Tokoh Bapak - January 8 2008
This Saturday, Bapak will receive the Tokoh Wartawan Dunia Melayu 2008.
I'm always amazed at how titles (of awards) are coined.
Whatever will they think of next?
The award was conceived and is presented by the Former Berita Harian Journalists' Association (Persatuan Bekas Wartawan Berita Harian Malaysia).
For Bapak, it is a gesture of appreciation by his "boys and girls". some of whom had worked with him those early years in Berita Harian when he was helming the fledgling (but rapidly growing) Malay newspaper.
For Bapak, receiving awards and titles, especially at this stage in his life, is unimportant. Not that he never appreciated those given to him. It's just that titles and awards are not something he craved for. But those that were bestowed on him, he graciously accepted. Of course. That is our "adat".
The award from the association --being given to him now -- is an exception because it is by people who had worked with him and who have known him for a very long time.
That means they were intimate with Bapak's eccentricities and idiosyncracies which had assumed legendary proportion over the years. Of course, only to be softened in old age.
For having endured Bapak's temperament all those years, his boys and girls should be awarded, don't you think?
I have often told this story about why I had chosen to work as a journalist at the NST.
I could honestly say: "It was personal". In a big way it was.
I could have chosen another better-paying profession given the truth that journalism (then) did not pay as well as, say advertising or PR. But really, there was no choice for me. Rather, it was a natural choice. Besides, I did not want it any other way.
The world of newspapers (and the Straits Times was the world of newspapers back then) had become familiar to me by the time I reached maturity and was ready to make a career choice.
As a little girl in the 60s, I (and Kak Eda) would accompany Mak as she drove our Opel to Pudu Road to fetch Bapak from work, usually about 9 or 10pm.
Then called the StraitsTimes, it was housed in quite an imposing building along Pudu Road near the Chinese Maternity Hospital.
Mak would take the federal highway (then just two-laned) and through Jalan Lornie (I think) and on to Foch Avenue in KL town before reaching Pudu.
It was a pretty long ride because I remember (sometimes) falling asleep throughout the trip to Pudu.
Bapak would take us to his office on weekends, usually before our visits to the Federal Book Store (in Brickfields, I think) to buy our story books.
I remember insisting on having something to eat at the canteen everytime he took us to his office.
No matter how full I was, I would ask for my favourite noodle dish --hailam mee.
The journalists -- reporters and subs -- became familiar faces to me over the years. In my teens, I'd be serving them coffee or whatever, whenever they came over our house to hold discussions with Bapak, or during Hari Raya.
I know I liked going to the Straits Times in Pudu and later, at Jalan Riong, because the office "never sleeps".
There were always people at work, anytime of the day and night. The office was never ever dark. There was life 24/7. I remember thinking I would never have to worry about working late, alone.
Journalists would understand Bapak's passion and love for journalism, for the newspaper world. It was his world.
Bapak has expressed his appreciation in being given the Tokoh Wartawan Dunia Melayu 2008.
But Bapak will not be able to receive the award at Armada Hotel in Petaling Jaya as he is too frail to be there.
A daughter will accept the award on his behalf.
But really, if you ask him why he cannot be there, he'll tell you that it is because the event will be held in a no-smoking room.
"Aku nak rokok susah..." But don't you believe him!
Actually, Bapak is one of 8 individuals to be named Tokoh Wartawan Dunia Melayu 2008. The association named 2 from Malaysia, 2 from Singapore, 2 from Brunei and 2 from Indonesia.
The other Malaysian recipient is Mazlan Nordin.