Tribute to Streets Johor

Streets Johor started as Johor Buzz and went through
several changes as seen in this collection of old copies
It all started with four craftsmen I met on an exciting Southern Craft Trail in 2008.   I was a guest of Kraftangan Malaysia under the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts & Heritage, and travelled from Malacca to Johor to see their “One District, One Industry” initiative.  From this interesting experience, I contributed a 2-part feature, On the handicraft trail (NST 14 April 2008) and They cherish their craft (NST 20 April 2008) to Travel Times (now Life & Times Travel), a weekly pull-out section of the New Straits Times Press (NST) publication.
I strongly felt that culture, arts, heritage and human-interest stories like these about traditional craftsmen who are passionate about their art, should be shared with more readers in Johor and got them featured in Johor Buzz, a daily pull-out section with the southern edition of NST.  The then Johor Baru NST Bureau Chief who knew that I’m the Travel Times’ Johor-based writer, encouraged me to contribute to Johor Buzz regularly and write opinion pieces to share more about Johor in the My Johor page. 
When the southern section started seven years ago, it was called Johor Buzz or JB in short.  The name changed to Johor Streets and later evolved to Streets Johor.  From covering news and events to food reviews, I had a great deal of fun meeting with organizers, participants, merchants, VIPs and a host of interesting people, to write exciting stories to inform and interest readers. 

The title of Page 8 also went through several changes!
I was particularly pleased when the Bureau Chief told me that he was receiving calls from readers, asking about me and my stories.  They had special interest for my stories on page 8 where I literally told “grandfather stories” complete with black & white photos on my growing-up years in JB.  Page 8 was the opinion page first named, My Johor that later changed to Your Johor and finally became Your Say

Readers developed a taste for this 8-page southern section probably because it carried local news and stories that were relevant to them.  Most admitted that they will first reach for Streets to scan for any interesting happenings in JB.  As a regular contributor, I found that the most rewarding part of writing about happenings in Johor is the positive impact on the community, the awareness it created and the encouragement it gave to the event organizers or individuals. 

Streets Johor, however, has ceased to exist.  On the December 31 issue of Streets Johor, a small notice announced that Streets will cease publication with effect from that day. Many readers inadvertently overlooked it and were disappointed when they failed to find this staple section with their newspapers on 1 January 2015!

A friend told me that every day he searched for Streets Johor but in vain.  He got rather riled up with the delivery guy because he suspected that he must have carelessly misplaced Streets.  In fact, he was going to scold his delivery guy for being careless not just for a day but on consecutive days.  Then we met and I clarified the situation, simply glad to have saved his delivery guy a scolding!

It’s bittersweet that we often do not miss something until its gone forever.  I was compelled to dig out my old and yellowed newsprint copies but was unprepared for that pang of nostalgia as I looked at the different designs for the masthead, layout and columns in older issues.  I’m just glad to have stored most of my stories in my blog, My Johor Stories [].

Some of my features on Juita are published in Prof Jamilah's
book, The Professor and the Juita NGO
I remember how the Chinese community leaders in JB were thrilled with my feature about the Johor Ancient Temple or Gu Miao in Travel Times and a separate piece for Johor Buzz in 2009.  That was because up to then, the temple and Chinese culture in JB was mostly covered by the Chinese media.  My painstaking effort to uncover information from non-English-speaking Chinese paid off handsomely when my stories were published in English for non-Chinese readers to learn more about the ancient temple, Teochew opera performers, lion-dance lion head-making sifu, dragon-dancers on stilts and a unique race challenge for big-headed dolls!

I was privileged to work closely with the former president of JUITA, the Johor state NGO that was then headed by Professor Jamilah Ariffin, and covered major events organised to improve the livelihood of single mothers, rehabilitate special children and uplift the lives of aboriginal people in Johor.  As a sociologist, Prof Jamilah published several books and I’m pleased that some of my features published in Streets Johor are quoted in her book, The Professor and the Juita NGO – Smart partnership in social welfare work

No matter how long I have been published, I will never get tired of seeing my stories in print and how they are proudly exhibited or treasured by organizations and individuals.  I deeply appreciate the opportunity to learn more about other cultures – Malay, Indian, Sikh and Chinese – as well as charity and community work not only with JUITA but also with NGO’s like the JB Breast Cancer Support Group, Care United, Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation, Punjabi Education Trust Malaysia, Soroptomists International JB, International Women’s Association JB, United Sikhs and others including the Rotary Clubs in JB.  

My published article on the screen, being discussed in this
meeting held in Kyoto, Japan last December
Last November, I was at an event with the Social Development department of Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) where primary school teams presented their ideas in the second Iskandar Malaysia Eco Life Challenge.  It was an exciting challenge where the winning team was rewarded with a study trip to Kyoto, Japan.

The following month, I received a phone message from my friend in IRDA who was in Kyoto to meet with their Japanese associates.  He showed me a photo of the meeting in progress with my published article, “Carbon Fighters win Kyoto trip,” flashed on the screen.  His message simply said: “Your article being discussed in Tokyo.  Thanks for the wonderful article.”  

Just as I graciously accepted his “Thanks”, I echo my grateful “Thanks” to Streets Johor for giving me the opportunity to share so many stories with readers.  I would continue to do so in The Iskandarian. 

A version of this was published in January 2015 issue of The Iskandarian

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