Friday, June 12, 2009

As I was Passing by Adibah Amin

As I was Passing I and II are books which I would recommend everyone to read. Put in an amusing anecdotes format, readers will be enthralled by the way the author, Adibah Amin has crafted her book with so much warmth, love and understanding. She used her family, friends and neighbors as subjects for her books to sum up the heart and soul of Malaysian lifestyle and idiosyncrasies. As I Was Passing I and II are compilations of Adibah’s column of the same name published in The New Straits Times in the 1970s and 1980s under her pen name, Sri Delima. Relevant today as it was then, Adibah prose and writings makes an interesting read. She analyzed the Malaysian culture with a humorous angle, always adding a light twist to her musings. The reader will thus realize that she is affectionately appreciative of the events and experiences that shape Malaysian life.

With such books, there is usually a moral behind the stories and here, we can find that characteristic. The reader may not quite realize it until they came to the end of the story. At this point, most will laugh heartily over it. She crafted the stories to encompass the emotions and beliefs of her subject never in a heavy-handed manner but always in a light touch, not to offend the reader.

We can look at ourselves and laugh at all of our Malaysia idiosyncrasies. In fact, laughter and at times, tears are never far away when I read the many stories presented in these books.

One of the stories that really touched me in this book is ‘Memories and songs in the night’ where she described the magic of Christmas and how Malaysians of all races celebrate this festival in their own way. She looked back at the memories of Christmas that she had when she was young, singing Christmas songs with an Eurasian family next door on Christmas night. This reminds me of how Malaysian of all races share the joy of any festival. Malaysia with it wide myriad of cultures brings us all together in peace and harmony.

Another story which reminds me of my dad and his loves for birds is ‘The day Pak Mat Merbuk met Ujang the Untameable’. My father used to tell me stories about his children days when he reared birds after trapping them. In this story, Pat Mat Merbuk, a person who trained birds, heard the sweet whistling of Ujang, a wild merbuk and caught him to be reared to become a champion singer. How he doted on the bird! He gave Ujang a special powder to make its singing more spectacular. He refused to sell the bird to anyone for any amount of money. However Pat Mat Merbuk started to realized that nothing could beat the singing of Ujang when he was free in the wilds. Finally, he set Ujang free. When asked what made him do what he did, Pat Mat Merbuk smiled and quoted this old pantun:

Indah bunga bakawali,
Diusik dipetik jangan;
Hati loba merangkuli,
Hati kasih melepaskan.

(Beautiful is the bakawali flower,
Do not touch, do not pluck;
The covetous heart clutches,
The loving heart lets go.)

Below are my favorites stories in the book:
Malaysian Time
Tourist Notions
Getting up for sahur
The mystery of Thaipusam
Dear Monster revisited
Memories and songs in the night
The day Pak Mat Merbuk met Ujang the Untameable
Marital fighting, Malaysian Style

This interesting and funny read is available at Tan Sri Loy Hean Heong Library, Main Campus. The call number is 959.5 ADI.

About the Author
Adibah Amin, born in 1936 is an academician, a linguist and a writer in both Bahasa Melayu and English. She also has acted in a few Malay films in the 80s. She has written three Malay novels, Bangsawan Tulen, Seroja Masih di Kolam and Tempat Jatuh Lagi Dikenang. Seroja Masih di Kolam was translated to Japanese in 1986 with the title Suroyja No Hana Wa Mada Ike Ni. She also has written nearly 200 radio dramas, numerous short stories and an English novel, The End of the Rainbow.

Reviewed by Librarian, Belinda Sta Maria, Tan Sri Loy Hean Heong Library, Main Campus.

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