On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Two Books At the RAS

Celebrating 2 Books
Man claiming to be Awang Goneng (left) holding a book; and Pengembara (Christopher Gallop), with his latest, (right).

We had a celebration of two books on small-town Malaysia by two writers at the Royal Asiatic Society in London on Friday 26th October, 2007. There were friends and well-wishers, booksellers and people from the neighbouring academia, and the trays of curry puffs (made by the talented Puan Jamilah) quickly vanished into thin air and Tuk Din's kway teow was discreetly packed into take-away containers to be consumed again, later. There was my friend the Haji, and writers more established than yours truly, and assorted men and women from all corners of the world, but a few got lost along the way — sorry Millie Danker! — or had previous engagements to go to. All in all there were about 50 people. And there was someone with an unkempt moustache pretending to be me who signed Growing Up in Trengganu for the unsuspecting many.

Christopher Gallop, author of Wanderer in Malaysian Borneo (written under his pen name of Pengembara) gave a wonderful speech about his travels in the East (which started from his base in Brunei Darussalam) and tugged at my heart-string when he said that he had a special fondness for Trengganu because, on Independence day 31st August 1957, he was there. I commend his book to you for an insightful, engrossing view of East Malaysia and Brunei. The man who claimed to be me gave a long, rambling speech and even claimed to have slept under the stars in opposite parts of the world. He spoke of his travels, and of another East, the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Trengganu.

If you'd like to see photos of the event, first please go HERE where you can connect to the link to the photos (after signing in as a member, which is easy). Both web pages are the work of my good friend Azman Ramli, a talented video-editor from Singapura and an able photographer.

Thank you everyone for such a splendid day – to Annabel especially, to the Gallop family, to my family and Kak Teh and the Royal Asiatic Society. And also to Dr Ben Murtagh of the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) for being such a splendid master of the ceremony.

Wanderer in Malaysian Borneo, by Pengembara; Marshall Cavendish, Kuala Lumpur, 2007.
Growing Up in Trengganu by Awang Goneng; Monsoon Books, Singapore, 2007.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This Farming Life

Report in the London Lite, Monday, 22nd October, 2007

Ba’apelah mung ni ayöh Ngöh
Buak peél sapa dök jjuruh haröh
Mèk Munöh tu anök pada Mök Chöh
Mung ambék gi susuk ddalang rumöh.
Mung dök ssiang ke kat dia punya Mök
Sapa nök telöröh kaing dia dok cari anök
Hungga gi mari gi mari sapa rrata cerök
Manalah anök ttuöh ning takdök setabok döh.
Mung mari bawök kereta mung kkilak
Ajök dia gi jjalang sapa ddarak
Bila tak mboh ddalang kereta mung tölök
Kemah keming pitu kereta mung selök.
Mung ajök dia nniköhlah pulök
Dia ingak mung mmaing buak lölök
Lagi pong mung tua, dia budök
denge dia mung ning pangkat Pök.
Dök léh lah kita nök wak ggitu
Pök dia tak mboh mung jadi nnatu,
Orang tanye mung sengaja buak dök
Mung kata budök tu dia takdök.
Polis mari barulah mung buka mulok
Mung susuk bbawöh rumöh ddalang gok
Kena ggandèng barulah mung nök kkukok.
Le ning barulah mung rasa serék
Bila ada motoka mung macang takdök berék
Anök orang pung mung jembe gi tarék
Patutlah kereta mung jatoh pparék
Pé’él mung ning ada söngö ccapo nanö
Geli gelemang orang dengö sapa sökmö.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Selamat Hari Raya

We had a Morphy Richards, and Morphy worked overtime on the morning of Raya. Tailored bajus with a whiff of unworn cotton and mothballs, pulled early from deep newspaper-lined drawers; sarongs bright in the morning glow, songkets turned inside out and pressed with the Morphy set at 'Cool', and songkoks dusted and plucked of strands of fluff and hair. We didn't iron the songkoks though, but Morphy Richards would've ironed out the creases too if we had tried.

White shoes from the Bata shop on the bridge in Kampung Daik. Malay bajus tailored by a meticulous craftsman named Ku Su, songkoks packed in their lozenge shaped songkok boxes, from the Saudara Store of Ustaz Su. Some Rayas we had trousers measured and cut by Father's faithful friend Ah Chin the tailor, not a million miles from the Kedai Bbunga, the flowered shop that stocked sweets and Cadbury's Dairy Milk, and exotic fruits like the buah lai, grapes and apples and pears.

We sat around the low dining table and watched in awe as Mother peeled off the first layer of cloth that wrapped the banana leaves placed under the heavy weight of the grinding stone and they imprinted lines into the rice all compacted into a huge cake now. Nasi kapit this was, and this was the magic of Eid, cut into manageable cubes and picked up with the sharp end of the satay stick to be dipped into the peanut sauce, and the peanut sauce was the flavour of Raya.

There was diamond shaped agar-agar encursted on the outside with sugar from many days' drying out in the Trengganu sun, and buah ulu baked in a brass mould and heated with the burning power of coconut husks, and hasidöh lying flat in a dish, its top furrowed with curly patterns that caught slices of shallots, crisp-fried and browned, still moist with coconut oil.

A friend who asked about the price of my book Growing Up in Trengganu came back with a riposte that linked the faraway past to the here and and now. “Ah,” he said with some relief, “that's the price of a kasut Bata.”

May I wish you dear readers, friends, family and all: Selamat Hari Raya!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Growing Up In a Book

I have just heard from my publisher in Singapore that the book version of Growing up in Trengganu is now back from the printers and will probably be in the shops in a couple of weeks.

The book has been my top secret project this year, and even my better half Kak Teh only knew about it when the editing work was nearly done. My regular readers will know that Growing Up has been a regular and eccentric feature in my blog and if numbers are to be believed, the series has gone through many hundred thousand parts. But fear not, it is not coming out in many volumes but in just one small collection with cover design by a talented lady in Ireland, published by a small but reputable (and no doubt talented) publishing house in Singapore, and a cartoon of me on the writer's bio page was drawn by a talented but no small cartoonist called Lat; and it is even embellished with photographs sent in by readers from as far away as New York and Canada. I am, needless to say, over the moon.

The idea of Growing Up in Trengganu being snuggled between covers was one that never really seriously crossed my mind, though I did — once or twice, in moments of fanciful thought — toy with publishing it myself. And then Monsoon books came in with an email asking if there's a book there: and of course there was, and so it now is.

I'd like to thank you all, my readers, for having been with me all along, and mostly for your contributions and encouragement. Your coming here was (is) indeed a boost. Writing Growing Up was an experience, and it has opened for me many facets of human life: life in Trengganu then and now, the solitary writer's life of endless cups of tea and shortbread and mind-stretching quests for words, and, to no small extent, my readers' own lives, some hilarious, some sad. You will read about all that in my introduction to the book.

For the book I have re-written, re-honed and expanded or contracted parts of the original Growing Ups, and I have also, of course, corrected not a few solecisms and inappropriate acts. There is also a guide for the perplexed in the form of a short vocabulary of Trengganuspeak in the back of the book, so fear not. I hope you will all 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 shortbread.

Thank you for hosting the first draft of the book, and thank you Monsoon Books!

For more, go here:
* Bibliobibuli
* Choc-a-Blog
* Blooking Central

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