Setela
*Lydia Teh *Lifeinside *KC * Eric Forbes
* Berita Harian * Ena Samad * Elviza *Sharon Bakar *Blooking Central *Anak Alam
*hicsuntdracones *Bin Gregory *Victoria Institute Website *Atok *Knizam
*Ms Istanbul *Pak Adib *Athene * Nazrah
* Wonda

Saturday 17 November 2007

Mr Clumsy No More...

He was the classic Mr Clumsy. He tripped all over the place, spilled drinks when he put cups where he thought the table was, and watched in frustration as his brother and friends played football in the field. He tried kicking the ball but almost always missed.

But most worrying was the fact that he was also almost always at the bottom of the class, and never completed his homework. But he was lucky that his teacher was concerned enough to look into the problem. She realised that labeling a child stupid doesn’t really help. She called the parents in for consultation and voiced her concern that perhaps it was his eyesight that was the problem.

A trip to the optician solved the problem and he came back with lenses as thick as the base of a bottle. His performance at school began to improve and tying back his glasses with a rubber band behind his head, he began enjoying football in the field. His future, literally looked brighter, clearer and rosier.

This week, Ummar is one of those who scored 5A’s in the UPSR exams. Tahniah kepada sayang Mak Teh!

And congratulations too to the one who is autistic and the one who is hyperactive. Thank you to the parents and teachers who persevere to help them.

Let nothing stop you from achieving success!!

Mentions of GUiT at:
* Tunku Halim
* NZ in NZ * MHI
* Pok Ku
* Ubi Setela
*Lydia Teh *Lifeinside *KC * Eric Forbes
* Berita Harian * Ena Samad * Elviza *Sharon Bakar *Blooking Central *Anak Alam
*hicsuntdracones *Bin Gregory *Victoria Institute Website *Atok *Knizam
*Ms Istanbul *Pak Adib *Athene * Nazrah
* Wonda

Saturday 10 November 2007

Musical Journeys 1957 -2007

Did you know that (well, I didn’t) Benjamin Britten, one of the most outstanding English composers in the 20th century was commissioned to write a short piece for the Malaya was that emerging as a new independent nation? He visited Malaya just before the independence in 1957 but the piece was never used.

But here’s a chance for you to listen to this composition, arranged by Malaysia’s own Tazul Tajuddin for the London Sinfonietta at the Cadogan Hall on 14th November.

Here’s the rest of the info. See you there!

"Musical Journeys

Golden Anniversary Concert for Malaysia

As a finale to this celebration year The British Malaysian Society is promoting a concert at the Cadogan Hall in London on Wednesday November 14th which both gives a platform to some brilliant young Malaysian musicians living and working in London, and explores some special links with one of UK’s foremost 20th century composers, Benjamin Britten.

Britten visited Malaysia just before Independence was announced – and was commissioned to write a short piece for the new government. It was never used and thus we can present a Benjamin Britten World Premiere – even if a rather short one.

It has been arranged for the London Sinfonietta by Tazul Tajuddin, who has also been specially commissioned to write a work for piano and chamber ensemble – Warna yang Bernada – the Sound of Colour that uses the tonality of gamelan in the piano part to be played by the brilliant young Malaysian pianist – Bobby Chen.

Rounding off the concert are two other Britten works – one his earliest published work, Sinfonietta Op 1, and the much loved Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with James Gilchrist and Michael Thompson taking the solo roles. The London Sinfonietta is conducted by the charismatic French conductor Pierre-André Valade.

Tickets are £25, £20, £15 and £10 and are available from the Cadogan Hall box office either by phone: 020 7730 4500 or on their website:

We can offer an early bird discount for tickets bought before 14th October – a 10% discount – or there is group discount: 2 tickets free when you buy 10, both for the top two prices. Students can get tickets for a special price of £5.

In the Cadogan Hall all the seats have superb sound and a good view – the doors will be open at 6.30 p.m. the concert starts at 7.30p.m. and the concert is estimated to be over shortly after 9.30p.m. Sloane Square tube is a few yards away."

Thursday 8 November 2007

Happy Deepavali and RIP my dear friend

To all my friends, readers, and bloggers celebrating this joyous occasion, have a wonderful day!

But on this day of the Festival of Lights, my thoughts are with the family of a very dear old friend, Datuk S.P Annamalai who was stabbed to death in Penang yesterday.

When I started life as a journalist, the courts were our training grounds. I was posted to Penang and the Penang magistrates court, (a stone's throw away from our office), was my haunt everyday. In Annamalai, I found a friend. One who explained patiently to a young cub reporter the workings of a case, the do's and don'ts in court reporting. I tagged along with him and Karpal and even Shafie, trying to sniff out important and headline grabbing cases. He was then Karpal's legal assistant. He even consoled me when I sobbed after heart wrenching cases. I followed him around from canteen to court room, covering criminal and sometimes brutal murder cases. And yesterday, Annamalai, my friend, became a victim of one. Everyday, there are stories of murder and violence. I didn't think that one day, I'd be reading about you. How sad. How very sad.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. My condolence to the family.

This is the full story from The Star:

PENANG: A well-known civil lawyer died shortly after a man stabbed him on the back with a long knife in Green Hall.

Datuk S.P. Annamalai (pic), 59, was walking back to his car with clerk S. Nalaaini, 20, when a man suddenly walked up from behind and stabbed him at 6.35pm yesterday.

Nalaaini, when met at Gleneagles Medical Centre (GMC), said the dark-complexioned man shouted as he stabbed Annamalai.

“I was so stunned that I dropped the files I was carrying. The man then took the blood-soaked knife and swung it at me but missed.

“My boss’ blood splattered all over my blouse. He also swung the knife at another lawyer who happened to be at the car park, but missed before fleeing on a motorcycle ridden by an accomplice,” she said.

She said several lawyers from the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre heard her screams and ran out of the office.

“One of them then helped my boss to his car and rushed him to the GMC,” she said.

Annamalai died at about 8pm. Forensic pathologist Datuk Dr Bhupinder Singh will conduct a post-mortem today.

Another clerk, G. Selvi, 36, said she was walking to a nearby bus stop when one of the staff at the office alerted her on what had just occurred.

“I believe the assailant was lying in wait for him. I do not know who would want to do this to him as he only handled civil cases. He had not been handling criminal cases for some time.

“He was in a good mood the whole day. He even bought my daughter, seven, a Deepavali dress. This was the first time he had done such a thing in my 16 years of working for him,” she said.

Selvi said her boss’ wife, who was in India to visit relatives, had been informed of his death, adding that she was expected to return to Penang this morning.

Annamalai, the current deputy president of Ramakrishna Ashrama, leaves behind a daughter who is a lawyer in Australia, and two sons who are working in Kuala Lumpur.

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.