A Secret Longing – Interview with Marguerite Richards (12 July 2020)

A few weeks ago, I received a message from a friend about the publication of a new book called The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human. I found this title intriguing and went about looking for more information about both the book and its author. Duly fascinated, I made a request via my friend about whether or not the author was open to being interviewed. She was. So, without further ado, I allow me to share, in her own words, the story of The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human and its author, Marguerite Richards.

Aneeta: Marguerite, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Marguerite: It’s a real pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Aneeta: Let’s start with something about you. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now and what do you do for a living?

Marguerite: I was born

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Beat of My Heart – A Love Letter

Dear ChelseaBoo,

Do you remember that afternoon when we went to collect some papers from PJ, then to the cold rooms to get your meat dust, after which we went to the supermarket to grab a bag of cat litter, and then a quick stop at the KFC drive-thru to grab some nuggets? Before we finally headed home? I do. I remember glancing at you and thinking, ‘I cannot believe how much I love her.’

You almost didn’t come to live with me. Apparently, you were such an aggressive puppy from not having any company all day at home that when your previous human was trying to find you a new home, you kept getting sent back to him. I can understand. You are such a loving little thing that you were upset at not getting any attention. I would be too.

After three

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Quizzical Stories – Interview with Phanindra Ivatury (12 June 2020)

When I was still contributing feature articles to the New Straits Times, one of the most curious assignments I had was to work on a story about a quiz master. I never forgot this story for a few reasons. One, a quiz master? What on earth was that? Two, the gentleman in question had a unique name (although I suspect that like most Indian names, it’s probably not unique in his hometown) – Phanindra. Three, Phanindra turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever interviewed – you could practically feel the energy bouncing off him. Four – his general knowledge was vast.

Since that first meeting, we’ve kept in touch. In these past few months, when world news was depressing because of the devastation of COVID-19, Phanindra provided a daily dose of light relief. He’d send out a

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Whisper of Love

Seema and Duchess

Even at four months of age, anyone could see that she was no ordinary dog, IF they looked beyond everything that WAS ordinary about her and looked into her eyes. She had already seen too much for a puppy that young. It was like her heart was already broken, but until her body broke, too, she would still need to feed it. But her eyes were there for everyone to look into – a peculiar mix of sadness tinged with a tiny sliver of the gigantic love she was so capable of giving and yearning to receive. She just didn’t understand why it had to be this way. This is the rags to riches story of the one we shall, for now, call ‘the dumped dog’.

Rescuers (who are also sometimes active feeders) first spotted the dumped dog

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Echo of Life and Love


Did you know that 80 per cent of Dalmatians are born either deaf on one side or both?

Echo, as we came to name our sweet Dalmation, was born with his disability. Despite being deaf in both ears from birth, he is the calmest and happiest puppy I have ever met. He doesn’t know any differently and perhaps thinks that silence is just life. He will never know or hear his name being called or hear other dogs bark at him or be afraid of the sound of thunder.

Echo is a special needs dog, and special needs dogs cannot be trained like normal dogs, therefore making their assimilation into a family or pack challenging. A special needs dog requires just that, special needs.

Adopting Echo made me realise that however much I thought I knew about dogs, I still had

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Karma, Psychiatrists and the Storyteller – Interview with VJ Singam (18 March 2020)

I came across Uma’s first published work in 1998. And this was in Alor Setar. At the time, I had completed university and was about to join a law firm. Still, I was more than happy to meet someone who had followed her dream and become a published author. More than the lovely story Uma told in that first book, I remember being fascinated by this idea of being a published author. What was it like? How do you tell a story? Is it possible, even, for someone from a small town to succeed as a writer? So many questions…

Except for a brief meeting when my first novel The Banana Leaf Men was published, I didn’t know that more than 20 years would pass before Uma and I would meet again. Last year, at a meeting

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In the Name of the Father? Maybe Not.

In July 2018, soon after the manuscript for my novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets, went to print, I wrote a story about the prevailing position of the law in Malaysia where both parents must consent to the conversion of a child to Islam. It stemmed from newspaper articles about a high-profile case involving the unilateral conversion of a child to Islam and the jurisdiction of the courts in Malaysia. It is now commonly called the ‘Indira Gandhi decision’.

Why was this case such a big deal in the first place? Quite simply, under Malaysian law, once you embrace Islam, your identity changes forever. You retain the right to seek redress in the Civil Courts, but you’re subject to the laws and jurisdiction of the Syariah Courts. This was confusing for the simplest of minds. To understand how

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Dance Weavers by Ramli Ibrahim

In April 2011, Sutra Foundation staged Odissi Stirred at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. The newspapers reported that, ‘true to the art, the choreographer is inspired by the Odissi tradition and reveals its rural and folk charm, incorporating elements of its originality while transcending into modernity as the moves are mesmerisingly surreal and captivating.’

The production included a 20-minute composition commissioned by Sutra called Pallavan which was choreographed by Madhavi Mudgal. She performed it alongside Evocations by Sharmila Biswas.

Many were unaware that this was the beginning of a paradigm shift. It was the first time that Malaysians saw odissi choreographed by women. Indeed, the word ‘choreography’ was either not understood or taken for granted.

For a long while, the gurus and dance-makers of odissi tended to be male. Generally, male dancers learn odissi in order to become gurus; not many can compete with

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The Wedding Estate


One of the things that caught my attention early last month was a story about the wedding photos of the Hollywood couple Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds being removed from websites. Why had those photos caused such offence? The answer was because the wedding had taken place at a US plantation which was ‘a site that holds deep traumatic historical meaning for the African American community’. (1)

I set about investigating this story a little more and found an online article about it in The Guardian where it was stated as follows: ‘In a letter, Color of Change wrote that “plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen. The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry…’

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Magical Story Energy – Interview with Mbeke Waseme (16 January 2020)

Mbeke and I first met a year and a half ago during a celebration hosted by 7C Life RealiZation Centre. A few months later, during the full moon, we travelled together to a resort in Sepang to take part in a session called ‘Gratitude of Life’ where we immersed ourselves in seawater. The purpose of this session was to express our gratitude to Mother Ganga and set our intentions for a successful and happy life. It is said that during the full moon’s heightened gravitational pull, the power of our intentions increases which allows them to be manifested quickly. During the journey back from Sepang, we discovered that we lived in the same area and, in the aftermath of this trip, our friendship developed. She asked me to submit a story to an anthology she’s working on (please see below for details)

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