Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lejen Press & I am Lejen

Today I interviewed Aisa Linglug who left his well paid job as engineer to start a business he is passionate about.  Here is the full story 

Headline: A Lejen in the Making 
By Bissme S

In July 2011, Aisa Linglug started a publication company called Lejen Press with his friend, Shahrul Naim.In the span of three years, Lejen Press has grown to become a key player in publishing alternative Malay fiction.
So far, Lejen Press has published over 50 titles and given more than 40 writers a chance to see their work in print. The publishing company also owns a bookshop in Subang Jaya called I am Lejen that carries its books as well as alternative Malay fiction
published by other Malaysian independent publishers such as Fixi, Selut Press, Merpati Jingga, Sang Frued Press, Dubook Press and others.
Aisa’s foray into publishing is quite unusual. Two months before he got married, he quit his well-paid job as an engineer to start Lejen Press.
“Most men about to get married would not leave their stable job,” says the 31-year-old Aisa (real name Aisamuddin Asri).
“I am lucky that I have a fiancée (now, his wife) who understood my passion and fully supported me. I believe the risks I took had given me the extra push to make Lejen Press a success story.”
But he could not find the courage to tell his mother about what he had done.
“I know my mother would not approve of my decision [and] I do not blame [her].
Every mother wants their children to have a stable career and a stable income. My mother is no different.”
But he finally told his mother the truth the following year when he held an official launch of five titles under Lejen Press – Hero, Heroin, Kontrol Histeria, Angus Himself and Pompang Pompang – at I am Lejen.Seeing the number of people who had turned up at
the launch and the long line outside his shop, his mother was confident he was on the right track and finally gave her blessing to Aisa to pursue what his heart desires.
“I started Lejen Press because I wanted to add colour to the Malay fiction scene,”Aisa explains. 
“We want to give something different in terms of content and language.”
The books under the Lejen Press label deal with bold and risqué themes, and use simpler language to tell their stories. As a result, a lot of youngsters are attracted to the books.
“A manager from one bookstore once told me that a skin-head youngster entered his shop and bought several books by Lejen Press,” Aisa says. 
“He thought youngsters like him do not read! He said in his 10 years as a manager of the bookstore, he has never seen a skin-head ever buying a book before.
“That was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received about my books.
In some ways, Lejen Press is encouraging youngsters to read.”
Yet, there are some who feel that the books he published do not have any moral message. Aisa disagrees, citing Azwar Kamaruzaman’s book Babi (Pig), which has come under
criticism because of its title.
“People who read the book will understand why the title was used in the first place,” he says. 
“The story is about an illegitimate child. His friends ostracised him and bullied him. His friends called him Babi because Babi is something to be scorned at in the Malay community. I think it was apt to use Babi as the title. The book has a lot of messages. It tells people not to be judgmental and accept people for who they are.”
He was also accused of promoting the bastardisation of the Malay language.
“We give our writers more freedom to express their stories in the way they want and in the words that they are more comfortable with. We do not want to cramp their style of writing.
“You must understand that every artform goes through some kind of evolution. Look at music which has gone through different phases through the decades.
“Like music, writing and language also go through some kind of evolution [over time].”
Aisa says in the past, he used to be rather defensive when “silly” criticisms are thrown at Lejen Press but these days, he does not waste his time arguing with his critics any more 
“They have an option not to like the books I publish,” he says. 
He recalls a lecturer who once bought a book from his shop but wanted a refund an hour later. 
“I did not argue with him,” he says. 
“I just refunded his money. I [might have] lost a sale but I think the lecturer lost more than I did. “He lost a chance to experience a different form of writing. Any experience will enrich your life. Indirectly, he lost a chance to enrich his.”

Aisa in his boutique bookshop I am Lejen...

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