Always hard to say goodbye

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  • Wednesday, 21 Jun 2017

I HAVE never been very good with goodbyes. And neither are my folks – just ask mum how she reacts whenever my sisters and I leave the country for our studies. Banjir, the airport!

I’m quite sure it runs in the family.

Many years before tai che was the first child to leave the nest for a year abroad in New Zealand, I was already quite the cry baby.

On my last day at Methodist Primary School, I was sobbing and hugging almost everyone, including teachers who never taught me.

As a teenager who was part of the BRATs young journalist programme, I would cry at the end of each workshop I attended.

I still remember how my friend Courtney and I were when I left Australia for good after completing my degree. She hugged me as I bawled.

During ee che’s wedding tea ceremony, I was a mess because the family “gave her away”, even if it was only symbolic.

Perhaps it was because of my attachment to friends and my sentimentality that dad used to often talk to me about the nature of life and friendships.

“Friends come and go,” he would console me.

“You just be grateful that you had them for a period of your life,” he would say, adding that if these friendships last longer than expected, then it was a bonus.

I won’t say that I have gotten any better with farewells, although I think I have stopped crying and also learned to focus on the memories and appreciate all the good things.

Over the past 11 years, I have been regularly spending my Sunday evenings (previously Wednesday mornings) putting words together for this – The Bangsar Boy column.

Writing these stories have given me the opportunity to speak to a large number of people, sharing the wealth of the wisdom my parents offered me growing up and the many adventures I have encountered growing up in Kuala Lumpur.

I could not be more grateful for being trusted to share my views on life in Malaysia, even though some of you may not always agree with me. But that is what being respectful of diversity of views is all about.

I also discovered that so many people have taken to my family, in the email correspondence I received in the early days, to Facebook messages and tweets, and even in person.

Some days, I feel that it is my niece Sara and nephew Adam who were the “stars” of this column, although it’s unfortunate that my other nephews Ali and Isa are too young to have been featured more often.

Then there are the more tangible things, like the book Growing Up In KL: 10 Years of The Bangsar Boy, which would never have been published in January this year if not for the generosity of the many editors and sub-editors at The Star, and StarMetro particularly, who have been clearing my stories (and dealing with my missing of deadlines) for over a decade.

Writing this column has not just been about documenting my life journey; Bangsar Boy has been a journey on its own.

Putting together Growing Up In KL, I surprised myself by how much the column had changed over the years.

In the early days, I spoke often about multi-culturalism forming our country’s social fabric, telling stories of my childhood best friends, neighbours, and brothers-in-law Mizuan and Rizal, and their “Melachi” children (although the latter also has Punjabi blood).

Then I shared stories about people who were affected by causes close to my heart – friends living with HIV, and relatives who battled with, survived and (some who) succumbed to cancer.

I spoke a great deal for my love of performing arts and how it opened up my mind, and how the luxury of travelling the world (and other parts of Malaysia) has showed me the scale of humanity’s diversity.

As I got older and became more engaged with current affairs, I commented about socio-cultural and political issues in our country, advocating for the return of the moderate, progressive Malaysia my family grew up in.

These articles complemented some of the work I was doing for social campaigns with groups like RandomAlphabets, unity projects like Fast For Malaysia and my own Merdeka and Malaysia Day story-telling projects, in its fifth iteration this year, with the support of the Kakiseni team.

I will miss writing Bangsar Boy but at the same time, it is also an opportunity for me to contribute differently to Malaysia, through my research work, and through that, offering a critical perspective about our social, cultural and political lives.

Over the course of the years, I have been called many things – journalist, editor, blogger, “Twitterer”, activist and academic. But I connect most to a description that I feel allows me to be all of those – writer.

So, while Bangsar Boy the column may be no more, Bangsar Boy the person, all my values, passion and love for writing and creating content, remains.

I often write about the charmed life I lead, and having been able to pen Bangsar Boy for this long, and to have all of you on this journey with me over the years, certainly contributed to that.

Since that first “talk”, I have learned through my life experiences that my father was right about friends (as he is with many things), and this column – my longest ever relationship – is one of the many “bonus” bits of my life

When I first started writing Bangsar Boy, mum told me how she always hoped that I would be a columnist after I expressed an interest in writing. I hope I have made her and all of you proud, and that is definitely something not worth crying about.

For the last time, excuse the sentimentality and thanks for indulging me over the years.

This is Niki’s last column as The Bangsar Boy. Keep up with him on various platforms linked through his website

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Metro , Central Region , niki cheong


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