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Jul 7, 2012

[Kampung Memories] Book by Sharifah Hamzah


Singaporean writer/multi-cultural blogger Sharifah Hamzah sent me an email invite last week to attend the book launch of her new book [Kampung Memories] on June 30, 2012.

Unfortunately, I had to miss the event and apologised for not meeting her.

Sharifah kindly arranged with our next mutually convenient meetup at the National Library Building lobby on July 5, 2012 at 10:30 am.

Both Sharifah and I had never met one another for the first time. We were strangers and never met us in persons. We communicate only by email and via SMS on mobile phone, not spoken verbally.

Both of us were punctual at the pre-arranged venue, yet we did not approach us directly personally for an introduction.  For almost a few minutes looking into our eyes but not sure whether it was our "blind date"...

Suddenly we sat on the cushioned bench at the NLB lobby,  and I asked her "Are you Sharifah?"

She then told me that her mobile phone's battery was flat and could not answer my call to her..."no wonder we had a funny staring puzzled session to identify ourselves".  We then both laughed, shook hands to exchange namecards and proceeded to Hanis Cafe at NLB for our first meetup.  It was like a funny scene in a comedy movie.

She knew that I am an elderly "botak" guy as gathered from some blogs on "Blog to Express" but couldn't be sure because I am not a public figure or a celebrity often seen on TV.

To avoid mistaken identity,  I should describe that I am a "baldie" senior citizen, bespectacled,  what I wear at our meetup.  We should provide us with a visual description or our current photo on our blogs or Facebook.

Its my own fault to use my 10-year-old photo to confuse my Facebook friends...just for fun ; )

After the initial awkward moments for an experiment at our meetup, we started chatting like old friends.

As our conversation deepens further about nostalgic kampong memories in Singapore, we forgot how time passed by so quickly.  Our meeting lasted for about two hours and I learnt a great deal about kampong memories from her.  Its wonderful to meet Sharifah as a new nostalgia friend with our good affinity through my blogs.

Thanks to Sharifah for presenting me an autographed copy of "Kampung Memories - A Life's Journey, Revisited" with her best compliments.


 Printed on the blurb at the back of the soft-cover book jacket, it reads:

Introduction

Sharifah Hamzah has always been interested in culture, languages and how these impact our philosophy and everyday life.

In her secondary school days, she was awarded the Prime Minister's Book Prize for high results in English and Malay.  She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the National University of Singapore.  She went back to her love of writing, working in advertising and as a feature writer/assistant edit for a lifestyle magazine in Singapore.  She was also a feature writer for a daily English newspaper in Malaysia.

She is currently a freelance writer, and considers both Asia and the United States as home.  Her blog contains snippets of life from both sides of the globe.

In Kampung Memories, one enters a part of Singapore that still existed not so long ago.  In Kampung Memories, one retains a slice of Singapore heritage that has shaped so many people on the island.

Kampungs were once a part of the Singapore landscape.  The word kampung, which means a Malay village, is more than just a physical structure.  It encompasses a unique way of life, values and philosophy, some of which have remained intact, at least in spirit, till this day.

Sharifah Hamzah takes you on a trail of getting to know the kampungs of Singapore: its history, and the people who grew up there and lived the life.  She also includes her own memories and reflections of kampung life and ho9w it has been a part of her foundation as she navigates her life in other parts of the world.

The quotation in the book "Kampung Memories".

In a chapter on "People and Memories" of her book, Sharifah quoted a Malay pantun, a traditional verse:

Malam ini merendang jagung,   
Malam esok merendang serai. 
Malam ini kita berkampung,
Malam esok kita bercerai.

Tonight we roast the maize,
Tomorrow night we roast the lemon grass.
Tonight we're all together here,
Tomorrow night on separate ways we pass.

Young Sharifah Hamzah with her Grandmother

In the Stomp "To My Grandpa/Grandma Contest" posted on September 2, 2008

"Her Spirit of Resilience" by Sharifah Hamzah

"My grandmother gave so much to me. Throughout her life, she loved me unconditionally, and that was a most precious gift that anyone can have," says 51-year-old Sharifah Hamzah.

"As an adult, I realise that Grandma's gifts to me were on so many different levels.

"Today, we use the term 'to reinvent' ourselves when our circumstances or fortunes in life change. We can read books and articles on this concept. The term was probably not even invented when Grandma was a young woman in the earlier part of the 20th century. And yet she was a master at reinventing her life.

"She grew up in a rich household in Jalan Sultan. Her father was a successful businessman of that era. She married a young businessman, and life was full and happy. She gave birth to 11 children.

"But life took a bad turn. My grandfather lost his business. He died suddenly. Everything was gone except for a wooden house in the Geylang district.

"And so Grandma started her new life. Together with her sister-in-law, they woke up early every morning to cook a batch of kueh (Malay cakes). My father and my uncle peddled the kueh throughout the neighbourhood.

"That was how Grandma supported her family.

"But more importantly, as long as I can remember, Grandma seldom complained about the difficulties and burdens of life.

"I wonder how she held up in those days, and her strength and determination is an inspiration to everyone in our family. My father always called her the 'Iron Lady'.

"Apart from her resilience, Grandma was always full of hope and grateful for the joys in life.

"She believed strongly in trust.

"She constantly reminded me: 'When someone entrusts you with any of their possessions, you must take good care of it, even better that you care for your own possession.'

"She emphasised this value so often that I grew up thinking that every person in this world held dear to this principle. I had to find out the hard way, that this was not so.

"My grandmother was also good at friendship and she had many friends that she visited or who came to the house for a chat.

"As a child, I often tagged along those visits, and today, I value my friendships as one of the treasures of my life.

"Her house in Jalan Sultan is now a shophouse.

"Whenever I pass it, I think of my Grandma and her gifts to us.

"She not only gave us the legacy of family, but also the spirit of resilience and grace under pressure, and a heart big enough to embrace everyone who would like to be a friend."
The book "Kampung Memories" not to be missed by everyone to experience and the lessons to learn through the meaning of a life's journey ... written with love to share with all of us, young and old.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Posted on behalf of Sharifah:

"Hi James, thank you so much for your kind words about my book. It was a pleasure to meet and chat, and I look forward to reading a copy of "Good Morning Yesterday" that you presented to me.

I really appreciate the heritage blogs that bloggers like yourself and Chun See develop, with all the info and photos that mean a lot to many people. Regards, Sharifah."

July 18, 2012 at 8:50 PM  

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