Category Archives: Books

Young Emotion – Memories from an Old Free


Book Review

By Wern Sze Gill

Young Emotion 1Student days …… Words cannot describe the beauty of its carefree days. It is a personal treasure that everyone has; one that comes alive again when you meet an old friend or when you visit your home town. Memories of how things were then, the pranks, the games, the loves…

Young Emotion, authored by Ipoh-based obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Teoh Soong Kee, is a collection of treasured memories from his days as a teenager in Penang. It was during his secondary years at the prestigious Penang Free School where his love for writing began. Young Emotion contains snapshots in poems and short stories, of student day-memories which engages the older reader to reminisce of similar happy days, while opening up to the younger reader a glimpse of life in the ‘good old days’. Not just refreshingly lucid, Young Emotion is raw and rich with the passion of a witty yet eloquent youth, who from humble beginnings, journeyed through student days with caring friends and inspiring teachers who helped shaped his life. Through the pages of Young Emotion, you will not only be transported back to your happy days as a youth, but inspire you to consider living the rest of your life with passion and purpose.

Young Emotion (117 pages) is available at Dr Teoh’s clinic at Ipoh Specialist Hospital (call Tracy 05 255 1406) or at St Peter’s church (call Jenny 05 546 0444) at a minimum donation of RM15 per copy. All proceeds will benefit the Penang Free School student fund.

Woven in Deception


Book Review

By Chelvi Murugiah

Woven in DeceptionWoven in Deception is a classic Indian tale condensed in a 153-page book on the trials and tribulations of three generations of a wealthy Indian family, spanning over a century. The book relates the geographical move from India to Malaysia and the continuing struggles faced by three generations of the Kamelanathan family, apparently due to a curse inflicted upon them.

Although the theme seems heavy-handed, Woven in Deception is pretty much a light and easy read from start to finish. The author is able to keep the reader entertained with her tales that are easy to comprehend and, notably, identifiable individual and group behaviour within typical Indian households.

So, if you happen to be looking out for a good weekend read, nothing too mind-boggling, this book is quite straight forward, and would make an ideal selection.

The author, Nirmala Kasinathan, of Indian origin and a doctor from Ipoh, aptly reflects the Indian diaspora in Woven in Deception, beginning in the early 20th century. She takes readers through a litany of imaginary happenings, portraying  living conditions during the British and Japanese Occupation, right up to post-Independence and leading to incidences as current as 2010.

The historical background of Malaysia and evolution of the Indian origin compliments the unravelling of the extended family saga spanning three generations. The book tells tales of love, marriage, betrayal, despair, frustration and more. These emotions and manifestation of human sentiments are revisited through the unfolding of the descendants’ lives throughout the book.

Woven in Deception is centred on the belief that a curse so strong had been inflicted upon three generations of the Kamelanathan family by an angry, never-to-be father-in-law.  The reading reveals the customary practices (mainly superstition), within the Indian and Ceylonese communities where an elder of a family, takes on a superiority position to consult with an astrologer for predictions on their family members’ future. An astrologer’s word, however illogical, is seemingly held in high esteem and is considered the absolute truth, no evidence required. As spelled out in Woven in Deception, each member of the extended Kamelanathan’s family’s misfortune is decidedly due to the curse, inflicted three generations earlier.

Progressing through the chapters, are revelations and turning points in the lives of the protagonists in each generation. Secrets and personal longings are reflected upon to justify intentions and actions taken. The “sizzle” factor, however, takes on a rather passive note, as the author chooses to depict the main characters’ private lives and thoughts rather politely. However, the storyline does reflect, in reality, the workings of a typical class-conscious Indian family.

Whether by design or not, Woven in Deception’s storyline is, in my opinion “woven-in-deception” through the revelation of strong subliminal influences which form the crux of the Indian community’s identity. The Indian social organisation is, till today, structured on its culture, superstition, social norms, caste system and its discriminating patriarchal social system, that define roles of family members within an Indian household.

As an advocate for the equality for women, I abhor patriarchy, and commend the author, although she did so passively, for revealing the conservative traditional and restrictive beliefs practised by Indians and Ceylonese till today.

Woven in Deception is a good medium to create awareness to the readership on gender discrimination and social-class segregation, caste systems, traditions, norms and culture that inhibit the progress of the Indian community, per se.

To quote Arundhati Roy, an accomplished Indian author and political activist, “Our strategy should not only be to confront but to lay siege. To deprive it of oxygen, to shame it, to mock it, with our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance , our sheer relentlessness – in our ability to tell our stories. Stories that are different from the ones many are brainwashed to believe.”

Woven in Deception (166 pages) is published by Strategic Book Publishing in Houston, Texas. The book USD12.95 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website: or at or

For Malaysian readers, the book can be obtained directly from the author at RM40 per copy (inclusive of postage and handling). Contact Dr Nirmala at 016 508 4263 or 05 527 6453, or email: (Those interested can bank into Maybank account 108225181197 (Acc. holder: Nirmala a/p A K Nadan @ Kasinathan) the cost of the books as ordered and email the author the banking slip as proof of transaction. Kindly provide full mailing address. Books will be sent by Poslaju within 2-3 days or may be collected personally from the author’s residence in Ipoh.

Mark Soo’s Book Launched


A book launch, jointly hosted by Perak Academy and Areca Books in honour of Mark Yoi Sun Soo’s debut book, was held at Symphony Suites, Ipoh recently.

Entitled “My Days in the Sun”, the book is a memoir detailing Mark’s first 40 years of his life where he spent alternating between Hong Kong and Kampar, Malaya where his father’s family herbal medicine business was located. Mark witnessed firsthand the devastation of the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) and the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) that followed.

Mark Soo’s Book Launched

The author was born in Hong Kong in 1933. He studied medicine at the University of Hong Kong and earned his degree in 1957. He worked as a general practitioner in Ipoh amidst the carnage of the Emergency. Mark then decided on a career change by attending a specialist training in radiology at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Upon completion of the training in 1967 he returned to Malaysia to work at Kuala Lumpur’s newly established University Hospital. Following the May 13 racial riots in 1969, Mark and his family migrated to Sydney, Australia where they remain till today.

Abdur Razzaq Lubis, the Director of Areca Books, who stood in for Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, in his opening remarks noted that Mark’s ability to recall vivid details of his life was largely due to him being a radiologist who had an eye for details.

The author commented on his book and his publisher. “This may be the first memoir written by a radiologist”, he quipped. Mark took a pot shot at his book’s editors by alluding to Stephen King.

“The editor is always right” he said, a quote attributed to the famous writer. This was in obvious reference to the many corrections made to his draft by the publisher’s over-zealous editorial team.

The ceremony was well attended. Over a hundred took time off to witness the hour-long event. Tan Sri Dr M. Mahadevan was given the honour to launch Mark’s book.


Goal Setting For Success by Joshua Tan


Goal Setting For SuccessIf you are serious in getting out of a rut or simply want to redefine your direction in life, then Joshua Tan’s latest book – Goal Setting For Success is a must read. The advice given and emphasized, is to read through the whole book and not simply skim through it (yes this advice is for those lazy ones and you know who you are). The author has taken the trouble to design the material to ensure the reader is able to have a very practical view on goal setting. There are a lot of helpful and detailed workbook style layouts that can give the reader a real idea of what and how to plan towards the exercise of goal setting. The layout allows for quick reference, as each chapter is defined into different categories. Included in this book, are also a lot of actual examples which can be quite a good motivating factor, especially for those who may feel, theirs is a lost cause.

One particular popular phrase that is often used by society was corrected to give it more meaning and results…. PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT… better, when used as RIGHT PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT. Joshua also emphasizes that hardship is not a stop sign but merely a stepping stone, and this is important to understand, and accept, if people are to be steadfast in their struggle towards attaining their goals. A common phrase used – people do not plan to fail but fail to plan- is also something Joshua goes further to explain by providing a guidance tool – goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound.

Having more than 20 years in the consumer sales arena, Joshua has written several short training manuals that is based on his wealth of experience. He has an MBA from Nottingham Trent University and is also actively involved in several NGOs, such as YMCA, the Haggai Institute, and FGBMF. Ipoh Echo had the pleasure of featuring a book review on another one of Joshua Tan’s contributions. The book review on the Effective Sales Force Recruitment (IE125), where an endorsement by Dato’ Daniel Tay mentioned it’s a “must have”, ideal for employers and employees.

For those readers, who enjoy uplifting and worship style songs, there is an added treat for you. Joshua has included a set of songs that he penned which are beautiful and heartfelt.

‘Goal Setting For Success’ (131 pages) is priced at RM24.90 and can be ordered online at: or call Joshua Tan at 016-512 7635.

Serena Mui

Living a Balanced Life


Dr Peggy WongThe book Living a Balanced Life by Dr Peggy Wong is well worth the read. She tries to impart life’s philosophies in the simplest and most informative manner without appearing boring. This book certainly stands out from the usual run of the mill, which advocates the “do good, get good” blueprint.

Coming from a corporate background, Dr Peggy understands the basic need people have, to chase the money trail in the hope that it will bring happiness and contentment. She understands the demands this chase entails, and armed with this knowledge and experience, Dr Peggy is now on a quest to try and help others realise that there are other things in life equally if not more important, than simply having a lot of money.

The seven areas she addresses in this book are specifically targeted to help the reader understand the need to pay attention to these areas in life and why. The seven areas or otherwise depicted as the 7Fs (as opposed to the popular 5Cs) are Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Fun and Fruits. Coming from a person who has achieved almost everything there is to enjoy materialistically, the gist of her book cautions and explains to the reader the folly of pursuing or prioritising the chase for wealth, while still acknowledging its importance. Dr Peggy tries to make the reader understand the importance of not overlooking the 7Fs.

As the founder and chairperson of Living Hope, Dr Peggy is very involved in lending a helping hand to the underprivileged. The various forms of support she and her organisation provides, has helped many live a new life of hope and joy. Her charitable works and contributions have helped see inroads made in organisations such as WWF, Kosovo war victims, JE virus victims and various different homes, centres and organisations both locally and internationally.


‘Living a Balanced Life’ (102 pages) will be launched by Tun Ahmad Sarli, Chairman of PNB, on March 13 in Kuala Lumpur and will be available at all major bookstores. Priced at RM24, all proceeds will go to ‘Living Hope’.

In the meantime, orders can be made through email at: or

Serena Mui

To Delay is Human but to Will is Divine


To Delay is Human but to Will is DivineMore people are beginning to realise that human life is indeed fleetingly short. However, for most, this realisation seems to stop short at just this point, and does not extend very much further beyond this. We understand that when we leave this life we leave the world we knew and all its attachments. What we do not seem to grasp or perhaps we do, but do not really see the urgency to act on, is the importance of ensuring the loved ones we leave behind, will be able to physically go on with some semblance of financial comfort.

We often hear of friends and family who pass on suddenly and this is tragic as in almost all cases, there is no will, thus making things very difficult for the loved ones left behind, who not only have to deal with the painful loss but also now have to be burdened with a financial disaster too. If the deceased is the main income or even the sole breadwinner, things can get to a point where the loved ones left behind wish they were given the relief of death too, as living in the nightmare of trying to survive without the deceased financial contribution would be impossible. Then there is the scenario where the deceased leaves behind substantial wealth, which then becomes the doom of all, fighting for it.

Peter Lee’s book To Delay is Human but to Will is Divine is a revelation to the very real pain and suffering loved ones endure when there is no will in place. The implications for all members of the family having to deal with someone dying intestate, dealing with lawyers and all the nitty gritty details of sorting out the remains of the estate and when particularly large, is a nightmare.

The simple style chosen helps the reader truly understand the implications and importance of ensuring there is a will in place. The cartoon characters lend some humor to an otherwise deadly serious topic. The urgency to have a will drawn up will be an action the reader is likely to want to jump into even before finishing the book.

This would make an ideal gift for anyone and everyone, if we could just understand and look upon it as a loving gesture and not the taboo that anything involving death conjures up in our imagination.

To Delay is Human but to Will is Divine (96 pages, RM28) is available from Peter Lee (012-507 8825/05-255 4853) at 108 (2nd Floor), Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh, email:; Rashi Mini Market (019-510 6284), 37 Jalan Perajurit, Ipoh Garden East, 31400 Ipoh and Ipoh Echo. It will also be available at all major bookstores in March 2013.

Serena Mui

The Last Post – Story of The Emergency (1948-1960) & Commemorative Events


Book Review

 ipoh echo issue 138, book review, The Last Post – Story of The Emergency (1948-1960)This is a true story about the magnificent roles that everyone played, particularly those in the planting and mining sectors, the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysian Police and its ancillary units, members of government and non-governmental agencies and the ordinary civilians who lost their lives during the Emergency (1948 to 1960). It contains the Rolls of Honour of combatants – Commonwealth and Malaysians – who participated in the containment and the defeat of Communism. Graphic accounts of some of the tragic incidents are also included.

The book was written by R. Thambipillay, a combatant himself, after years of fruitful research, locally and overseas. The author explained the methods used in bringing the conflict to an end. He alluded to the roles of the Special Branch and the Psychological Warfare Section of the Government, which used intelligence, garnered by the Special Branch, to their advantage. The use of armour is also featured in the successful prosecution of the insurgency war. The book also attempts to describe how Communism developed world-wide and how it arrived at our shores.

This book, in essence, caters to the many visitors attending the various remembrance ceremonies in Ipoh.

The Last Post – story of the Emergency 1948-1960 and Commemorative Events (ISBN 978-983-41340-1-3) is published as a keepsake. It is a limited edition of only 1,000 hard-bound copies consisting of 298 pages with about 370 photos, of which over 300 are photos of tombs of Commonwealth military personnel, Royal Malaysia Police, planters, miners, civilians buried in Batu Gajah’s God’s Little Acre and other cemeteries in Malaysia. After almost 64 years there are still loved ones, colleagues and friends keen to know the final resting place of their loved ones. The chapter under Memoriam contains more photos of tombs.

The book provides detailed accounts (with photos) of commemorative events, such as the one initiated in 1980 in Batu Gajah popularly known as “God’s Little Acre”, the service for the fallen Gurkhas at Kem Syed Putra, Ipoh and a composite remembrance service revived in 2008 at the Cenotaph, opposite the Ipoh railway station ending with the popular “Troops Night” sponsored by the Chan brothers at the Royal Perak Golf Club.

The hard-bound book is priced at RM80 a piece. Those keen to purchase one can contact the author at 012‑2352557 for details.


Selvamany – More than a Teacher


Book review - Selvamany - More than a teacherThis is a biography of a teacher with a great heart. His mission in life was to teach as best as he could and to be always there for his students. As a teacher, he was able to inspire, discipline and motivate his students towards success. He cared for his students, their studies, their welfare, their health and their families. He also fortified them with universal good values.

Many students whom he taught in Anderson School Ipoh, as well as Sekolah Menengah Idris Shah and Sekolah Menengah Seri Teja, Gopeng, and others who had the chance of being associated with him, feel so grateful for having been given the opportunity of knowing him and learning from him.

This biography was produced with the intention of recording for posterity and sharing with others the goodness of humanity in Dato’ Seri N.S. Selvamany.

The biography starts by tracing his “roots and routes” and describing how Selvamany’s great grandparents left Pondicherry, India, to seek their fortune in Malaya in the late 19th Century. It then relates how and why Selvamany became a teacher after his tertiary education at Raffles College, Singapore. His teaching career started in Anderson School Ipoh from 1952 to 1972 and then on to Sekolah Menengah Idris Shah, as its Principal from 1972 to 1979 and as Principal of Sekolah Menengah Seri Teja, from January 1980 to January 1981 when he retired. The book documented how Selvamany was being bestowed with honorific awards such as the Tokoh Guru Negeri and Kebangsaan in 1996 and 1997 respectively and several state awards in 1995, 1997, 2008 and 2009. However, his “most treasured asset” and reward has always been his family, extended family, former students and friends whom he considers as his “sons and daughters”.

Although Selvamany has long retired from active service, he continues helping the underprivileged, especially children; living up to his motto “Serve man, serve God”. He keeps in touch with his former students, occupants at the various charitable societies and homes as well as friends and acquaintances at all levels of society. His reminder would be, “This is my life” and that is the way he likes to live it.

The lead writer, Dr Rokiah Talib, was from the Form 6 class of 1962/63, ASI and a former Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Malaya. The biography project was undertaken by an Organising Committee under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Nuraizah Hamid. The bio-graphy was launched by DYMM Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah on January 15, 2012 at the Royal Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

Almost every feature of the launch programme was provided by former students of Selvamany – the funds needed, the reception and editorial team, the “Andersonians Forever” choir and the accompanying music, the emcee and even the Ustaz who recited the doa selamat. It was the former students’ way of saying “To Sir, with Love”.

The biography is not for sale. However, it is available privately at a nominal donation of RM50 per copy. This donation will help to defray printing costs and postage. The Organising Committee certainly appreciates any extra contributions that readers wish to make. When all copies of the biography are finally distributed, any surplus funds will be channelled to charitable organisations dear to Selvamany’s heart. Those interested in securing a copy, please contact Yeong Sek Yee at 012-2019739 or email him at


For more information on the biography launch, visit


Kebaya Tales: Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers


By See Foon Chan-Koppen

I am not much of a reader of fiction but I couldn’t put down Kebaya Tales, a collection of 13 short stories by Dr Lee Su Kim who was in Ipoh recently to speak about her book to the Perak Academy.

The intriguing subtitle ‘Of matriarchs, maidens, mistresses and matchmakers’ further piqued my interest and I was prompted to read it as soon as I got home that evening thinking that a quick dip would satisfy my curiosity. Lo and behold, an hour later, I was still reading and the following morning, picked it up again to finish.

Dipping into this book evoked for me another world, the world of the Nonyas, a world that many know little about, a colourful, flamboyant and unique community still in existence today in the former Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore; where life moved at a gentle and languid pace; a world of kerosang and Kebayas, babas and bajus, sarongs and slippers.

Full colour photographs of these with sepia prints from her family albums are creatively interspersed amongst the stories, with captions to explain the intricacies of the handiwork or the relationship to the author of the various family members. Coupled with pantun and popular ditties, the atmosphere of a bygone era comes alive in her book, the reverberations lingering till well after one puts the book down, wishing for more pictures and more tales to savour.

Her family photographs allow the reader to step into her own story. The photographs of her parents and her childhood are particularly heart-warming. I especially enjoyed the description of the ear-digger which her grandmother would wear in her sanggul or bun and when not in use for its actual purpose, would be occasionally used to “poke the hand of whoever misbehaved especially clumsy, bumbling nonyas in the kitchen whose preparation of food was not fine or ‘seronoh’ enough”.

The stories are delightful, and to quote from the back cover, “teeming with fascinating and interesting characters, unexpected twists and turns, cultural rituals, beliefs and superstitions and poignant events in the life stories of the Peranakans.” All the stories are based on or are inspired by real-life events which Su Kim has collected from her nyonya mother, grandmother, bibiks and nyonyas.

Obviously, a book voted by readers of the Star newspaper to win 1st prize in the fiction category has to be captivating and it does captivate.

There are 13 tales in all and can be read in no particular order, each rich with the resonance of a bygone era, the conversations coming alive with slang expressions and local jargon. At times funny, whimsical and touching in parts, Su Kim writes fluidly, with an ear to the argot of her Nyonya heritage that manages to inform and hold the reader’s attention.

The fact that it is a collection of short stories makes the book an easy read, dipping in at one’s leisure to read a tale or two; returning to it after a few days without missing a single plot.

I would recommend this book as the perfect Christmas gift.

Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers
By Lee Su Kim
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 178 pages.
It’s now in its third printing and is available at all major bookstores and Perak Academy (05-5478949) at RM34.90.

Book Review: The Dulang Washer


Irishman Paul Callan and his Ipoh-born wife, Eve, shuttle between their homes in London and Kuala Lumpur. Paul is the author of first-time novel, The Dulang Washer, which tells the often troubling tale of suffering, hardship and brutality 19th century Chinese immigrant labourers had to endure while working the tin mines of Kinta Valley and beyond.

In a hard-hitting portrayal of their lives and times, Paul tells a fascinating and captivating story through the eyes of dulang washer, Aisha, a beautiful young Malay girl striving to support two families, while carrying a dark and terrifying secret.

Fook Sin, the mine’s treacherous, thieving proprietor, sees Aisha as his ultimate prize: the most desirable object he can add to his secret hoard of already ill-gotten treasures.

Aisha also becomes the object of obsession of the lonely, isolated and homesick Donald Redfern, an English overseer and only European at the mine. The human contact she offers him during language lessons she gives him, and the small gestures of compassion she shows him, fuel his desires for the dainty maiden.

Meanwhile, Hun Yee, an ambitious young Hakka miner shakes off the opium addiction that has insulated himself, and all his fellow miners, from the harshness of their daily struggles. He seeks to win Aisha over by attempting to start a mine of his own.

But the most disturbing of all is the dulang washer’s own feelings for those close to her. When events at the mine move towards their shocking conclusion, she is forced to re-examine her life.

Confronted with the love of a man prepared to turn his back on his country for her, will she finally seize her chance at happiness?

In an enjoyable page-turning read, The Dulang Washer is a book that is hard to put down.

The most difficult part about the book, according to Paul, was trying to write about tin mining without getting technical. Paul admitted to being a “technical dyslexic”. “I am hopeless in technical matters,” he says.

When researching for the book Paul had to travel regularly between Kuala Lumpur, where he lives, and Perak for two years. The journey has been painful but it was worth the effort. His next book is about Tamil Indians. “It’s a love story set in an oil palm plantation and will be available next year.”

The Dulang Washer (ISBN No: 978-967-5997-55-6) is published by MPH (Malaysian Publishing House). This 357-page book, priced at RM39.90, is sold at MPH and Popular outlets all over the country.