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Tina Isaacs moderating the reading event

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Writer & poet Deborah Wong

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Writer Suraiya Abdullah

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Spoken poet Jamal Raslan

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Writer Suscelah Fonseka

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Travel writer Judyth Gregory Smith

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Spoken poet Melizarani T. Selva

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Writer & poet Frances Yip

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Some of those who came to listen

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All ears on the writers and poets

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Some of the books on sale

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And finally, a group photo after the reading session

              

Despite the rain yesterday afternoon, the reading session went smoothly. Six writers and poets were invited to read their works. They were Deborah Wong, Suraiya Abdullah, Jamal Raslan, Judyth Gregory Smith, Suscelah Fonseka and Melizarani T. Selva. I read three poems from my collection. The event was moderated by Tina Isaacs.

My heartfelt gratitude to Vlad Slavin, Jang Bu Yeon, Markiza and Peter Brown for coming to support us. We all had a wonderful evening. More reading events will be coming up next year at d7 The Refinery.

Thank you too, Ben Toh for the venue and the excellent photos taken.

When I was 16, I wrote a poem called “The Executioner’s Song” for the school magazine. It was promptly rejected and got thrown into the bin by the teacher. The poem was about the injustice felt by some condemned victims on their way to the gallows. I was inspired by the two Aussie men sent to the gallows at Pudu Jail for drug trafficking. I have already forgotten the content of the poem, as it has been thirty-four years already.

Today, my daughter Alexandra, a poem lover herself, and who was very taken up by the title of this poem, challenged me to write another poem of the same title and also, about the injustice felt by recent condemned victims.

Why condemned victims? Because, to both of us, each life is precious.

This poem was composed just now (took me an hour to do it) and it is a tribute to a brave young lady called Reyhaneh Jabbari who was hanged in Iran last month after being accused of killing her rich and powerful rapist, a crime she vehemently denied till the end.

The Executioner’s Song (2)

In the solitary wards of Evin and Shahr-e Ray
You were brutally beaten beyond recognition
Your long and polished nails could not prove to them
That you will not kill even a mosquito or a cockroach

Wealth and power – how evil and cruel is this combination!
You, a young girl of nineteen out to defend her modesty
But was instead accused of killing her ruthless predator
All because he was so arrogantly high and mighty

Where have justice flee to or has God gone to rest?
Or are you simply His lesser child, not worthy of His love?
All pleas fell on deaf ears, even those from your poor mother
What has become of this world, where is humanity, I wonder?

Cry no more, Reyhaneh Jabbari, blame it on your fate
Of being born into a place where women are not feted on
But were treated like the lowest of the low, almost invisible!
Maybe you will find peace at the hangman’s noose?

Your heart, your eyes, your kidneys and your bones
Surely, they will bring some hopes and cheers
To those who got a part of you and values it dearly
Despair not, for in them, you live on, brave lady!

(Hope this one will not get throw into the bin!)

Chow Chiew Sai

Mommy dearest, fourteen years ago today
You left us without even saying goodbye
Outside our glass windows and metal gate
Laughter and chatters could still be heard
While my heart torn into a million pieces
And tears flowed like the Ganges River.

So sad was my father to lose his partner
A loving wife that Heaven bestowed him
Fifty years of tears and happiness shared
The void that you left in his heart and soul
No words of comfort could heal or lessen
It was a pain only he could feel and tell.

The days that followed were strangely hollow
But your sweet voice still rings in my ears
When the sun set below the horizon
I could feel your presence and your touch
Many nights I suddenly woke from my sleep
And asked where have you gone to, Mommy?

Seconds, minutes, and hours ticked away
Days, months, and years came and went
My children who were babes when you left
Now grown up and ready to face the world
Deprieved a taste of your kindness and kisses
Yearning for a grandma taken away too soon.

Now I have learned that death comes to all
That life is impermanent like the setting sun
My heart has surrendered to the eternal truth
The flowing tears have dried up in my eyes
But still, I will hold your memories tightly
As I whisper a prayer for you, my Goddess.

A year later….

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Pussy on the first day in our house…

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Big and strong a year later!

 

One day in November last year, as I was putting away my prayer beads after a chanting and meditation session with my husband, I told him how wonderful it would be to have some animals sitting along side with us to listen to dharma which is Buddha’s teaching. Marcus didn’t say anything, he just smiled.

A day later, a stray dog got into our house. It appeared from nowhere. We gave it a bath and some food. My children were so happy to have it and they played with it for some time. The next day, it rained. Fearing that it might get wet sitting outside the house, Nicholas took it in. After the rain had stopped, he took it outside again. The next day, it got inside the house again although it did not rain that day. I told my son to take it outside. The next morning, when I opened the door, it was missing from the veranda. It had run away. We looked everywhere but could not find it again.

Two days later, as I was ironing Nicholas’ uniform, a stray kitten barged into our house, also from nowhere. It mewed loudly and pitifully. It then quickly ran into my neighbor’s house. She was not an animal lover and chased it out with a broom. The frightened animal ran back into our house again. This time, it looked very scared. Out of pity for such a small and lost animal, we decided to foster it. Marcus gave it a bath and then walked to the nearest supermarket to buy a can of cat food for the little feline. I gave it a name, a very simple one – Pussy.

Pussy is our first adopted cat and today, he has grown into a big and heavy cat. Occasionally it would sit contentedly beside me while I was chanting and meditating, absorbing the beautiful mantra vibrating in the air. Sometimes it would drink Chinese tea or even eat durian.

Pussy has brought us more joy and laughter than we can ever imagined. Happy first anniversary, Pussy!

Life’s simple joy

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Fostering nine abandoned and orphaned cats can be a daunting task, especially when some turned up at our doorstep in pretty bad shape. But with love, care, food, and a few visits to the vet, these feline friends thrived in our home. We were richly rewarded with moments like these…. and they are priceless! This is what I called life’s simple joy….

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Miss Jee from Badan Warisan Malaysia (The Heritage of Malaysia Trust) informed me yesterday that there was a gentleman in town who was interested to buy my book and told me to contact him. I did and we made an appointment to meet this morning at Traders Hotel where I could pass the book to him personally.

This gentleman turned out to be Mr. Firoz (Junior), the owner of 188 Hugh Low Street! His father Mr. Firoz (Senior) was the first owner who leased out the shoplot to my father back in those days and today, Mr. Firoz (Junior) is the current owner. Never in my wildest dream did I expect to hear from the owner of my childhood home and it happened this morning. Mr. Firoz (Junior) is interested to find out how it was like to grow up at 188 Hugh Low Street.

His lovely wife Margaret came along too and we chatted and have coffee. The couple will be returning back to England tonight where they resides.

Ah Moi – woman of grit

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Each time when I go back to Ipoh, I would make it a point to drop by at Gopeng, a small town in Perak, to visit my cousin sister, Ah Moi.

A few years older than me, Ah Moi lost her mother at a tender age and being the only girl in her family, she had to cook for and take care of her diabetic father and two younger brothers who are slow learners. Ah Moi dropped out from school after Primary Six and got married at twenty to a young man from her village. They have three children. He worked as a logger in the jungle nearby.

Life is not kind to my cousin sister. Not long after their marriage, her husband was killed in a freak accident, leaving her a young widow with three children, a sick father, and two brothers to take care. But Ah Moi refused to ask for help from anyone. No loan from the banks, no welfare benefit, nothing came her way.

Determined to feed the family, she operates a stall in the Gopeng Market selling noodles and yong tau foo which she made herself. The name of her noodle stall is Tong Kee. It was named after Ah Tong, one of her brothers. They also helps her out. It was a brothers and sister’s business.

Years later, their father passed away and her children graduated from college. But Ah Moi refused to stop. She wanted to feel useful and to be financially independent. Ah Moi’s motto is “Moe Kung But Sau Luk.” A young widow feeding six people – that is an incredible feat which can even reduced some men to tears but today, Ah Moi could hold her head high. She had weathered the storm marvellously.

In this picture taken last month (Sept 14th) on my visit to the Gopeng Market, my cousin sister could be seen standing inside her stall while her one of her brothers was seen sitting at the table waiting for customers. Ah Moi serves delicious soup noodles, curry noodles, assam laksa, and her signature yong tau foo.