Meet-up with KL readers

“I’m here,” read the phone message from Harban Singh and continued, “Finding a parking lot is a challenge.” I put away my phone and whispered an arrow prayer for him.

The author [Center] with [L to R] Wendy, Khatijah,
Barbara, Mastura, Emma and Kausar
1Utama mall in Bandar Utama Damansara, Petaling Jaya, one of the biggest shopping malls in the world, on Saturday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm at MPH bookstore: the venue and time at the mall for my meet-the-readers event in Kuala Lumpur.

I’m deeply grateful for the support of readers, relatives and friends like Harban, who braved the city traffic and challenging parking conditions in this massive mall, to get to the event.

Among the early arrivals was Wendy Lam, a bubbly young lady whom I met on a travel assignment to Macau a few years ago. I was touched that she kept her word to be there early.

William Goh, formerly from No. 138 Jalan Ngee Heng
My JB Convent kakis now based in KL, also kept our appointment and in trooped Emma Suki, Kausar Kassim and Mastura Jaffar. More former classmates followed closely behind and while I easily recognized Barbara Lim, I took some time to place Khatijah!

William Goh introduced himself as a former neighbour at Jalan Ngee Heng, Johor Baru, giving me descriptions of his father’s bicycle shop at No. 138, situated next to a dhoby shop. Now based in KL, he explained that his wife also belonged to the JB Convent alumni and they follow my blog, My Johor Stories.

I reminded him that I was then a school-going child when I lived with our grandparents at No. 154 and did not have permission to venture very far from home so I do not have any recollection of the shops that were located on that part of the long road.

[In those days, Jalan Ngee Heng used to span the length of present-day Jalan Tun Abdul Razak from the junction of Jalan Kebun Teh Lama all to way to the junction with Jalan Gereja.]
                                      
With Lawrence Voon
William, who admitted that he was kampong kid who had a free run of the area, commented that compared to him, I must have been very ‘sheltered.’ Indeed, all the girls who lived in Ah Kong’s house – his daughters and grand-daughters – were sheltered enough from harm but back then, it was also very safe for us to walk to school.

I was pleased to introduce William to my older family members at the event, like Auntie Sylvia and her husband, who could probably reminisce more about the Jalan Ngee Heng neighbourhood with him.

The space in front of the Wrapping Counter (used for the event) in MPH bookstore 1Utama, was getting crowded with people and I saw store staff bringing out more chairs for the guests.

I was much encouraged by the crowd gathered, that included family members from Sydney and Perth who were still here from last week’s family event, who came to the event along with members of our church family who were now based in KL.

A section of the audience during my reading
It was particularly meaningful for Lawrence Voon who picked up copies of my book to share with his sisters because their mother, Auntie Betty, was like an older sister to our dad while they grew up together at the Home in Elim Gospel Hall, Ipoh.

As the event kicked off with an introduction of the author (me!) by an MPH team member, I did not see Harban in the crowd and felt a tinge of regret that he had yet to find a parking space in this massive mall …

The next hour passed in a flash as I presented an introduction to My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, with the reading of excerpts from selected stories in the various sections in my book under Memories, Portraits and By the Way.

Autographing my books for readers
During my presentation, which was casual and interactive, I enjoyed the audience’s spontaneous responses and it gave me much joy to observe how they were engaged throughout the time.

It was good that many in the audience had my books on hand so they could turn to the relevant pages to follow the portions I was reading and better appreciate it.

At the close of my presentation, it was time for the book-signing.

I assured William that he was first in the queue because he had placed his three hardcover books on the table, ready for me to autograph!

During the event, I noticed how the crowd had swelled as curious shoppers paused to watch and listen.

My brother, Kenneth, and his wife were standing at the back of the rows of chairs and a few other people were standing next to them. When these people approached me, I realized that they were not just curious on-lookers.

Peggy with Norimah [Left] and her husband, Zainal,
[2nd from Right] and his brother, Ismail [Right]
These two men gave their kind compliments on my presentation and as I acknowledged it, they asked if I remembered them. No, I must admit that I could not. But when Zainal said his name, it triggered off a memory!

In 2012, Zainal Yusof and his wife Norimah came to JB on a quest to verify the details recorded in his late mother’s autobiography because he was preparing the manuscript to get it published.

I had connected them with Amy Wong, a pioneer of the Kirkby College in the UK, where his late parents were also trained, and we met for tea at the Mutiara JB.

The late Amy Wong (Pillar of JB Convent) was among the Johor personalities featured under Portraits in my book. My blog post, The Quest, is a record of Zainal’s meet-up with her.

When I saw Norimah next to Zainal, it confirmed who they were and as the memory flooded back, I asked if his book was already published. He pointed to his brother, Ismail, in an attempt to pin the blame on him for the delay…

Peggy with Harban Singh
Their sister, Mai and her husband, who were on holiday in KL, were also present in an incredible reunion of sorts (for me!) because one of the personalities featured under Portraits in my book, was their late uncle’s wife, Ramlah Mohamed (Her Convent Bond)!

When I looked up from autographing the books, I was glad to spot Harban – who must have arrived at some point during my presentation – standing tall, dark and … talking to Veronica, my sister-in-law.

They were friends from the Malaysia Nature Society before he got acquainted with me several years ago while I was on a travel assignment in Johor National Parks. Now based in KL, Harban clearly spared no effort to come to the event.

In spite of all the excitement, I know I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd than this.

Thank you all for your presence and support. Your interest in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, has kept this title on the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list since it was launched on July 15.  THANK YOU!

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