Sunday, 29 November 2015

The first of the last

Friends and relatives are curious as to why I named my upcoming series 'The LAST diaries of Auntie Christina'. 'Why do you have to use the word "last", Chris?' they asked, the dismay apparent in their voices and on their faces. We fiftysomethings have a strange aversion to certain words...death, aging, funeral, sickness, wrinkles, dementia, ..and to a certain extent, last. I assured them that no, I was in no danger of passing on unless the Almighty deem it necessary to remove me in a jiffy. More blanching, head wagging and hand wringing when I said this. As if these natural responses would alter the Almighty's mind to remove me if they did so.  Yes, I have to use the word 'Last' because these are going to be my last diary entries. I can't be the curious case of Christina Jee. (Remember F. Scott Fitzergerald's "The curious case of Benjamin Button") Nor do I want to, even if granted the wish. Much as aging is unpalatable to me, finding myself growing younger and younger each day is even more unthinkable. For once, I just want to be normal and age and die just like every living thing on earth.

In the end, I said, 'Just consider this first book 'The last diaries of Auntie Christina 2014'  as the first of the last diaries I will ever write.' Most were satisfied with that declaration.

Then came the outcry. 'Why do you have to call yourself "Auntie"? I thought you were averse to that honorific.' Oh yes, I can remember well the first time I was called 'Auntie' by a fruit seller. I was choosing some oranges then.  My head reared up to incinerate him with my laser eyes. Oblivious to the negative vibes I was sending him, he tried to hard sell his oranges, lauding their sweetness to the skies. Needless to say, I left him to enjoy his magnificent oranges by himself.

Back at home, I stood before the mirror and assessed the image reflected in the mirror. An Auntie I had become. In Malaysia the honorific 'Auntie' is used as a form of kindly address to an older woman to whom one is not related. Needless to say, every normal female dreads the moment when she translates from a hot desirable 'Miss/Madam' to a motherly comfy 'Auntie'.

I had no idea when my own translation started taking place. I had been lucky. I was already into my fifties when this first (and certainly not the last) salutation occurred. And as with the first white hair, the first wrinkle, the first old age spot, I decided to embrace what is inevitable. Am I still averse to that honorific? Need you is now attached to my name online for the whole world to see!

Friday, 27 November 2015

After the wilderness years

The years 2012 and 2013 proved to be my wilderness years in writing and publishing. No...I did not suffer from writer's block. In fact I teemed with ideas. Started writing at least a dozen books. I would start off like a charging racehorse only to falter half-way and wonder why I was galloping on such a fine day. I would slow down to a trot and eventually drop out of the race before I reached the finishing line. Sometimes I spotted green juicy grass by the racecourse and skidded to a halt to graze. Then there were always nicer better racecourses under construction and I just simply had to try them out, only to lose my way and never get back to the original course. Sometimes I did get back only to find that I had no desire to gallop on that course again.

I knew I need one hell of a jockey if I were to reach the finishing line. That jockey appeared in 2014. Around the middle of 2014, the British author Sue Townsend passed away. Believe it or not, I did not know who she was. Asked my friend Rhona. Aghast, she looked at me as if I had committed the biggest literary crime in history and said, 'YOU don't know Sue Townsend? You've got to be living on Mars all this while.' Still treating me like one who should be shot, hung or given a lethal injection, she lent me the first of Sue Townsend's famed series 'The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole'. By the time Rhona was done with me, I was beginning to feel like a Christian who has never heard of the Bible. All pique evaporated when I started reading.  Soon I was doing more than just reading the books. I was reading every morsel of information pertaining to Sue Townsend.

Sue Townsend

First book of the famed series
Rhona's collection

It was not long after that that I got the notion that maybe I could write something resembling the series, except this time it would be about somebody like me... Malaysian female about fifty years of age. I come from an age group that is wary of any effort to pigeon-hole them into stereotyped roles as they reach retirement age. Their antics and old age angst proved to be entertaining and comical. Being one of them, I set out to document my own twilight journey and theirs.

2014 was a perfect year to start a series. A year when three Malaysian planes dropped out of the skies. A year when the rest of the world seemed eerily calm...the lull before the storm. A year when I stepped back into the distant past and tried to recall the good times as well as the bad with my friends.

As I said, I found my jockey. It is time and its calendar. There is no way I can procrastinate or find excuses for not writing now. The days pass quickly, events happen and I am continuously pressured to  make entries in the diary. I try not to go past a week without making one. But then sometimes things do happen.  Should I falter I have to make up for the shortfall by fabrication. Hence this resultant book 'The Last Diaries of Auntie Christina 2014'  and all subsequent ones are 90% fictional and 10% truth. A fact that I am going to stress again and again.

Book photo credits go to Chew Swee Kee and T.Y. Wee