Category Archives: Personality

Nirmala’s Literary Debut



By Emily Lowe


Nirmala's Literary DebutA two-year plus stint at the psychiatry department of a public hospital in Ipoh provides medical officer Nirmala Kasinathan the opportunity to get up close and personal with patients struggling with mental health issues. This was the inspiration behind her literary debut, ‘Woven in Deception’.

She was touched by the problems faced by these patients of psychiatry, a specialised field of study where science meets the mind, body and soul. It was a combination of two different fields. These people, who were presented with many different challenges in life, were the basis for the characters Dr Nirmala built out of her own imagination.

Dating back to the early 1900s in India, the storyline gradually moved to Ipoh, where the thirty-something writer grew up. The fiction, about a wealthy, high-caste Indian family, and the curse that had befallen upon the family, spanning three generations, makes for an engaging read.

An avid reader since young, Nirmala, who has always been interested in the medical field, history and Indian culture, spending two and a half years studying in India, had used her own knowledge, background and research to develop her characters.

Despite having no formal training in creative writing, although she used to contribute short stories and articles to school and college publications during her schooling days, Nirmala had carefully crafted her words, taking only eight months to finish writing Woven in Deception.

In an exclusive interview with Ipoh Echo, Nirmala said, “With this book, I was able to portray the Indian culture in an international language, for a global audience.” She considers English her first language, and is also fluent in the Malay language and Tamil.

Nirmala hopes that through her book, which teaches one to face life’s struggles, persevere in overcoming them, and to get on with life positively, will help readers triumph over their own challenges.

The author, who is considering a second novel when time permits, added, “Writing is a form of expression that adds to our collection of literature; a written record of our culture, knowledge, or advancement. It is something that young people can aspire to do. I would like to encourage more local authors to continue writing and get their work published.”

Woven in Deception is available at major online book stores such as Barnes & Noble and It can also be purchased directly from Nirmala via her email at RM40 per copy, inclusive of handling charges and postage within Malaysia. The book is also available in e-book format.

Look out for the book review in the next issue.


Tan Sri Azizudin’s 85th Birthday Bash


It was a heartfelt evening of warm fuzzies and some very touching moments when family and friends of Tan Sri Ahmad Azizudin gathered at Clearwater Sanctuary to celebrate his 85th birthday.

Tan Sri Azizudin’s  85th Birthday Bash

Old friends Dato’ Yap Lim Sen, Dr Chakr Nagara and renowned cartoonist Dato’ Lat honoured Tan Sri with glowing words of friendship while relating precious anecdotes in celebration of his life. Daughter Azian Will thanked him on behalf of the whole family for his being the great caring and generous father that he was.

The crowning moment came when Puan Sri Pamella, who was responsible for organising the event, wrote a poem in a touching tribute to her husband as follows:

You’re the kind of person
Who’s hard to forget,
A one-in-a-million
To the people you’ve met.
Your friends are as varied
As the places you go,
And they all want to tell you
In case you don’t know:
That you make a big difference
In the lives that you touch,
By taking so little
And giving so much!


Doggedly Determined Doer



Ian AndersonCommander Ian Anderson is no ordinary retiree living the simple quiet life with his Ipoh-born wife Meng Wai in Ipoh Garden. He is an iconoclast who has single-handedly built up an impressive collection of artifacts, memorabilia, photos, videos, tin mining equipment and a tremendous archive of Heritage and Social History on the worldwide web to leave a precious legacy for future generations of Ipohites.

A Scotsman, born in UK a few months before the start of World War II and educated until age 16 at Wimbledon College, Ian had a simple childhood governed by shortages of all kinds, post war restrictions and ration books. He remembers a lot about those days of war and put it simply when he said “No matter how young you are, if terrible things happen they stick in your brain. Forever!” One fun thing he has never forgotten is the celebration for VE (Victory in Europe) Day in May 1945 when at the local street party he won the fancy dress competition dressed as a Chinaman. Could that have been fate taking a hand?

At 16, like most of his classmates, he came out into the wide world with a handful of Cambridge ‘O’ Levels and the need to find a future. For in those days only the top 20 per cent or so could go on to University, everybody else had to find a job, join the armed forces, go to a Technical College or take up an apprenticeship. Ian combined two of these choices by joining the Royal Navy as an Artificer Apprentice and emerged 30 years later as a well travelled and experienced Weapons Engineering Commander.

Early on in this major journey through life he was based in Singapore as a young man and visited Malaya many times, his first visit to Ipoh being in 1962. Returning to Malaysia several times over the following years he seems to have garnered a special feeling for the country and its people, from which Ipoh and Perak benefit today.

Having left the Navy in 1985 Ian worked as a Project Manager in the shipbuilding industry for some five years and when offered a post in Kuala Lumpur he jumped at the chance to rekindle his relationship with the country. After ten years in KL, where apart from the job he took an active part in local charities and organisations, he retired as Managing Director of the British-based company and decided to stay on in Malaysia where he started his own business in partnership with a local friend. At that stage he decided to move to Ipoh to escape the KL traffic jams and escalating prices of accommodation.

Here Ipoh and Perak profited as after a quiet start he was persuaded by a local lady to start saving images and stories about the town he lived in. Thus, thanks to Kinta Properties Group, who provided the funding, Ipoh World Sdn Bhd was born. Consequently since 2004 he has built up a tremendous archive of Heritage and Social History on the ipohWorld website ( as well as a reputation for doggedly driving forward no matter what difficulties get in the way. Today he runs his unique project from an office in Tenby Schools, Ipoh and it is they who now provide all the funding to support his passion. “Without Tenby,” Ian says, “ipohWorld would have died long ago.”

Despite being an engineer by profession who hated history at school, since he has been in Ipoh he has developed a keen interest in our heritage and history and he firmly believes that knowledge of the past is vital for future generations. Thus he is the man behind, not only the ipohWorld website and the very unusual book, “Ipoh My Home Town”, but he has also put on several exhibitions featuring local history, the latest being “A Tin Mining Family” in Falim House, his largest show so far. With free entrance this had entertained more than 12,000 visitors both locals and tourists when it closed on August 11 after a three-month run.

But he is not sitting back on his laurels even now, for he has the burning ambition to see Ipoh have its own permanent heritage gallery as part of the ipohWorld facilities. “This will provide much-needed entertainment for tourists in parallel with enhancing our students’ knowledge of their roots,” he says. He is hopeful that this will happen soon.

Since he moved to Ipoh, Ian, a Permanent Resident, has fully embraced life here, perhaps more so than most of the locals and probably knows his way (shortcuts included) around the city better than most Ipohites! Keeping his finger on the pulse of his adopted home he is often seen traversing around town, with camera in hand.

One high-ranking civil servant once had this to say about Ian, “Here is a man who cares more about Malaysia than most Malaysians.” There is no doubt about that!

SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Rumah Lat, an Outsider’s Perspective


On a several-acre plot of land in Batu Gajah, world-renowned cartoonist, Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid was honoured with a ground-breaking ceremony. Known commonly as Lat, the artist shared his vision with everyone who attended the event on Thursday, August 22.

Growing up in nearby Kampung Kota Bahru and illustrating throughout his life, Lat is now bringing home his cartoons to a lakeside gallery on the outskirts of Ipoh.

world-renowned cartoonist, Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid

Calling upon his childhood in rural Perak amongst his friends, Lat’s cartoons reach the heart of what it means to be Malaysian. He understands the culture and bestows his characters with much frankness and levity to lighten the mood.

The penghulu of Lat’s kampung, Mohammad Kasim Abdul Razak, is happy to see his success and supports this endeavour to create a place for everyone to experience Malaysian culture through cartoons.

Lat is well-recognised across Malaysia for his involvement in a campaign to help children learn the value of saving, even at a young age.

Though Kampung Boy is perhaps Lat’s most well-known work, he is an international artist. He has been invited to many countries to illustrate their cultures, including the United States. His works have been translated into languages spoken around the world including Indonesian, Japanese and French.

The event for Rumah Lat had the feel of a homecoming for the cartoonist and his work. The land is ready for development and Lat is seeking funds to build the gallery and exhibits. There had been much talk in recent years of getting some exhibition of Lat’s cartoons in the Ipoh area.

Executive Councillor for Tourism, Nolee Ashilin Radzi, reflected this eager attitude of local Perakeans when she commented, “This is something that we should have had years ago.” Today all the rhetoric is embodied for the first time in this ground-breaking event.

In the coming years, Lat’s cartoons will fund this unique place for local and foreign visitors alike. One can only imagine how he is going to style the property. Could a future trip to Perak include a visit to the setting that inspired Kampung Boy?

Jordan Craig

Datuk Professor Jimmy Choo with Patrick Teoh


It was a lively evening when Datuk Professor Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, famous worldwide for his exquisitely crafted shoes shared his success story in a packed room at Symphony Suites. In dialogue with Patrick Teoh, former TV and radio presenter and now ‘Agent Provocateur’ the talk was organised by Perak Academy.

Datuk Professor Jimmy Choo with Patrick Teoh

Jimmy, son of a shoemaker in Penang, said that he learned his trade from watching his father make shoes. Jimmy Choo’s break into the fashion world began when his creations were featured in Vogue magazine, catching the eyes of the rich and famous. The late Princess Diana loved Jimmy’s shoes and had several crafted by him. Later they were featured in made-for-TV movies such as “Sex and the City”. The character played by Sarah Jessica Parker was also a big fan of Jimmy Choo. Jimmy subsequently sold his shoe business in 2001 for 10 million sterling and is now back in Malaysia operating his own couture line.

His creations are adorning the feet of royalty, celebrities and pop stars. Sporting a pair of handmade crocodile skin shoes costing RM38,000, Jimmy informed the audience that to get his personalised shoes, clients have to make appointment with him for measurements and return for fitting before collecting them. Not that there’ll be a long queue for his personalised shoes as the number of patrons who can afford his RM32,000 shoes are few and far between.

Patrick, a home-grown Ipoh boy, while not as famous globally, has nevertheless made a name for himself, albeit steeped in controversy. The infamous incident of him planting a kiss on the cheek of a lady, live on TV3, caused him his job many years ago while recently Patrick was working with a radio station in KL but was shown the door, post haste. The Information Minister then felt that having him on air was a bad influence on listeners, as GE 13 was around the corner.

When Patrick asked Jimmy what other names he had in mind for his shoes the reply was, “One of them was Lucky Shoe”. Had Jimmy used that name he would be known today as “Datuk Professor Luck Shoe”.

Jimmy has received many awards, the latest being “World’s Most Outstanding Chinese Designer”. He is Ambassador for Footwear Education at London College of Education and a spokesperson for the British Council in their promotion of British Education for foreign students.

“Will there be another Jimmy Choo?” asked Patrick. “Not likely,” said Jimmy. “Youths today don’t like to work hard. They prefer to seek success the easy way.”

On coming home to Malaysia, he said “Malaysia is my home. Malaysians who have made it big abroad should promote their country to the world. I also wanted to spend more time with my family.”

His advice for aspiring young Malaysians who want to be shoe designers is that they must be hardworking, sincere and honest. They must participate in international shoe exhibitions especially those held in London to get recognition.

He welcomed the idea of setting up a Shoe Academy 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.


Walking for a Cause


The time has come for Ragu Rajamani and his two daughters, Nithya Rubhini and Nithya Darshini, to embark on their Merdeka Walk once again this year. This time round the difference  is, his son Surya, 8, will be joining them.

Walking for a Cause

The idea of the walk was initiated by Rubhini, 14, to show her love for the country. Ragu, 38, gave his tacit support and was joined in by his other daughter, Nithya Darshini, 11.

The foursome will start their Merdeka walk this year on August 5 and hope to finish before the Hari Raya celebration at the end of the month. The walk will cover a staggering 1329 km, crossing a total of 63 cities, starting from Johor Bahru all the way to Perlis. A celebratory lucky draw will be held on September 1 at Dewan Orang Ramai, Taman Meru, Jelapang at 7.30pm.

Short on funding, Ragu hopes to get sponsors to aid him in his endeavour. The cost will cover expenses needed for logistics such as shoes, medicine, accommodation, board and so on.

Those interested in lending a helping hand can call Ragu personally at 014-600 3118 or visit his Facebook page: Walkfor Merdeka.


A Malaysian Hero

Clement Liang,  Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society

Clement Liang,
Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society

The Perak Academy held its monthly lecture on March 22 at the Ipoh Specialist Hospital. The talk, “Remembering Dr Wu Lien Teh, a Malaysian Hero” was given by Clement Liang, Treasurer of Dr Wu Lien Teh Society. Around forty attended the talk and they included the daughter (and her daughter) of the younger brother, and the granddaughter of the eldest sister of Dr Wu Lien Teh. Dr Wu Lien Teh was famous for his epic work in controlling the plague epidemic in Northern China in the early 1900s. He was decorated by the Emperor of China and was also responsible for the modernisation of medical services in China. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1935.

Although born in Penang, he returned to Ipoh at the age of sixty and continued a quiet practice till his death at the age of eighty. He was also responsible for raising funds for the Perak Library in 1950. There is a road named after him in Ipoh Garden.

Dr SK Teoh

A Malaysian Hero2

Obituary: Kristine Hooi Peng Yen


Kristine Hooi Peng Yen passed away on July 6, 2011 in Singapore. She was 56 and had been battling with cancer for the last two years. Kristine was Dato’ Yap Lim Sen’s personal assistant. Born, bred and educated in Ipoh she was a true Ipohite.

I have known her for close to a decade. Gifted with a gentle nature, calm personality and a generous heart she was a fine human being.

Though not a political or social activist she was politically conscious and had a genuine feel for whatever that was wrong in society. I have often been surprised by her astute and down to earth perceptions.

Though not an active member of any of the social organisations in Ipoh she was an energetic supporter of every one of them. Rarely have I been to an event where I have not seen Kristine helping the organisers in some capacity or other.

Meeting her on occasions during her illness she never ceased to amaze me with her courage. Never a word of complaint and always in good spirits, her thoughts even then were not of herself but for others.

She will not only be missed by members of her family and friends but her passing is a loss to the various social circles that make Ipoh.

G. Sivapragasam

Carl Isaac

New GM for Impiana Hotel Ipoh


By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Carl Isaac

He is fun, he is affable and Carl Isaac is all set to once and for all get Ipohites to recognise the Impiana name. “People I meet in Ipoh still ask me where the Impiana Hotel is! Then when I explain, they’ll burst out with ‘Oh you mean the Casuarina?’”.

Since the hotel was acquired slightly more than a year ago by the Impiana Group which has hotels in Malaysia (KL, Ipoh and Cherating) and in Thailand (Phuket and Koh Samui), it has been a daunting task for the management to educate the Ipoh public on the name change.

When a name has been so embedded into the collective Ipoh psyche, it looks like a Herculean task ahead for Carl but this does not faze this seasoned hotelier who has had other equally challenging tasks in his previous assignments which has taken him to many S.E. Asian countries.

Carl holds a Bachelor of Business from Curtin University in Western Australia and it was during his university years that his interest in the hospitality industry developed. Working his way through, first as bartender and subsequently in restaurant management, he worked for the Sofitel group after graduation, first in Australia, followed by Vietnam and Thailand.

A hankering to return to his home and family in Malaysia saw him arrive during a downturn in the economy and he found himself ‘playing mah-jong for 3 months’ with no prospect of a job. Through sheer persistence and constant hounding of the HR manager, he landed the job of Wedding Co-ordinator at the then newly-opened Palace of Golden Horses in Sungai Besi. He was responsible for setting up the Wedding Co-ordination department while learning the ropes which soon saw him land himself the position of Sales Manager at Cyberview Lodge. He has since moved up the corporate ladder and became General Manager seven years ago, the first time at the Sedona Menado in Indonesia.

Carl has not looked back since. A stint in the Sedona Mandalay saw him finally succumb to the charms of the then Director of Sales and marriage and children have finally brought Carl home to roost.

“It feels good to be back in Malaysia and work here. It’s a great opportunity to be able to work, live and enjoy the community and the quality of life that Ipoh offers. Now, my aim is to maintain Impiana Hotel Ipoh’s pride as the most efficient, effective and favourable for our clients. I will also uphold and upgrade our service commitments to provide the best possible customer support service in Ipoh,” says Carl when asked about his vision and goal for Impiana Hotel Ipoh.

And he hasn’t been cooling his heels either. Already in the three months since his arrival, he has renovated 97 rooms and turned 66 rooms into Club rooms on two designated floors. He has the distinction of being the first GM to open a Club Lounge both for the Impiana Group as well as for Ipoh. The Royal Suite has been upgraded as has the Kinta function room. A small fitness room has been put in, and all in all the Impiana is moving towards becoming a 5-Star hotel charging 4-Star rates to cater to the rate conscious market that exists in Ipoh.

Welcome to Ipoh Carl!