Lat and Maureen Tai Visit the Bougainvillea City Dementia Cafe

by KT Leong

The Bougainvillea City Dementia Cafe (BCDC) held their monthly meeting at 1 Lasam this morning. BCDC is a support group for people living with dementia and their caretakers. They provide an opportunity for those with dementia and their caretakers to enjoy quality time with others in the same boat. The focus for each meet-up is different, with some focusing on learning more about dementia itself and what could be done to improve the quality of life for everyone involved; to the focus being simply to have fun as everyone sings and even dance to the songs from their generation.

Special guests are often invited and this month’s guests are special indeed. Award-winning writer of fiction for children and teens, Maureen Tai, returns for a visit; bringing along her family with her. But even she is just a fan when the Kampung Boy, Lat, also came by for a visit.

Today’s session started off with everyone singing along to the group anthem, ‘You Are My Sunshine’. Followed by Maureen talking about picture books, from Standard Picture Books all the way to Graphic Novels. She talked about reading these picture books with her children and how you could even read picture books with adults, such as those suffering from dementia. She mentioned that ‘Early Reader Picture Books’ can be appropriate for adults, as the fonts are larger. We often think of picture books as being overly simple and perhaps childish, but picture books can convey concepts that you can’t explain even with a thousand words.

After a quick break, it was Datuk Lat’s turn to take the stage in a truly heartening experience. Perhaps we think of him too much as some legendary writer and artist, so we forget that writing and drawing are just mediums for storytelling. And Datuk Lat is indeed a storyteller. He told stories about his life; his youth.

He talked about how he moved around a lot because his father was a military clerk. One time, his family had to move back to Kota Bharu from Kuala Lumpur. However, he was in the midst of an exam and so, he stayed in KL with their neighbours. After the exam was done, his neighbours sent him to the railway station and packed him plenty of food, which he did not touch in the 4 hour journey, because as he put it “Trains and boys… they go together, you know?”.

So instead, he spent much of that journey, looking out the window, letting the air hit his face. Of course, at the end of the day, he had actually failed that exam, so the entire stay with the neighbours and solo journey had been pointless, oh well, that’s life!

He talked about learning English, the fierceness of his teacher and how he knew the lessons were working when he listened to the radio and he smiled; because the radio host had told a joke, and he smiled because he finally understood it.

And he spoke and sang the songs of the day, such as Johnny Tillotson’s ‘Send Me The Pillow You Dream On’ and reminisced how he and his friends tried to decipher those strange lyrics in the song. I mean, who would give someone their pillow? “I would never give anybody my pillow!” Lat said, “My pillow, has got an atlas!”.

And so amidst laughter and nostalgia, Datuk Lat told his stories and the session ended all too early. As a parting gift, he presented the BCDC with a copy of his book, which he signed and the meeting ended with a group photo.

Whether young or old, we can still meet such talented authors as Maureen and Lat, and those living with dementia and their caretakers can still enjoy quality time and even create new memories of meeting such talented people.

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