My Johor Stories in the Sultan Ismail Library

Once upon a time, my dad, my eldest sister and I were registered members who used to borrow books regularly from Perpustakaan Sultan Ismail or the Sultan Ismail Library at Jalan Datin Halimah.

Hardcover version of the trilogy of
My Johor Stories tied up in ribbons

As this library was a convenient drive away from our home in Larkin Gardens, we enjoyed reading books borrowed from the Sultan Ismail Library, that was established in 1964 by the Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru (MBJB) or Johor Baru City Council.


Around 2007, when the Johor Baru Public Library opened at Jalan Yahya Awal, it made sense to move our membership to the new library so that we could enjoy reading a collection of newer books.


With a healthy reading habit, frequent travels (that included shopping for preloved books!) and regular trips to bargain book sales, our collection of books at home gradually expanded to the point where we finally decided to cease renewing our library membership.


My Visitor Pass to the
MBJB Building, Bukit Senyum

Over the years, I went from reading books to writing and publishing my own books.


In December 2022, I shared a letter to my dad to update him on my journey that kicked off in 2017, that led me to publication of a trilogy of My Johor Stories.


I wanted dad, who left us in 2016, to know that my first two My Johor Stories books stocked at the Resource Centre of Yayasan Warisan Johor or Johor Heritage Foundation, were often used as reference material and about the exciting discovery that these very books were also among the titles kept by the Singapore Library Board.


After we lost two years to battling the global pandemic, I was pleased to publish My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the third and final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories, in partnership with MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur.


I was deeply honoured that the Foreword for Book Three was penned by Dato’ Dr Abdul Rahim Ramli, President of the Johor Royal Court Council, himself a published author of several books on Johor history and heritage.


With Tengku Tarmizi [Right]
and Charmayne N. [Left]

In a simple event held in December 2022, Dato’ Rahim, as he is fondly called, officially launched Book Three, witnessed by my family members and distinguished guests that included most of the Subjects who were featured in this book.


Among the important guests at my book launch was Datin Patricia Lim Pui Huen, a historian by profession and author of several books on Johor history, including books on her great-grandfather, Wong Ah Fook.


Not long after Book Three was launched, I received an email from Datin Patricia who graciously said:


“Congratulations once again on the publication of your very enjoyable and informative books on Johor.


I am sure My Johor Stories would be greatly appreciated by the reading public and I hope you will not mind that I suggest that you donate a set of the books to Johor Baru’s public library for their Malaysia Collection.”


Facade of the Mayor's Office in MBJB Building

Datin went on to list the name of the library, Perpustakaan Sultan Ismail and the Librarian, Tengku Tarmizi Tengku Aziz, along with the library’s full address, telephone number and email address, essential info for me to donate my books.


I noted that her email to me was copied to Tengku Tarmizi so I replied with thanks and the assurance that I will make the arrangements very soon.


Soon after my book launch in December 2022, I went into preparing for the activities planned for My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru, an initiative under the Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Heritage and Culture, a collaboration between Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) and Think City, supported by Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru (MBJB).


With Tengku Tarmizi in a studio shot captured
at the Johore Heng Photo Studio

On one Saturday per month from January to April 2023, My Johor Stories (Yours Truly!) will host a morning Heritage Walk to Downtown JB destinations followed by an afternoon Book Reading session to share relevant portions documented in My Johor Stories books that featured the visited destinations.


With four different routes planned for the four dates in the first four months of the year, I was ready to receive registrations to join the first of the four Heritage Walks on January 14 in the theme, Segget Waterway.


Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see Tengku Tarmizi and his wife’s names among the list of participants. Closer to that date, he asked if their two young children could also join.


 Mayor, Dato Noorazam, and I
having a chat in his office

As our route was mainly on the comfortable Segget Walk and the children will be escorted (Read: supervised!) by their parents, I welcomed the youngsters to join our first Heritage Walk.


While we were already e-introduced by Datin Patricia via email, it was good to meet with Tengku Tarmizi in such a casual setting with an opportunity to chat and discuss my donation of My Johor Stories books to the library.


With Chinese New Year safely behind us, the registrations for February activities more than doubled. I was delighted to note that Tengku Tarmizi was among the participants, this time to meet our Heritage Traders.


The Walk on February 18 took us to our final destination, the Johore Heng Photo Studio, a vintage photo studio where the participants had fun posing for their own studio shots, either by families, groups or individually – many of them at a traditional photo studio for the very first time!


The Mayor and I had a comfortable chat

Towards the end of the queue for a turn to pose for the studio photographer, I was pleasantly surprised when Tengku Tarmizi asked me to join him in a photo shoot and I quickly obliged to pose for a shot with him, next to the ancient box cameras.


By this time, Tengku Tarmizi and I had connected by email and arranged for a date in early March for me to present the trilogy of My Johor Stories – hardcover version – to the Sultan Ismail Library.


I explained that I wished to have a simple photo session at the library just to document this presentation of my books, and he happily agreed.


Dato Noorazam, showing me
an old photograph of a group shot

Soon after these activities in February, I plunged into preparing for the next outing planned for March 18 where I will share with participants, a little about the Teochew Heritage in Johor Baru.


Little did I know that Tengku Tarmizi so enjoyed his experience with My Johor Stories in Downtown JB that he shared it with his boss, the Datuk Bandar or Mayor, Dato’ Haji Mohd Noorazam Dato Haji Osman.


In fact, he went to Johore Heng Photo Studio again and brought the Datuk Bandar along for a first-hand experience of this charming vintage photo studio, located in the heart of the city’s heritage quarter.


Tengku Tarmizi also mentioned that I had arranged to donate a set of My Johor Stories books to the Sultan Ismail Library for posterity and they then agreed that it was best for me to present my books to the Datuk Bandar, who will receive on behalf of Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru.


While I was pleasantly surprised when Tengku Tarmizi told me about the change of venue for my book presentation from the libraty to the office of the Datuk Bandar at Bukit Senyum, I was also delighted that the Mayor was keen to meet me.


[It is not every day that you received an invitation to meet with the city’s Mayor!]


It was my pleasure to present
My Johor Stories to Datuk Bandar
who received on behalf of MBJB

Since the re-opening of the economy, I had witnessed two events where the Mayor was the Guest-of-Honour and then he ushered away to mingle with the VIPs. So it was my privilege to meet with him over my book presentation to the library.


With Charmayne N. of BrandCulture PR Marketing Communications, as my official photographer, we met with Tengku Tarmizi in the MBJB Building at Bukit Senyum before being escorted to the Mayor’s Office to meet with Dato Noorazam.


Incidentally, in my recent walkabouts downtown to prepare for my Heritage Walks, I witnessed MBJB tow trucks in action, doing their jobs in removing illegally parked vehicles in the congested city streets.


I had much pleasure in thanking the tow truck teams and shared a blog post to acknowledge their good work, with a word of thanks to the Johor Baru City Mayor and the Johor State Government authorities.


I even added an encouraging cheer in, “Keep up your good work in enforcing the rules for a better tomorrow!”


When I posted that piece, I never imagined that I would be invited to meet with the Mayor – though on a separate matter – so when we met, I also took the opportunity to thank him for their good work and encouraged MBJB to keep “educating” recalcitrant drivers.


The trilogy of
My Johor Stories in the
Malaysiana Collection at
the Sultan Ismail Library

In the company of Tengku Tarmizi and Charmayne, the Mayor and I had a pleasant chit-chat with an exchange of ideas that aimed to preserve the rich culture and heritage of our city for the benefit of future generations.


When our chat drew to a close, we proceeded to the official business of presenting the trilogy of My Johor Stories to the Sultan Ismail Library, duly received by the Mayor on behalf of MBJB.


The Mayor then handed this set of books over to Tengku Tarmizi who was pleased to add My Johor Stories to the shelves of their Malaysiana Collection at the Sultan Ismail Library.


The Sultan Ismail Library, Perpustakaan Sultan Ismail, is located at Jalan Datin Halimah, 80350 Johor Baru, Johor. Tel: +607 – 239 1791.


P.S. When the next activities in the theme, Teochew Heritage, for My Johor Stories in Downtown JB happened on March 18, I was pleased that Tengku Tarmizi was among the participants who joined the Heritage Walk and Book Reading session that day.

Note: Photos are courtesy of Tengku Tarmizi and Charmayne N.

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