The stories and photographs compiled here had been published in various regional newspapers and magazines during my career as a freelance journalist, beginning from the mid seventies onwards. Except for one – Waiting for the Tunku – which for various reasons had never been written until now.
After my detention and deportation from Burma in May 1978, the Tunku became my savior. He had the authority to ‘clear’ me and return my passport. This enabled me to get back to Bangkok and pursue my journalist career without delay. Otherwise I might have to wait twenty odd years. Dreadfully it happened to a friend who was deported back to Malaysia after a jail sentence in a foreign country. He waited two decades to get his passport back.
Eventually I was able to work for most of the major TV networks of USA, Europe, Japan and became a stringer for both New York Times and Time magazine – an invaluable work experience.
I’m also glad that the Tunku’s story is the theme and title of this collection of stories. In a small way I hope it would keep his memory alive and reveal a part of his humanitarian work which were not often publicized.
A word of thanks to my old school friend, Ooi Chong Jin, who is instrumental in telling me to stop spinning this tall yarn of the Tunku and just write it down. This is often the case when we, in our autumn years, meet over a drink or two.
There is also our dear headmaster JMB (Mike) Hughes of Penang Free School who is featured here too. A great teacher who taught us school is not all text books but field work and play is as important.
There is Peter Janssen, John Hail, Julian Spindler, Naoki Mabuchi of the Bangkok days, whose generous loans of precious books, time and the inductions of Black American Blues music, opened my eyes and perceptions to many of life’s treasures.
I remember reading the “Bushmen of the Kalahari” – after hearing incredible stories of hunting exploits and super human prowess which the Bushmen tell nightly at their camp site, stretching back to the days of their ancestors; the American author finally asked: “Are these stories true?”
To his surprise, the Bushmen felt dejected and sadly said: “Where’s the fun in telling something that is not true!” they said.
This profound wisdom comes from the illiterate Bushmen whose history is passed from word of mouth. With so much untruth and intellectual dishonesty around today, modern men could very well learn from the Bushmen of Africa.
Perhaps the world could be a better place. “God has a way of using the silly and downtrodden to bring down the smart and mighty.”