I recently received a message from reader, Yuvitra Jeyaraman, which said: “I stumbled across your blog as I was hunting for Lat books. I noticed that you have several Lat books and would like to know if you are interested in selling them?” I replied asking for more information because I wanted to know more about this reader who claims to be obsessed with Lat cartoons! Then I learnt she
Unity through Lat Cartoons
I recently received a message from reader, Yuvitra Jeyaraman, which said: “I stumbled across your blog as I was hunting for Lat books. I noticed that you have several Lat books and would like to know if you are interested in selling them?”
I replied asking for more information because I wanted to know more about this reader who claims to be obsessed with Lat cartoons!
Then I learnt she was 17 when her parents sent her to Canada to further her studies and now she’s an under-graduate at the University of Toronto, majoring in Political Science and History.
When she left Malaysia, Yuvitra foolishly believed that her new home was Canada. On hindsight, she realised that it was anything but. In fact, she missed everything about Malaysia, even the things she didn’t think she would miss.
One day, quite by accident, she picked up a Lat book and as she turned its pages, she discovered a sense of renewed pride in her identity as a Malaysian. Suddenly the terrible things like the infamous Malaysian traffic and political culture didn’t seem so terrible.
She told me how she enjoyed the way Lat comics reflected the little nuances that shape our Malaysian culture: Our willingness to go above and beyond for a complete stranger, the simultaneous obsession with politics and hope, and an unwavering faith in racial harmony. In short, the Lat books meant the world to her.
Yuvitra was back in Kuala Lumpur for her summer break before she returns to Toronto for her second year of university. Then she asked me to tell her how and when I started reading Lat comics.
My love affair with Lat started in the 1970s when Lat cartoons were published regularly in the New Straits Times. Even then, I could relate to the nostalgia and humour that Lat captured so vividly in his crazy illustrations and colourful characters.
We were living in the government quarters while our parents were working with the Government Health Cub-centre in Masai, Johor. It was common then to keep newspapers clips and when my dad started us on collecting Lat cartoons, it was a regular ritual to cut out the cartoon strip and paste it in a large F4 size hardcover scrap book.
In our family, it was often a race to be the first to read the Lat cartoon and tell the others about it. Sometimes when I turned the newspaper pages for the Lat cartoon, I was greeted by a gaping hole because someone had already cut it out!
A picture truly tells a thousand words and Lat used his drawings to tell his stories effectively with his brand of humour, even in historical events. His comics were also a source of cross-cultural education because I learnt a great deal about the Malay, Indian and Punjabi cultures here.
Yuvitra’s message prompted me to take another look at our collection of yellowed newspaper clips and it was not long before I was laughing along with the wit of Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid or Datuk Lat and his ability to make us laugh at ourselves and our Malaysian ways.
In a collection themed, ‘Scenes of Malaysian Life’, Lat covered a wide range of topics and showed no mercy, poking fun at politicians, actors, sports personalities, city or kampung folks and even tourists and foreigners. No one was spared as Lat aptly portrayed them and their typical ways.
I was fascinated by Lat’s astute take on ‘A Night Out in JB’ because the sites he highlighted in this comic strip back then, no longer exists now.
In it, he clearly made a mockery of the romantic ambience of the Golden Mile, a former seafront promenade at the Johor Straits which was lit up by electric bulbs on tacky artificial trees.
While fishing was popular at the Johor Straits at one time, the water has since turned toxic and any surviving sea creatures may not be the healthiest choice of a fresh catch now!
In the final frame, Lat’s cool illustration of the first Chinese food court in JB, fondly called pasak-kia, depicted a group enjoying a hearty meal despite their proximity to the filth and stench from the open sewer, familiar to locals as the infamous Sungai Segget!
In another comic strip which Lat entitled, ‘One afternoon in JB’ I realised that this practice is a thing of the past.
Back then, locals would try to smuggle back items they shopped in Singapore. But now with their favourable exchange rate, the opposite is true because Singaporeans are shopping lavishly in JB and trying to smuggle back everything they bought cheaply!
Lat’s collection of popular poses for photographs is so funny because it’s true! Just look into your family albums to find shots with similar poses, whether they are formal photos snapped in the photo studio or in the park!
Lat cartoons are often presented in a single frame while his standard cartoon strip format is a series of small frames with the punch-line delivered in the final frame. With accuracy in his words and illustrations, it would take a few witty and well-chosen words inside a tiny dialogue bubble, to crack me up!
Nobody takes offence when his Chinese characters have awful buck teeth and slits for eyes while his Indian men usually sported thick waists or the extreme opposite, drawn with skinny (hairy!) legs and wearing a dhoti!
I find it interesting that comic books, older than Yuvitra by several decades, made her reconnect with her country in the 21st century. It must be Lat’s unique brand of humour that binds us together. His wit and humour, artfully drawn into cartoons, are indeed an eye-opener for us to look for ways to unite ourselves with humility and mutual respect.
Thanks Yuvitra, for reminding me that Lat cartoons are a viable record of our Malaysian heritage and a humorous complement to dry history books. On whether or not I would part with my Lat books – regretfully it’s not likely to happen.
Mid-Year Reflection Can you believe we have already ushered into July by the time you are reading this? It’s already half a year and as usual, every month is eventful. Lately, the Dow Jones Industrial Index and S&P have continued breaking new highs. However, the technology index Nasdaq, took an abrupt plunge on 9th June 2017, causing some knee jerk reactions among the technology stocks around the globe. In the
Larkin Sentral Property Berhad introduced its latest product – the Prospectus for ‘Waqaf Saham Larkin Sentral’ which is claimed to be the first in the world public offering of 850 million waqaf shares. Launched by the representative to the Sultan of Johor, Tunku Idris Iskandar Al-Haj ibni Sultan Ibrahim with Johor Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Chief Executive Officer of Johor Corporation, Dato’ Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim, the
iProperty.com Malaysia, the country’s No.1 property portal announced that the highly coveted iProperty.com Agents Advertising Awards is back for the third consecutive year on 15th August 2017 at KL Hilton. iProperty.com Malaysia & Singapore Chief Executive Officer, Haresh Khoobchandani said, “It’s the most acclaimed property industry awards in the country as it celebrates the best advertising practices and outstanding performances by agencies and professionals within the real estate industry”. These
Follow Appoi’s coming of age journey as he learns lessons of life in the critically acclaimed, award-winning Malaysian made Tamil socio-drama film, ‘Jagat’. Loosely translated; ‘Jagat’ in Tamil street slang means bad, and director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal captured the essence of real world atrocity including gangsterism, drugs, and oppressions clearly throughout the film. Set in the early 1990’s, the story revolves around the plight of Malaysian Indians, as portrayed by
These Q & As would help one understand better as to what is Colon Cancer all about. 1) What is colon cancer? Colon cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the colon which tends to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread). 2) How do I know if I have colon cancer? What are the symptoms? The most accurate way to diagnose is through
In conjunction with the recent inaugural Johor Youth Economic Forum, Yayasan Sultanah Fatimah received a fund aid of RM2 million from the State Government through 2017 Johor Budget plan. Witnessed and officiated by Johor Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Wee Ka Siong and State Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee Chairman, Datuk Tee Siew Kiong, the forum gathered
Forest City master developer, Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV) will invest RM935 million to build its first International School, Shattuck St. Mary’s Forest City. Scheduled to be built in three phases, they are expecting to open their doors to the first 150 students by August 2018. Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony, CGPV Executive Director, Datuk Md Othman Yusof expects the school to have a positive impact on the township. “The
Medini Iskandar Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (“MIM”) achieved another significant milestone when it held the Topping Off Ceremony for a premium office building, Medini 9, which boasts a gross floor area of about half a million square feet. The ceremony signified the completion of the superstructure for the Medini 9 office development. Held at the roof top of the 21-storey building, guests at the event witnessed the symbolic Topping Off Ceremony.
Release Date: 20th July 2017 Genre: Action Thriller Written and Directed by: Edgar Wright Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner Executive Producers: Edgar Wright, Adam Merims, James Biddle, Rachel Prior, Liza Chasin, Michelle Wright Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González with Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx Credits not final Synopsis A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his