Story Me

In this column, Aneeta Sundararaj shares some stories from Asia. Sometimes, she features stories by other authors/writers/storytellers.

On 29 October 2021, the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz tabled Budget 2022 in the Malaysian parliament. RM50 million has been allocated for the arts and culture industry. This comes after a year and a half after the entire industry came to an absolute standstill. With all the complaints, quibbles and arguments that are being put forward, there is one that hasn’t been analysed until now: things may not be as hopeless as it is made out. It starts with the basic premise that we already have frameworks in place to help artistes thrive, but none…
Wednesday, 19 May 2021 18:42

Chaos of Whole Books

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Is it possible to read several books at once? Aneeta Sundararaj finds out. When I was a child, my cousin used to boast that he could read four storybooks at a time. As an adult, when he invested in an e-Reader, he continued to boast that he could keep several books ‘open’ at a time. More than that, he could quote from said books and command his ‘audience’ (mainly us cousins when we were children) with recitations of texts. I, on the other hand, was (still am) a painfully slow reader. As a child, I struggled to finish…
Wednesday, 09 June 2021 18:11

Writing for You? Or for Me?

Written by
Writing for You? Or for Me? ‘You must always write with your reader in mind.’ This was one of the first pieces of advice that I received when I began my writing career. Honestly, I found this extremely hard to do because more often than not, I couldn’t picture my ideal reader. Slowly, this advice changed to ‘Write for yourself.’ While that seemed easier, it didn’t necessarily fulfil the reality of the situation, meaning, writing for myself didn’t translate into sales of whatever I wrote. As time went on, though, there were a few things I understood which made writing…
Saturday, 21 November 2020 21:35

One Book That Changed My Writing Life

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My latest novel, The Age of Smiling Secrets was shortlisted for two categories in the Book Award 2020 organised by the National Library of Malaysia. When I reflected on the journey that this book has taken, I acknowledged the enormous influence of one of my all-time favourite books, Joseph Anton: A Memoir (ISBN 9780224093972 - hardcover) by Salman Rushdie. Written in the third person, the memoir is an account of Rushdie’s life during the fatwa that was issued as a reaction to criticism and a widespread controversy over his novel The Satanic Verses (1988). Rushdie used "Joseph Anton" as a…
Friday, 20 November 2020 23:14

A Lasting Effect

Written by
Members of Readers Club of Manav Rachna International School Sector-46, Gurugram Recently, I accepted an invitation to speak to members of a Readers Club at a school. The topic I was given was to explain the importance of reading and a book that had an impact on me. It seemed easy enough until I found it difficult. In the end, I decided to put myself in these students’ shoes, which meant going back in time and trying to figure out the novel I’d read in school that had had a huge impact on my life. The novel I eventually chose…
Wednesday, 22 January 2020 17:55

The Wedding Estate

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Aneeta Sundararaj is fascinated by the removal of celebrities' wedding photos because of venue. Is this likely to happen in Malaysia? 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…
Saturday, 29 February 2020 19:52

In the Name of the Father? Maybe Not.

Written by
Although the concurrent legal jurisdictions of Syariah Law and the Civil Law is unique to Malaysia, they continue to cause problems and there is a growing air of pessimism all round. 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…
Sunday, 22 December 2019 01:02

Miracles Made

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A story about a Malaysian author, a locally-published book and a miracle in a faraway place a few days before Christmas. There is no winter to speak of in tropical Malaysia, but on 18 December 2019, all that came to mind was that it was a bleak midwinter. In the last few weeks, I'd managed health issues of dear ones, the shocking death of a friend too young to die, assignments to submit, deadlines to meet, the flu, severe allergies to the point of developing painful welts all over and the stress of travel. Certainly, it was a lesson in…
Thursday, 15 August 2019 03:24

Contact and Connection. And Empathy?

Written by
[Note: This story was first published in CLARITY (15 August 2019). It is published here with permission.] The scene is familiar: It’s Sunday evening and a family of four come into a restaurant for dinner. The waitress shows them to a table and before they even sit down, all four of them – father, mother, son and daughter – place their phones on the table. Orders are placed and while waiting for the food to arrive, they are glued to their phones. Maybe, there’ll be some respite when the food arrives. Maybe, they’ll put away their phones for a while.…
Monday, 17 June 2019 17:07

Time and the Moment of a Smile

Written by
Retreat to Nature [Note from Editor: This story first appeared in CLARITY (15 June 2019). It's published here with permission.] In these last few months, many of us at 7C Life RealiZation Centre feel that time has gone by too fast. Just last week, one of my colleagues said, “Oh my God, the second quarter of the year is almost over.” Indeed, many of our projects have gained a stronger foothold and we’re on track. In moments of quietude, however, I wonder about it all. What do we mean when we say ‘last few months’? How long is this time?…
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