An open-storytelling session was held during the July edition of Sharpened Word on Saturday, July 15 at the Old Andersonian Club. Co-hosted by poet, Jamal Raslan, and creative copywriter, Judy Marie Rosario, over 10 participants, ranging in age from 20 to 70, took turns to share their childhood memories for seven minutes.
Jamal started the session by relating the challenges he faced trying to find a sense of belonging in the identity crisis of an English-speaking Malay Muslim.
“After completing secondary school, I specifically chose Multimedia University, as it was a private university, and I wanted to fit in. I believed that those who enrolled there were urbanites. But to my dismay, every other student was from boarding schools. For the first three years of my university life, they saw me as this alien Malay who spoke English.
“I tried really hard to fit in but couldn’t. The reason was language. After long years of trying to understand this, I thought I had found the answer, which led me to write a poem entitled, ‘Words’,” said Jamal.
Jamal then proceeded to mesmerise the audience with his poem, ‘Words’.
Mazini Zinal Abidin, a participant, recalled the good old days when she would go from house to house, during Raya celebrations, to collect ‘duit raya’.
“Back at school, I was very active. I took part in almost every school event.
“Once my friends and I were preparing to perform a dance, but we didn’t have any music. So we decided to sing instead. So we sang and danced. Even without a rhythm, we could bring out a rhythm within us. And that was my most memorable performance,” Mazini remarked.
Mazini related her illegal driving adventures.
“I started driving at 12. I learnt to drive from observation and didn’t take any formal driving lessons. I wouldn’t allow my children to do so now, as motorists nowadays are pretty reckless and less cautious,” said Mazini.
Another participant, Commander Ian Anderson (Rtd), Director of IpohWorld, touched on his childhood in Scotland.
“I went to a government primary school at first. Later, my grandmother, who’s a Catholic, wanted me to go to a convent. So I went to a convent primary school, and was one of six boys among 400 girls,” Anderson recalled.
“My father was an alcoholic and a gambler, the two worst things you can ever combine together. He needed money for alcohol and to gamble, so nothing was safe at home.
“We were so poor that we never paid our bills until the next one was due. We dared not go to the local grocery store because we owed the owner money. It was only when we got money were we able to pay our bills and get more groceries. We were always in debt,” added Anderson.
Co-host Judy was the last at the rostrum. Her saddest childhood memory was of people who used to be with her but were no longer around.
“I used to get plenty of hand-me-downs. My cousins had the best treasury of fairy tales. They had Sesame Street books imported from Australia, toys, games and encyclopaedias. When these were passed on to me, they shaped me for who I am today. I loved to read and would cut out pictures and words from these books to make a scrapbook.
“Back at school, you’re considered popular if you had a set of 24 colour pencils, 36 coloured crayons, or if you owned 12 poster paint bottles or the coolest Body Glove school bag,” said Judy.
She recalled the time when her parents made her move from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh when she met her first crush. She was enrolled in an all-girls school, but as a teenager with raging hormones, this did not stop her from pursuing her mischievous adventures.
“At school, we’d get other schools’ magazines and exchange them among ourselves to look for possible candidates. And when two girls liked the same guy, they became mortal enemies. We didn’t need a reason to be childish, we were childish,” Judy enthused.