C P Tan wins IMSHA Award in 2017

It was a long-awaited and well-deserved award, one that was worth waiting for.

Tan Chai Puan receiving his IMSHA award
in the Arts & Culture (Individual) category
In the 4th Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards (IMSHA) 2017, Tan Chai Puan, a renowned cultural activist in Johor, was recognised for his contributions with the Arts & Culture (Individual) Award.
Upon receiving this prestigious award, the applause and compliments he received was loud and long simply because Tan was finally able to receive this award.

Since the inauguration of the IMSHA three years ago, Tan’s wide contribution to Johor’s arts, culture and heritage scene was obvious.

While he deserved the award in this particular category, he was not able to receive it for the simple reason that he was serving as a member of the IMSHA Leadership Council!

This year, when he stepped down from his role in the Leadership Council, Tan was finally able to receive this long-awaited award.

Over the years, I had the privilege of working with Tan, who is bi-lingual in Mandarin and English.

IRDA Chief Executive, Datuk Ismail
Ibrahim congratulating Tan Chai Puan
His help was invaluable as it went a long way to give me a better understanding about the Chinese heritage in Johor.

To most people, Tan is synonymous with the 24 Festive Drums because he and the late Tan Hooi Song, founded this dramatic art of drumming in 1988.

Tan continues to actively promote this art of drumming through International Drum Festivals held every alternate year since 2010.

In the past four festivals held in Johor Baru, local drum troops competed while international troops came to showcase their drumming skills.

Early this year, when I was compiling the contents to publish my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, I decided to feature Tan as an exclusive story under the Portraits section in my book.

Involved with so many on-going projects, Tan was a busy man to pin down for an interview but we finally sat down for a chat on a sunny afternoon.

Tan mapping out his story on that sheet of white paper
I remember how Tan took out a large sheet of blank white paper and was poised with his pen to write.

“Where do we begin?” I asked Tan, because he had such a wide involvement in Chinese culture and heritage activities.

Using his pen on that blank sheet of paper, Tan started to share with me his life story, education and career and mapped out all the relevant events, years and activities to help me get a clearer picture of what he had done and was still doing in the arts and culture scene here and abroad.

I cannot forget how Tan paused to tell me that in all the media coverage of the events he was involved in, not even one asked him to share his story. The coverage was always only about the events.

The vintage luggage bag displayed in the JB Chnese
Heritage Museum that once belonged to Tan's father
I felt deeply honoured when Tan told me that I was the first with whom he was sharing his own life story.

One thing which Tan told me – and which was deeply touching – was how his father, a first generation Teochew immigrant, worked hard for their family and the advice he gave to Tan about his career pursuits.

And when his father passed away at age 72 in 1982, Tan composed a poignant poem dedicated to his father entitled, ‘The story of the luggage bag’ that chartered his journey as an immigrant.

This vintage luggage bag that belonged to his father, is prominently displayed at the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum, among the items that early immigrants used when they sailed from their homeland to seek their fortunes here.

Tan Chai Puan [Left] and me holding his trophy
with K K Lew looking on
That night at the IMSHA Awards event, I joined the audience to clap, cheer and congratulate Tan on finally receiving his well-deserved award.

Like me, many were overjoyed for him and kept him occupied with congratulatory handshakes and compliments.

Finally, when Tan had a moment, he brought his trophy over to show me.

I was deeply moved when Tan thanked me for sharing his story in my book, which he thought gave readers a clearer view of him, not only as a cultural activist but also a cultural initiator and innovator.

Tan insisted that he must share the award with me (Thank you!!) and let me hold his trophy to capture a photo memento together.

Congratulations Mr Tan, and many more awards to come!

Note: In addition to MPH bookstores nationwide and on line via www.mphonline.com my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, is also available at Borders and Kinokuniya in Kuala Lumpur.

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