“YASMIN HOW YOU KNOW?”: An Unfinished Tribute To Yasmin Ahmad
Tuesday, 17th July, 2012 § 8 Comments
Yasmin Ahmad died in 2009. She was a copywriter who later became well known for her annual Merdeka television ads for Petronas and later became even more famous for her movies. I’m not a fan and I knew of her more from the controversy of at least two of her movies than from watching the movies themselves. One, Muallaf, was even banned from screening in Malaysia if I’m not mistaken. (EDIT: Okay, I was mistaken. Muallaf was never banned. But she was seen by some as ‘controversial’ because she made movies that did not feature mat rempits).
She was loved by her friends and fans because of her pluralistic and liberal outlook in a nation that only pays lip service to such ideas and this book is a collection of memoirs of that liberal woman from the people who knew her best. “Yasmin How You Know?” (saying “How you know” in a staccato manner was her habit apparently) is hilarious, touching and even made me who was ambivalent towards her work miss her deeply.
Here are some excerpts:
Yasmin on Orang Putih (literally white people):
“You know what orang putih are to me? Albino Punjabis.”
Yasmin on what to do before going to bed:
“Seek forgiveness from God and to forgive everyone who has hurt you”
Yasmin and how she got Kok Wai Ming the typist to type her copy first (fondly remembered by Irene Ho, Yasmin’s colleague and Ogilvy and Mather):
Circa 1980s, all copywriters had to write their copy by hand, then pass it to the typist, Ms Kok Wai Ming, to type on the only computer in the department. And the queue would be horrendously long.
Yasmin being Yasmin, would finish her copy only at the very last minute.
Once I saw Yasmin so frantically late, she actually went on her knees: “Kok Wai Ming, please type for me first, please…”
Kok Wai Ming: “Cannot!”
Yasmin literally begged: “Please, please, Kok Wai Ming. I’ll even give you an English name if you type for me first.”
“What name?” asked our typist.
“Massive,” said Yasmin, “Massive Kok.”
The design of the book is unique. Slip it out of its envelope and it looks like a notepad one would have on one’s writing desk. The back of the book says that “this book is not damaged. It is intentionally designed with the “yet-to-be-perfected” look. Read it, and you’ll understand why. God willing.”
I did. And I did.