Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ten Moments in Yasmin Ahmad's Life


She is no longer among us. But she will always be remembered. I am taking about the genius film maker Yasmin Ahmad. As I was doing some spring  cleaning, I found this interesting  article on her. So today I am highlighting this article that was published in theSun newspaper on April 4, 2006  

Headline : Captured Moments
By Bissme S

For Yasmin Ahmad, making movies is akin to recording snatches of life on celluloid. Whether she is shooting for commercials or movies, the results are never far from the realities of living.
They speak to us of moments that touch our hearts. Watching them, we cry a little and we laugh a little. Her uncanny ability to capture this has been recognised in a series of awards for her Petronas commercials and for her critically acclaimed 2005 movie Sepet.
The director has also completed a sequel to that movie. Gubra, whichopens on Thursday, continues where Sepet ended. The audience will finally learn the outcome of the love story between Orked and Jason.
Yasmin, who is a busy creative director of one of the country’s top advertising firms, advises the audience to stay on for the credits at the end of that movie. Her creative energy seems to have no bounds. It makes us wonder how much of her own life experiences have influenced her work.Here, Yasmin recounts 10 significant incidences in her life that have shaped the person she is now.

1) “The day when I was carted off to a place I had never beenbefore. There, I found many people of my age who were wearing the same (kind of) clothes as I. We were herded around by the authorities of that place. Some were brandishing ‘weapons of torture’ in their hands.Some of us were crying and some even wet their pants out of fear. “Oh, I am referring to my first day at school!”

2)“The day I went abroad (England) to further my studies. A bunch of usarrived at a strange place in the dark of the night. It was cold and there was some confusion as to where we were supposed to spend the night.“I never felt so lonely or homesick in my life. That terrible feeling of abandonment almost never left me for the next 10 years of my stay abroad.”

3)"The day I telephoned my fiance’s mother and found out that he had died in an accident. I was only 19."

4) “The night I won my first advertising award. I had only joined the industry for few months and it was my first commercial.”

5) "The day when I got married. After the akad nikah ceremony was over, my husband and I went to our bedroom to perform our first prayer together. At the end of it, we held each other’s hand and wept with joy.”

6) “The day our divorce was finalised. Just after the divorce, we sat on the bench outside the religious office, looked at each other and wept with sadness.”

7) “The day I woke up and saw the world spinning. I got my then boyfriend to take me to the doctor. My blood pressure had shot up. I was hospitalised for a week. Thankfully, my blood pressure is normal now.”

8)The day I married my present husband. The akad nikah was conducted in a small mosque in Subang Jaya. It was drizzling outside. I remembered gazing at the greenery surrounding the mosque and feeling at peace with the world.”

9)“The day I performed the haj with Dr Jemilah Mahmood, now one of my best friends. It took place just before my second marriage. As the plane approached the holy land, we were asked to call out to God: ‘You have summoned me, O Lord, so here I am’. I broke into tears.”

10) “The night Sepet won the top award at Creteil International Festival in Paris. Sepet was up against films selected for the Venice Film Festival (which were made) by directors who had been nominated for Oscars.My mother hugged me on stage, then turned to the audience and waved the bouquet of flowers presented to her.My father remained seated in the audience but I could see him wiping his tears of pride. The joy on my parents’ faces made all the struggles worthwhile.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Me, My Body, My Mind

As I was doing some spring cleaning around my house. I found this particular interesting article I have done in 2008  where I interviewed  Pang Khee Teik and Angela M. Kuga and Yuenmei Wong . They talked about the event they were organizing called Seksualiti Merdeka. And the first Seksualiti Merdeka was held in somewhere in  August 2008 and this article appeared in theSun sometime in October 2008  Below  is the full article. 

Headline : Me, my body, my mind
By Bissme S 

"NOBODY can tell you what you can do and what you can’t do with your body," says Pang Khee Teik, art programmes director of The Annexe.
"When one person manages the most inner part of you which is your sexuality and your desires, then you are a nobody.
"When you give someone else the power to tell you what you can do with your body, you’re ultimately giving that person the power to control your mind."
His voice was one of many heard at Seksualiti Merdeka in late August. The three-day event included workshops and forums addressing sexual identity issues.
Interestingly, it was not just what academicians and activists had to say but also common folk speaking about their personal experiences and tragedies.
"We wanted the public to hear voices and stories of those who have been discriminated against and whose lives have been a living hell," says Pang, who initiated the event with Jerome Kugan, The Annexe’s media manager.
"There has been lot of injustice and unfair treatment of fellow Malaysians in the name of morality.
"In the end, the public still have the right to disagree with them.
"But let us hear their story first before making any judgment. We want to create compassion and promote understanding."
One seminar, "To Live Without Fear: Dealing With Violence Against Transsexuals", highlighted the prejudices against this community.
The event’s success prompted Pang to make Seksualiti Merdeka, a yearly event.
He said sexuality rights is not only about the right to have sex with whomever you want but also the right to be responsible.
Angela M. Kuga, a trustee with KYRSS (Knowledge & Rights with Young People through Safer Spaces), says, "When two adults have consensual sex, it should not be considered a crime.
"We are also under the impression that all religions reject people of different sexuality.
"There are religions which have no position on people of different sexual orientation and there are some religions that do. Interestingly, the same text is interpreted differently."
She felt the event also gave people the opportunity to know more about sex education.
"More young women are worried about unwanted pregnancies than AIDS, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. All these concerns were addressed in the event."
She also felt the scope for sex education has to be widened.
"Sex education is not about learning about your bodies and preventing diseases," says Angela.
"It should also be about building your self-esteem, handling peer pressure and appreciating your lover."
Not so long ago, Angela gave a talk in a university and was surprised to find many of the female students were gullible. She said that some of the students even believed that they would not get pregnant if they had sex at a certain time of the day.
Next year, Seksualiti Merdeka intends to target parents with children of different sexual orientation.
"Society is so negative towards people of different sexuality and it is only natural for the parents to worry about their children’s welfare," says Angela.
"We want to provide a platform where the parents can talk about their concerns and their anxieties.
"We are searching for parents who are willing to talk and discuss these issues."
Pang said that they want to work closely with the media.
"We want the media to report fairly when they are doing stories on people with different sexuality," he says.
"If the media quotes someone saying people of different sexual orientation are promoting moral decay, it should also get the other side of the coin."
Yuenmei Wong, a volunteer at the event and recipient of the 5th Research Award from the Southeast Asia Consortium on Gender, Sexuality and Health wants to highlight companies willing to hire transsexuals.
"We want these companies to be role models for other companies," she says.
Yet, Seksualiti Merdeka may have raised some eyebrows and ruffled more than a few feathers. "I am not doing anything wrong," says Pang.
"I am simply allowing people to talk about their sexuality and to be confident about their bodies.
"I would not deny that I had some fears when I wanted to organise this event.
"It is my dream that one day I will organise this event without having any kind of fear at all."
He dismissed the notion that the event promotes homosexuality. "It is not lifestyle that you can promote," he says.
"You are either homosexual or not. I feel we are promoting people to be responsible."
His personal vision is that the country will recognise them for who they are and their contributions, and not who they love and sleep with.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Legends on Motherhood

Malaysian celebrated mother's day on May 12. This time around I focused  onthe  folk stories that emphasis on mother's love  from three different race - Malay, Indian and Chinese.  The story appeared in the sun newspaper on May 10 on page 22 & 23 

The Full story here 

Headline : Enduring Tales Of Love 
By Bissme S 

A MOTHER’S love andaffection for her children is the stuff of legends that has lived on through the ages.In celebration of Mother’s Day, which falls this  Sunday, three experts retell some local legends – metaphors included – from  different cultures in Malaysia, that centre on a mother’s enduring love and 

Subhead : The Legend of Si Tanggang 

Saifulizan Yahaya of Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) says the Malay culture has a  famous story called Si Tanggang to depict a mother’s love for her son and the  value of filial piety. Saifullizan, who is the language planning officer at  DBP’s Research Literature Division, hopes to share the moral of this tale with  the younger generation.
The story goes like this: When Tanggang was a young boy, he was always sick.  His mother, Deruma, took pains in ensuring her son would grow up strong and healthy. Later, the young ambitious Tanggang wanted to see the world. So when a ship docked at his village to reload supplies and take on additional crew members, Tanggang volunteered to go along.
His mother tried to stop him, saying she needed him to be with her in her advancing years but Tanggang told her he would go away for a few years and then return home a wealthy man so they can live comfortably together. Tanggang  eventually became a wealthy businessman. He also married a beautiful princess,  but has completely forgotten about his mother back in the village and the 
promise he had made to her.
One day, when his ship was docked at his village, his mother was so happy to  learn that her son has returned. She rushed to meet him. But embarrassed by  her poor appearance, Tanggang refused to acknowledge her as his mother in front of his royal bride.
Devastated and heart-broken, Deruma raised her hands to the sky and cried out  to God to make Si Tanggang recognise her as his mother.Suddenly, the weather  turned dark and stormy. There were flashes of lightning and thunder. When the storm subsided, Si Tanggang, his wife, his crew, and his entire ship had been
turned into stone.
“The story reminds us that we mustnever be ungrateful to our parents,” says Saifullizan. 
“This is a retribution for being unfilial.”
He points out that some believe that Batu Caves is the ship that had been turned into stone. Interestingly, there is a similar tale in Indonesia known  as Malim Kundang, where stones resembling human beings and a shipwreck can be found at Pantai Air Manis, in Padang, Sumatra Barat, while in Brunei, a folklore known as Nakhoda Manis also tells the same tale  with a rocky outcrop called Jong Batu, located off Kampung Ayer on the Brunei River, that resembles a capsized ship.

Subhead : Devaki, mother of Lord Krishna 

Shankar Kandasamy the head of Bharata Natyam Department of the Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur, recounts the mythological tale of  Devaki, the mother to Lord Krishna.
The story centres on the evil King Kansa, who heard a prophecy that the eighth child of his sister, Devaki, would kill him. So he imprisoned  Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and killed all seven of the children she bore. 
However, divine intervention saw that the eighth child, Lord Krishna, escaped.  Years later, the mother and son were reunited. She asked Krishna why she was not given a chance to enjoy his childhood years as his mother. Lord Krishna  explains to her that in her past life, she was a great queen who was unfair to her servant girl.
She wanted the servant girl to give her all the attention and had prevented the servant girl from spending any  time with her own child.
“Lord Krishna told his mother that she had robbed the servant girl of her
motherhood,” said Shankar. “Therefore,she, Devaki in turn, had to suffer and  was unable to spend any time with her own child.”
Being a compassionate god, Lord Krishna made a miniature idol of himself as a child and gave it to his mother. The idol then came to life.
“Lord Krishna then told his mother that now she has a chance to enjoy him as a child,” Shankar said.

Subhead: The ghost mother and other tales

The Principal of KBU International College, Dr See Hoon Peow (right), says that there are many folk legends in the Chinese culture that highlights the greatness of a mother. See, who is also a trained folklorist, tells this interesting tale of The Ghost Mother.
“There are several versions to this story,” says See. 
“All the versions, however, indicate that a mother’s love is so powerful that even death cannot separate her from her child.”
One version, which happens during the Song dynasty, tells of a pregnant grieving widow who died and was buried. But then, she gave birth to a baby boy inside the coffin.
She appeared at the nearest provision shop to get the necessities to feed her baby. She told the shopkeeper that she was the daughter in- law of the wealthy Wong family and asked him to collect payment from her father-in-law.
At the end of the month, when the shopkeeper went to collect the
payment from the family, the father-in-law was shocked. He believed someone was impersonating his deceased daughter-in-law.
To find out who, he hid in the shop and when the woman appeared, the father-in-law was indeed shocked to see she was indeed his dead daughter-in- law. He then exhumed her body and found a healthy baby boy in the coffin
There is another version, linked to the famous Chinese poet, Su Dong Po, whose wife passed away after giving birth to baby boy. She returned as a ghost to the house every night to breastfeed her son.
She had to cross a lake to enter the house, so there were traces of water found around the baby’s cradle.
“On realising that his wife had come back to breastfeed their child the poet built a bridge from the grave to the house so that his ghost wife didn’t have  to cross the lake and get wet," See says. 
“Unfortunately, in the Chinese culture, there is always a god guarding every bridge, and because of this, the ghost wife was stopped from crossing.
“The ghost remained a tortured soul because she could no longer breastfeed her baby.”
Another popular tale centres on the famous Chinese philosopher and scholar  Mencius and his mother (below) who lived in ancient times. Mencius’ father died when he was young. According to Confucius teachings, the family should mourn  for three years. She and her son then moved to live near the grave of her  deceased husband. But Mencius’ mother decided to forgo the tradition when she found her son  imitating what took place at  the funeral procession.Wanting something better  for her son, the two moved again to a new home near a market.
“She soon found this location unsuitable because her son began to
take to the ways of the merchants,” says See. 
“In those days, merchants were considered low class and she did not want her  son to take up this trade.”
She moved again, this time to a home near a school. Inspired by the scholars there, Mencius began to study and his mother was content.
Then, one day, his mother found outthat he had been playing truant from school. Instead of beating him, his mother simply took a pair of scissors and cut up the cloth she was weaving.
Shocked, Mencius asked: ”Why did` you do that, mother? Now, you have to start all over again.”
His mother replied that what he did was no different from what she had done, as playing truant meant he had wasted his effort studying and now must pick up  where he left off all over again. Mencius learnt his lesson and never played truant again.