For the first time in a very long time, I felt my journey towards self-actualization is almost achievable. As long as I can remember, I love to write. The third week of September 2019, had been a promising one. It was a continuous meeting of minds…..the minds of the travelers, the story tellers and the poets. First it was the Jasmina Awards 2019 ceremony at The Intermark Mall, and then it was the ZafigoX2019 women travelers convention at the Sheraton Imperial. Two meetings that couldn’t have been more different, with respect to objective, pomposity and attendance but both gave me a push in the right direction with respect to my writing potential.
Firstly, there was the Jasmina Awards 2019 ceremony, held for the first time in conjunction with the celebration of the Malaysia Day. It was presented by Diversecity KL, targeted to bring out the Malaysian writers and poets among the above sixties. According to Tan Sri Vincent Tan, founder of Berjaya Corporation, the general English proficiency of the baby-boomer generation was without doubt superior to the later generations. This of course was a result of Malaysian government educational policy at that time with respect to the use of the English language in schools.
The event was low key and attended by a small group of family members and supporters of winners for the three categories, held in one cosy corner of the third floor of the Intermark Mall. The three categories were My Malaysian Story, Love and Journey, for both stories and poetry sections. Dr Jasmina Kuka of WISE (Working on Impact & Social Empowerment) founder of the Jasmina Awards, together with Datin Seri Sunita Rajakumar, Festival Director of Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (KLIAF) were responsible for the realization of the Jasmina Awards.
Despite the impression of being sedate and low key, it boosted the morale of retirees like me who won awards for our story writing and poetry at a ripe age of over 60s. Suddenly, these story writers and poets, found at last a recognition and dared to celebrate a merit well-deserved. There was no prizes to be won but at the award ceremony, excerpts of winning stories and winning poems were read.
The Sheraton Imperial ZafigoX2019 women travelers convention was a vibrant event attended by mostly young women from travel-related community. There were a few of us oldies aged between 61 till 69 years old among the attendees. Some were writers, journalists, bloggers, photographers, owners of travel-related businesses and some were still deciding whether travel writing was anything they wanted to do. It was well-organized and well sponsored by big names like Air Asia, Astro Awani, Uniclo, Sheraton etc.
But having attended both events, I must concede that no poem was better read than the one recited by Sheena Baharuddin (Fig 1). Her rendition of two poems, namely Apax and Moles at the convention was a superb read with heightened animation. The event was graced by many exceptional speakers on the 21st September. Among the first to speak was of course the Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Hannah Yeoh in conversation with the Chairman, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir. Hannah Yeoh is young and refreshing. I must admit there was no pretense with this young minister and is, by her own admission, “shallow” because she prefers shopping malls to museums wherever she travelled.
Figure 1: Sheena Baharuddin, “Every body is a poem”.
One exceptional speaker was a young lady who completed the Explorers Grand Slam by climbing the likes of the Everest all over the world in 20 years and 112 days. Her name was Marin Minamaya, a Guinness World Record holder. Her courage and determination from as young as 15 years old was admirable. Alena Murang (Fig 2), the sape musician and cultural artist, made an impact with her singing and sape strumming. The sape is a lute instrument famous among the Kayan and Kenyah tribes of Central Borneo. There were many other exceptional speakers like Nila Tanzil, Deborah Chan, Deborah Henry, Suzanne Ling, who have given a lot of themselves towards the betterment of the less fortunate.
But it was the travel writing workshop held at the end of the day that I enjoyed most. It was conducted by the editor of Zafigo. Eliza Thomas was exceptional at conducting the workshop on travel writing and she left a lasting impression on how interesting a travel writer’s job could be. We attendees were promised an opportunity to be published if we would submit a 1,200 word winning travel article. On top of that we would be paid RM100 each. Getting paid is any writers dream even if for RM100.
I must admit I had to look long and hard at the speaker during the travel writing workshop. Eliza Thomas, the editor, standing right there in front of the class next to the whiteboard, was unrecognizable. I would have to take the good advice of Deputy Minister, Hannah Yeoh, “Use your best, young photo if you want to have an online presence, because these photos live forever”. I suspect many famous people, Eliza Thomas included, subscribe to this philosophy.