Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Father's Love

Since June is the month where we celebrate father's day. I am highlighting a  touching story between a father and son that I have done and was published in theSun newspaper on June 18, 2013 

Headline : Precious Time Together 
By Bissme S 

It is  never easy for a son to bury his father. But when the situation is reversed, the pain can be far more excruciating. Jimadie Shah Othman, 33, knows well this emotion. He recently lost his eldest son, Adam Azfar, who was only six, to brain tumour.
He suspected that something was not right last November when he saw that Adam was walking unsteadily. It was discovered that Adam had a 3.5cm tumour in his brain. As Adam was too young to have surgery and chemotherapy, the only medical solution was 30 sessions of radiotherapy.
“I was ignorant and thought Adam will be completely cured after the 30 sessions,” he says.
The doctor did not have the heart to tell the hopeful father that his son would not live long. But Jimadie did his research on the internet and learnt that people with his son’s illness had only six to seven months to live.
“After the doctor had confirmed what I learnt to be the truth, I broke down and cried,” he said. “Out of the blue, an African guy who was a patient in the hospital came and hugged me. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. He could see that I was in pain and he just wanted to console me.”
Jimadie hid his sadness so he could be strong for his son. Adam’s health deteriorated to the point where he could not use his legs and hands.
“All he could do was to sit, sleep and watch television,” Jimadie says. “He could only consume liquid food and it broke my heart whenever he begged me for KFC and his favourite biscuits.”
Adam’s illness brought Jimadie closer to God. Initially, he was angry with God over what had happened to his son.
“I prayed but I felt God had not listened to me,” he says. “I felt God did not help me. I was questioning why people had to fall sick. I was questioning why people had to die.
“I have not found the answers. But I have learnt to accept that some things are fated.
“Looking back now, I think God has been more than fair and kind to me. He had given me six years of happiness with Adam and only six months of sadness.”
In the hope of finding a cure for his terminally ill son, Jimadie even sought the help of bomohs.
“I am not the types who believe in the bomohs,” he says. “But when your son is ill, you become desperate and you are willing to believe in anything that will cure him. I read all kinds of silly mantras and followed rituals that made no sense. You can believe in alternative medicines and herbs but I would suggest that you stay away from the bomohs.”
Many of his friends and even strangers had contributed money as well as support to Jimadie when his son was ill. There was one stranger who’d heard about Adam’s situation in Facebook and travelled several times from Seremban to Kuala Lumpur just to visit Adam.
“I saw a lot of kindness,” Jimadie says.
It was on May 27 around 10am that Adam took his last breath.
“The previous night my son was not breathing properly,” he says. “I had to call the doctor to the house.”
The doctor informed Jimadie that he had two choices – either to put Adam on life support system or let him die peacefully.
Not wanting to prolong his son’s misery, Jimadie chose the second option and 13 hours later, Adam was no longer around.
“He died in my arms,” Jimadie recalls. “Adam was my first born and I learnt the art of fatherhood through him. It will be difficult to forget him. The first four months when Adam was born, I dared not hold him in my hands because I was afraid I will drop him.
“He was very close to me. He was like my best friend. Whenever I was free, I used to take him on my motorbike and we would have fun roaming around the neighbourhood.”
One wonders how his wife, Emme Nurelyanna Sazali, 32 and his two other children – Iman, five and Sophie, nine months old – are coping now without Adam.
“My wife used to run a tudung business online,” he says.
“But she stopped because she was too busy with her full time teaching job and her duties as mother and wife. After Adam’s death, I asked her to go back to her online business. When your mind is occupied, you grieve less.
“As for my two children, I think they are too young to understand the concept of death and sadness.”
The assistant editor with the news portal Malaysiakini has plans to write a book on his  experience with Adam in the future.
“I hope the book will be a guide to fathers who are in the same shoes as I am,” Jimadie says. “I wish to share my experience with them.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Usman Awang

Today I am highlight a story that focuses on a well known poet, the late  Usman Awang from the eyes her daughter Haslina Usman. This interview appeared on Friday June 14 … two days away from June 16 which is father’s day.  

Haslina with her father when she was 16 year old.

Headline: A Daddy  Girl 
By Bissme S

THERE is a saying that no man can love a girl the way her own father does and Haslina Usman can testify to this.
The way she talks about her father, the national laureate, and late Datuk Usman Awang, one can see that he had been a great influence in her life. One of her most beautiful memories of her father was the many conversations they had on the swing in the garden of their home.
"He was the first person who exposed me to the world of arts," says the eldest child of the well known poet and writer.
"He took me to my first ballet performance and my first art exhibition. He would always ask for my opinions and my views on what I had seen and heard."
Another beautiful memory was when her dad watched her perform the traditional Malay dance performance called Puteri Sadong.
"I was so proud to have my father in the audience," says Haslina who now runs a bakery business called Cakes By Lyna.
"He always made a point to be there when his children needed him, no matter how busy he was."
From the late 60s to the early 70s, her dad was constantly travelling to various countries in Europe and America, as a guest poet and a writer.
"I was just a kid then, and I missed him very much whenever he was away," she recalls. "He missed me, too so he would send me postcards where ever he went. I loved rings and I would ask him to get me rings that reflected the culture of the countries that he had visited.
"Dad would take the trouble just to fulfil my request. Once, he even went to a Red Indian settlement in America, just to get a ring for me."
When Haslina was a teenager, her father would keep a hawk eye on her movements.
"My two brothers enjoyed greater freedom than I, and I was angry at my father for treating us differently," she says.
"Looking back now, I understand his reasons better. Fathers are always over protective of their daughters compared to their sons because they do not want anything unforeseen to happen to them, being girls. He was just looking out for me."
Strangely enough, Usman never wanted any of his four children to follow in his footsteps to become a poet or a writer.
"He always told us that a writer's life is a difficult life, and that he did not want any of us to have that kind of life," she says.
Since her father passed away in 2001, Haslina has been writing poems. But she has no intention of publishing her works.
"My works are not important," she says. "What is important is that I keep my father's legacy alive."
She has taken over the publishing company - UA Enterprises Sdn Bhd - that her father had set up in the 70s. The objective of the company is to promote her father's works which comprise of more than 300 poems and 100 short stories.
She is utterly sad to learn that younger generations have a vague idea of who her father was.
"My father has contributed a lot to the literary world and I did not want him to fade away," she says.
As part of reaching out to the young and hip readers, she has collaborated with Fixi publication to publish Yang Nakal-Nakal which features her father's works - 17 short stories and eight poems. The book will be officially launched and sold this Sunday, June 16 at 2pm at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market.
"Fixi has a steady set of young loyal readers who are always buying books that they published, she says, eager to expose this new generation of readers who might not have heard of her father.
Her other project is to publish another book entitled Kekasih featuring 40 of her late father's poems. She is also getting visual artists to translate her father's poems into art.
"It will be their interpretation of my father's work," she says.
If everything goes well, Kekasih will be launched at an event known as Hari Usman Awang on July 20. For this event, Haslina will be collaborating with two artistic bodies - Sebudi and Kelab Athma Jiwa.
She cited the pillar of strength in her father's life to be her mother. When her mother passed away in 1999 from an asthma attack, her father was not the same person any more.
"My mother's death was really unexpected," Haslina says.
"Dad did not have the mood to write after that. He became very sick without my mum around and his health deteriorated further."
Three years later, on Nov 29, 2001, Usman finally succumbed to heart complications.
When asked to name one thing that many people do not know about her father, Haslina laughs and says: "During his last days, when he was sick, my father loved to watch cartoons with my two children. One of his favourite cartoons was Tom & Jerry. It was nice to see him laugh."

The cover of the book that was recently launched
Haslina Usman ... wants to keep her father's legacy alive among the the young generation

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anthony Chen At Cannes

Singapore film director Anthony Chen recently created waves at the recent Cannes film festival with his debut film Ilo Ilo . I had opportunity to pose him several questions to the talented film maker after his  huge success at Cannes. The  interview had appeared in the sun newspaper today ( Tuesday June 11 Page 18) . Please click on the link to read the article 


 Now the full article is here : 

Suggested Headline: Life After Cannes 


It is an honour for a filmmaker to receive a 15-minute standing ovation after the screening of his film. This honour is even greater if it takes place at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Singaporean Anthony Chen, 29, not only received a standing ovation but his debut film, Ilo Ilo, also fetched him the coveted Camera d’Or prize (best feature film debut) and became the first Singaporean feature film to win a prize at the recent Cannes Film Festival.
Set in Singapore, Ilo Ilo centres on the relationship between a Singaporean Chinese family and its new maid, Teresa. Like many Filipino women, Teresa has come to the Lion City in search of a better life. The young and troublesome son in the family, Jiale, forms a unique bond with Teresa and this friendship ignites jealousy in his mother.
Chen, who is currently based between London and Singapore, talks to theSun after his success at the Cannes Film Festival.

* Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

“I wanted to pursue filmmaking since the age of 15. While everyone
was busy mugging for ‘O’ levels, I was at the library reading up on
film directors and film  schools.I learnt that film schools overseas were expensive and I could not afford them. I also learnt that there was
only one film school in Singapore (Ngee Ann Polytechnic)
and decided that is where I would start building my portfolio.
“Most of my schoolmates pursued their ‘A’ levels but I took the slightly rebellious route of going to film school at the age of 17. I can’t explain why I wanted to be a filmmaker. I would say it is a subconscious decision.
“I remember that the first film I saw on the big screen was Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor and when I was growing up, I was attracted to the early films of Zhang Yi-mou and Ang Lee.”

* Who are the directors you admire?

“I’m interested in filmmakers and cinemas that explore the human
condition in a sensitive, delicate way. I admire greatly the works of
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Yasujiro Ozu, Hirokazu Koreeda, Lee Chang Dong, Jacques Audiard, Andrea Arnold and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
“But in terms of my biggest hero, it will have to be Ang Lee. I can’t imagine a better role model for a filmmaker and as a person. His humility and dedication to life and work deserves admiration.”

* You wrote the script for Ilo Ilo. Where did the inspiration come from?

“The movie is very much inspired by my childhood years. When I was young, we had a Filipino maid who was with us for eight years. We called her Auntie Terry. Somehow, in the last few years, she kept surfacing in my memory and I realised that I am literally part of an entire generation of kids
in Singapore that was brought up by foreign helpers. That was the starting point for the film.
“When Auntie Terry returned home for good, it was hard to bear. Eventually, we got used to her absence but somehow lost contact. The one thing that stayed with me after all these years is the name of the place she was from (Iloilo, a province in the Philippines). That is how the title of the film came about.”

* What is the biggest challenge you faced as Singaporean filmmaker?

“Funding. I had to work with a tight budget, especially if the film isn’t a mainstream horror or comedy film, which translates to less resources and less shooting days.
“So, it is literally a lot of blood, sweat and tears in order to not compromise on the vision you have and still retain your ambition.”

* What are your next projects and are you afraid that there will be higher expectations after your win at Cannes Film Festival?

“I am developing a few projects in United Kingdom and Singapore. It will take some time before they mature into something more concrete, so I am keeping a tight lip for now.But I am always interested in human dynamics and the human condition, so whatever I undertake, it is always steering in that direction.
“I do think it is a tall order to follow in the success of Ilo Ilo but I always believe that every film has a life of its own, so all I can do is
work hard and give the dedication and sincerity it needs.”

* Do you have any advice for budding filmmakers?
“Always maintain integrity in your work. It is a tough and rather painful journey, so it is important to have a genuine passion for cinema.You need to ask yourself, “Are you really in love with films or with the idea of being a film director?”

* What are some of the greatest misconceptions people have about you?

“That I’m an arrogant brat who only wantsthings his way. I think very few people really understand me and I no longer see a point in just pleasing everybody for the sake of having  people to like you."