Friday, September 26, 2008

Tales from the Drunk Side: The Malay Male 10-Year Anniversary

Over the course of my 10-year stay in KL, I have met many wonderful, weird or wonderfully-weird characters who have helped me along the way.

This is their story. As my story is their story as well.

I came to KL in 1998. Previously, I had failed to use my Malayness to land a scholarship all my non-Malay friends were talking about.

I was grounded. Stuck in Malaysia. I had to choose my college through UPU.

I made my decison based on dress code. Universiti Malaya was the only university that allowed its matriculation students to wear whatever they want. As for the rest, they all had to wear ties and shirts.

I. Fucking. Hate. Dress codes.

I think it is stupid to wear ties unless you are properly air-conditioned in Malaysia. I did not know at the time that inside Malaysian buildings, temperatures are usually synchronised with the north pole.

So yeah, UM because they did not have a dress code. Fuck dress codes. Dress codes are for pussies. In the sense that all pussies must be clean-shaven.

I took computer science because it was the only technical course that had languages in it - programming languages. Blah blah blah.

So I graduated in 2003. By then, I have already made up my mind that I was going to be a writer. Everything else be damned. Fuck my degree. Fuck societal expectations. Fuck treating educational institutions as factories. Fuck you.

Well, actually, I originally planned to be a superhero. But that didn't work out.

So I tried to get Harper Collins to publish my book, which I have not written. I failed.

Depressed, I read interviews with my hero - Neil Gaiman. He said that he failed to publish his stories in his early 20s, so he went and became a journalist for eight years.

That's what I did. I had decided to emulate the steps taken by Neil Gaiman, to see what he saw.

So I found myself, trembling, in the cold office of the New Straits Times' Nuance. Not wearing a tie, of course, waiting for my story to be edited by the editor - Lee Siew Lian, apologising profusely for every mistake I made.

I had approached feature writing as fiction writing, just with facts. EKKKK!

I had yet to learn to suit my writing to the medium. What works in one medium may not work in another. Scratch that. May most definitely NOT work in another.

What works across the board, no matter what kind of writing or what you are doing, is simply common sense.

If you have common sense, you can do anything. Achieve anything.

So Siew edited my piece, and it came out as cover.

"You started writing with a cover," she said, drinking Ribena (which may contain no vitamin C, as it is shockingly 'revealed' recently). "Never go down from there."

A few months later, I was taken in by Zainal Alam Kadir, the-then entertainment editor for The Malay Mail.

He was in the midst of forming a rag-tag band of entertainment writers for the newspaper, after being recruited by Rocky.

There was a lot of drama. I nearly had a nervous breakdown once. Puked twice. Got kicked by Ian Wright in the ass for being an ass.

Went to the best hotels in South-East Asia. Saw the best, and the worst shows the arts scene had to offer. From pogo-jumping, masturbating Japanese dancers, to ad-hoc flag-bearers.

Alam paid for my passport. A loan which I only managed to pay a few months later.

Whenever the claims were a bit late, Rocky would offer to pay from his own wallet. Literally.

He'd get up from his chair, take out his wallet and say, "How much do we owe you?"

"No," I said. "The company owes me money. Not you."

I went to the National Press Club after they refurbished it - halogen lights and all, yo!

I met many old journo-types. They taught me one thing - journalists are weird.

They would tell stories of war, of sex, and blood and booze and crazy stories of holding up airplanes and an accident in Labuan and a man setting himself on fire.

Stories of saying "Fuck youlah Tan Sri, Fuck youlah Tan Sri!" right to the Tan Sri's face. Under the influence.

Tales of drinking and puking near Unilever. Bragging about how many stories they broke. How many covers. How during one day, their stories and their bylines would cover the paper from the front page, to the business section, to entertainment, to the sports section.

And Alam's journalistic principle that stuck, amongst others, "Today's frontpage is tomorrow's kertas belacan."

The bad, but exceptionally loud, singing on the worn karaoke machine.

Pek Wan - the Oracle. She was the IT woman who would fix misbehaving PCs and Macs simply by being in the room. Such is the power of the Oracle.

The fight. The romance. The camaraderie. The round square tables of NPC.

Ah, the stories, and the drinks.

I was looking forward to having stories of my own. To having a combover of my own, like Lim Chang Moh.

They were giants. They were legends.

I pay tribute to them. For I could never be what I will ever be, if it weren't for these idiots. For these rambunctious, braggart losers.

Oh well. Nothing lasts forever. I didn't get my chance to be as good and accomplished as those lifers. But hey, it was a fun ride.

I am now on a new course. Back to where I started. But with more than half a decade of experience observing how life is lived. Bravely, unashamedly, sometimes foolishly, but all the time real and raw.

And I am NOT sucking up cause I no longer work for them, or with them. And the reason I have omitted mentioning the current group of people I work with.

I'm going to be a superhero. Because there is no one else left.

In brightest day, in darkest night; No evil shall escape my sight. And all that jazz.

Am going back to Kuantan. Before I do so, I would like to wish all those people who made these 10 years fun and exciting, Selamat Hari Raya.



The Malay Male

p/s: and yeah, that's me.