Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A 'Date' With A Cosmonaut-In-Waiting

I met Major Dr. Faiz Khaleed two times for his story. The first time was at his office in Putrajaya and the photo shoot subsequently took place at the park in KLCC.

This is one chap who really knows how to live life! He is the happiest person I have come across. Attribute it to youth, to a life unfetterred by the shackles of commitment, credit it to his very playful nature....I could go on and on. But nuff said, I was reenergised with the positive vibes emanating from his aura!

For this story, I did a walk and talk session with him. From his office, we drove over to Alamanda and talked about what he liked to do on his off days as we strolled by the shops. This method of interviewing is a test of one's memory and strictly not recommended if you're covering something that is out of your field. In this case, I could do this with Faiz because I was familiar with his topics of interests, namely video games, movies and other fun stuff.

The method to employ here is to treat the whole session like a date, to throw away the nerves and to just go with the flow. Play a little, make room for grave topics but time them well. Use your eyes to gage the subject's reactions to the 'sensitive' questions and try never to reach for your pen and notebook because it will break the subject's rhythm.

Mentally, this is a restful way to go about a story because it doesn't feel like work.

It was Faiz's personality that made it work so well. He was very obliging, very himself (he even had time to flirt with a group of blondes at the next table!) and extremely flexible.

Herein, I must mention that this innocent-looking boy-next-door has enough mischief in him to create mayhem!

He deftly maneuvered us to Secret Recipe, constantly tempted me into biting into his cheese cake (I didn't yield), made assurances that a once in a while indulgence was fine and repeatedly chastised me for not eating.

"What? You don't eat? Awww..." he constantly went.

Anyway, wait till he gets to turn 37. Let's see if he still has the appetite of a horse then.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Anonymity Is Not Bliss

It's ridiculous, very tardy of me, no excuses and no, I won't promise that it won't happen again. Really, sorry to have left this blog for so, so long.

But I'm back and that's the main thing.

Now, this little girl was someone I met while on assignment with an Indian florist, Letchumy Wedding Services in Brickfields. They are behind YMCA. I don't know her name, just that she was so pretty that I had to take her picture.

Herein, I would have like to kick myself for being so uncommunicative.

The lesson learned here is that when you're on the job, talking to people is an essential part of being a writer.

Find out their names, know a bit about their family, where they come from and what their thoughts are about the subject that you are working on. This helps to give you angle, depth and provide interesting facts which your main interviewer may not know.

Never use the excuse of time shortage. It's lame and probably just another word to describe your disinterest, a big no no. As a writer you must be interested in everything! So what if people call you nosy? So what if they say things like you are a pest? If this little girl's mother wanted to fade into obscurity, she wouldn't have allowed you to photograph her in the first place.

My opinion of this assignment? I found an angel but let her slip though my fingers. I'll never let that happen again.

So my pretty little girl, if you can read this, let me know who you are, okay?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

All Malaysian Bloggers Project

Kavita Kaur And Her Really Cool Parents

This story came out sometime in the mid of 2008. Believe it or not, it took me close to three months to get an interview from Kavita Kaur. Standard reply. She was busy. Oh well, if I was as beautiful and successful as she was, I'd be very busy too.

The story was angled for father's day and the questions would veer towards what she was going to get her dad etc. etc. Here, I was really touched by Datuk Dr. Joginder Singh's answers.

One father's day, Kavita had bought the radiologist a Rolex and instead of parading around in it, he went and kept it in safe deposit box! He even chided her for wasting money.

“Of course, I appreciate it when the children want to show their gratitude. But this can be done on any other day, not just Father’s Day,” says the elder Sidhu pragmatically.

Kavita is so lucky to have parents who are willing to give her support. They are the loveliest people ever. From the snippets of conversation, I learned that it was they who helped her to buy her first apartment.

And they were so proud of her...

"My daughter is self made," declared Joginder and one could sense the pride in his voice.

When my sons grow up, this is what I want them to feel. I want them to know that their mum is proud of them and that she loves them more than life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dave, Handsome As Ever...

The one problem with gorgeous guys like DJ Dave is that they are also very, very spoiled. All their lives they have had too many admirers. But if you can still make the girls go weak in their knees at the age of 60, then of course, who wouldn't be conceited?

Allright, so I was half an hour late in meeting with him but then the guy was in the thick of a badminton match (mind you he's a mean shuttler) so what's the problem? You know lah, guys like him usually make the ladies wait, not the other way around. Anyway, this Punjabi crooner would make me pay back by turning up 45 minutes late on our next meeting. (Eh, I didn't have any problem with that mind you...)

But what made this interview so memorable?

Dave was not only a smasher on court but he's one off it as well! No, he didn't flirt with me or try out any slick moves.

On the other hand, he was a most doting father in the presence of his two children, and very, very candid with what had gone on in his life.

"Look, I have had failed marriages and people have said all sorts of things behind my back. But what can I do? They don't know me and I can't go around explaining to people what I really am. So, please set the record straight for me, ok".

You got it, sir I says.

We left out many things- his skin condition which he claimed had robbed him of his good looks (honestly I didn't even notice it until he pointed out to me), his family crises, his ex-wives' battle for alimony and how he was near to exhaustion from trying to stay afloat financially and sanity wise.

So what's his secret?

"My father's relentless prayers and 50 push ups every morning without fail," he chirped.

Hmm, I don't believe you I says. Not until you take off your jacket, roll up your sleeves and show me your biceps, I dared not expecting that he'll do the former without missing a beat.

And true enough, the guy was in great shape, hard as steel biceps and a nice solid V to boot for a back profile.

So, Dave, here's what you've impressed on me. When I'm your age, I hope that I'll still be as yummy looking as you!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Go Go Elango!

The chief judge for Astro Vaanavil's Super Star actually invited me up to his room for this interview. Can you imagine that? But in all sincerity, he was just looking for a more comfortable place for us to chat, in case anyone gets any wild ideas.

The interview was pretty uneventful actually and I had to get him to warm up (please don't get any wild ideas again). He had actually prepared a handful of notes chronicling his career and highlighting all the concerts he had done. It was a great afternoon. We had gone to sit at a nearby mamak stall and he was singing out all his hit songs to me. I think even the mamak guy was wondering what we were up to.

But the crucial question was, since he was chief judge and it was his job to look out for people's mistakes, has he ever made a mistake on stage himself?

"Of course! We are all human," he replied.

"But we know how to cover up lah. Let's say if I miss a beat, then I'll make up for it in the next line so to even up the count," he said.

"And this can be very tricky when you are doing live performances with classical Indian dancers. If you don't know how to even up the beat, everything from the musicians and the dancing will be off! The dancer won't be able to finish her steps, the musicians will all fall out of tune and it will be your fault!" he pointed out.

"But we are experienced musicians. As for the dancers, well they know how to cover up also. So in the end everything usually turns out alright," said Elango.

And talking about allright, just to let you know that I really appreciated you singing live for me allright! Go, go Mr Elango!

Thursday, July 31, 2008


This is my youngest boy, Hans. He turns 1 on Aug 18. I call him Hansi for his baby name. He is very, very handsome I know...

I tell you, Hans is one determined character. He gets what he wants all the time and if he doesn't, he screams, bites, wiggles and sulks till he gets it. Oh dear! Sounds like me when I was his age.

Here, he just woke up and is exploring our apartment balcony. He is very attached to me still and will cry when I go to work. Luckily I have a good maid. Bibik is sent from heaven.

I love spending time with him more than anything else' I love to sniff his toes, kiss his fingers, smell his hair and kiss his chubby cheeks. Wouldn't you if you had such a cute baby?

Fast But Not At All Furious

Tengku Djan Ley is one of my favourite personalities ever. This Kelantanese blue blood is the type that laughs at the drop of a hat! I don't know if he was just being kind by laughing at my lame jokes but it feels good to know that someone appreciates my sense of humour.

The morning we took this pic, both of us were really struggling to keep our eyes open. He had just finished a full day of drifting the day before and was bracing for more in the next two hours to come. As for me I was nursing a hangover...(nuff said)

Actually, I felt like punching this guy the day before. He was supposed to bring his remote control car for the shoot but sheepishly he confessed that he had forgotten. Sigh!

"Look, I'll bring it tomorrow. I'll put it in my car tonight so I won't forget ok?" he promises.

What more was there to say?

So there we were that morning and what a task it was to make him laugh. But eventually he cracked up and there we have it, a smile to chase all the clouds of gloom away.

What did I say to him? Not much, just that if he would consider having 8 children...

"Aiyo, no way! I don't want to manage a football team!" and that was all it took to make him go ha ha ha.

Tengku Djan, you are a trooper for making the rainbows come out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mika, The Little Nawab.

Here is Mika with me on assignment at Kabab and Qaurma, a Northen Indian restaurant in Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. How handsome he looks in this picture!

I have been taking Mika with me on assignments when he was barely one.And no, it had nothing to do with not having help. I just wanted him to be with me.Of course, he doesn't behave well at all...For this assignment, he fell asleep in the car on the way there, woke up with a grumpy disposition and did not present a good first impression at all. Tut! Tut!

But you'd be surprised at how kind and tolerant people can be when it comes to children. Many, many times, I have been touched by complete strangers who have gone to great lengths to please and entertain my son.

At Kabab and Qaurma, the manager, Ravie Naidu, immediately showed me where to place a groggy Mika. And because he was crying because his nap was interrupted, Shobair, the director, fussed over Mika as if he was his own son. And I think for that afternoon, the entire team of service staff was mobilised to take my son on a private tour, the most interesting point of focus being the fish tank.

For taking care of my son, for letting him experience the milk of human kindness and understanding,my gratefulness is eternal.

Monday, July 28, 2008


This is Mikhail Ramses Dawson, my eldest son. He is 5 this year and I call him Mika for short.

He had just woken up when this pic was taken and as you can see he is very much a morning person. Look at the glint in those eyes! He is either planning his day or thinking of what to say to convince me to take him to 'Toys R Us'.

My son is very much like me. Curious, adventurous and always game for new things to try and do.

It will be very interesting to see how he ends up. I'd really like to be around to watch how things go with this one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Angksawan Conundrums

The idea to picture Sheikh Muszaphar playing marbles was something I thought up after leafing through the hundreds of shots of him on the Net and in The Star archives.

"Marbles?! No one plays marbles anymore nowadays yunno. Are you sure?!" questions this spaceman incredulously.

He did try to give me some alternatives. What about a gym shot, he suggests.

Me thinks, not advisable unless one has a washboard physique like Memet...

Or a pic of him at the spa having a massage, he tries again.

Me thinks,too messy...

Or him on a big bike?

Already did that with Tony Eusoff, dear.

Or we could go to a shop buy some Star Wars memorabilia and pose with them?

Again, this guy must really have a big bank account and fierce contacts to think that collectors' stuff can appear with a snap of his fingers...

Sorry no go to everything, I says in very, very polite terms.

Frankly, it was one of those days. I was still recovering from a bout of flu and he had just driven all the way from Kelantan. I was bushed and I suspected he too was not exactly in hyper mode either.

But off we went to play marbles (supplied by me)at the back kitchen of Rebung where two cocks, a hen and one cat also joined in . To entice the cock to come into the picture, Normah, the Rebung chef, tossed roasted peanuts around our bloke.

And herein, Sheikh actually showed off how he could still work a shoot by looking good despite the blazing sun, whiffs of chick poo and raining peanuts.

Thanks to all for the great time.To our willing model, my eternal gratefulness.

Here's the article that came out:

Coping With Fame

IT IS 10am and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, the first Malaysian to go to space, turns up in a white cocktail jacket and pin-striped slacks at Rebung, the restaurant he co-owns with celebrity chef Ismail Ahmad.

Ordering a teh tarik, the 36-year-old bachelor confessed that he was not the t-shirt-slippers-and-shorts type, not even when it’s a quick trip to the 7-11.

“You never know when someone wants to have a picture taken with you,” said Muszaphar, who explained that since his return from the International Space Station, the public spotlight has been relentless.

The extent of Muszaphar’s ‘dress down’ days at present go only as far as jeans and collared t-shirts. Nevertheless, our spaceman said he had no problems with smiling (for the cameras, that is).

Work-oriented: Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al-Masrie conducted scientific experiments in space.

“I used to model, you know. I can give the same smile even after the 200th picture,” he said. As a model, Muszaphar graced numerous magazine covers.

A qualified medical doctor who earned his degree from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India, Muszaphar added that smiling was, after all, a good thing.

“A smile warms up a place immediately,” he said. Muszaphar believes that a happy persona goes a long way in making his home planet a better place.

It has been eight months since this former university medical officer’s return from space and as far as his schedule is concerned, friends and staff alike have described it as very, very busy.

Chef Ismail Ahmad does not mince words, describing Muszaphar’s timetable as “crazy”.

“I have reached out to over 100 schools, universities and colleges. In addition to sharing my experiences in space, I motivate youth by telling them to study hard so that their dreams will become reality,” said Muszaphar, who revealed that his own dream for space travel had taken 25 years to come true.

Sundays for this Leo means running the mill of autograph signing sessions and facing crowds of young people who, in his own words, have a tendency to “go wild”.

Speaking from the heart, Muszaphar also takes this opportunity to dispel notions that he had merely gone on a space holiday.

The trip, he explained, was a scientific mission to conduct experiments on liver cancer and leukaemia cells and protein crystallisation, in this case, lipases, a type of fat-breaking enzyme.

“Micro gravity conditions will enable us to see the molecular structure in its whole instead of a flat cell. This will enable us to study the structure of the cell thoroughly,” explained Muszaphar.

As for rest and relaxation, this busy bee confessed that he would give the world for a scuba diving trip, a favourite pastime of his which he has not had time for in the last one and half years.

Nevertheless, this music lover with a penchant for slow sentimental numbers and rock ballads from bands like Scorpions, Bon Jovi and Roxette did manage to catch the Celine Dion concert when the diva hit town recently.

His pride and joy without doubt is his collection of Star Wars memorabilia which includes figurines of Darth Vader, C3PO and his movie hero, Luke Skywalker.

“I used to imagine being Skywalker and engaging in light saber duels with my brothers,” said Muszaphar, the third of five boys.

Any mention of his brothers brings back memories of the fun times they had growing up in Seremban.

“We played football, went swimming and played marbles. I would beat them at all the games because a game to me was everything. I played to win. Sometimes, I think my brothers let me win because I’d keep bugging them for a rematch when I lost,” recalled Muszaphar.

When the family returned to their father’s hometown in Batu Satu, Port Dickson, a young Muszaphar would go looking for frogs to dissect or when the occasion called for it, catch chickens from behind the house which he would then slaughter for dinner.

“I was never squeamish about blood,” said Muszaphar.

As for days of wild youthful abandon, this mild-mannered doctor, who goes bungee jumping on a regular basis, revealed that during his student days in India he used to hang onto the hood of a speeding car!

“That, my parents didn’t know about,” he said.

But as boisterous as the Al Masrie boys were, Muszaphar recalled how his parents, Datuk Sheikh Mustapha, a housing developer, and Datin Zuraida, a homemaker, had kept a strict rein on them.

Muszaphar said that he was the only child to argue with his father, now a 72-year-old who still goes to the gym twice a week.

“My father would tell me one thing and I would do the complete opposite. When I was a teenager, it was always his way and how he wanted things to be done. But I would reason with him that it was my life and that I should learn from my mistakes,” said Muszaphar.

But he reckons that he would not be where he is without his father’s guidance.

“My father was into developing mind control as he believed in the Silva Method which is based on the knowledge that how you think, believe and behave dictates your life experience.

“By making simple, positive changes, you can live a powerful life of your own design. All five of us attended the course as my father was lecturing for the organisers at that time,” he said.

As for what the future holds, Muszaphar admitted that he would very much like to go back to the academic life.

He has since resumed his masters in orthopaedic surgery which was interrupted when he joined the ‘Angkasawan’ programme.

But at the moment, he is revelling in the attention.

“I don’t see myself crawling into some hole and hiding from the glare of publicity.

“As the third child, I was always craving attention, especially from my father. That is why, I think, I excelled in my studies and did well in so many things,” he said