Saturday, 24 October 2015

Hungry In Ipoh: A Water Tower Story


If you're a long time reader of this blog (all three of you), you'll remember I wrote a story about two boys and a water tower. Okay, actually you won't remember, because it was nine years ago. That was my first seriously written short story, one I had intended on submitting for publication.

It was also my first rejection.

No hard feelings though. It was truly a badly written story. I was overconfident of my writing abilities (or lack thereof) and the story truly didn't deserve to be published.

But the story of climbing a water tower continued to linger in the back of my mind. I knew I wanted to write a story which featured one. I had grown up in suburb of Ipoh called Pekan Razaki, and I lived on a road that led up to an imposingly tall water tower. I'm sure you'll understand that this would spark the imagination of a teenaged boy.

To give you an idea what it was like, I messed around a bit with Google Maps Streetview. Here's the view:

I lived on this road some twenty years ago.

The water tower close up.

Moving on a little, earlier this year Fixi Novo put out a call for submissions on a new anthology to be called, "Hungry In Ipoh". Of course, I had to try!

One problem.

The submissions had to be related to food or hunger of some sort. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this but even though I'm an Ipoh Boy, I'm no foodie. Heck, for years I had no idea Ipoh was some sort of food haven. If people asked me where the best food was, I wouldn't have been able to answer. Still can't really.

Fellow writer Marc De Faoite recently posted on his Facebook wall looking for "Recommendations for good places to eat in Ipoh please (preferably the type of place that has white wall tiles, plastic chairs, kitchen workers in rubber boots, and lots of loud loud Cantonese)",  and all I could think of was the old McDonald's opposite of Super Kinta, one of my lepak spots back in the 90s. I'm sure that wasn't the kind of eatery Marc meant.

So there I was wanting to write for Hungry in Ipoh but I had no food-related memory or idea I could mine for a story. Until I recalled my long since abandoned Water Tower story. I decided to bring it back kicking and screaming. I didn't reuse my original draft. That was too horrible to bring back. But I took the idea of two boys exploring a water tower and added a girl to their story. Now I had a sort of triangle, a dynamic I could use to set up for a revenge plot.

There was still something I needed to add--an ingredient that would make this an Ipoh story. So I decided to make the story revolve around "air lengkong", essentially grass jelly drink, or outside of Ipoh more commonly called "cincau". I don't know if there are other places besides Ipoh that call cincau "air lengkong" but Ipoh is the only place I know and that would serve the story.

I spent a week writing it and then when I was done, I titled it "Mastura's Air Lengkong Adventure". I sent it off and had little expectations it would be accepted simply because the story wasn't about a hunger for food, but a hunger for revenge.

But Hadi M. Nor, the editor, accepted it anyway, and I'm glad to announce the story is now included in the anthology along with other fantastic writers, like the previously mentioned Marc De Faoite, Tina Isaacs, Cassandra Khaw, Atikah Abdul Wahid, Terence Toh, Julya Oui, and many others.

By the time you read this, Hungry In Ipoh should be launched in Ipoh and hopefully you'll be able to find the anthology in bookstores a little later.

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