JULY 3 — Kisah dari Siru Kambam (2013) by Uthaya Sankar SB is a self-published collection of 20 Bahasa Malaysia short stories that projects a small village – Siru Kambam; thus the title – as the physical setting or characters who were presumably born there.
I read the book during my free time over the course of eight days and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I really liked the fact that although most of the stories were based in a small village (aptly named Siru Kambam), the stories did not fail to address various pressing social or political issues in Malaysia at large.
The stories are also capable of encouraging critical thinking and promoting intercultural understanding among the readers.
I would like to list some of the thoughts or questions that arose in me while reading the fun yet stimulating stories in this collection.
Nayagi – A story that speaks to the subjugation of women and the need for women to fight for their rights. The story also raises an important question: Who are the enemies of women; only men or are women themselves (like the mother in the story) equally responsible?
Siru Kambatil – A story that addresses the topic of religious views. The story questions our tolerance and acceptance of different religious views, particularly atheism. The story also leaves the reader with a timely question: Are we still living as pattern-seeking mammals?
Doa Tahun Baru – A story that deals with the role of festivals and women in family and community building. The story talks about how various cultural festivals enrich the lives of children and help in promoting unity among the diverse community.
Sebuah Cerita Biasa – Another story that highlights the perils of our patriarchal society. The story also questions the perception of women as people with only two types of faces either the great evil or the naive cry-prone one. The story leaves the reader with a vital question: Is there an ultimate truth after all?
Dizigotik – One of my personal favourites! A story that deals with the awesomeness of brotherhood and attempts to redefine masculinity as both instrumental and expressive. The story also tries to establish that it is okay for a man to have close platonic relationship with another man.
Postmortem – Another favourite! A story that speaks of child abuse and subtly arises the question: Who is responsible for child abuse? The story also addresses the imperfections of the criminal justice system and the social stigma of sex work.
Kakak, Tolonglah Saya! – A story that deals with child marriage and human trafficking.The story also portrays ‘Kakak’ as a shero figure and leaves the readers with an important question: Why does Ameena (the child) buy into the system as well?
Wanita – A story that criticizes the use of the husband’s name (e.g., Puan Ram) by women after marriage. The story exposes the evilness of trying to justify immature beliefs and practices in the name of religion or culture as well.
Datuk Datang ke Kampung Kami – I have a strong feeling that this story is based on a real event! A story that touches on how bad politics corrupt everything and the unnecessary presence of politicians during all public events. The story also addresses our constant failure in appreciating good writers and their works.
Yang Aneh-aneh, PRU-O, Nating, Interlok dan Siru Kambam and Saya Sebatang Pensel – These stories collectively speak to various aspects of politics such as corruption, power-abuse, political consciousness among the citizen and the inevitability of Change.
Kutiyattam di Semporna – A story that poses a question of who is responsible for keeping our traditional culture alive. Quite pleasingly, the story also touches on the institutionalised discrimination of our Sabahans/Sarawakians.
Chitra Paurnami – A story that talks about the celebration of traditional festivals. The story raises some important questions about these celebrations: Why do we celebrate them? Are we celebrating them the right (i.e., intended) way? Do they teach us deeper truths about life?
Kisah Cik Timun Busuk and Persubahatan Encik Limau – To my understanding, these stories indirectly talks about the internal politics in the writing world and the struggles righteous writers go through to keep giving us good texts. It is also important to note that the author’s honourable stance, struggle and selfidentity of being the change he would like to see in this world are clearly reflected in his collection of short stories. Uthaya is a socially-conscious, intelligent and courageous writer, indeed! And, yes, it is worth reading his works.
TamilSelvan Ramis is a graduate of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Get details of the book at uthayasb.blogspot.com.