It was a dream came true for our columnist when she was asked to write for The Star. After more than four years, Dr Lyana bids farewell.
I GREW up reading The Star. More accurately, I spent my childhood reading whole articles out loud to my grandfather.
It was routine. My grandfather insisted that newspapers be delivered daily to the house, and as his eyesight worsened, I became his reader.
Alzheimer’s then got the better of him; he would wander around the neighbourhood and got lost. More often than not, we would receive a call from our local newsagent whom I only know as Mahboob, saying that someone found my grandfather and they brought him there, would I care to come and bring him home?
I would ride my bicycle to the newsagent. There, I would find him deep in conversation with Mahboob about current issues; sometimes he would lose track of the conversation and repeat a point he made barely a minute ago. And Mahboob would just listen to him. After a while, my grandfather would realise that I was there; offered to get me whatever I want from the newsagent (this is usually an outdated copy of National Geographic or Reader’s Digest, but sometimes the magazine Smash Hits for a New Kids on the Block poster), and after Mahboob carefully detailed our purchase in a notebook, we would find our way home.
Me awkwardly cycling as slow as I can, him with careful steps supported by his cane. This was one of the dearest memories I have from my childhood, alongside reading with my grandfather daily.
I consider myself privileged that I have such memories. I was brought up to love reading, books, and writing.
Back then, books were a luxury for me. Every other week I would borrow a book or two from the local public library; while on birthdays or when I achieved good results in examinations, my parents or my aunt would bring me to the bookstore in Komtar and told me that I can purchase brand new books to call my own.
Thus, the daily newspaper reading session with my grandfather was something I utterly cherish. News, opinion pieces, even satirical cartoons were bits of information that I could devour daily, it’s almost like having a new book every day!
These reading sessions stopped when I went to boarding school. When I returned for semester breaks, I found my grandfather too frail to care about whatever I was reading to him and I took to reading alone.
I also found a love for writing, participating in essay writing competitions and keeping journals. In my teens, I applied for The Star BRATs programme, but sadly did not make the cut.
As a Penangite, my go-to newspaper would always be The Star. As I grew older, I started looking forward to reading opinion pieces, and found columns by Zainah Anwar and Marina Mahathir inspirational.
I wanted a column. But I am a nobody from Prai (yes, not even from the island side, I am a Penangite from the mainland!), and suffer from impostor syndrome that made me think that my writing would not sell papers, or be on par with writings by Zainah and Marina.
It took a nudge from Dina Zaman whom I befriended on Facebook for me to start writing letters to the editor of The Malaysian Insider. After a few incessant emails with multiple articles attached, they finally relented and gave me a column.
Never in my mind would I have imagined that I would have a column in The Star. For this, I must thank Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai for reading one of my TMI articles and asking me if I would consider writing for The Star.
Seventy-five articles, four years and two months later, I could not imagine not writing for The Star. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
All of my opinion about policies and the need to impact change finally came biting me hard. I must now let go of this column in order to actually do what I have opined.
I must take some time and word space to thank my editors – the late Soo Ewe Jin who scolded me on my bad Hokkien and reminded me to lead a life full of kindness, the wonderful Santha Oorjitham who would insist to go through my submissions carefully to correct grammar and make sure I do not get into too much trouble for my opinions, and Errol Oh for being patient with me whenever I submit articles right before the deadline. I must also thank all the readers. Thank you for reading my thoughts, and I hope it has made you feel better on some days, and want to take action on others.
My late grandfather never got to read my column. I would like to think that he is proud of me nonetheless.
I wish to end with this poem by Rupi Kaur: “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me, thinking what can I do, to make this mountain taller, so the women after me can see farther – legacy.”
I hoped I have made a small hill to help other young women find their power to start writing. Naturally, out.