9 Kuncu Kuncu is about the associations in Malaysian life that transcend race and religion. Be it in the realm of politics or that of business, and even in crime and corruption, Malaysians come together across these primordial divides. One might say, every Mahathir has his Ananda or every Anwar has his Nalla, or even, every Najib has his Jo.This image celebrates my own Malaysian cabal. Particularly, it commemorates my own friendship with the late Suflan Shamsuddin. My other close friends in this photograph are Lim Chee Min and Thomas Vanniasingam. Here is an extract from a letter I wrote to Suflan posthumously as a way of remembering him -
My dearest Lan
Our most intense youthful engagement ended when I left for the UK in 1979. I was 17 and you, I think, a mere 16. Since we have maintained a bond that has withstood the ravages of life and time. This bond was as strong as ever while I held your hand on that last lucid day before you departed for the infinity of the Almighty ... Lan there is so much I want to say about you – your intellect, your talent, your determination, or was it just plain old stubbornness.
Yes, there is much I want to say but if I am allowed only one utterance, I would say that, even when you did not show it, you really cared. You cared about things. You cared about people. In fact you cared so much for other people that there was no room for jealousy in any relationship with you. There are so many people who, so rightly, feel close to you. Our own relationship was as deep as it could possibly be across the very real boundaries of religion and race. In fact the bond of our relationship, which was formed through the era of Ketuanan and the new Malay nationalism, was cemented with arguments and ideas of political theory, notions of justice and visions of a future Malaysia.
Pada pagi you meninggalkan dunia ini, saya menangis kesedihan…bak si Keling Karam…tangisan itu seolah-olah saya ditendang…air mata saya mengalir for you sahabat karibku yang disayangi. Sehari selepas urusan pengebumian you selesai… saya sempat bermesra dengan sahabat handai kita ... dan secara tidak sedar… saya terkata, “for me, now, the ‘Malay’ has gone out of ‘Malaysia’. Suddenly, I felt I had lost my connection...
I am glad to say, however, as the months have passed... I am feeling better about Malaysia. I am, once again, back in the game of envisioning a future, as we had done together so earnestly all those years ago, and equally seriously, if independently, in the years since. I am crying now, as I write this letter to you... I am crying this time, not for you but for those of us you have left behind. I am crying because we are missing you in the struggle for this future. I am crying because we are missing you ... your intellect, your talent and most of all your heart.