Wednesday October 24, 2012
A day caught between joy and sadness
ALONG THE WATCHTOWER BY M.VEERA PANDIYAN
It isn’t easy being wedged in the delight of sharing the happiness of a friend who turned 90 while mourning the demise of another.
THE past few days have been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride. It has been tough trying to reconcile joy and sorrow – as in blissful birthday celebrations of a grand old man and the passing of an old friend.
Tan Sri L. Krishnan, a pioneer in the Malay film industry, notched his 90th year on Sunday, the same day veteran Tamil journalist N.S. Maniam succumbed to cancer at the age of 60.
He had apparently been in the Malacca Hospital for a month before I found out and I visited him last Thursday.
Maniam, who also wrote short stories and poetry in the national language under the pen name of Samudera NS, was in obvious pain and seemed to drift in and out of consciousness, but we still managed to reminisce the good old days.
We became good friends 25 years ago, after going to India for the first time with a few other journalists and a group of elderly folk making their pilgrimage to Hindu temples.
I was then out of a job and rather miserable because The Star was suspended under Operasi Lalang on Oct 27, 1987.
Maniam, the livewire of the group, helped to keep my spirits up throughout the three-week trip.
When news of his demise came at about 7pm, I was about to leave for Krishnan’s birthday bash.
It was a slow drive along congested roads to the venue in Jalan Imbi with these verses of Khalil Gibran playing in the mind: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be?
By the time I arrived at the Bankers’ Club, the dinner had already started and Krishnan’s old friends, including Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association president Datuk Mustapha Ma and legal fraternity doyen Datuk S. Kulasegaran – the host of the event – were in the midst of feteing whom they referred to as the “young man”.
My mood switch from sombre to gladness was made a bit easier by Ma, the first speaker, who in his usual trademark style, told everyone to stand and laugh loudly for 10 seconds as “mirth therapy”.
Ma hailed Krishnan as an icon of the Malaysian movie industry for his creativity and for initiating technological breakthroughs, including the processing of colour films.
He said Krishnan was much loved because he had such a big heart, noting that the philanthropist’s favourite event was hosting a Deepavali open house for underprivileged and disabled children, which he had been doing so without fail for 40 years.
Incidentally, it was at one of these events that I first met him as a rookie reporter and we have been friends since.
When it was Ku Li’s turn to speak, he started by saying: “He is the envy of all of us here today.”
He said the man whom he had known for half a century was a discoverer and nurturer of talents, the most prominent being P. Ramlee.
“He should be credited for pioneering all the wonderful things that are now in our music and movie industries. He helped the revival of Malay music through the songs in his films,” he said, adding that even with the limited technology of the era, Krishnan managed to create a wide range of memorable scenes and storylines that are still etched in the hearts of many.
He said as a boy, he and his friends, like many others in the country, used to sing or hum the songs made popular in Krishnan’s films.
The Kelantan prince recalled that he was swept away by the beauty and acting skills of Kasma Booty, then a starlet introduced in Cempaka, and being emotionally moved by Ibu, a poignant movie about filial piety brilliantly portrayed by Ramlee, the lead actor.
“Even men cried while watching the film. The message of love and devotion to mothers was conveyed very well by his direction,” he added.
Ku Li got to know the filmmaker through A.R. Nachiappan, a businessman based in Kota Baru, who also held distribution rights to movies screened in Kelantan. Ku Li said the more he knew, the more he was impressed by his kindness and willingness to help others.
When it came to his turn to speak, the ever affable “young man” thanked Kulasegaran and told him to be prepared to organise more such events in the years ahead.
“Don’t think this is going to be the last one. I’m planning on staying around until 2020,” he joked.
There was another birthday party on Monday for Krishnan, an event that I was also expected to attend but poor health and the fact that Maniam was laid to rest the same day made me decide to skip it at the last minute.
I’m sure the “young man” would not mind, especially as we have been meeting each other almost once every fortnight.
As for Maniam’s family and friends grieving their loss, I wish to share these wise words which have been attributed to the likes of the Buddha to Eleanor Roosevelt, Joan Rivers and even Master Oogway, the wise old tortoise in Kung Fu Panda:
“Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the present. What the caterpillar perceives is the end; to the butterfly is just the beginning. Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.”
> Associate editor Veera Pandian likes this quote by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung: The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.