By Tan Mei Kuan
After “Kebaya Tales: Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers” and “Sarong Secrets: Of Love, Loss and Longing”, comes “Manek Mischiefs: Of Patriarchs, Playboys and Paramours” by Dr Lee Su Kim which completes her fiction trilogy centering on the multi-hued world of the Peranakans.
Though each book can stand alone, you would not want to miss out as each showcases the different insights into the heritage culture and community.
The Babas take centre stage in the eight-chapter Manek Mischiefs. Available in bookstores in May, Ipohites were given a sneak peak into the third collection of stories in July last year when Dr Lee graced the Sharpened Word session. The word “manek” is used to describe the minuscule glass beads from Bohemia and Czechoslovakia, brought over to this region by traders.
Manek Mischiefs starts off with a bang thanks to its first chapter titled “The Bride Who Refused to Strip” which has a surprise ending element.
Each chapter is well-researched and well-crafted with descriptive words to flood readers’ senses. It is one of those rare examples of a book that can make you happy, sad and also passionately longing for “soft boiled eggs laced with divine Sarawak pepper”, “pulut tai tai, a gorgeous blue kuih served with kaya, a delicious coconut-egg jam”, “assam laksa, a delicious spicy-hot-sour fish soup served with noodles, garnished with onions, pineapple, mint and other veggies” and many more.
It becomes more vivid as every chapter concludes with photographs of exquisite beadwork, bejewelled adornments, vintage fabrics, gilded artefacts from private collections, personal belongings of the babas and manek-encrusted accessories.
I especially like how each story ends with a saying that resonates to reinforce the lesson learnt.
A sixth generation Nyonya with roots in both Penang and Malacca Peranakan communities, Dr Lee is the founder and first woman president of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Currently, she is a full-time writer, educationist and language consultant.
Manek Mischiefs (paperback) is available in MPH and Popular bookstores at RM49.90. For more updates, visit Lee’s Facebook page at: LeeSuKimAuthor.