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December 29, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

a book that reads like a blog

I am reading a book called “Little Footsteps” by Abang Yusuf Puteh, who was the State Secretary of Sarawak till 1985. This book was published in 1993.

The book covers his travels in 30 countries and records the writer’s candid impressions. I am immersed in this book, and I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Malaysia.

The writings are dated. Some entries are over thirty years old. And they give me a quaint, historical perspective on KL that one would get after a chat with an old-timer.

Here is a 1978 entry describing the birth of the coffeehouse. “The coffeehouse trend in KL was born in the Federal Hotel, and with a 24-hour service came into being in Malaysia. Then it spread like wildfire throughout the city and now most big hotels in the country have a coffee house.”
This is a 1980, rather poetic entry, written from the Hilton Hotel written at 6.30 a.m. The author’s room overlooks the KL Turf Club and it being a Sunday there is no traffic. “There is a ray of sunshine from the East arrowing its way through the morning mist, which is just beginning to lift. I love mist and dew, even fog, when they are set against the peace, transquility and quietness of the morning or evening.”
The author goes on to compare the view of the track to be as beautiful as “the work of a Chinese master” and soon the “beauty and peace evaporate with the mist and the invasion of the tropical sun with its heat.”

I loved reading this next entry, because it gave me an insight in the food habits of the Malaysians.
The Chinese never waste their food, he says. A group of chinese folk sit together and their table is laden with different dishes, and the “diners pick up small pieces of food from the bowls, almost niblling, but they do it quickly, They talk a lot in between picking up and popping the pieces of food into their mouths. The whole process is an art.”

He describes the Malays: ” A well-brought up Malay handles food with the greatest respect and care,” writes the author. And when a Malay belches after a meal it is a sign of appreciation. He says “Alhamdulillah” which means that he is grateful to God and his host for filling his stomach.

The author in his travels, he records the “quaint and the queer, the cute and the candid, the amusing and the amazing…”

I googled to find more about the author and his recent works. And I was very saddened to find that he recently passed away at age 74 after a long illness on November 9.


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