Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cold Rain and Hailstones ... Jitlessly

There's an over-anxious part of me that constantly screens grisly "what-if" scenarios in my head when I'm organising anything.

I thank goodness I set off for Bangsar so early yesterday afternoon, just as the sky was beginning to grow dark. At just after 2p.m. the rain came tipping down. A quick shower, I thought and then it will be over with, and it will be nice and cool for the readings.

But who am I to dictate to rainclouds? I sat in my car outside Seksan's waiting for a break in the storm, which never came. And then I noticed a drenched Amir Hafizi, and a neatly rain-drop splattered Dina in a dress as grey as the sky, waiting for Buddhi to slide open the door, which despite several tingalings on the artistic temple bell, he hadn't yet.

Once in, we set up. Put out glasses, opened bottles, arranged stools and benches. Then sat, our attempts at talk drowned out completely. The vista of Lucky Garden disappeared behind a solid sheet of water. The thunder was a solid growl, and suddenly there was a new dimension to the percussion of the rain on the roof. Hail!

I kid you not. Hailstones. Perfect little rounded knobs of ice.

Buddhi splashed out onto the verandah to get me one. It looks a little melted in the photo below. (By the time Dina had snapped it. By the time I had rooted out my camera.) The first time I've ever seen hailstones here, though I remember some fell in parts of the Klang Valley during the haze last year. Sky ice in the tropics!

This is an Act of God? I looked to Dina and Amir for reassurance. I mean there's no way this could be interpreted as a balls-up on the part of the organiser? (Come back Bernice, the sky would listen to you!!)

But people began to arrive. One by one. Each with a tale of survival against the odds and in different degrees of soakedness. Joy Teh and her friend Helena. Patrick. See Ming and Sim. Natasya. Our Australian poet Patricia Sykes and her friends were only a short walk away and managed to make it across. At least by now we had three writers and some audience. The readings would happen.

Aneeta and Xeus both SOSed via SMS to say that they were stuck in traffic due to flashfloods. Jit was stuck in Kenny Hills and couldn't get a taxi despite offering generous bribes via the company's telephone operators. He apologizesd profusely for never having learned to drive. I told him to stay safe and we'll ask him back next time. (He had promised to read a monologue from his play Gold Rain and Hailstones - hence my brilliantly inspired title for this post!)

We waited until the storm died down enough for us to hear the readers, half an hour after the scheduled time. (We don't have a microphone. Need one.)

Here are my photos. Deliberately and artistically out of focus and camera-shakey:

Patricia Sykes read from both collections of poetry. Her first, Wiredancing, uses the circus as a metaphor for the world. (She used to be a tightrope walker and juggle with fire - how cool is that?) The poem she read ended with such a disturbing image - kittens lapping up spilled human blood. She told us that her second collection Modewarre: Home Ground was a collection about identity and belonging, and read a poem called A Face in the Water. She also gave us an extract from her opera libretto (she's working again with composer Lisa Lim and the first performance is scheduled for 2008 in Brisbane) about the weaving together of language: she had lines in Finnish, a click language of the Kalahari ... and when the call for prayers drifted over from Bangsar mosque, she had yet another layer of language and poetry!

I do hope there's a chance to hear Patricia again before she leaves. I'm so curious to hear more.

He isn't wearing his superman costume, but this is Mr. MalayMale himself: Amir Hafizi.

I'm glad he read a piece based on blog entries about his father and village as this is what I've enjoyed most on his blog. It's an affectionate piece, but at the same time there is a strong sense of the ridiculous which is very funny.

I don't want any of this to go straight to his already swollen head (and his friends were falling about laughing mentally writing his post-reading blog entry!), but I could read much much more of this!

Joy Teh is a lot less blurred in real-life than she is in this picture! She's one of Bernice's creative writing students from Sunway and at present working on a screenplay which she read us part of. Enjoyed watching the film in my head as she read, and hope it gets made in the end. She finished with a poem. A very confident reader.

After the break, Faridah Manaf stepped in to give us a taste of her new collection of poems: The Art of Naming: A Muslim Woman's Journey, which she says she wrote as a reaction to the fallout of 9/11, and the constant questions about being a Moslem woman she faced as she travelled overseas. Since she only had a short slot, I hope that she can come back again another day, because I want to hear much more.

Our other missing readers made it just before the break, and must have had a horrendous time getting to Seksen's. Xeus (Lynette Kwan) read from her story One if by Land from her Dark City collection, a story based on information gatheed from a prison warder at Kajang Gaol. I love the way that Lynette's pleasure in her writing spills over. She's found her voice, she's found her niche, and clearly she's having a blast with her writing. I'm overjoyed to hear that she has now found a British agent for her children's stories.

Last up was Aneeta Sundaraj, one third of the writerly equation which collaborated on Snapshots! (Jessie and Saradha read last month.) Aneeta read her story brought Brought Back to Life. She seemed a little nervous - understandable - under the circumstances and without her fellow-writers there.

So glad she was finally up there though, as she has supported and cheered on others, and been so committed to her own writing. We'll get you back another day, Aneeta!

So it all happened. Thanks very much to our audience in wet clothes. Thanks too to the ones who tried to make it but couldn't because of the inclement weather. Thanks to Seksen for the lovely space. Thanks to Buddhi for helping set up and clear up. Thanks to La Bodega for the wine. And most of all, thanks to the six very special people who shared their words with us.

Bernice sends her love. She had a family energency in Ipoh. I hope she's able to make the next one ... which will be the other side of Hari Raya, so tentatively November 24th.

Went for tea afterwords with Sharanya, KG, and Singaporean journalist and good blog-friend Zafar Anjum (of Dream Ink).
Wish all my Muslim friends a blessed and peaceful Ramadan.

Read Xeus' account of the afternoon here. Ted's here. Aneeta's here. Natasya's pics on Flickr. Vovin's here. Zafar's here. Amir Hafizi gives some excellent advice on how to prepare for a reading here.

I'll add other links as I discover 'em.


Glenda Larke said...

I hope no one gets any flak from families or whatever because of the background to these photos, Sharon!

bibliobibuli said...

not so far, glenda and it has been many months now

besides, no-one is eating 'em or keeping 'em

besides, pigs are gods creatures too

besides it is a piece of art (and a lovely one at that)

Greenbottle said...

oh my! for a moment i thought that picture of the melting hailstones in your palm was the performance & contribution of the malay male himself! don't surprise me at all if that was so, based on his wacky and hilarious posts in his blog ...

very happy and surprised to see his picture which totally seems to be at odd with his blog posts...don't expect to see jack the ripper exactly but well, mr amir looks so nice and cuddly, the kind of guy one would trust to bring young sister home late at night kind of person...

bibliobibuli said...

amir nice and cuddly? oh greenbottle, you are going to smash this guy's reputation beyond repair. (but come to think of it ...)

Xeus said...

Sharon, it was a blast braving the floods and hailstones, but I'm glad I got there anyway. Thanks for organizing this!

lil ms d said...

i enjoyed myself sharon! but aiyah... could hardly hear them read with the sky rumbling above us.

see you soon!

bibliobibuli said...

welcome Xeus. thanks for making the effort. come again another time.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

Sorry to miss this. Didn't take off to Japan like I mentioned over at Ted's blog as my trip is postponed to next month. But still couldn't make it for this reading session as I have a weekend class on "Intro to Child Psychology" that ends at 4.30pm.

Oh well, perhaps if the future readings can start a wee bit later?

A favour to ask... I'm curious about what people here think about translating classic Malay literature into English. I've given my 10sens worth of opinion here at my blog -

Perhaps you could highlight it as one of your posts as well?

bibliobibuli said...

eternal wanderer - we can't start later, but people just wander in and out during the vent, it's very informal

the next one won't be till november now though

thanks for the link. yes, will highlight

Natasya said...

It was definitely worth all the trouble!

Some pics @ my flick:

bibliobibuli said...

many thanks natasya ... both for turning up and taking the photos

Leon Wing said...

Wow, looks like you had gathered one of the best crop of local, plus one australian, writers. So sorry to have missed it. Of all days, when I usually travel to Bangsar by LRT, I decided, that day, to drive, because I had to finish up some work and was already late at 3 pm (That's why I thought I'd drive, so that I would not be late if going there by LRT). Gosh, what a horrendous traffic everywhere!

bibliobibuli said...

i knew you must be on your way and stuck in the jam. am very sorry for you.

Lydia Teh said...

Bib, such an eventful event :)

You know what I initially thought the hailstone pix was? Phlegm... Was thinking why is Sharon posting that disgusting pix here? Excuse me ah, I'm having sore throat and cough, so phlegm is not that out of the box.

XMOCHA! said...

It was a lovely event Sharon, thanks for organizing..I am so glad we made it. I think AmirH could be the new Jit :-)

Cheers, SM

PS- Sim and I headed to hear Pete play and he and Yuhang and the audience at Silverfish had a good discourse about songwriters and filmakers, and a big part of their challenges are SO SIMILAR to what local writers face.

Anonymous said...

So why isn't there a local writer that looks like Zoe Heller ? :)

Anonymous said...


If there ever was a word that says "foreigner" that would be it :)

Anonymous said...

That's not a hailstone, this :

is a hailstone. :)

That's not even a hailpebble :) hailgravel maybe :)

Yes, that's hailgravel, not a hailstone :)

bibliobibuli said...

xmocha - please please tell more about what yuhang said. i think it's v. important and i was so sad i missed it.

amir as the new jit? don't tell the guy, he won't get his head through the doorway.

lydia - phlegm? eeeks! (at least it isn't quite as bad as what greenbottle was insinuating). to me it's just a picture of a ... hailstone.

anon - hailpebble? hailgravel? how dare you insult it!

i would love a malsyian zoe heller. and a malaysian zadie smith. and a malaysian margaret atwood and and and

Anonymous said...

Yes, a full-time local author that's not geriatric, imagine :)

ZH really is one of a kind.. I've never seen an armpit described so .. violently. Actually I've never seen anyone describe one until now.

vovin said...


looking forward for next reading session. Although quite dissapointed without Jit. :(.

Anyway thanks also for 'homer' link.


Have a nice day!