My Johor Stories featured in Let's Talk


The morning of Saturday, April 9, started as usual. It was an ordinary day when I joined a media event in the city and witnessed the exciting unveiling of their cool products.


My Johor Stories was featured on Let's Talk
with Sharaad Kuttan [Left] on April 9, 2022

After the event, I was mulling over the angle for my story when my handphone signaled a message from Producer and Host at Astro Awani, Sharaad Kuttan, in Kuala Lumpur.


In early March, Sharaad, the host of two popular English talk shows, Consider This and Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan, was in Johor to meet with politicians campaigning for the Johor Elections. While he was here, Sharaad took the opportunity to meet with other Johor personalities to feature in his talk shows.


His interviews with Edey Suresh, the Johor State Director of the UN Global Compact Network for Malaysia and Brunei, and Manohar Johnson, the Johor Partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers in Johor Baru, were featured in Consider This, a show which aired on Astro Awani on Wednesday, March 9.


His interview with me and My Johor Stories was for the Let’s Talk with Sharaad Kuttan show which usually airs on Saturday nights.


There were, however, a number of interview episodes prepared in the queue so Sharaad told me the episode with My Johor Stories, would join a queue to be aired later.


A month had already passed since the recording of my interview with him so I guessed his message should be about it. When I opened his WhatsApp message, I saw that it was an attractive info-poster.


Headlined, PEGGY LOH Johor’s Stories Told, this poster presented all the relevant details like the telecast time at 10pm, available online and on Channel 501 on television Astro Awani as well as AstroGo.


The interviews were recorded in a comfortable suite on Level 33 of Suasana Suites Johor Baru, the hotel which graciously hosted the Astro Awani team last month.


For me, it was significant that the interviews were held here because the Suasana Suites – linked to Zenith Lifestyle Centre and the Amari Hotel Johor Baru – were built on the former site of the Rex and Lido, two landmark movie theatres that enjoyed two road frontages, Jalan Trus and Jalan Wong Ah Fook.


In fact, Jalan Trus is part of Johor Baru’s Street of Harmony that spans from Jalan Gertak Merah and Jalan Gereja, where two churches are located, linked to Jalan Trus which is dotted by the Sikh Guduwara, Hindu and Chinese temples, all the way to the Mosque at Jalan Duke. 


My heritage stories on, Escape to the Movies, and Johor Baru’s Street of Harmony are documented in my 2017 Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


At the sight of this poster, I stopped what I was about to do to take a closer look. It then dawned on me that it was going to happen that very night. So I quickly shared it with my friends and family members who were keen to see the show.


Last month, after I had shared the story about my interview recording experience with Sharaad, some replied with encouraging comments and reminded me to let them know when the interview would be aired so that they could watch it.


As soon as I shared this poster by WhatsApp, the replies came in various kind comments, congratulatory messages and cute emojis while a few were panicked because they did not subscribe to Astro.


I was pleased to reassure them that an online link should be available on YouTube after the show aired that night and I would share it with them later.


It was deeply humbling to read some of the kind comments I received, especially one who said that she had already “booked” the TV time for that night (maybe they had a system at home where they took turns to watch!) and another who claimed that, “I will be waiting by the TV.”


Then two friends shared my poster on Facebook and I was much encouraged when this post garnered a string of well-wishes and kind comments.


I went about the rest of the day as usual, quietly anticipating the 10pm showtime, ever grateful for the privilege to share My Johor Stories with viewers nationwide.


Closer to 10pm, I was amused to receive messages from a few who told me they were already tuned to the Astro channel and “on standby” to watch.


Just as the commercials ended and the show started, my nephew in Perth, Australia, sent a message to show me that he was tuned to Astro Awani on the live streaming mode.


As I watched myself chatting with Sharaad, it was good to relive the moments but I could not help feeling a bit miffed because we could not do the interview without wearing masks.


Before being wired up for the interview, I did ask about the mask – to wear or not to wear. But Sharaad confirmed that it was the station’s SOP to keep the masks on during the interviews.


He however, assured me that their sensitive microphones should be able to record our voices clearly, even with our masks. And as I listened, I agreed that the recording of our voices was very clear and distinct.


I smiled with fond recollection as I heard myself talk about the St Joseph schoolboys and their ice-ball treats, bought from the shop next to our grandfather’s house at Jalan Ngee Heng…


Sharaad was such a professional who made me feel comfortable as I shared briefly about my childhood years of writing to the media, right up to the time when I was the Johor-based writer for Travel Times, a pull-out section dedicated to Travel, published with The New Straits Times, until the birth of my blog, My Johor Stories.


Sharaad, who is familiar with Johor Baru and used to live at Jalan Dapat, commented that as so much has changed here, My Johor Stories has documented the past to remind us about the Johor we knew.


My Johor Stories is not just about me and my family. While I shared my memories in what is popularly known as my grandfather stories, I also featured Portraits of people, personalities who have impacted other lives, as well as the culture and heritage of Johor.


My collections of inspiring Portraits and Heritage stories are precious to the families of the people I featured, documented for them to treasure a written record for their future generations.


In Book Two where I shared inspiring stories of people I know in other districts of Johor, I discussed with Sharaad about the humble beginnings of the family of doctors and lawyers in Muar, and the Lim family who still run the Kluang Rail coffeeshops.


In Johor Baru, Heritage Traders like Kerala Restaurant, Mee Ho Seng Kee and Haji Wahid Mee Rebus, are still doing the business started by their forefathers and have applied modern concepts to enhance the business but without compromise on their food quality.


I could not help but silently agreed when Sharaad proposed that my books should go into a Time Capsule to preserve memories of a bygone era for posterity.


It was fun to share about my TEDx Talk experience in 2019, where I spoke on the topic, Connecting People through My Johor Stories.


I cited various examples of how family members who live abroad discovered their link to the Wong family in Johor, and how uncanny it was for us to discover that Englishman, Richard Dunn’s grandfather – F.M. Still – and our grandfather used to be together in the Johor State Badminton Association in 1936.


To close our chit-chat on My Johor Stories, I was pleased to share that I was working on the manuscript for Book Three, still a work-in-progress, delayed due to the global pandemic. With travel now reopened, I am working towards completing this book, hopefully by this year.


With its Contents in the theme Proudly Johor, readers can expect to read more of my grandfather stories under Memories, more of uniquely Johor Culture-Heritage stories and about brands that are proudly established in Johor and even exported abroad.


Meanwhile, as the show was going on, my phone silently received messages with well-wishes and encouraging comments like these:


“Watching you now – I’m so excited!”


“From visual to video!”


“I’m so happy for you!”


“Another Milestone for you,” and “Another feather in your cap!”


“I saw the interview – excellent – but I wish you didn’t have your masks on.”


“Thank you for what you do for Johor!”


It was heartwarming to receive such encouraging words and phrases but it was even more fun to receive screenshots of the interview while it was being screened, probably sent to show me their support.


I guess my aunt in Kuala Lumpur takes the top prize for showing her love and support because she not only sent me (many!) badly focused photos of the interview, she also sent me short videos she took of her TV screen (plus the floor, walls, etc), so badly focused that it gave me motion sickness to look at them.


[Bless her heart because she scores highly for her love and effort but sadly, zero for photography and videography!]


Well, what started as an ordinary day turned out to be quite extraordinary because it was indeed quite an experience to be seen on national television and showered with so much love and support for My Johor Stories.


I did not know it then but soon after the episode ended, my IT-savvy friends were quick to share the YouTube version on Facebook to let those who may have missed the show, to have an opportunity to watch the interview online.


Thanks, Astro Awani and Let’s Talk, and everyone for your thoughts and support.


Photo Credit: Josh de Silva


Note: My Johor Stories series of books are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online from mphonline.

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