UTM celebrates Merdeka with Bicara Karya 2022


It was early July when I received an invitation from Perpustakaan UTM Johor Baru, the Library of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, to participate in an event they were organising in conjunction with Merdeka or National Day 2022.


A screen grab of the UTM live event on Aug 23
Bicara Karya 2022 will be a Facebook and YouTube live event which also features another local author, Jong Chian Lai, based in Sarawak, East Malaysia.


This event invited the authors to share their stories that were written against a backdrop of the early Merdeka era with the aim to create more awareness of our culture and heritage that should in turn, promote more affection for our nation.


The proposed date for the event was Tuesday, August 30, but in early August, I was informed about the change of date, rescheduled to Tuesday, August 23.


The event poster for Bicara Karya 2022

While Mr Jong was invited to discuss about, Ah Fook, his epic book written in Malay, I will share about my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


In our later correspondence, I learnt that Mr Jong will be joining the event online while the Moderator will be broadcasting from the UTM Library, Perpustakaan Sultanah Zanariah, in the Skudai campus.


I am familiar with the UTM Library because I was a guest at a Bicara Karya event held here in 2019 where the author, Ahmad Fadhli Syed Hassan presented his book, a Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) publication entitled, Almarhum Sultan Ismail Johor 1894 – 1981.


I had the privilege to write about this in, A passion to document Johor Royalty, a piece published in The Iskandarian, the official newspaper of Iskandar Malaysia, in April 2019. [This My Johor Stories page was reprinted in Sebelum Senja Berlabuh, Kenangan di Johor Bahru.]


So when I was given the option to join the live event physically with the Moderator in the library, I did not hesitate to accept.


Then I was introduced to the event Moderator, Sofiazianti Saleh of the UTM Toastmasters Club, and learnt that this Bicara Karya event was organized by UTM in partnership with the UTM Toastmasters Club.


Sofia had done her research on My Johor Stories to prepare a brief introduction at the event and she provided a list of questions as a guide for me to prepare my visual presentation.


Ah Fook by Jong Chian Lai

She also shared with me, the event poster as well as an invitation to the UTM community with the relevant links for the audience to join the event online via Facebook and YouTube.


In the morning of Monday, August 22, a day ahead of the event planned for Tuesday, August 23, I received from the General Manager of MPH Group Publishing, a poster that listed the Top Ten book titles on the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list from August 12 to 18.


The last time I received such a list from her was in 2017 when My Johor Stories was on the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list for consecutive weeks and months after my book went to the Number One spot on the first week of its launch in July 2017.


When I looked closer at the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list dated from August 12 to 18, I was deeply humbled to see that My Johor Stories was back on the Top Ten list in 2022!


Ahmad Fadhli presented his
latest books to me

I was more than delighted to see that readers were discovering My Johor Stories again after we had lost two terrible years to the global pandemic.


It truly means a lot to learn (from this!) that readers still appreciate my collection of timeless true stories about real people, documented in My Johor Stories.


I could not help feeling amused when a friend (who saw this list) pointed out that he noted that My Johor Stories was just four steps behind the book title by Tun M on the Bestsellers list.


When I shared this recent MPH Bestsellers list with Sofia and the team at UTM, Sofia was so impressed that she revised the event invitation from Warga UTM to include Warga Malaysia so that more viewers nationwide could participate in the Bicara Karya event the next day.


The next morning, a light drizzle did not dampen my mood as I arrived at the UTM Library, accompanied by my worthy assistant and friend, Florence Liew.


The tech guys with arms raised to mark the 
countdown to the live event

Sofia and her team welcomed us into the library and to the room where the tech team was busy, setting up the internet system for the live event.


In her briefing, Sofia explained that Mr Jong will join us online for the opening and that I will be the first Panelist before going online to Mr Jong as the second Panelist and she will wrap-up with the conclusion.


Meanwhile Ahmad Fadhli, who knew that I would be in UTM for this event, told me that he would meet me at the library as he would like to present me with his latest publication, a coffee-table book entitled, Taat dan Setia, Almarhum Sultan Ismail Johor Dalam Kenangan.


In the few minutes before the live event, Ahmad Fadhli presented me with his latest book on Sultan Ismail Johor along with another book of his memoirs, Sebelum Senja Berlabuh, Kenangan di Johor Bahru.


View of the screen in front of Sofia and I

I could not stay to chat as I should get ready for the live event but Ahmad Fadhli assured me that he would be there to watch the event, at least for a while.


I did not look into his book yet, which was autographed for me, but wish I did because the message he wrote, Anda sumber inspirasi saya. Terima kasih, (You are the source of my inspiration. Thank you.) was both meaningful and encouraging.


And then, it was time for Sofia and I to settle into position in front of the camera and wait for the countdown for the live event to start.


Sofia the Moderator with me in the live event

While there was a large green sheet hung up behind us, I saw from the screen that the scene projected onto the sheet was that of a comfortable sitting room, complete with paintings hanging on the wall.


Then the tech guys raised their hands to give Sofia the cue for the countdown and suddenly we were live!


The English idiom, Time flies when you are having fun, rang true because it felt like only moments had passed when Sofia thanked Mr Jong and me for our participation in the event and closed with warm wishes for a Happy National Day in 2022.

One for the album; Sofia with the UTM team and Florence Liew [Far Left]

The recording of Bicara Karya 2022 is available for viewing on Facebook via http://facebook.com/library.utm and on YouTube via http://youtube.com/UTMLibraryMedia


Note: My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online from mphonline.com


Look out for my soon-to-be-released Book Three of My Johor Stories, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


Photo Credit: Florence Liew.

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