A friend of the late Yasmin Ahmad is moved by memories of the filmmaker that have been compiled into a book.
Yasmin How You Know?
Publisher: Leo Burnett-Arc Malaysia,
HAS it been three years since Yasmin Ahmad left us? It has, and I can’t believe it.
Her ever-inquisitive gaze remains vivid in my mind, and her rendition of Christopher Cross’ song, Sailing, on that one rainy afternoon as we sat in her office, resonates in my ear every time I think of her.
And when that happens, the pain of losing her always returns and would never ebb without much effort – until I found solace in this wonderful book, Yasmin How You Know?
From it, I learnt that Yasmin sang and played the guitar well. As I kept reading the book, Cross’ song resounded again, and I remembered one line in particular: “Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me.”
The first picture of Yasmin in the book had me laughing like a drain. It portrays wonderfully her playfulness and sense of ridiculous: she has a pout on her face, her eyes shut, and a finger up her nostril! Her hair is completely combed back and the lines of her hand are prominent.
These lines, to me, are lines of wit and wisdom, much of which is fondly remembered by friends and wonderfully compiled in this book by her colleagues in Leo Burnett-Arc Malaysia, where she worked for many years and where she made those oh-so-evocative TV ads for festivals and Merdeka Day.
As Yasmin would surely have wanted it, this book is designed with simplicity, the beauty of which I only came to appreciate because of Yasmin. Speak more with less is what she taught me. And if I disagreed, as I would initially, she would mutter quietly, “Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve, Abby.”
Indeed, her films showed she was right about less being more. Fittingly, everything said in this book is tenderly recollected in brevity that is nonetheless resonant and enlightening.
“It is perfect to be imperfect, because perfection is made up of many imperfections put together that makes it perfect.” What could be sounder? The words are etched in the mind of Eugene Yong, Yasmin’s friend and colleague, and echo in mine as I continue to hone my perfection with imperfections.
“What your right hand gives, even you left hand should not know”, was another principle Yasmin always tried to live by; it was only after her death (of a stroke on July 25, 2009; she was 51) that stories began to emerge of her generous and anonymous gifts of money to everyone from orphans to indie filmmakers. This principle by far strikes me the most, and now those lines on her hands also denote to me her many generosities, each kept from one another.
“For those who like that sort of thing, that’s the sort of thing they like” was Yasmin’s way of saying that we do not need to conform to others whose preferences and principles differ from ours. Troubled lately by human hideosity and mediocrity, I stride on now with ease newly acquainted through all the wonderful anecdotes in the pages of this book.
Whether it is work, love, art, attitude, skills, or life, Yasmin approached everything with a quirkiness that made everything fun and learning from her, intuitive. At the right moment when her quirkiness poked at intuition and her sincerity touched the heart, one would see a light at the end of the tunnel and take home a whole new outlook on life.
“A smile and kind word will get you further,” Sharifah Armani recalls, and Yasmin led by example.
“Don’t look down on those below you. And don’t fear those above you,” fondly remembers Jo-Chan – I have personally witnessed many a time when Yasmin was kind to people below her.
“Do you want the sweetness of food, or the sweetness of the one who puts sweetness in food?” Yasmin asked Ke-Cure, her friend who was recuperating from a viral fever. Like Ke-Cure, I want both, and this book has both. It is food if food is equivalent to books for book lovers, with the sweetness of the one who put sweetness into this book: Yasmin who lived life so generously, aesthetically, humanely, wisely, and most caringly.
Yasmin asked Ke-Cure to turn to God, for our livelihood is what God bestows.
“On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear.” Her spirituality was always inspiring. Hence, a book dedicated to a devout Muslim must, understandably, include verses from the Quran, one of the most beautiful being: “And the slaves of the Most Beneficent are those who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.”
That was how Yasmin responded to the critics of her sometimes controversial films; films that went on to win numerous international awards.
This book is a collection of Yasmin’s pesan-pesan (messages). It also contains some of her poems and musings that are incredibly moving. They were written simply, in exquisite prose straight from her heart, as she believed it is from the heart that we tell the most moving stories.
“… let me ask you / Have you ever heard a symphony so rich, / or read a manuscript so fine, / that it could satisfy hunger better than fish?” Yasmin wrote in one of her poems.
Well, I think we have, Yasmin. Our hunger once in a while for a little bit of your particular wisdom and wit to helps us cross troubled waters or overcome troubled thoughts will be satisfied by this book.
Yasmin How You Know? is a “sincerity of unmanufactured pleasures” bestowed by many people fondly remembering a soul that departed too soon. – By ABBY WONG