Sunday, February 28, 2016

Jelita's 40th Anniversary & Pertama's Meet-up at Puteri

N.B. Badarudin and Rohani Pa'Wanchik, Editor of Jelita in the Nineties
It seemed only yesterday that I walked through the glass doors of the NST building as a wet-behind-the-ears cadet reporter in June '76.

Although my maternal grandfather worked as a typesetter for Warta Malaya, and later Utusan Melayu, in pre-World War II Singapore, I had never dreamt of being a journalist or a writer.

My primary school ambition was to be a Veterinary Surgeon or, in simple childhood parlance, an animal doctor.

When young Malay entrepreneurs launched their boutiques, hair and beauty salons in PJ Section 14, Ampang Shopping Complex and Wisma Central in the early '70s, I harbored fantasies of being a fashion designer cum boutique owner, a hair stylist or a beautician.

The reality of not having sponsors to finance my education in fashion and aesthetics forced me to pound the city streets for sales promoter jobs, waiting on restaurant tables and, finally, reporting the news for a BM daily. Since I had zero experience in writing, not even for the school year book, I had to hike up a steep leaning curve for the first few days, weeks and months. I struggled with the Five Ws & a H, keeping up with what the Source was saying and, at the same time, jotting down the key points on my reporter's note book, organizing the news story in my head while on the bus, taxi or company transport, rushing for a typing spot, hitting the keys of the Olympia (when I had never attended a single class in typing), juggling three sets of carbon copies, avoiding Pak Samad's scrutiny as he made his newsroom rounds and let out his signature lion's roar, shuddering before News Editor Saad Hashim's bark, squirming at male colleague's risquĂ© jokes and double entendres, and taking the late night bus home, mentally and physically exhausted.  

Writing features for magazines was a vacation compared to the pressure and pace of covering and reporting news for dailies. In the beginning, it was exciting to interview entertainment and sports personalities, entrepreneurs and politicians, then it became a daily grind to keep tabs on the activities and goings-on of wives' associations, the latest recipes, beauty tips, so on and so forth.

Father Fortune smiled in the form of the suave suede-suited and bow-tied GM, Encik Mansor Wahab, who approved my university scholarship to attend a Program in Creative and Descriptive Writing at the University of Malaya. When my plan to gain admission into ITM---to escape a miserable home life---was dashed in '74, I was the only one in my sixth form class who didn't raise my hands when the class teacher asked who among the forty something of us bright boys and girls aimed to enroll into university. I just wanted to pass my examinations and get a job that will make me financially independent. I accepted the fact that, being born in Singapore, I wasn't eligible for either state or federal scholarship.

Most of the members of PERTAMA (Persatuan Wartawan Wanita Malaysia
or Women Journalists Association of Malaysia) at the High-tea meet-up
at Puteri Restaurant, 27 Feb 2016
Approximately three years (1993-1996) was spent on writing the proposal,
applying for funding, directing the research work and editing 
the first drafts of the manuscript 

The Preface by Rohani Pa'Wanchik, President of PERTAMA in 1996.

The published work was funded by the Canada Research Council
and launched by Rafidah Aziz, 
Minister for Trade and Industry in the 1990s

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Impetuous Fire



The notion of romantic love as peddled by Western, Hindi, Indonesian and Malay movies greatly influenced young, impressionable minds in the Sixties and Seventies. Starting with Franco Zeferelli's Romeo and Juliet (Olivia Hussey & Leonard Whiting, 1968) to Eric Segal's Love Story (Ali McGraw & Ryan O'Neal, 1970), it spread to Hindustani, Indonesian and Malay films---Bobbi (Rishi Kapoor & Dimple Kapadia), Romi dan Juli (Widyawati & Sophan Sophian), Cinta Pertama (Slamet Rahardjo & Christine Hakim) and Permintaan Terakhir (Uji Rashid & Sonny Abdullah).

The source of class conflicts were external---mainly status-conscious parents and relatives. All the young couples were so immersed in each other that no obstacle could dampen their ardor. Their world was seen through rose-colored eye glasses and their path was strewn with primroses. Trite one-liners---Love means never having to say you're sorry, memorable song and dance routines set in 16th century Verona, verdant hill stations with myriad flowerbeds and picturesque winter wonderlands (A Time For Us, Love Story, Cinta Pertama), dashing and good-looking actors who died tragic deaths---were the standard formula that never failed to pull at the audience's heart strings.  

Unfortunately, pop culture is a poor imitation of life. Its goal is to distract viewers from their everyday problems, not to confront them.