Wednesday 28 July 2010

The Legacy of Dalilah Tamrin

WE were totally lost in that place called 1 Utama. Shahieda from Cape Town was depending on me to find the place where the mak cik Bloggers were meeting but even after numerous phone calls for directions, we were still nowhere near. 

Finally we were told to stay put as someone was sent to rescue us. Within minutes, we saw our saviour, her face breaking into the biggest, most cheerful smile and arms outstretched she embraced us, one after another. This saviour, who walked the distance from the eatery to find us, was Dalilah Tamrin or better known as Raden Galoh of the now hugely popular blog

Dalilah left us exactly a week today after succumbing to the dreaded C.

But she didn’t go without a fight. She fought to her last breath and left behind a legacy precious and educational. The walk that she took to “rescue” us was indicative of what Dalilah was — not one to sit back and wallow in self pity. No such thing as “I am the one suffering, so come to me”.

Indeed, as many had pointed out, looking at Dalilah and her glowing smile, her infectious positive attitude and, most of all, her fighting spirit, there was no sign at all that she was a cancer sufferer.

Different people deal with adversities in different ways.

When a friend Ruby Ahmad passed away from cancer, it took me a long time to reconcile the vivacious, active and forever positive Ruby with the person who had succumbed to cancer. She never talked about it and I only found out via a long email from her husband. She chose to deal with it quietly but, at the same time, she tirelessly gave talks, networked and gave her all before passing on. 
Dalilah chose to share her experience, the highs and lows that had benefitted not only sufferers but also carers of sufferers and those close to them, for they too suffer.

This mother of two young boys would have been 43 last week. Paralysed by fear of the dreaded disease and the attendant problems as well as what is now the inevitable outcome, Dalilah started a blog that would act as a catharsis to the turmoil within, a journal that had taken its readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and a painful but meaningful diary of a dedicated and loving mother and wife. Onebreastbouncing was indicative of the humorous nature of someone who refused to be defeated. Breast or no breast, she soldiered on.

She had and still has a huge following.

She appeared on TV shows, gave talks and created awareness about the disease.
As if that wasn’t enough, she wrote a book: Kanser Payudara Ku: Perjuangan Dan Kesedaran (My Breast Cancer: The Fight And The Realisation).

According to Nasirah Aris, a close friend of Dalilah and advisor to the Pride Foundation, a charity supporting cancer sufferers, most cancer sufferers are positive in sharing their experiences to create awareness and participating in programmes such as walks and mountain climbing.

Dalilah seemed to have that boundless energy. During her last few months, she seemed preoccupied with her own project, a charity project for cancer sufferers. Gifted with words, she penned down what would seem her final message, in preparation for her last journey.

The cyberworld offered a helping hand in the form of a songwriter friend, Intan Nazrah, who lives in Dubai, who helped out with the lyrics and eventually sang the piece that is now resonating in blogs and Facebooks of her followers.

For Intan Nazrah, who writes for the likes of Anuar Zain, it was a painful journey too as her own mother had died of breast cancer.

The song was ready just before Dalilah left to fulfil her last wish. Whether she had listened to it was still uncertain.

Dalilah wanted to perform the umrah, the mini Haj. She was high in spirits before she left but it wasn’t the same Dalilah who returned. Her last status on her Facebook reflected the feelings of someone who was reconciled with her fate.

Despite her pain and discomfort, Dalilah, who was being looked after by her mother, worried more about interrupting the latter’s sleep with her tossing and turning. She knew that she was at the end of her journey, and all she asked for before her last breath, was for the taming of the raging pain within. Goodye Dalilah, you’ve been a source of inspiration and your legacy will live on.

The mak cik blogger world will be a less cheerful place without you.


Picture of Dalilah Tamrin reproduced in NST and in this blog with kind permission of Datin Mamasita.

Friday 16 July 2010

Coffee with Constance Haslam

FOR most of us over a certain age, our growing up years would have been touched by the dulcet tones of Constance Haslam; cheerful and chirpy while delivering request programmes, professional and informative when delivering the news, and warm and friendly during chat shows.

Hers was the voice you’d like to wake up to or have as a soothing companion during the dai battle with the traffic to work. I remember Constance well from those Bakat TV years and enjoyed, and envied her tremendously as she was so versatile and talented.

Like thousands of her listeners, I felt I knew her as she was in my living room, morning and night. And so, when a few years ago I met her in Paris, it was without any hesitation that I walked up to her to continue a friendship which started with her Good Morning programme. She was my “Good Morning” girl!

Constance Haslam, or now Constance Behr, has made France her home for the past 10 years. Having left the world of broadcasting, Constance, better known as Connie, is enjoying life and doing things she never had the chance of doing when she was working.

“I’ve done a lot of things that I never had a chance of doing when I was in Malaysia. I’ve joined the Women’s International Club in Paris, learnt French and German, played tennis and bridge and do porcelain painting,” says Connie when we met again recently in Versailles where she and husband Erwin Behr have made their home.

Over coffee and croissant at a quaint French cafe, to her apartment and later over lunch at Chateau Versailles, Connie reflected on her broadcasting days in RTM, the move to Singapore with her husband and later to France.

“I opted out of government service in 1990 and then joined Redifussion for two years working in the PR division. I opted out at the age of 45 after 26 years of service,” she said of the career that started in programme operations. It was only when the English service was short of people that Connie was asked to get behind the microphone where she began reaching out to a lot of people in both Malay and English.

She was the voice among other well-known voices such as Patrick Teoh, Alan Zachariah and Yahya Long Chik, Razali Hussein and Connie Ee — the Forces’ favourite.

“Broadcasting in those days was interesting. I always found radio more challenging than TV because I could express myself in my voice. My love of debate, elocution contests and concerts helped although we did have people from the BBC who came to train us at RTM.

“When TV started, I became the first non-Malay compere, in fact the first female compere for Bakat TV. That was the time when I actually felt like a film star. There were cameras everywhere and, for the first time too, people put the name to the face and with a name like Haslam, I suppose I became interesting. It sounded like a Malay name but I didn’t speak like a Malay,” she said with a laugh.

Connie was a Jane of all trades, but admitted that her favourite was the morning show.

“I had to get up at 4.30am and never knew what breakfast was. But I psyched myself up, did exercises and had a cup of coffee before driving through the quiet roads of Damansara through Petaling Jaya to get to the office.”

Once in the cubicle, Connie spoke to the whole of Malaysia.

“Initially, we always had somebody opposite us, and we’d instruct that person what songs to play, but later we had to learn to play the records at exactly the point we want the music to start,” explained Connie who had interviewed Gloria Estafan, Dionne Warwick, Jose Feliciano, Bjorn Borg, the Bee Gees and even Omar Sharif.

The fact that Connie became a household name and a well-known face was not without its disadvantages. She had many fans but one took to stalking her at the office.

“I was contacted by the reception who told me that someone was there to see me. I went down and saw this guy whom I didn’t know. I asked him who he was and he was angry that I didn’t recognise him,” she recalled.

“He said, ‘You don’t recognise me? But whenever you read the news, you always wink at me!’. He was instantly removed.”

Connie can now remember those episodes with a smile. In the little town that Connie calls The Noisy King in Versailles, Connie and her husband take regular walks and travel a lot, attend cultural shows and exhibitions. She looks forward to a visit by her only granddaughter on whom she dotes, and visits her mother in Malaysia twice a year.

Connie is leading a full life in retirement, enjoying everything that she had missed during the years she had dedicated her time to work.

“Living in the countryside, yet not too far away from a city is something I now enjoy and the thought that I have made time for myself to do other things in life is a great fulfillment.

“I was very prepared for retirement and that is why I didn’t miss doing what I did. I learnt a lot of new things and learnt what I didn’t know I could do like porcelain painting.”

Although Connie has left her broadcasting days, she still remembers her theme tune — I Am What I Am by Gloria Gaynor.

“A friend Dr (now Datuk) Ridzwan Bakar brought back from England a 45rmp single. He said the song describes me. I then used it for my programme.”