To me , story offers a way for anyone with an ounce of imagination to escape from the mundane to places and people they have never been before.
The culprit who so callously gave me the dual gift and curse of the lust for story were actually both my grandmothers . My paternal grandmother in particular, as long as I could remember told me stories . The earliest story I could remember and which stuck with me was a ghost story , in which the content which might seem crude, vulgar a story to be told to a child barely older than five but Granny cared not.
She would tell me as we rested in the shade and cool of her bedroom . About the time a long long ago , when she was a little naughty girl who stayed in a kampung in Malaysia who had a hankering for some juicy bananas one day. Particularly the fat wild ones in the dark forest that bordered the kampong that she spied. The children were however warned by the village elders never ever to go into the dark forest for reasons, Granny said with a twinkle in her eye, she was about to find out. So, thinking her village elders were just bluffing , off went young Granny , secretly to get the bananas . She found what she was looking for , a rather large banana tree in a clearing surrounded by clumps and clumps of lalang. Anyway , granny had climbed up the tree and was about to pick the nearest one when she sensed something. She looked up and there was an old lady but she knew it was no mere old lady for she was butt necked and had these huge pendulous breasts that were so huge and wrinkled they touched the ground . She had these long, long nails and oh, she looked really hungry and she was looking at Granny.
Granny called it s variety of vampire , an older uglier but no less deadly version of the Pontianak.
With a squeak, Granny leapt off and fled. Grabbing clumps of lalang as she fled, recalling what her own mother drilled into her should she ever encounter this type of spook was its weakness. She flung them behind as she fled, hearing yelps, howls of pain and fury as she made her hasty escape. Lalang, she told me, jabbing her pointer finger at me, wards off the southeastern variety of vampire. Needless to say, it was the last time she disobeyed her elders warning.
Granny would regale me with stories, stories of her time growing up in rural Malaysia. Her time spent with her brothers during the Japanese occupation , hiding with the resistance troops and living off wild tapioca, bananas, leaves and bark. And rainwater. Her time when her own mother sold her off as a child bride to a rich Singaporean family, to the son of the family. My grandpa . Happy times, sad times .
My maternal grandmother was the more favored of the two but not as good as a story teller as she had a short attention span and also extremely busy .
She would tell me between snatches of conversation on her day , what her neighbor did , and then go off on a tangent and talk about the times she was a girl .
Po po ( the term for maternal grandma in Chinese )was always busy . While my Nai Nai ( the term for paternal grandmother in Chinese) was the queen of the household , both feared and loved by her respectful brood and army of children and grandchildren , my Po Po fitted the textbook image of loving granny . She or my Grandoa would give me change to buy snacks , I always had a chance to eat cookies at her place and her cooking was way better than my Nai Nai’s delegated cooking for my mother . ( For as long as I can remember , my Nai Nai never cooked and for good reason, she did once , but it was a disaster.)
My Po Po had this big personality , and she loved to gossip and talk to everyone and everyone. And all the while , while cooking . Which was 99.5% where she was . In the kitchen , in some manner of food preparation . Peeling the onions , chucking potatoes while bellowing on what how the prices had gone up and what a struggle she had to negotiate prices with the unfortunate shop owner to get it at this ( in her humble opinion ) ridiculous price . Then telling us young grandchildren or her offspring to serve out the bowls of soup she would ladle out .
When she finally had time to spare to sit down it was never for long she gave her attention to me for I was not her only grand daughter , she had many .
Popo would talk to me about the present , she did not seem unlike my Nai Nai interested in her past . The only story I got out from her was how she escaped being taken by the Japanese Troops as a little girl was hiding in her older sister’s long black dress before she swiftly changed topics .
So while I did learn how to express myself through her possibly , and gain interest in oratory skills and interest . Po Po was not as good a story teller as my Nai Nai due to time constraints and lack of interest although she certainly possessed the potential .
However , I credit my mother for taking it up a notch and adding 'voice' to her stories. To me, there can be no other who can tell stories so well. Give tone and voice to character. Like life reflects art, I would later analyze and determine that every character had an individual voice and was the key to creating an interesting story.
So really, I had very good role models who cultivated within me the willingness to learn and to be teachable. Through then I learnt the importance of transporting my readers and audience to different worlds and inculcating values because c’mon , at the heart of it all stories, the good ones anyway have some sort of message .
What story do you want to tell if you write ?