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.Update:
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.